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[ecrea] Call for papers: new deadline for propositions - Religions and the digital: metamorphoses and conversions

Tue Sep 11 02:01:19 GMT 2018

Call for papers:

International Colloquium Relicom 2019 - Religions and the digital: metamorphoses and conversions

Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, March 21 and 22, 2019

organized by Andrea Catellani (Pcom, IL&C, Universite catholique de Louvain)
Olivier Servais (LAAP, RSCS, Universite catholique de Louvain), Belgium, and
David Douyère (Prim, ea7503, Universite de Tours), France.

The Relicom network - Communication and spaces of the religious

Contact: (andrea.catellani /at/, (olivier.servais /at/, (david.douyere /at/

The subject of the conference

In adopting the principle that religion constitutes a form of communication (through oral or written language, images, visible material signs and rites) which seeks to produce an interpersonal exchange with various types of beings and spread meaning, in this conference we would like to reflect on the current forms of the relationship between connected digital practices and religions[1] - or the religious -, whatever they are, in the form of a triple question: - what do religions do with the connected digital, and what do they do to the connected digital? - what does the connected digital do to religions? How do religious forms reappear, transfigured and more or less metamorphosed, in digital spaces?  - how do religious practices find themselves affected, if they are, by the partial digitalization of the production of religious meaning?

Through these three interlaced questions, we wish to examine the current reality of the religious digital and of digital religions. This conference is of course in no way based on the idea of a radical separation between a “real” off-line world and a “virtual” on-line world: on the contrary, it adopts a vision which sees the digital as a full-fledged context of life and the expression of social reality, in constant interaction with the rest of human and social experience. This reflection is quite precisely grounded in the concept of “remediation” (Bolter and Grusin 1998): the digital, communicational, religious forms remediate those which preceded them or are outside the digital - and vice versa. On the one hand, the religious cuts across digital spaces, in mobilizing them and causing the metamorphosis and adaptation of their forms; On the other hand, digital communicational forms become places for the incarnation and metamorphosis of religions.

Questioning these interactions in their expressive and formal, as well as social, economic and political dimensions mobilizes various scientific disciplines and methodologies in the human and social sciences: ranging from semiology to the sociology of religions, from anthropology to sciences of information and communication and mediology, in passing through philosophy and psychology.

The conference’s scientific context

This type of questioning has long been present in the research world, and notably in the domain of Digital Religion studies (Campbell, 2017). This field of research, while evolving through various “phases” starting from the beginnings of the Internet, has worked precisely on the relationship between the Internet and religions, in moving from studying the “digitalization of religions” to studying “the digital’s contribution to the religious” (Hoover, 2012, p. ix). By way of synthesis, “Digital Religion Studies examine the online and offline implications of reformulating existing religious practices and new expressions of spirituality online” (Campbell, 2017, p. 17). That means analysing the religious forms which appear online as modifications and evolutions in pre-existent religious forms (e.g. the major religious traditions) on the Internet. Research work on the relationship between the digital and religions began a bit later in the Francophone sphere, beginning notably in the late 1990’s, concerning, among others, Christianity and Islam (with in particular the concept of the virtual “Ummah”), as well as traditional Afro-American forms of worship (Duteil Ogata et al., 2015). After several articles and works by Jean-François Mayer (2008) and Isabelle Jonveaux (2013), in particular, a series of issues of reviews and volumes published during the 2010’s (inter alia, Duteil Ogata et al., 2015; Douyère, 2015), illustrates a growth of interest in these topics, and a certain surge of interest in this field, involving various disciplines in the social and human sciences. In a fundamental way, the Internet’s incursion into the religious scene, and the religious scene’s incursion onto the Internet, reposes questions of the fields and borders of the religious itself. Indeed, beginning with Mosco (2004), who spoke of numerical worlds as the “digital sublime”, debates on the status of the digital for human societies in metaphysical terms has been the subject of numerous discussions. The question of articulations between religion’s function and the digital’s function are emerging in what some are calling the analogical religious (Servais, 2013). To describe these new articulations, on and offline ethnographies of groups, phenomena and emerging arrangements leave the restricted framework of religions, without for all that clearly distinguishing themselves from it (see the works assembled in Liogier, Servais, 2016-2017). Through empiricism they invite us to re-problematize the religious question and its multiple definitions afresh.
The conference’s scientific perspectives

Thus, the conference’s ambition is to cross the approaches of the French-speaking sphere with research work by authors publishing in English in particular (but not exclusively) in the context of Digital Religion studies, on the subject of the crossed influence between religions and digital spaces.

Proposals for papers may be woven into one or several of the following axes (without however excluding other subjects connected to the main theme):

1. Analysis of religious supports and digital devices

This axis first of all involves proposing analyses of particular cases or comparisons in order to widen our knowledge of religious digital devices. This axis also includes analysis of the contents, discourses, images and sounds, music, and narratives related to religions circulating in the digital world. This axis thus opens onto analysis of forms of pedagogy, teaching, catechesis, support for prayer and meditation, study, proclaiming and preaching, etc. Humouristic forms of valorisation detached from the religious (of the type My wife is a pastor) may also be studied. In a less uni-directional sense, we may also take into consideration forms of debate, discussion, interaction, and relational productions of meaning surrounding religious topics, notably comments posted online on applications known as social networks.

