Urban Heterarchies: Changing Religious Authority and Social Power in Cities

Organisers: Emiliano Urciuoli, Susanne Rau, Jörg Rüpke
11-13 November 2019, Erfurt

According to archaeologist Carole L. Crumley, heterarchies are systems in which the component elements have ‘the potential of being unranked (relative to other elements)’ and/or the potential of being ‘ranked in a number of ways, depending on systemic requirements’. In contrast, so the archaeologist Alison E. Rautman, hierarchy ‘involves three assumptions regarding the organization of the constituent elements of a system: that a lineal ranking of constituent elements is in fact present; that this ranking is permanent (that is, the system of ranking has temporal stability); and the ranking of elements according to different criteria will result in the same overall ranking (that is, the relationships of elements is pervasive and integral to the system, and not situational)’.

For the investigation of the reciprocal formation of religion and urbanity, heterarchies open up diverse directions of analysis within both cities and interurban networks. The conference papers deal with institutional arrangements as much as media of representation, narratives of legitimation, practices of comparison, strategies of mutual recognition or critique and interference up to the point of violence. The aim of the conference was thus to develop more complex models of constellations and paths of development that help to better understand and explain religious change and changes of urbanity. The program brought together international, leading experts focusing on empirical and theoretical questions and representing multiple disciplines, such as religious studies, Asian studies, history, classics, archaeology, geography, and sociology. The overall aim was to bring the heuristically promising concept of heterarchy to bear on the study of the cross-cultural and -temporal entanglements of religion and urbanity.

Emiliano Urciuoli, Susanne Rau and Jörg Rüpke