Thematic Module 4 Conference – Born Again Selves: New Religious Movements and the Norms of Belief; 6-8 June 2022

Date: 6 – 8 June 2022

Venue: Augustinerkloster, Erfurt

Co-organised by: University of Erfurt

About the workshop:

ICAS:MP’s Thematic Module 4 (Normative Conflicts and Transformations) workshop on New Religious Movements (NRMs) seeks to explore the shifting terrains of religiosity as they interweave with contemporary cultures of consumerism, urban life, work and leisure, ideas of class and caste and relationships between the individual and collective life. While not recent in the West, the spread of NRMs in countries of the non-western world is a relatively new phenomenon that speaks to changing ideas of relationships between organized religion and new forms of subjectivity.

The term ‘NRM’ refers to a variety of spirituality-based movements that borrow from existing practices but also depart from them and, more importantly, offer bespoke offerings to different class, caste and other identity categories. NRMs (the Art of Living, Dera Sacha Sauda and the Isha Foundation in India; Mooji in the UK and other parts of the world, etc.) are almost invariably led by a central figure who articulates the movement’s goals through a variety of new media. As Copeman and Ikegame (2012) point out, ‘the multiplicity and diversity of the guru’s political and economic entanglements point toward a sense of the guru’s uncontainability, a quality which, in a seeming irony, relies at least in part on the guru’s ability to contain diverse others (principally his/her devotees and former incarnations)’ (2012: 289). It is this ‘uncontainability’ of the Guru that links the spirituality of NRMs’ to the broader worlds of everyday life.

The workshop seeks to explore contexts where 1) The key actors within NRMs seek to engage with contemporary subjects of spirituality who may not make strong distinctions between the religious and the non-religious; 2) Believers might be launched upon projects of social mobility through participation in NRMs; 3) NRM membership dismantles older distinctions between the ‘religious’ and the ‘secular’; 4) NRM act as sites of political mobilization; 5) NRMs espouse ideas of social change (and ‘social movement’) that may be at odds with how social scientists may understand it; and 6) Older forms of organized religious activities (and their) proponents are having to engage with NRM strategies in order to appeal to their followers.     

Through focusing upon NRMs, the workshop seeks to explore a very significant aspect of global spiritual and religious life which, in turn, is also part of new processes of identity formation. It asks participants to engage with the post-industrial life of religion such that, rather than being its antithesis, consumerism might be its significant backdrop. How does this transform norms of ‘ancient’ religiosity and what does it say about the ways in which people imagine relationships between spirituality and, for example, the following: politics, credit finance, home-ownership, parenting, nationalism, class, caste and cosmopolitanism.     

Please click here for the Programme

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