2. Discourse, handbooks and theorizations of the religious digital

This axis involves at once analysing discursive forms, of the meta-communicational type, which present, justify, criticize or defend and support digital religious communication and examining discursive or illustrated supports encouraging digital practice in a religious context. Theological and spiritual discourses, doctrines and catechisms, as well as the handbooks of digital evangelization and online religious propaganda may be analysed.

3. Actors in the religious digital

This involves analysing the trajectories, competencies, experiences, and institutional inclusion of actors of the religious digital: community managers, youtubers, evangelists, online preachers, sages, doctrinal exegetes or references and counsellors regarding practice (orthopraxis), webmasters, graphic designers, managers of spiritual sites, etc., whether laymen or clerics. In connection with axis 1, we may also analyse testimonies and forms of expression of intimacy and of religious experience. The organisational and economic dimensions these actors find themselves caught up in or mobilised by may also be taken into account. Similarly, political dimensions and networks are to be taken into consideration (in connection with axes 5 and 6).

4. Religious activity in its digital version

In this axis, we will be looking into the digital transposition of the acts characterising religions: catholic or orthodox Christian liturgies, the various forms of worship, prayer, alms, offering (“virtual”) candles, reciting the rosary, contemplation or devotion to an image, pilgrimage by proxy, study, etc. How has the digital “remediated” pre-existent religious activities? What “new” sacred activities seem to be appearing online? Which are disappearing (for example, which relations to relics online?)? How have ritual observance and the structuring of rites in general been modified by their entry into (or their interaction with) the digital universe?

5. Religious institutions and the digital world

This axis intends to focus on interaction between organisational religious forms (Churches, movements and religious orders, sects, groups, communities, associations) and the digital world. How have these organizations been influenced by or adapted themselves to the digital world? How are they organizing themselves to manage these new spaces, supports and forms of interaction and exchange, worship, preaching, and religious presence? How is belonging, the relationship between the “inside” and the “outside”, lived?

6. Religions and socio-political mobilisation of the digital

This axis would like to investigate how those proclaiming a religion mobilise the digital within a socio-political perspective, for example in the fight against certain practices or the fight against “blasphemy”, whatever it is called, in a logic of defending a “wounded sensitivity” (Favret-Saada, 2017), or, further, in intervening in the political scene or in supporting initiatives of a social, solidarity or ecological type. In those cases, the digital is a force for mobilization in connection with a religious domain which may be considered in speeches, images, communicational forms and the tools it borrows (hashtags, WhatsApp or Facebook, and other, groups). The digital communication strategies of religious institutions in a context of controversy or social accusation may also be studied.

7. New religions on the Internet

The Internet has also given rise to a myriad of new religious forms and arrangements. Whether they be specifically religious online currents, particularly in Buddhism or Protestantism, bringing spiritual or religious practices (mediation, prayer, confession, accompaniment) to the net, or new religions or quasi-religions in extenso, they abound. Multiple supports, ranging from websites or forums to digital worlds, or even video games, serve as receptacles and incubators for these innovative practices and religious imaginaries in creation. Beyond the momentary eccentrics, deployments of this sort tend to anchor themselves and flourish in the long run. Besides describing and analysing here, we also have to compare these original methods of believing or practicing…

8. The critique of religions: parodies and diversions

Fictitious religions (Fake Religions) and polemical or artistic hijackings playing on religious kitsch (Hindu or Christian, e.g.) mobilize the religious online. What are their forms of expression and their intentions? And what should we say about deviated religious circulations - when identified sites expropriate and redirect towards other publics discourses by Muslim religious authorities considered to be “absurd”, or when medias rebroadcast sequences of preachers, or scenes of healing or exorcism (Gonzalez, 2015), for example? How does digital circulation facilitate a “fact based” critique of the religious, “evidence at hand” of its supposed absurdity and of religious nonsense (“obscurantism”)? What forms do the digital critique of religion online and militant atheistic expression borrow?

The presentations will include a talk on the methodology adopted, the field of scientific input and the theoretical contexts mobilized, or the corpus (Website links, applications, videos, audio clips) or the terrain studied, or the theoretical and epistemological proposal. If there is the need of removing what might represent a scientifically prejudicial ambiguity, it will include also an indication of the researcher’s position regarding the object or denomination studied, out of concern for scientific integrity. We will attach particular importance to the clarity of enunciation, particularly the theoretical and conceptual one, to the precision of the data (and the means of its acquisition) as well as to the rigour of their treatment.

