CfP: Pussy Riot as litmus paper (Religion and Gender)

Religion and Gender
Special issue: „Pussy Riot as litmus paper: political protest and religious culture“
Deadline for paper proposals: 1 July 2013

This special issue of Religion and Gender (to be published in 2014) will look at the interferences of gender, politics, art, and religion in the Pussy Riot Case.

The „punk-prayer“ performance of the group Pussy Riot in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow on 21 February 2012, the video of their protest act through the internet, and the subsequent criminal case and court sentences against three members of the group engendered a serious political and religious controversy. State and ecclesial authorities reacted fiercely against the women and their performance. At the backdrop stands the new reality of a close alliance between the Russian Orthodox Church and the power-vertical state system under president Putin.

It looks like the Pussy Riot performance in the cathedral serves, in a manifold way, as a litmus paper: for the authorities in settling the „right“ relation between state, church, and individual; for the acting women in claiming artistic and political freedom in their engagement with religious symbols and sacred space; for the public audience in Russia and the Western world (both in different ways) in finding confirmation for their own ideas about freedom of expression, democracy, the role of religion, and blasphemy.

Among the issues that raised debate and attracted the attention of a wide international audience, some are of particular relevance for the study of religion and gender. Which `iconoclashes‘ (Bruno Latour) are brought about by the Pussy Riot performance and by the interpretative reception of the event in different communities? What is the role of the gendered female body, female sexuality, and female symbols (Virgin Mary) in this political/religious protest? How does the accusation of blasphemy relate to the issue of female corporeality? What are the similarities with and differences from other performances in which the female body invades and appropriates the world of religious symbols (e.g. Madonna, FEMEN, the Tunisian Amyna Tyler)?

This collection of essays aims to bring together research from different academic disciplines, including cultural studies, political studies, sociology, visual arts, theater- and music studies, Slavic studies, ritual studies, theology, religious studies, and philosophy and welcomes a range of methods to engage with the issue.

In particular, we are looking for papers that tackle the following:

  • Blasphemy and the female body
  • The role of feminism in this political/religious protest
  • Pussy Riot as a liturgical phenomenon
  • Pussy Riot as a visual phenomenon: iconography, modern art history, and the `image‘ of Pussy Riot
  • Ethics of interpretation of the Pussy Riot action (secular, feminist, religious, political, anarchist, commercial….) and the boundaries of interpretation
  • Re-invention of tradition: how Pussy Riot makes use of visual, musical, religious aspects of the Russian Orthodox tradition and combines those with a globalized world culture (like punk art, fashion, philosophy of the occupy movement)
  • The Pussy Riot case in relation to core disputes about religious
    identity and meaning in late modern societies

If you are interested, please send a 300 word abstract, along with a short biographical note, to Katja Tolstaja and Heleen Zorgdrager at the addresses below by Monday 1 July 2013.

Please note that if your abstract is accepted, full papers (max. 8,000 words including references) need to be submitted by 1 October 2013.

Dr. Katja Tolstaja (VU University, Amsterdam) and Dr. Heleen
Zorgdrager (Protestant Theological University, Amsterdam)

Contact: e.v.tolstoj@vu.nl and hezorgdrager@pthu.nl

For more information visit www.religionandgender.org/index.php/rg/pages/view/pussyriotcase

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