EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010


Post-Soviet religion and Russia's economic crises

Location Humanities Small Seminar Room 2
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 14:30


Detelina Tocheva (CNRS, GSRL / Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcités) email
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Long Abstract

The liberalization of religious life in Russia started in the last years of the Soviet regime. It expanded in the context of profound political and economic transformations from 1991 onwards. The introduction of the Russian form of market economy generated a chain of crises to which religion provides explanations and suggests treatments. Some religious groups express harsh criticism, for instance through the promotion of conspiracy theories, while others encourage personal involvement in the market, or offer coping strategies. The market of religious goods and services is itself a by-product of the larger economic system through which the denominations provide for their own material subsistence. Do religious movements share some underpinning imagination in the ways they address the crises and in the ways they manage their own involvement in the market? Or do they diverge, and in what sense? Or is the religious treatment of economic questions a marginal phenomenon? One may argue that Russian capitalism has encouraged a rationalistic bias in society, or has promoted a 'rational maximizer' attitude in the terms of neoclassical economics. But then, how to explain today's bewildering diversity of religious responses to shaking economic upheavals, moreover in a society on which the Soviet state had imposed the rule of official atheism during seventy years? By focusing on post-Soviet Russia, the workshop aspires to explore the interpretative and imaginary potential of religion to address the economy and its failures to create well-being. We invite scholars to engage with different theoretical frames inspired by field-based ethnographic research.

Discussant: Tobias Koellner

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.


Shamanism and tradition: assessing spiritual revival and traditional economy in the Sakha Republic

Author: Lia Zola (University of Turin)  email
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Long Abstract

My paper aims at investigating the issue of religious revival in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia). The Sakha people normally speak of two kinds of shamanism, roughly named "black" and "white". They correspond to two sorts of relations with two sets of different spirits: benevolent god-spirits of cattle breeding ajyy and spirits belonging to the natural and domestic realms itchi. The two kinds of shamanism and their relations with the spirits also reflect to two different economic systems praticed in the Sakha society until the Soviet period: hunting and cattle, expecially horse breeding. In the last fifteen years Sakha Republic has witnessed a spiritual and cultural revival that tend to re-establish elements belonging to the material culture of the Sakha people and to their main economic activity, cattle breeding, mostly in public, national rituals and ceremonies. At the same time shamanic revival emphasizes mostly white shamanism and its links to horse breeding: this provides an interesting point for investigating the implications of the return of "tradition" and "traditional economy".

'Compromise goods' and negotiated religiosity among the Russian Orthodox today

Author: Tünde Komáromi (University of Pécs)  email
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Long Abstract

The fall of the Soviet Union and the following economic changes were often interpreted among the Russian Orthodox as a result of conspiracy and demonic influences. Deciding to live as an Orthodox Christian in the context of today's globalizing market economy means delimiting activity, communication and consumerism. Ideals of contemporary Orthodox Christian lifestyle reminds of fasting, which is practiced in order to purify the body and the soul. In case of Eastern Christianity fasting means abstinence from food of animal origin and a period of intensive religious contemplation and praying. Similarly to the rest of religious rules and expectations, here we have countless means of compromises and personal negotiation of rules and a developing market of 'compromise goods', like mayonnaise or cakes for fasting days. The paper proposes to find out a possible link between fasting habits and a 'culture of compromises' among contemporary Russian Orthodox believers.

The economic crisis as a source of religious identity in contemporary Russian Orthodoxy

Author: Detelina Tocheva (CNRS, GSRL / Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcités)  email
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Long Abstract

Twenty years after the fall of the Soviet regime, popular collective identity in European Russia continues to draw on narratives about a radical economic breakdown. The consolidation of open expressions of religious practices in the 1990s coincided with the period of the harshest economic crises. This economic hardship gave rise to specific forms of lament that have remained relevant today. The complaint about poverty resonates with some fundamental Russian Orthodox positions about the desirability of asceticism and self-restraint. Interestingly, some Orthodox communities transformed this lament into a source of positive spiritual identity. The paper focuses on a contemporary urban church in north-western Russia that a group of parishioners started rebuilding at the end of the 1990s. The narratives about inescapable material deprivation and commitment to the church have merged together and ten years later they support the collective identity of this parish community claiming outstanding religious worth.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.