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Emotions and Religion

From devotional practices to academic theology, emotions are of ubiquitous importance throughout the field of religion. In many historical contexts religious ritual aimed at the production of particular emotional experiences, with certain types of feeling standing as evidence of proper belief or connections to the divine. Religious feelings have often been associated with particularly intense collective emotional experiences. As well as the intense and collective experiences of much religious practice, religions are also important sources of emotional norms for many aspects of daily life and morality. Religious authorities regularly aimed to cultivate certain forms of emotional comportment and the proper performance of gendered roles.
Religion is a vital topic for the study of how certain emotions and related practices were promoted or discouraged, as well as how such discipline was negotiated in encounters between laity and authorities, believers and non-believers, and between religions. Different traditions had varying structures of authority and models of hierarchy with such specific contexts of social relations shaping the meaning of religious emotions.
In many cases, religious change consisted of or was proven by emotional transformations: conversions required changes in feeling as well as apprehension of doctrine. Missionary work, revival movements and the birth of new traditions were all mediated by emotional practices. The contentious development of "religion" as a cross-cultural category across the early modern and modern period is key to understand the ways in which systems of belief in themselves became objects for certain feelings.
This research focus asks: How were emotional practices transmitted, exchanged, and received in religious contexts? How were religious notions entangled with or opposed to other sources of ideas about emotional expression? What were the role of emotions in global interreligious cultural encounters? What role did the emotions play in the nexus between the rise of imperialism and religious change? How can processes of modernization be reconsidered through the lens of emotions and religion?