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Between norms, self-fashioning, and freedom: making, bending and breaking rules in religious settings I 
Alessandro Gusman (University of Turin)
Henni Alava (University of Jyväskylä)
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Wednesday 23 June, 10:00-11:45 (UTC+3)

Short Abstract:

To advance anthropological theorising on rules, the panel explores the tensions between religious groups' exclusion and their members' desires for inclusion; how other categories of belonging overlap with religion; and how norms at different scales, from state/religion to individual, are negotiated.

Long Abstract

Inspired by Durkheim, anthropologists long conceived of morality as a set of rules that becomes explicit in rituals, which shapes the actions and thoughts of individuals, so that they become functioning members of society. In recent decades, Foucault-inspired anthropology has turned to consider the relationship between social rules, freedom, and individual self-fashioning (Robbins 2004; Mahmood 2005). In the field of religion, this relationship has been expressed in terms of the dialectic between religious "grand schemes" and "ordinary lives" (Schielke and Debevec 2012). Such ethnographic studies have revealed the ways in which people negotiate and re-arrange beliefs and norms set by religious institutions in order to navigate their everyday lives.

In this panel, we invite researchers to explore three main questions. First, what leads people to aspire to belong in religious communities whose norms exclude them, and how do they navigate the tensions inherent in such aspirations? Second, how does religious rule-making, bending and breaking relate to other fields of often tense negotiations over belonging and identity, such as ethnicity, citizenship, gender, sexuality, race or class? Third, how does scale play out in the processes of rule-making, bending and breaking: from those inscribed in national legislation or religious bodies, to those affirmed by individual religious or family communities; and those individuals internalise to differing degrees within themselves. We invite empirically grounded papers that reflect on these and other related questions from diverse theoretical perspectives, which will contribute to developing a comparative analysis across cases.

Accepted papers: