Summerschool – Religion: Spaces, Places, and Environments

17-23 July 2023

VENUE: ISOR, Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona .

Following the successful summer school editions in the past years, the eleventh International Summer school is jointly organized by the Honours College of Groningen University, the Philosophical Theological College, Brixen (Italy) and the ISOR (Research in Sociology of Religion), Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona.

In this edition, the Summer School will explore the interactive relationship between religion, urban spaces, and environments. By investigating how sacred places are configurated within urban spaces, the program unpacks how religion is negotiated in the city of Barcelona and its surrounding area. More concretely, students will explore the historical and current religious pluralism of Barcelona area, exploring the urban artifacts through this diversity is manifested, contested or negotiated. Students participating in this summer school will also better understand the relationship between religion and the environment, particularly how religious institutions and communities respond to uncertainties related to climate change and the environmental crisis.

The Summer Course is taught mainly through seminars and will include a fieldtrip. The seminars will be taught by academics with a strong international profile that have both empirical and theoretical expertise on their subjects. The seminars provide a space for in-depth, participatory debate on the ethnographic research that the students have gotten to know through their readings and the presentations of the seminar teachers. Students will have the chance to engage with the study of religion in public spaces through a fieldtrip to the famous pilgrimage site of Montserrat, supervised by Anna Fedele, a specialist on pilgrimage who has done ethnographic research at Marian shrines in different European countries.

SPECIAL ISSUE Birthing matters in Portugal

In this SPECIAL ISSUE the contributions of anthropology to the understanding of childbirth as social practice in Portugal are outlined. Portugal is a country with one of the highest rates of medical intervention in childbirth in Europe, and widespread and diverse opposition to current medicalised approaches to birthing care in Portugal are becoming increasingly visible, yet the “alternative” practice of homebirth exists in a legal void. This collEction of articles is an attempt to bridge the present gap in knowledge by showcasing new anthropological research from Portugal on pregnancy and childbirth, offering analyses of birth which go beyond generalising descriptions of the oppositional discourses of specific social actors (e. g. doctors, midwives, homebirthers), and instead analyse the various reflections, collaborations, contestations and contradictions, in particular situations and settings. The experiences of women are foregrounded.

Special Issue: Uncertainty in Vernacular Religions



Uncertainty in Vernacular Religions

/ Incertitudes et religions vernaculaires


Editors: Élisabeth Claverie et/and Anna Fedele


In the last decades social scientists and religious historians have emphasized the need to pay more attention to religion as lived and practiced. Contrary to the assumption that religion works as a sort of magical remedy against uncertainty, providing people with a set of answers and solutions they totally embrace and rely upon, what emerges from ethnographical accounts is that uncertainty and doubt are inherent in lived religion.

In this special issue we encouraged the authors to produce ethnographically grounded papers that explore the role of uncertainty and doubt in religious practices focusing on the way in which people test the efficacy of rituals as well as the healing power of sacred figures and sites. How do people establish that a certain religion works for them in a historical period in which they are increasingly aware of the existence of religious traditions that are different from the one they grew up with? How do they criticize with their own religious creativity the dogmas and rules of the religious tradition they belong to?


Table of contents:


Introduction: Uncertainty in vernacular religions

Élisabeth Claverie and Anna Fedele



Créativité et incertitude dans les nouveaux rituels contemporains

Anna Fedele

This paper is based on fieldwork among Portuguese, Italians, Catalans and Spaniards influenced by the transnational Goddess spirituality movement. Through an analysis of ritual narratives the author analyses the role of doubt and uncertainty in contemporary rituals created within Goddess spirituality. She will show that contemporary crafted rituals offer a privileged window on the uncertainty intrinsic in ritual because participants feel less constrained by a long-standing religious tradition and talk more openly about their doubts and their strategies to neutralize them than in the case of secular ceremonies. Drawing on Simon Coleman’s analysis of pilgrimage and ritual (2009, 2013) she suggests that uncertainty may play an important role not only in rituals created in the context of ‘New Age’ spirituality but also in other contemporary rituals created in plural and increasingly secularized Western contexts.

