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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for Historical Studies (CHS)

CHS lecture - LAURA FELDT (University of Southern Denmark): "Total Devotion: Passions and Plots in Radical Religion in the Ancient World"

When:We 18-01-2023 16:00 - 17:30
Where:Room 1312.0007, Harmonie building

This is a public lecture organized by the Centre for Historical Studies.


In this lecture, I will present the project Total Devotion – Passions and Plots in Radical Religion in the Ancient World ( ), a collective research project funded by the Danish Research Fund for Independent Research in the Humanities. This project works to historicize the study of radical religion and to take it beyond the focus on Islam and on the contemporary era. The lecture will discuss the broader research field of radical religion, extremism, and radicalization, and how new insights can be developed by focusing more on in-group ideals of devotion and the role of emotions and narratives – and, not least, by means of a longer historical perspective. Using a theoretical framework that addresses shared ideals of devotion and draws on the history of emotions and studies of narrativity, I will discuss ancient examples of total devotion drawn primarily from Judaism in the Second Temple/Persian-Hellenistic-Roman era and how radical religion can be approached historically. Finally, the lecture will discuss the formation of and mobilization to radical religion and argue that group-internal ideals of devotion, emotionality, and narrativity are important factors for understanding identity fusion, costly sacrifice, and member retention.

About the speaker

Laura Feldt, PhD, is Associate Professor of the Study of Religion, University of Southern Denmark. She is the author of The Fantastic in Religious Narrative from Exodus to Elisha (Routledge 2012), editor of Wilderness in Mythology and Religion (de Gruyter 2012), co-editor of Marginality, Media and Mutations of Religious Authority in the History of Christianity (Peeters 2018 with Jan N. Bremmer) among others, and co-editor of Numen – International Review of the History of Religions 2017-2022. She has done research on religious narrativity, wilderness, monstrosity, materiality, and the fantastic in ancient religions as well as contemporary spiritualities. Currently, she heads the collective research project Total Devotion – Passions and Plots in Radical Religion in the Ancient World, funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark ( ).