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Religion and Identity

Intersections of collective and private identity with religion and spirituality


Poster of the Central European Symposium for the Academic Study of Religion 202320 - 22 October, 2023
Szeged, Hungary


Jeremy Ianni will take part to The Central European Symposium for the Academic Study of Religion, with a talk on the Philippines. The upcoming conference hosted by the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Szeged (Hungary) between the 20th and 22nd of October 2023, aims to open a symposium where topics concerning the intersections of religiosity and identity-should it be private or public-can be discussed in a broader sense.

Download the program.


Testimony and music as vehicles for the construction of identity and the displacement of power : An analysis based on the case of a Born-Again denomination in the Philippines.

In the Philippines, more and more people are leaving Catholicism to convert to a Born- Again denomination. This denomination implies a reconfiguration of intramundane and extramundane identity as a result of the new birth. As a doctoral student in Education Sciences, I am conducting ethnographic research in a neighborhood Born Again church. Using participant observation and biographical interviews, I’m seeking to understand what kinds of transformations conversion is likely to bring about. By analyzing religious discourse and two practices (witnessing and enthusiasm), I propose to answer the fol- lowing questions : How is identity constructed, shaped, and maintained by religious ac- tivities - How do religions change the identities of their converts ? Using specific, docu- mented examples, I will show the changes in identity and narrative that testimonies can bring about. Phrasing and experience rely on both the subjectivity of the convert and the dominant discourse of rebirth. As a counterpoint to the studies carried out on the social frameworks of memory in cases of religious conversion (Berger & Luckman, Dubar), I will discuss the figure of testimony as a displacement of power knowledge. I will show that even if conversion corresponds to a turning point, it does not necessarily correspond to a total change in the social world. What people testify to does not always correspond to empirical experience. As music and song are very much a part of Born-Again wor- ship, I will next discuss the link between the believer and the divinity. Enthusiasm, op- posed by Luther, corresponds to this divine presence in the physical texture of the be- liever. The Born-Again pastors insisted on this personal relationship and opened up a way, through music, of materializing this relationship in the body. Music, therefore, has more than just the role of indigenizing worship. It is the cornerstone of the experience proposed by Born Again denominations and becomes a new intercession between the believer and the divinity. In this way, music acts as the cornerstone of the group’s iden- tity-building, enabling the common experience of enthusiasm. It is, therefore, a media- tion of power and knowledge since the temporality and spatiality of these moments are controlled by the pastors and not the believers, making it possible to create this common Born-Again identity.

11 October 2023