Access English version of this article


Uncertainty at the heart of a ritual in Lebanon 2011

Emma Aubin-Boltanski


In Lebanon and Syria, a network of Christian female mystics has been forming since the early 1980s. Every year on Good Friday, all these women relive Christ’s sufferings more or less dramatically. Some, crippled with pain, tend to isolate themselves. In contrast, others show the wounds that appear on their bodies to crowds of devotees. This article will focus on the ritual of ‘crucifixion’ (insilâb). Based on a description of Catherine Fahmi’s insilâb, the author will show that stigmatization is both a paradigmand a process: even if it inscribes itself in a long imitatio Christi tradition, which has been formalized and theorized over the centuries, the ritual also contributes to deeply transforming the Passion myth. Uncertainty – along with its subsequent questions, concerns, and hesitations – is key to this process.


À l’épreuve des certitudes : récits d’une sanctification locale (Ceará, Brésil)

Agnès Clerc-Renaud



In Brazil, the cult of saints brings into focus differences between formerly hegemonic Catholics and an increasing number of Evangelicals. In the context of a small town where a vernacular saint is worshipped, the practice of hagiographic narratives is viewed as a means of testing certainty. Analysis of these narratives (motifs or plots), the order of their episodes and the situations in which they are spoken reveals differing ways of exploring doubt and certainty. The missing elements that leave the story open are seen as ‘commonalities’, which contribute to social cohesion, allowing for creative reinterpretations of past and present events. The paper concludes with a brief comparison of the implications of exchanges of goods and exchanges of words, which demonstrates the role of the latter in the construction of the group’s social temporality.


Certainty and uncertainty in contemporary spirituality and Catholicism: Finding proof versus destabilizing certainties in popular religion in the Netherlands

Kim Knibbe


This article is based on several years of ethnographic research in the Netherlands on contemporary spirituality and Catholicism. The emphasis within the networks of contemporary spirituality discussed here is on finding ‘proof’ of ‘the other side’. This quest for certainty is compared to another religious context, dominated by a discourse of liberal Catholicism, where the emphasis is on learning to deal with uncertainty (previously discussed in this journal: see Knibbe, 2008). Here, uncertainty is experienced as liberating. This comparison is the basis for the development of a theoretical approach to understanding both the quest for certainty and the quest for uncertainty, based on Jackson’s essay ‘Minima ethnographica’ (1998). The article ends with a reflection on the implications of these findings in relation to the tendency within the sociology of religion to look for causal links between societal changes and changes in religion.


CFP Rethinking Spirituality Through Gender and Youth

Panel coordinated by Mia Lövheim, Kristin Aune and Anna Fedele

at the Conference of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion (ISSR), July 2015, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium


Call for papers

This session aims to debate the conceptual distinction between ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’, which has been widely used in the sociology of religion. Drawing on the changing religious practices of the “Baby-boom generation” and the public interest in the “new age” phenomena in the 1980s, the concept of spirituality became crucial in describing a shift from institutional religion, characterized by adherence to traditional religious doctrines, to newer forms of flexible, individual and holistic religiosity. In previous research spirituality has, on the one side, been interpreted as a sign of religious decline through privatization and, on the other, hailed as a way for religion to accommodate to the new situations faced by late modern social actors. This session critically explores whether ‘spirituality’ is a useful concept for studying the ways in which people live out religio-spiritual lives in the twenty-first century. It does so through the lenses of gender and youth, two aspects of social identity that have received significant new attention from religion scholars since the late twentieth century. Scholars such as Woodhead (2012) have advocated ‘spirituality’ as better able to reflect the complex lives of women and young people, and as more open to material and emotional aspects of religious experience and practice. A new body of work, including Fedele and Knibbe’s (2013) collection of ethnographic studies of gender, critique the spirituality/religion distinction. Scholars such as McGuire (2008) and Ammerman (2013) have argued for the concept of ‘lived religion’ or ‘everyday religion’ as a better alternative. This session invites scholars conducting empirical studies of youth and gender to contribute their findings to help answer these questions: How, if at all, is the distinction between religion and spirituality helpful in interpreting the experiences of these social groups, especially through embodied and sensory encounters with the divine? How can the religio-spiritual practices of young people, women and gender-marginal men (e.g. men marginalised by ethnicity, sexuality or non-conformity to gender stereotypes) contribute to a development of concepts and theories about religion and spirituality?

Submit papers online through the ISSR website


Repenser la spiritualité à travers le genre et la jeunesse

Dans ce panel onla distinction entre « religion » et « spiritualité », largement utilisée dans la sociologie de la religion. S’appuyant sur les pratiques religieuses changeantes de la « génération du baby-boom » et l’intérêt public pour les phénomènes « new age » dans les années 1980, le concept de spiritualité devint crucial pour décrire le passage de la religion institutionnelle à des formes récentes de religiosité flexible, individuelle et holiste. Dans les recherches antérieures, la spiritualité a été interprétée comme un signe du déclin du religieux via la privatisation mais ausi comme un moyen pour la religion de s’accommoder aux nouvelles situations modernes.

On s’interroge si la « spiritualité » est un concept utile pour étudier les vécus religieux-spirituels des individus au XXIème siècle. Cela sera fait à travers les categories de genre et jeunesse, qui ont suscité une nouvelle attention de la part des chercheurs de la religion. Des penseurs comme Woodhead (2012) ont soutenu que la notion de « spiritualité » est mieux capable de refléter les vies complexes des femmes et des jeunes gens, et qu’ elle est plus ouverte aux aspects matériels et émotionnels de l’expérience religieuse. Un nouveau corpus de textes sur le genre tel que Fedele et Knibbe (2013), critique la distinction entre spiritualité et religion et McGuire (2008) et Ammerman (2013) ont affirmé que le concept de « religion vécue » ou de « religion quotidienne » est une meilleure alternative.

Nous invitons les chercheurs conduisant des études empiriques sur la jeunesse et le genre à répondre à ces questions : Comment, si c’est le cas, la distinction entre religion et spiritualité est-elle utile dans l’interprétation des expériences de ces groupes sociaux, surtout à travers des rencontres corporelles et sensorielles avec le divin? Comment les pratiques religieuses-spirituelles des jeunes, des femmes et des hommes marginalisés du point de vue du genre (ex. les hommes marginalisés à cause de leur appartenance ethnique, de leur sexualité ou de leur non-conformité aux stéréotypes de genre) peuvent-elles contribuer à un développement de théories sur la religion et de la spiritualité ?


EASA Network for the Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality

Inaugural panel of the Network for the Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality

Biennial Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)

Tallin, Estonia, 31rd July 2014 – 3rd August 2014

Innovation and Continuity in the Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality 

Contact persons: Anna Fedele (CRIA) and Kim Knibbe (University of Groningen)

Short description:

This is the inaugural panel of the network for the anthropology of gender and sexuality. We wish to explore the breadth of the ethnographic research that is being done on this topic and to situate current analyses within the history of anthropological scholarship on gender and sexuality.


Many developments within Europe and the wider world make it necessary to bring together scholarship on gender and sexuality to facilitate intellectual exchange and comparative work. These developments include long-lasting processes such as the multitude of institutionalized forms of male domination, as well as daily practices of hegemonic masculinity and the use of stereotyped concepts of masculinity, femininity and heteronormativity to legitimize sexist and homophobic practices.

There are also more recent phenomena such as feminist reactions to the perceived threat to liberal values concerning gender and sexuality from migrant groups in Europe, the broad discussions on gay marriage in many countries, but also the ways in which feminist agendas are (ab)used to legitimize neo-colonial and military interventions, and the rise of ‘sexual nationalism’ in Africa and Europe.

We therefore invite ethnographically grounded papers that develop the anthropology of gender and sexuality as it has evolved over the past decades or explore new ways of addressing gender and sexuality. We particularly welcome papers that situate themselves explicitly within the history of the anthropological study of gender and sexuality. We look forward to a stimulating first session that will be the foundation for many more sessions to come, to develop and expand an international sharing of research on gender and sexuality.

