ISASR 2014 conference

Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (ISASR)
Third annual conference
In collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast

Fri 23rd – Sat 24th May, 2014

Conference theme:

“Religion and remembering”
Cross-disciplinary conference


Conference registration:

Please complete the form below by Wednesday 21st May:



Keynote speaker:

Prof. James L Cox (University of Edinburgh)

“Religious Memory as a Conveyor of Authoritative Tradition:
The Necessary and Essential Component in a Definition of Religion”


In a landmark book published in 2000, the sociologist Danièle Hervieu-Léger defined religion as a chain of memory, by which she meant that within religious communities remembered traditions are transmitted with an overpowering authority from generation to generation. After analysing various interpretations of Hervieu-Léger’s definition, including the context of the contemporary atomisation of religion into ‘pick and choose’ spirituality, this paper compares a rain ritual in which a medium becomes possessed by the chief’s ancestor spirit amongst the Shona of Zimbabwe with a trance dance performed as part of the programme of a ‘new-age’ spiritual centre in Connecticut, USA. In both instances, despite different social and historical contexts, appeals are made to an authoritative tradition to legitimise the rituals performed. This lends support to the claim that the authoritative transmission of a remembered tradition, by exercising an overwhelming power over communities, even if the memory of such a tradition is merely postulated, identifies the necessary and essential component for any human activity to be labelled ‘religious’.

James Cox is Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies in the University of Edinburgh. In 1999, he was appointed Reader in Religious Studies in the University of Edinburgh and was awarded a Personal Chair in 2006. He has held prior academic posts at the University of Zimbabwe, Westminster College, Oxford and Alaska Pacific University. In 2009, he was Visiting Professor of Religion in the University of Sydney and in 2012 was the de Carle Distinguished Lecturer in the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. His most recent books include: The Invention of God in Indigenous Societies (Acumen, 2014); Critical Reflections on Indigenous Religions (ed.) (Ashgate, 2013); An Introduction to the Phenomenology of Religion (Continuum, 2010); From Primitive to Indigenous: The Academic Study of Indigenous Religions (Ashgate, 2007); A Guide to the Phenomenology of Religion (Continuum, 2006).


CALL FOR PAPERS (17 December 2013)

Third annual ISASR conference,
in collaboration with Queen’s University, Belfast

Fri-Sat 23rd-24th May 2014

Conference theme:

‘Religion and Remembering’
Cross-Disciplinary Conference

We are pleased to invite scholars to take part in the third annual conference of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (ISASR). The conference will take place from the morning of Friday May 23rd to lunchtime on Saturday May 24th, 2014 in collaboration with Queen’s University, Belfast. The conference is open to scholars of all disciplines that approach religions, both past and present, from a non-confessional, critical, analytical and cross-cultural perspective.

As usual with ISASR conferences, proposals for papers are not restricted to the conference theme ‘Religion and Remembering’ but may focus on any other aspect of the Society’s work in the history, anthropology, folklore and sociology of religion in Ireland or among the Irish diaspora, or may represent the work of Irish-based researchers on topics in the academic study of religions anywhere else in the world. For this Belfast-based conference we very warmly welcome also contributions from members of BASR on any topic in the academic study of religions.

Memory studies has become one of the most popular research areas in the humanities and social sciences producing a vast number of studies examining how nations, communities and cultures remember, re-construct or indeed forget the past. The theme of the conference encourages paper proposals across disciplines, being open to topics including (but not restricted to) remembering in the form of rituals, public commemorations, anniversaries, festivals, bodily practices, physical objects and places or in the form of orality, literacy, narratives and language.

Please send a 150-200 word abstract for papers to Dr Jennifer Butler ( by the closing date of Friday 7th March 2014. Notification of abstract acceptance will be given by Friday 28th March, 2014.

For those wishing to reserve accommodation in advance (recommended), the conference location is the Queens Quarter of Belfast (among several streets beginning ‘University…’). There is plenty of budget accommodation in the area; affordable hotel options include

Holiday Inn Express Belfast City Queens Quarter

ibis Belfast Queens Quarter

Cordia Serviced Apartments (good for sharing)

All are only few minutes walking-distance from Queens.