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Conference: New religiosity in migration, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, 27-30 May 2013

International workshop on "New religiosity in migration"
Convenors: Nelly Elias and Julia Lerner
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
May 27-30, 2013
What are the relations between a spiritual quest and an intercultural
migration experience? Why immigrants become more religious than they were
before immigrating? How do host national contexts influence immigrant
religiosity? What are the patterns of immigrant religiosity within the
global boom of religion and spiritual movements? Based on these questions
we suggest bringing together the research insights on immigrant
religiosity emerging in the host cultural contexts and to examine new
forms, languages and meanings constituted by this intercultural religious
The workshop will be organized as an exchange of ideas rising in empirical
investigations of various migration contexts and immigrant groups in
Israel, Europe, US and the post-Soviet space with a special focus on
post-socialist spiritual trends and religious trajectories in the
Russian-speaking diaspora. We believe that juxtaposition and comparison of
different manifestations of migrant religiosity will encourage new ways of
conceptualization of these phenomenon.
As a space of extensive migration, Israeli cultural and political context
introduces a variety of immigrant groups that bring with them different
religious and spiritual worldviews or reinvent them in their new country.
In this sense Israel serves as a strategic location for a workshop on
immigrant religiosity. Apart from intellectual discussions we invite the
participants to take advantage of the immediate surrounding and conduct
fieldwork tours to the spaces of immigrant religiosity in the area.
We invite scholars from social and cultural studies of migration,
contemporary religion, spirituality & new age, and post-socialist cultural
condition to join our working colloquium organized according to the
following themes:
Religiosity as a device of national belonging and citizenship
Religion provides symbols, rituals and scripts that immigrants can use to
affirm, pass on, or reinvent their collective identity and position
themselves vis-à-vis the host and the home countries. Therefore, religion
choices could teach us on migrants’ relocation strategies. In some
national contexts the religious practices represent imitative adoption of
the local cultural and political patterns, while in the other contexts
they represent an alternative or resistance to the host society and its
way of life.
Immigrant religion as acquisition of a new habitus
Any migration implies some degree of cultural change, all the more
adopting religious rules and prescriptions of everyday practice in
migration intensifies the need for adopting a new habitus. Adult migrants
work to change their everyday practice, body appearance and visibility,
consumption behavior, social network, patterns of interpersonal
communication and family relations. Using their new and old cultural
repertoire, immigrants develop everyday strategies to keep and maneuver
the cultural worlds they live in, separate or mix them together.
Therapeutic powers of religion in migration
Migration and settling down in a new country are often associated with
various individual and group “crises”: crisis of identify, psychological
stress, family crisis etc. In this regard, religious affiliation and
practice perform a therapeutic function when religious doctrine and
religious community serve as an emotional shelter in the state of
instability, as a surrogate family symbolically replacing distant
relatives, or as a source for a new collective meaning instead of the one
that was lost in migration. The proximity of psychological and religious
discourses in the contemporary religious and spiritual movements makes the
therapeutic appeal of religion in migration especially powerful and
Immigrant religiosity as intercultural translation
Immigrant religiosity often involves work of intercultural interpretation,
converting the code of the core religious ideas and symbols. As they
acquire religious thinking and practice in a new language, immigrants
learn simultaneously to speak locally and religiously. Reinventing their
beliefs in a new context they are preoccupied with the translation of
cultural ideas creating a hybrid religious code. This eclecticism becomes
intertwined with the tendency of the contemporary religious and spiritual
rhetoric to bring together discourses of different and even contradictory
cultural origins.
Transnational immigrant religiosity and new media
Religious life in and through new media represents a crucial factor that
affects the ways of belief and practice of contemporary religiosity. It is
especially prominent for immigrant religious communities that cross and
challenge national and cultural borders. Immigrants use new media
platforms either to reestablish their affiliation with religious
communities of their home countries or to create completely new local or
transnational frames of belonging.
Those who wish to take part are invited to send us a short proposal (up to
250 words) of your research related to one of the workshop themes as well
as your CV by October 5, 2012 to<> and<>.
Answers are expected at November 15, 2012. Some contribution towards
participants' expenses will be available.
About the workshop venue and the convenors:
The workshop is will be hosted by the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
(Beer Sheva, Israel). BGU is known for its expertise and extensive
research on the issues of contemporary religion, migration and diaspora.
Prof. Nelly Elias and Dr. Julia Lerner are conducting a joint research on
“Belief and Practice of Belonging: Religious Transformation of Post-Soviet
Immigrants in Israel”. The study traces the routes of the
Russian-speaking religiosity in Israel, focusing on the newly established
Christian and Jewish movements and communities. Elias as a scholar of
immigrant media (from the Department of Communication, BGU) and Lerner as
an anthropologist of knowledge (from the departments of Sociology and
Anthropology, BGU), bring together their theoretical lens and emphasize
the cultural and discursive turn of the new post-soviet religiosity
manifested in immigrants’ narratives and experience of everyday life.