More information about the EASA Network for the Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality 


“Looking for Mary Magdalene” gets Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion

Anna Fedele’s book “Looking for Mary Magdalene” has received the Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion for Analytical-Descriptive Studies of the American Academy of Religion.

Looking for Mary Magdalene: Alternative Pilgrimage and Ritual Creativity at Catholic Shrines in France

Looking for Mary Magdalene: Alternative Pilgrimage and Ritual Creativity at Catholic Shrines in France


The Awards for Excellence and Best First Book in the History of Religions recognize new scholarly publications that make significant contributions to the study of religion. The awards honor books of distinctive originality, intelligence, creativity, and importance; books that affect decisively how religion is examined, understood, and interpreted.


The American Academy of Religion (AAR) is the world’s largest association of scholars in the field of religious studies and related topics. It was originally founded in 1909 and  is today a nonprofit member association, serving as a professional and learned society for scholars involved in the academic study of religion. It has some 10,000 members world-wide.

New Book: Gender and Power in Contemporary Spirituality

Gender and Power in Contemporary Spirituality

Ethnographic Approaches

Edited by Anna Fedele and Kim Knibbe

Gender and Power in Contemporary Spirituality

This book contains captivating descriptions of the entanglements of gender and power in spiritual practices and detailed analyses of the strategies spiritual practitioners use to attain what to social scientists might seem an impossible goal: creating spiritual communities without creating gendered hierarchies.

Contemporary spiritual practitioners tend to present their own spirituality as non-hierarchical and gender equal, in contrast to ‘established’ religions. Current studies of these movements often reproduce their selfdescription as empowering, while other literature reacts polemically against these movements, describing them as narcissist and irrelevant and/or in league with capitalism. This book moves between these two poles, recognizing that gender and power are always at work in any socio-cultural situation.

What strategies do people within these networks use to attain gender equality and gendered empowerment?

How do they try to protect and develop individual freedom? How do gender and power nevertheless play a role?

The contributions collected in this book demonstrate that in order to understand contemporary spirituality the analytical lenses of gender and power are essential. Furthermore, they show that it is not possible to make a clear distinction between established religions and contemporary spirituality:

the two sometimes overlap, at other times spirituality uses religion to play off against while reproducing some of the underlying interpretative frameworks. While recognizing the reflexivity of spiritual practitioners and the reciprocal relationship between spirituality and disciplines such as anthropology, the authors do not take the discourses of spiritual practitioners for granted. Their ethnographic descriptions of lived spirituality span a wide range of countries, from Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands to Mexico and Israel.

“An important and original contribution to the understanding of the dynamics of gender and power in alternative forms of spirituality.” – Sabina Magliocco, California StateUniversity, Northridge, USA

Central to spirituality is a desire for personal liberation, we hear again and again. Yet this rich collection of ethnographies demonstrates that it is deeply shaped by performances ofgender and power.” – Dick Houtman, Erasmus University, Netherlands


Summer School Religion in the Public Domain

Course conveners: Anna Fedele, Kim Knibbe, Erin Wilson


Dates: July 11th – 17th 2013

Venue: ISCTE-IUL | Avenida das Forcas Armada 1649-026| Ala Áutonoma | Clube ISCTE (TBC)


This Summer school, organized jointly by CRIA-IUL, ISCTE-University Institute of Lisbon and the University of Groningen, is directed to undergraduate and post-graduate students interested in the public role of religion in contemporary societies. Through workshops and lectures students will become acquainted with current research on the topic carried out in contemporary society. A field trip to Fátima will introduce students to research skills such as participant observation and informal interviewing. Through discussion assignments students will develop their insight into the role of religion in present-day societies and the diverse ways this can be researched.