*How to propose a paper*

Proposals for a presentation, in the form of a summary of 6,000 characters maximum (spaces included) (bibliography not included), should be submitted on the platform before **_*September 30th, 2018.*_ The answer concerning acceptance after a “double blind” evaluation process will be given at the latest on November 15th, 2018. The full text of the presentation (maximum 40,000 characters, spaces included, bibliography included) should be submitted on the platform at the latest on February 28th, 2019. The conference will take place on March 21 and 22, 2019 in Louvain-la-Neuve (UCL), Belgium.
The papers may be proposed in French or English.
A publication is planned, following the colloquium, in the form of an issue of the journal Recherches en communication. A new call for papers will be launched following the colloquium, and a new evaluation of the articles will be done to access the publication. Other publishing possibilities are also envisaged.

Contact: (andrea.catellani /at/, (olivier.servais /at/, (david.douyere /at/

Bibliographical references

Bolter, Jay David et Grusin, Richard (1999), Remediation. Understanding New Media, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Bratosin, Stefan, Tudor, Mihaela, dir. (2016), Religion(s), laïcité(s) et société(s) au tournant des humanités numériques, Actes du 3e colloque international Comsymbol, Montpellier, Iarsic-Essachess, Corhis, Les Arcs, éditions Iarsic. Campbell, Heidi (2017), « Surveying theoretical approaches within digital religion studies », New media & society, vol. 19(1), p. 15-24. Catellani, Andrea (2014), « Prier en ligne à partir d’images : observations sémiotiques sur le site Notre Dame du Web », MEI, Médiation & information, n° 38, 2014, p. 101-112. Catellani, Andrea (2013), « Images électroniques pour la prière : sémiotique et archéologie du site Notre Dame du Web » in  Lambert F.  (dir.), Prières et propagandes, études sur la prière dans les arènes publiques, Paris, Hermann, p. 331-346. Douyère, David, dir. (2015), Les religions au temps du numérique, tic & société, vol. 9/1-2, Douyère, David (2011), « La prière assistée par ordinateur », Médium, n°27, p. 140-154. Duteil-Ogata, Fabienne, Jonveaux, Isabelle, Kuczynski, Liliane, Nizard, Sophie, dir. (2015), Le religieux sur internet, Paris : L’Harmattan. Favret-Saada, Jeanne (2017), Les sensibilités religieuses blessées : christianismes, blasphèmes et cinéma, 1965-1988, Paris : Fayard. Geertz, Clifford (1993), « Religion as a cultural system », The interpretation of cultures: selected essays, London: Fontana Press. p. 87-125. Gonzalez, Philippe (2015), « Montrer ‘‘l’exorcisme’’ de Sarah Palin sur le web », tic&société, vol. 9/1-2, Hoover Stuart, (2012), “Forward: practice, autonomy and authority in the digitally religious and digitally spiritual”. In: Cheong P, Fisher-Nielsen P, Gelfgren S, et al. (eds) Digital Religion, Social Media and Culture: Perspectives, Practices and Rituals. New York: Peter Lang, p. 6-12. Jonveaux, Isabelle (2013), Dieu en ligne : expériences et pratiques religieuses sur internet, Paris, Bayard.
Mayer, Jean-François, Internet et religion, Gollion, Infolio, 2008.
Mosco Vincent, The Digital Sublime, MIT Press, 2004, p. 13-66.
Servais, Olivier (2013), « ‘‘Louvain et l’analyse du religieux’’. De l’ethnologie missionnaire à l’anthropologie prospective du virtuel », Histoire, monde et cultures religieuses, 26/2, p. 95-108. Servais, Olivier, Liogier Raphaël, dir. (2017), Les eschatologies techno-scientifiques (IIe partie) / Techno-scientific eschatologies (Part II), Social Compass, vol. 64/1. Servais, Olivier, Liogier Raphaël, dir. (2016), Les eschatologies techno-scientifiques (Ie partie)/Techno-scientific eschatologies (Part I), Social Compass, vol. 62/3.

Scientific direction :
Profs. Andrea Catellani, Olivier Servais (UCL) et David Douyère (Université de Tours).

The research network Relicom, “Communication and spaces of the religious” was created in 2011 in order to bring together researchers working on religious communication. It aims is to promote research on religious communication by colloquia, study days and publications. Issue 38 of the review MEI, Médiation et information (2014), “Religion & Communication” (dir. D. Douyère, S. Dufour, O. Riondet) contains the results of its work. Web site:

Scientific committee of the colloquium

Frédéric Antoine,  IL&C/Pcom, Université catholique de Louvain
Franck Cormerais, Mica, Université Bordeaux-Montaigne
Milad Doueihi, Humanum, Sorbonne Université
Stéphane Dufour, Ciméos, Université de Bourgogne
Fabienne Duteil-Ogata, Clare, Université Bordeaux-Montaigne
Philippe Gonzalez, Thema, Université de Lausanne
Isabelle Jonveaux, Césor, Ehess
Frédéric Lambert, Carism, Université Paris II Panthéon-Assas
Jean-François Mayer, Institut Religioscope
Jacques Perriault, Iscc Cnrs

[1] We take the expression “religions” in the plural to identify varied social and cultural realities which constitute the placing of humans in relationships with a specific fundamental “order of existence” (Geertz 1983), and which tend to organize entirely or partly the social, political, cultural and economic structure of human life, in defining specific practices and knowledge.

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