Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society (JRAT)
Charisma, Popularity, Power: Grace, Religions and Belief throughout History until the Present.
Ed by Rüdiger Lohlker and Nikola Pantić
Call for Abstracts
In comparative religious studies, notions of grace (charis) and charisma are widely used, but often in a routine manner. Despite ample criticism of this usage, popular interpretations of the term “charisma” as an indicator of personal appeal can still be found even in scholarly work. Ever since Max Weber attributed sociological significance to the term, charisma has mostly been studied in relation to the leadership skills and appeal of authoritative figures. However, its frequent historical connection with the alleged mystical attributes and powers of individuals, places, and objects, as acknowledged by Weber himself, remains understudied.
The upcoming JRAT Special Issue explores possible theoretical connections, and methods to align historical notions and beliefs in mystical grace (appearing under many names, such as mana, purba, orenda, etc.) with sociological theories of charisma, addressing the scholarly challenges that arise from studying charismatic individuals and institutional religious authorities in monotheistic traditions and beyond. Studying the charismatic quality of certain people, locations, and items as a socio-anthropological marker, the Special Issue aims for a more nuanced understanding of the history of various religious traditions. JRAT is accepting papers approaching charisma/grace to analyze the emergence, institutionalization, and growth of religious offices tasked with addressing popular religious needs, the strengthening of the exclusivity of the religious profession, sharply distinguished from heresies and sorcery, and the influence of grace on political power. Understanding the influence of grace on rulership could more thoroughly explain the connection between charismatic rulers and priestly hierarchies, and the lasting monopoly over grace among charismatic confraternities as a means of social, economic, jurisprudential, and at times political control.
The Special Issue aims to explore how the supposed monopoly over grace allowed for the emergence and growth of establishmentarian corporate hierarchies that evolved within religious offices over time. Such a comparative historical process can be observed across religious traditions, where the charisma of religious authorities was continuously reinforced by the charisma of their respective offices. These offices often represented specific niches with distinct corporate identities, prerogatives, privileges, and duties, monopolizing access to mystical powers and facilitating charismatic transactions. As a result, religious professionals became exclusive socio-political entities responsible for dispensing institutional divine grace to the rest of the population.
In many regions, the charismatic quality attributed to certain individuals over time became directly associated with the ability to cause praeternatural feats, further enhancing the exclusivity of the profession responsible for matters of faith. These feats included, but were not limited to walking on water, resurrections, thaumaturgical healing, controlling the elements, charming animals, flying, teleportation, opposing malevolent or infernal forces, or displaying superhuman physical feats. Thaumaturgy was a fundamental element of many religious traditions, both Abrahamic and beyond, and religious professionals endeavored to maintain their monopoly over it.
The JRAT Special Issue welcomes articles from various fields, including (but not limited to): History
- Religious Studies
- Sociology and Anthropology
- Political sciences and International Relations
It also welcomes contributions from other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, with open criteria of the period and location.