Seminar: the things of conflict; a Religious Studies perspective

28 November 2019

Seminar: the things of conflict; a Religious Studies perspective, at Utrecht University.

Dates: Thursday 28 and Friday 29 November

From Terry Jones, barbecuing a Quran in 2010 and uploading his action unto YouTube, to the black and orange gear marking political difference between executioners and victims in the beheading-video of 21 Copts in 2015; from the material visibility of martyrdom in Iran and Lebanon to messianic matter in representations of victimhood in Serbia, ‘things’ disclose, create and contest specific conflict-positions and conflict-frames. But while ‘things’ are often at the core of violent conflict and expose, create and contest perspectives on (national, religious, communal) identity, not much attention has been given yet to ‘what matter does’ within (representations of) conflict.

This mini-seminar will focus on how and what ‘things’ perform in violent conflict and ask how religious groups and communities can be studied from this specific perspective.

During this seminar, we will approach violent conflict by analyzing ‘things’ as a key to understand conflict-positions. The following questions are leading: How do religious actors engage and mobilize ‘things’to physically and symbolically position themselves in conflict situations? Does conflict play a role in the ‘sacred-making’ of things? What role do specific portrayals of human bodies and attunements of the senses have in violent conflict? How do persistent material symbols of religious traditions mediate ‘presence’ (of divinity/ies, spirits, powers) within conflict situations? How and why are contestations of ‘images’ understood as offensive or blasphemious? How do digital technologies shape and reshape conflict-matter?


We welcome papers that address methodology, conceptual approaches or case-studies related to any of these questions. De deadline for paper proposals is due on 1 July 2019. Please send your proposal to Lucien van Liere or Erik Meinema (see below).


The aim of this seminar is to explore possible alternative (conceptual and methodological) directions in the study of religion-related violent conflict, to bring together scholars from different disciplines engaged with the study of images, material culture, conflict, radicalization and anti-radicalization, violence and terrorism, and to use the seminar as a take-off for creating a network of scholars working on related issues. The seminar is part of the ‘Religious Matters in an Entangled World’ research program.

The papers of the seminar will be published. 

For further information, please contact Lucien van Liere, or Erik Meinema,