Contact persons in Lisbon: Anna Fedele ( | Mafalda Melo Sousa (

Contact person in the Netherlands: Kim Knibbe (

Costs: €150 – this includes the catering but does not include the trip to Fátima (about €40/person)



Thursday 11th of July


Welcome and opening remarks by course conveners



15.00- 16.00

16.00- 16.30

16.30-17.00Coffee and tea


Keynote lecture 1: Ramon Sarró, title to be confirmed



Dinner in townFriday 12th of July 9.00 – 10.30


10.30- 11.00

11.00- 12.30

12.30- 13.30

 Workshop 1 New Pentecostal subjectivities and individualism amongst young women in Nigeria, Juliet Gilbert

Coffee and tea

Workshop 2: on fieldwork, Anna Fedele


14.00- 17.30

Preparing for fieldwork in townSaturday 13th of July All day

  Fieldtrip to Fátima with Anna Fedele Sunday you’re free!Monday 15th of July 09.00- 10.30



11.00- 12.30

12.30- 13.30

13.30- 15.00


15.00- 15.30

16.00- 17.00
Keynote and discussion, Mariano Barbato, Pilgrimage Stories. Apparitions, Shrines and Politics

Coffee and Tea

Comparing notes on fieldwork


Workshop 3: Islam in public space, Nina Clara Tiesler

With the support of texts previously circulated among students, discuss discourses about Islam and public domains.

Coffee and Tea

Workshop 4: the invisibility of death in public space,  Clara Saraiva


Dinner in townTuesday 16th of July 09.00-10.30








12.30- 13.30




15.30- 17.00Workshop 5: ‘Aren’t you looking for citizenship in the wrong place’: secular normativity and the making of the religious subject among Muslims in Portugal, José Mapril

With the help of texts previously circulated among students, we will discuss theoretical issues of charisma and religious leadership, with examples from African churches in Europe

Coffee and tea

Workshop 6: Leadership and Charisma, Ruy Blanes


Workshop 7: New Age, Orthodox Christianity and secularism in public and private spaces, Eugenia Roussou

Coffee and Tea

Workshop 7: Afro-Brazilian Religion and Public Space, Diana Espirito SantoWednesday 17th of July 9.00-10.30

10.30- 11.00

11.00- 12.30

12.30-13.30Presentations and discussion

Coffee and Tea

Closing debate

Lunch and goodbyeLecturersRuy Blanes (ICS-UL and LSE)

Anna Fedele (CRIA-IUL)

José Mapril (CRIA-FCSH/UNL)

Ramon Sarró (Oxford University)

Nina Clara Tiesler (ICS, University of Lisbon)

Eugenia Roussou (CRIA-FCSH/UNL)

Kim Knibbe (University of Groningen)

Erin Wilson (University of Groningen)

Diana Espirito Santo (CRIA-FCSH/UNL)

Clara Saraiva (CRIA-FCSH/UNL)

Juliet Gilbert, University of Oxford

Mariano Barbato, University of Passau and Babes-Bolyai-University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Place:  ISCTE-University Institute of Lisbon

Avenida das Forças Armadas, Ala Autónoma, Clube ISCTE

Closest Underground Station: Entrecampos



This Summer School focuses on the role of religion in the public domain in contemporary societies through the discussion of current ethnographic research and through a field trip to Fatima during the annual celebrations. It is open to undergraduate and post-graduate students who are interested in these topics. For students who have not followed any course on religion in the public domain, it is obligatory to prepare for the course through the readings specified.

Combining theory and empirical research this Summer School offers theoretical as well as practical tools that will provide the students with a wide spectrum of strategies to address the intersections of religion and the public domain in ethnographic contexts.

Around 10 participants will be accepted in this Summer Course. We welcome also MA and PhD students and consider that variety of educational levels will enrich discussion.

All participants will receive a presence certificate. If participants successfully complete the assessments they will also receive a diploma of the Summer Course, corresponding to 6 ECTS.

The assessment process will include:

–       Participation in seminars (20%)

–       Field trip (20 %)

–       Final paper (60%)


The final essay can be written in Portuguese or English.

The Summer Course is taught mainly through seminars and will include a fieldtrip. The seminars will be given by academics with a strong international profile that have both empirical and theoretical expertise on the subjects treated.

