C 04

Religious Speech as a Resource in South and Central Asia. Indoctrination, Medialisation and Commercialisation

Academic discipline



Project management

Conrad, Ruth, PD Dr.

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Theologische Fakultät

Institut für Praktische Theologie

Unter den Linden 6

10099 Berlin

Telephone: +49 30 2093 5933

E-mail: ruth.conradspam prevention@hu-berlin.de


Hardenberg, Roland, Prof. Dr.

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Frobenius Institut

Norbert-Wollheim-Platz 1

60629 Frankfurt am Main

Telephone: +49 69 798 33052

E-mail: hardenbergspam prevention@em.uni-frankfurt.de

PhD candidates

and Postdocs

Ojha, Deepak Kumar, Dr.

Frobenius-Institut für kulturanthropologische Forschung
Norbert-Wollheim-Platz 1

60323 Frankfurt am Main

Telephone: 0151 75870616

E-mail: ojhaspam prevention@em.uni-frankfurt.de


Taalaibekova, Gulniza, M.A.

Frobenius-Institut für kulturanthropologische Forschung


Norbert-Wollheim-Platz 1

60323 Frankfurt am Main

Telephone: +49 69 798 33241

E-mail: taalaibekovaspam prevention@em.uni-frankfurt.de


Schäfer, Sophia Margarethe
Frobenius-Institut für kulturanthropologische Forschung


Norbert-Wollheim-Platz 1

60323 Frankfurt am Main

E-mail: soschaefspam prevention@em.uni-frankfurt.de

The project aims at scrutinising the use, relevance and impact of religious resources in different societies in South and Central Asia. It will contribute to the idea of ‘Ritual Economy’, challenging the common separation of the economic and religious spheres and instead point out the multiple interferences of economic and religious forms of knowledge, spaces and objects. The religious resources, required by a variety of institutions in order to emerge, persist and transform, were focussed upon during the first phase of the project. Religious knowledge (ilim) taught in mosques and madrassas in Islamic Kyrgyzstan was analysed, just as the sacred food (mahaprasad) of Hindus in Indian Puri, produced, distributed and consumed in the major temple of Jagannatha or the numerous foundations (waqf) of the grand Shiitic shrine of Imam Reza in Mashad/Iran.

The project’s second phase will bring another religious resource under scrutiny that is of central importance in many religious communities of South and Central Asia: religious speech. This is understood as public oral performances, which mostly refer to sacral texts and intend a transforming effect on the audience. Previous research established religious speeches as an important resource for the emergence, maintenance and change of religious institutions in South and Central Asia. The first case study in Kyrgyzstan will focus not only on the religious discourses of the laypersons but even more on the speeches of the clergy (Imams) in the mosques of the capital and during major events hosted by religious foundations. In Odisha/India two more case studies analyse the religious speeches of representatives of various religious institutions. In all these case studies religious speech is part of a ResourceComplex encompassing education, texts, media, places, networks etc. We are working on the hypothesis, that the dynamics specific for these ResourceComplexes in all three cases are a result of the interrelation between religious education, mediatization and commercialisation. During the first project phase it could be demonstrated that religious speakers in India and Kyrgyzstan often intend – supported by a variety of performances – to contribute to a conversion, awakening or religious revitalisation of individuals or groups. This is also supported by the use of various media, in the past primarily texts, now more and more by internet sources and audio-visual, social or digital media. This mediatization reveals the material dimension of religious speeches that are broadcasted, bought and consumed as flyers, articles in magazines, books, audio and video cassettes, CDs, DVDs and internet streams and often involve promotion and advertising. This also makes it possible to trace the transnational routes of distribution of religious speeches between Europe, the US, Saudi Arabia and the countries of South and Central Asia. This commodification and commercialisation of religious speeches on real life and virtual markets is explored in all the case studies. Because of the expansion of our field of studies ‘Religious Resources’ to speeches, during this second phase the anthropological approach is complemented by theological expertise in an interdisciplinary way.

Religious Speech As A Resource

A film by Deepak Kumar Ojha

Use and significance of Satsang of Shankaracharya in Govardhan Peetham of Puri

Religious speech is locally referred to as 'satsang' in Puri and is regarded as a culture-specific effective practice to bring happiness, removing stress, providing mental peace and eradicating conflict or violence among people. This science clip shows cases the satsang programmes undertaken by the Shankaracharya of Govardhan Peetham, one of the oldest monasteries of Puri and its impact on the social life of devotees. The clip also helps to give a glimpse how the satsangs are transferred into different forms of media such as CDs, DVDs and books as well as how this contributes towards an establishment of teacher-student relationship and institution building.

To see the film, please click here.