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CALL. 15.07.2018: Power of the Priests. Political use of religious knowledge - Kiel (Germany)


The Graduate School at Kiel University “Human Developments in Landscapes” will host an international and interdisciplinary conference on the political use of religious knowledge in pre-modern cultures from the 29.11 to 1.12. 2018



LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: Graduate School at Kiel University (Kiel, Germany)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Prof. Hilmar Klinkott; "Human Development in landscapes", Graduate Shool at Kiel University

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Religion plays a central - if not the central role in nearly every aspect in people’s life of most pre-modern cultures. Already Cicero postulates the political influences of the priest as a general transcultural phenomenon (de divinatione I 43, 95): "But who fails to observe that auspices and all other kinds of divination flourish best in the best regulated states? And what king or people has there ever been who did not employ divination?” A life without gods was not conceivable or sometimes even illegal. What could be more obvious than to use the beliefs of people to achieve political goals? This interference could happen quite directly. For example the German Kings and Emperors of medieval times were elected by the chief ecclesiastical and secular princes of the Holy Roman Empire. The pope did not have any influence over the election, but he was it who crowned the kings in order to be legitimated by God. A more subtle, but rather common method to use religion for political purposes is the oracle. It was used in many cultures, for instance in Ancient Greece, Egypt, or Near East as well as in pre-modern India, China, Tibet or Europe, however in many different ways. The oracle of Alexander the Great in the Egyptian oasis Siwa is a very well-known example. Normally the result of these oracles corresponded with the wishes of the ruler, so the priests probably had been briefed in advance. The dependency of the rulers on the religious personnel was surely a significant means of pressure for the priests. The so-called synodal decrees of Ptolemaic Egypt illustrate the communication and exchange of interests between ruler and priests. The Hellenistic monarchies demonstrate how the influence of the local priesthood has been a core element for the establishment of the new rulers and their political success. In which different ways the religious personnel used their possibilities to pursue an active policy of their own as an intrinsic part of the political processes. This conference aims to investigate the function of the religious personnel in political processes and their influence in pre-modern societies from a cross-cultural/transcultural perspective. Specialists from various disciplines should present their research on the basis of case studies to illustrate their results. The studies should discuss the following questions. For which reasons religion had been used for political purposes. Which goals should be achieved? In which way politics and religion had been linked? A focus should be on the political role of the religious personnel beyond their religious and cultic tasks. Can be observed that the cultic staff pursued personal objectives? Which media (for example texts, inscriptions, pictures, rituals, architecture, material culture) had been used? What can be said concerning the abuse of religion for political purposes? Was there a shift or change of methods and what could be the reason for that? Can we observe intercultural cross-connections or even the way of transfer of political and religious knowledge between different cultures? Applications Abstracts may be up to 300 words in length and must include the title of the paper, and the author’s name(s) and affiliation(s). Please send it to Prof. Hilmar Klinkott ( until 15.7.2018. Abstracts will be reviewed within 2 weeks by the Organising Commit-tee, who reserves the right to select proposals based on the suitability of content. Presentations 30 minutes talk+15 minutes discussion. Preferred language will be English. Costs Travel and accommodation expenses for speakers will be covered by the Graduate school. Par-ticipants take care for their travel and get reimbursed, accommodation will be organised by the organisers. Interested persons are most welcome to participate but there will be a workshop charge of EUR 30,00 (including conference material, coffee breaks and conference dinner). You will be issued a receipt. Registration is required until 31.9.2018. Publication The conference proceedings will be published in the series „Asien und Afrika - Beiträge des Zentrums für Asiatische und Afrikanische Studien (ZAAS) der Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel“. The participants shall be prepared to submit a publication-ready version of their presentation by 31.3.2019. The paper will be peer-reviewed before acceptance in the volume.

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