2019 EASR Conference in Tartu
Religion – Continuations and Disruptions
25-29 June 2019

Women’s agency and religious networks

Panel chairs: Asuman Lätzer-Lasar, Sabine Neumann, Julietta Steinhauer

This panel explores the agency of women in and via religious networks from antiquity to the present, allowing for an interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach and a comparative discussion of the subject matter.(1) Throughout the history of religions, women have initiated, shaped and maintained religious networks in their capacities as founders, priests, benefactors, dedicands, worshippers and more. Female agents were responsible for cult foundations, cult transfers and the creation of new religious organisations. Yet our understanding of female networks, agency and ‘religious creativity’, is limited, partly owing to the place of women on the margins of many societies.
The panel aims, on the one hand, to narrow the gap in knowledge with regard to female agency and the establishment, maintenance and decline of religious networks. On the other hand, it raises questions about current approaches to gender and religion by inviting panellists to present their studies from an intersectional perspective. This perspective allows us to see beyond the single category of gender by taking into account the various factors that shape an individual’s (religious) experience, such as origin, social, and marital status.
The main focus of the panel is on religious networks or network-like structures as described for antiquity by, for example, C. Taylor and K. Vlassopoulos, or for female migrants in Europe in the twenty-first century by M. Kontos.(2)
The main questions to be explored in this panel are:
- How did women shape their environment through religious activities within and outside the framework of a religious network? Where do we find representations of women's agency and female networks in textual and material culture?
- What triggers the creation of women’s religious ‘networks’, how do they develop and what leads to their end?
- To what extent is the creation of religious networks linked to migration?
- In what ways were female agents involved in the creation (or establishment) of new religious practices, their distribution and, at the same time, the continuation of religious traditions?
- To what extent are particular religious practices and networks socially associated with female agency?
- To what extent are gender-related practices that were marginalised by societies equally associated with other social spheres such as the household, magic and witchcraft?(3)
- Can factors such as gendered (social) space, gender-related exclusions from religious activities and social caging stimulate or prevent the creation of religious networks?(4)
We welcome papers from the broad range of disciplines usually represented at the EASR meetings, such as history of religion, ancient history, archaeology, but also sociology etc., which focus on 1) conceptual and theoretical reflections on terms and models such as ‘intersectionality’, ‘third-spacing’ and ‘social caging’; 2) actions and reactions between religion and migration and interactions between religious communities, and 3) social, political and gendered aspects of religious change as represented by the establishment of religious networks by women in the Mediterranean basin and adjacent areas within a period spanning from Antiquity until the present day.

Dr. Asuman Lätzer-Lasar
Research Associate/Junior Fellow
Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies
University of Erfurt/Germany

Dr. Sabine Neumann
Research Associate
Institute for Archaeology
University of Marburg/Germany
Dr. Julietta Steinhauer
Research Associate/Teaching Fellow
History Department
University College London/UK

1 For the purposes of this conference, we define religious networks as groups of individuals associated by common religious interests with no particular structure or endurance.
2Taylor 2011, Vlassopoulos 2007, Kontos (ed.) 2009.
3 See i. e. Eidinow 2016.
4 See Massey 1994 and 1998.