Invitation and Call for Papers
5th Conference of the SIEF Commission for Folk Religion:
Senses and Religion
September 8–12, 2006 –
To commemorate Niko Kuret 1906–1995
It could be assumed that religion claims to provide the meaning of life, to explain the world as a whole. In this framework, religion seeks to do more than answer questions about the past, present, and future, the macrocosm and the microcosm, being and non-being, this world and the afterworld, body and soul, and good and bad – it also wishes to interpret man and the transcendent in their entirety and in their interconnections.
Religions perform this role in a communication process, in which the sacred declares and communicates itself, and in doing so they can make use of all the senses. They thus evoke and cultivate religious feeling in people. Although faith is seen as a “grace” within religious practice, and therefore cannot be taught, religious feelings and experience can be aroused, assisted, and expressed through special means. These means all come together in 1) the liturgy and appear in the range of instruments used: word, spectacle, movement, gestures, the use of space, direct or indirect contact with the sacred, as well as 2) events accompanying the liturgy or religious events (pilgrimages, liturgy, etc.). In short, all senses can take part when man encounters God and the sacred: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste. In this way too they can provide a feeling of wholeness. To be sure, it is also of interest when these senses cross the borders between the world of the sacred place and the mundane world of the profane and become ambivalent. Field research should also be carried out on this topic.
Liturgical practice means using the symbolic language and elements of rites. The aim of our conference is to examine and interpret these principally from the angle of the five senses. Beyond the word, sound, and music (hearing), and visual images, statues, buildings, use of space, or the arts in general (sight), we know little or almost nothing about the way religion uses means linked to taste, smell, and touch, their effect, and their purpose. Separately or together, these means can help shape individual and community religious experiences. The rite is the expression of something, and the model-like transmission of something (a rite of and for something). It uses a varied range of instruments that are linked to the period concerned and its task is to transmit the changing content of spirituality. In many cases these rites make up for some kind of lack, compensating for the finite and fragmentary nature of the human being. They make the invisible, unfathomable, immortal, and imperceptible become visible, tangible, audible, and perceivable. They manifest the unmanifestable.
We would like our contributors to use the perspective of the five senses to interpret the religious practice of individuals and communities, its elements, and its means in various historical periods, in the past or the present, and in various Christian and non-Christian religions, as well as the trajectory of the passage of these practices between the sacred and mundane as man’s permanent struggle to reach transcendence.
The conference will also commemorate the centenary of the birth of the renowned Slovenian ethnologist Niko Kuret.
The conference language will be English. Papers (approx. 15,000 characters, including illustrations) will be allotted 25 minutes each, followed by 5 minutes of discussion.
The excursion is linked to the theme of the conference.
Deadline for applications: March 31, 2006
Please submit applications on the attached form with an abstract of the planned paper.
Applications and inquiries should be addressed to the host of the conference, Dr. Jurij Fikfak (
September 8: Arrival
September 9: Excursion
September 10–12: Conference papers
Dr. Jurij Fikfak Dr. Gábor Barna