The seminars provide a space for in depth, participatory debate on the ethnographic research that the students have gotten to know through their readings and through the presentations of the seminar teachers. The readings will be distributed beforehand to prepare in advance for the seminars, enabling students to comply with the assessment requirements.

The course will be taught in English



Anna Fedele is a research fellow of the CRIA- University Institute Lisbon. Her research focuses on the intersections of gender and religion and particularly on issues of corporeality, sexuality and ritual creativity. She has recently been a visiting scholar at Stanford University and is the author of Looking for Mary Magdalene. Alternative Pilgrimage and Ritual Creativity at Catholic Shrines in France (Oxford University Press, 2013). She is the co-editor of Encounters of Body and Soul in Contemporary Religious Practices (Berghahn, EASA Series. 2011) and Gender and Power in Contemporary Spiritualities: Ethnographic Approaches (Routledge, Studies in Religion, 2013).

Kim Knibbe received her PhD (Cum Laude) in the anthropology of religion at the VU University Amsterdam in 2007. She is now Assistant Professor in the Department for the Comparative and Historical Study of Religion at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen. She has worked on Nigerian Pentecostal churches in Europe, on Catholicism and on contemporary spirituality. Her first book, Faith in the Familiar, is forthcoming with Brill in 2013. With Anna Fedele she edited the book Gender and Power in Contemporary Spirituality. Ethnographic Approaches which has just come out with Routledge. Dr Knibbe is also the coordinator of the Religion, Conflict and Globalization Masters trajectory in the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies.

Erin K. Wilson received her PhD in Political Science from the University of Queensland, Australia in 2008. She is now the Director of the Centre for Religion and Conflict in the Public Domain based at the University of Groningen. Her research focuses on the intersection of religion with various dimensions of politics and public life, at the local, national and global levels. She has published on religion and global justice, globalization, active citizenship and the politics of asylum in International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Refugee Studies and Global Society. Dr Wilson spent four years as a research fellow at RMIT University, Melbourne. Her current research interests include the relationship between religion and political apologies, climate change and political activism in an increasingly post-secular age. Her books include After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics, and Justice Globalism: Ideology, Crises, Policy, co-authored with Manfred B. Steger and James Goodman


Summer Course on Sexuality and Morality, Lisbon, September 2013

Summer School

Sexuality and Morality: Intercultural Perspectives and Mediations

Lisbon, 16-21 September 2013

The Second Edition of the Summer School on Sexuality and Morality will be held at the Lisbon University Institute (ISCTE-IUL), in Lisbon, Portugal, from the 16th to the 21st of September 2013.

Around 20 participants will be accepted.

Scholarships are available from the Grundtvig Program funded by The European Commission (see below)

Objectives and Rationale

From the very beginnings of anthropology the entanglements of sexuality and morality have captured the imagination of scholars, challenging their normative assumptions and calling into question their descriptive and interpretative tools. What can be said of these entanglements at the beginning of the 21st century, after decades of research on the matter? Are there still unbroken taboos in the social sciences? How are we to understand sexuality and morality, and how can these issues be investigated? How are relations between sexuality and morality being (re)defined? What is the role of religion, politics, and commerce in (re)shaping these relations? How can anthropology improve our understanding of such complex entanglements?

In recent years, sexuality and morality have received increased attention in the social sciences. While sexuality has ‘gone global’ and become a highly seductive concept (Moore 2010), its entanglements with moral issues and anxieties continue to provide important insights on key societal concerns and transformations. To illuminate such concerns, an emerging body of scholarship on morality in the social sciences, and more particularly in anthropology, seems particularly well suited. By giving new impetus and analytical purchase to the notion of morality, this scholarship helps us rethink sexuality and its wider implications.

Challenging taken for granted assumptions on sexuality and morality, and focusing on their intersections, the course is designed to move from general theoretical and methodological considerations to a range of concrete examples dealing with religion, politics and commerce. Religious taboos, sex work, and same-sex marriages are among the cases addressed. They will help participants answer the key questions asked during the course, and provide exemplary illustrations of how sexuality, morality, and their complex relationships can be rethought in the light of the latest debates in the field of anthropology.

