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Trajectories of Religious Innovations

Session Chair: Georgia Petridou | Thursday, August 27, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

Philipp Gollner

How Mormons Made (Some) Swedes White: Religion as Movement and Boundary among Transatlantic Immigrants in the late 19th Century

This paper employs the case study of a woman who migrated from Sweden to Utah in 1885 in order to convert other Scandinavian women who had moved across the Atlantic to join the Latter Day Saints (Mormons), in order to probe models of the function of religion in modern globalization and test religion’s ability to simultaneously cross space and construct boundaries. Seeking to transcend simplistic concepts of one-way acculturation of ethnic groups that dominate late 19th century transatlantic historiography, I intend to employ theories of religion and globalization in order to show that religion during this period in Western history presents a unique guide to study movements across space. I argue that while such migrant religion shared the ability to cross spatial boundaries with the globalizing marketplace and nascent entertainment culture, its immanent need for boundaries of identity sets it apart as a category of analysis.

Christoph Elsas

Dynamics of Dualism in Religious Traditions: Founders and Mechanisms of Innovation in the Antiquity

Anthropological bifurcations like in/out, life/death, good/bad, spirit/matter involve questions on how to handle them, and thus have also become themes for religious dualism. Considered from a historical point of view, there are impulses from Zoroaster`s new doctrines and rituals which are inspired by an eschatological monotheistic tendency and were canonized in combination with the concepts of truth/lie and pure/impure in community and world: impulses to modify imperialistic dualism and to develop Pythagoras` dialectical polytheistic tendency of dualism – in religious individualization with the aid of purification rituals - until both traditions are combined in subsequent cosmic and anti-cosmic dualisms.

Gösta Gabriel

How to innovate mythology – the enūma eliš as an example for the deliberate construction of a new myth in ancient Mesopotamia

The position of the city god of Babylon, Marduk, changed drastically during the 2nd millennium BC. Formerly being just a minor god within the pantheon, he now became king of the gods. These religious dynamics required justification and, therefore, a new mythical text, the enūma eliš, was created. Its authors – probably Marduk’s priests in Babylon – solved the conflict between the texts high rate of innovation and the traditionalism of the Babylonian culture by using material that was already known to the educated, literate elite, i.e. material of traditional mythology and religious practice. The paper will show that the references were not simply copied, but artfully adapted to the purpose of the text. Furthermore, will be underlined how the enūma eliš enhanced on a pragmatic level also the claim of Marduk’s priesthood in Babylon to consult and guide the human king.


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