Without neglecting classical authors such as Margaret Mead and Michel Foucault, the course has a strong emphasis on contemporary debates in the social sciences. It will review key perspectives and approaches, offer– participants a flexible methodological and theoretical framework, and provide a space for debating a range of case studies and concrete examples under the guidance of lecturers with first hand ethnographical knowledge on the addressed topics.



The course will consist of 5 lectures (3 hours per day), complemented with 5 seminars (3 hours per day) that will allow in-depth discussion of previously shared material. There will also be a fieldwork excursion on the final day.

Combining theory and empirical research this Summer Course offers theoretical as well as practical tools that will provide the participants with a wide spectrum of strategies to address the intersections of sexuality and morality.

The lectures and seminars will be structured around the following themes:

Day 1: The anthropology of sexuality and morality: An introduction

Day 2: Delineating the field: Key debates on sexuality and morality

Day 3: Sexuality, taboo and religion

Day 4: Sex work and the commerce of intimacy

Day 5: Same-sex marriages and the ‘end’ of gender

On day 6, there will be a fieldwork excursion and a final discussion

Lectures and seminars will be given by academics with a strong international profile that have both empirical and theoretical expertise on the subjects treated.

The lectures are structured to proceed from more general theoretical and methodological considerations (lessons 1 and 2) to a range of concrete examples dealing with religious taboos (lesson 3), sex work (lesson 4), and same-sex marriages (lesson 5).

The seminars provide a space for in depth, participatory debate on the topics addressed during the lectures. They are based on the discussion of key texts sent to participants before the beginning of the course. The distributed material allows participants to prepare in advance for the seminars, enabling also those who wish to undertake the course’s assessment to comply with its requirements.

Tutorials are provided to participants who wish to receive the course’s diploma (6 ECTS) to support them in the preparation of their final papers. The tutorials offer methodological, theoretical, and practical guidance to help participants design and write up their research.

The course is taught in English, but discussion may be in English and Portuguese depending on the participants’ preferences. As for the tutorials and the final essay, Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, Italian are accepted.



Anna Fedele is a research fellow of the CRIA- Lisbon University Institute and an associated researcher of the Groupe de Sociologie Politique et Morale of the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. Currently she is a Visiting Fellow of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies of the European University Institute in Florence. Her research focuses on the intersections of gender and religion and particularly on issues of corporeality, sexuality and ritual creativity.  Anna is the author of Looking for Mary Magdalene. Alternative Pilgrimage and Ritual Creativity at Catholic Shrines in France (Oxford University Press, 2012). She has also co-edited Encounters of Body and Soul in Contemporary Religious Practices (Berghahn, EASA Series 2011) and Gender and Power in Contemporary Spirituality. (Routledge Studies in Religion, 2013)

Valerio Simoni is a research fellow of the CRIA- Lisbon University Institute, and a Visiting Research Associate at the Centre for Tourism & Cultural Change (UK). His current researches, grounded in ethnographic fieldwork in Cuba and Spain, focus on transformations of intimate and economic lives and controversial enactments of friendship, love, sex, and commerce in international tourism and migration. He has published his work in books and anthropology journals including Etnografica, Civilisations, and Tsantsa.

Miguel Vale de Almeida is professor of anthropology at the Lisbon University Institute and his research focuses on gender, masculinity and sexuality. He is the author of numerous international articles and of The Hegemonic Male: Masculinity in a Portuguese Town (Berghahn 2004).


For enquiries related to the course content or the scholarships, please contact the Summer School co-ordinators, Valerio Simoni ( or Anna Fedele (


This summer school has been included in the Grundtvig Training Database and a limited number of scholarships are available. We encourage prospective participants coming from countries in which the Grundtvig Program operates to apply for these scholarships after prior consultation with us regarding the places available.

You can find general information about the Grundtvig program at:

Countries eligible: