The 19th World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR) will be held in Tokyo, Japan, in 2005. The organizers wish to announce the opening of registration, and to issue a formal call for papers and the proposal of group sessions.

Congress Chair: TAMARU Noriyoshi
World Congress Advisory Committee: Peter ANTES
International Congress Committee: Armin W. GEERTZ
Congress Secretariat, President of the Japanese Association for Religious Studie SHIMAZONO Susumu
Congress Academic Program Committee: Gerrie ter HAAR


Sponsoring Bodies
Science Council of Japan
Conseil international de la philosophie et des sciences humaines (CIPSH)
Japanese Association for Religious Studies (JARS)

Congress Dates
24 - 30 March, 2005 (7 days)

Congress Venue
Takanawa Prince Hotel, Shinagawa, Tokyo

Congress Theme
Religion: Conflict and Peace to the prospectus

Congress Sub-themes
Religious Dimensions of War and Peace to the prospectus
Technology, Life, and Death to the prospectus
Global Religions and Local Cultures to the prospectus
Boundaries and Segregations to the prospectus
Method and Theory in the Study of Religionto the prospectus


The IAHR is a worldwide body of national and regional associations for the study of religion. It is a member of CIPSH, which functions under the auspices of Unesco. Founded in 1950, the IAHR aims to promote the academic study of the history of religions through international collaboration of scholars. An IAHR World Congress is held once every five years. For further information concerning the IAHR, kindly consult its permanent web page at or contact the General Secretary Armin W. GEERTZ (


The 19th World Congress in Tokyo, 2005, will be held under the joint sponsorship of the Japanese Association for Religious Studies (JARS) and the Science Council of Japan, in cooperation with other associations. This is the second congress to be sponsored by the JARS, having hosted the 9th congress in 1958. In addition, the year 2005 marks the 75th anniversary of the JARS and the centennial of the inauguration of a program of Religious Studies in the University of Tokyo. For further information concerning the JARS, kindly consult its permanent web page at


23 March (Wed) Registration
  15:00-18:00: Out-going Executive Committee meeting
24 March (Thurs) 10:00-12:00: Opening Ceremony
  14:00-18:00: Keynote Addresses (Opening Session)
  18:00-20:00: Reception
25 March (Fri) 9:00-10:30: Plenary Session 1
  11:00-13:00, 14:00-16:00, 16:30-18:30: Sessions
  20:00-21:30: Evening Sessions
26 March (Sat) 9:00-10:30: Plenary Session 2
  11:00-13:00, 14:00-16:00, 16:30-18:30: Sessions
  20:00-21:30: Evening Sessions
27 March (Sun) Excursion (half-day or one-day)
  9:00-13:00 International Committee meeting
  9:00-12:00, 13:00-16:00: Special Sessions
28 March (Mon) 9:00-10:30: Plenary Session 3
  11:00-13:00, 14:00-16:00, 16:30-18:30: Sessions
  18:30-21:00: In-coming Executive Committee meeting
  20:00-21:30: Evening Sessions
29 March (Tue) 9:00-10:30: Plenary Session 4
  11:00-13:00, 14:00-16:00, 16:30-18:30: Sessions
  19:00-22:00: Banquet, Cultural Evening
  20:00-21:30: Evening Sessions
30 March (Wed) 9:00-10:30: Plenary Session 5
  11:00-13:00, 14:00-16:00: Sessions
  16:00-18:00: General Assembly, Closing Ceremony


The academic program of the congress consists of six major groupings: 1. Keynote addresses, 2. Plenary sessions, 3. Organized panel, 4. Symposia, 5. Individual papers, 6. Roundtable sessions.

KEYNOTE ADDRESSES: The keynote addresses are given by distinguished scholars who are invited by the Congress Academic Program Committee (CAPC). The keynote addresses of the 19th World Congress, which is arranged as the opening session on "Religions and Dialogue among Civilizations," will be open to the general public. It will provide an opportunity to reflect on what religions can do to contribute to peace in the world, and what role the scholarly study of religion might have in this respect. For details, please refer to the Prospectus.

PLENARY SESSIONS: Each of the five days of the congress will open with a plenary session, consisting of presentations and responses by a panel of experts on one of the five sub-themes of the congress: Religious Dimensions of War and Peace; Technology, Life, and Death; Global Religions and Local Cultures; Boundaries and Segregations; and Method and Theory in the Study of Religion.

SPECIAL SESSIONS: A number of special sessions are being organized with a focus on Japanese religions. Several of the presentations will be delivered in Japanese.

The organization of both Keynote Addresses and the Special and Plenary Sessions is being coordinated by the IAHR and the Congress Secretariat of the JARS, but we welcome your suggestions and ideas.

The presentation of papers will take place during the time set aside for sessions in the above schedule. Members of the IAHR can propose organized panels, symposia, roundtable sessions or individual papers. The subject of a presentation of any category need not be directly related to the general theme or sub-themes of the congress. For details, please see the page of How to Propose.


The Business Program consists of the Opening Ceremony, the General Assembly, the Closing Ceremony, and other IAHR business meetings, including the Executive Committee, the International Committee and so on.


The Cultural Program consists of art exhibitions, excursions to religious sites, musical events, book exhibitions, and receptions. The details will be announced in the Second Circular and this website.


Early Registration Fee US$300
Late Registration Fee US$350
Students (Early Registration) US$150
Students (Late Registration) US$200
Accompanying Person US$100


31 December 2003 Proposals for individual papers, organized panels, symposia and roundtable sessions.
April 2004 Notification of acceptance of proposals; mailing of a second circular.
30 September 2004 Payment of early registration fees by those whose proposals have been accepted, and submission of abstracts for the same to the Congress Secretariat. No exceptions will be made, and it is therefore important that organizers of group sessions insure that all of their participants are duly registered by this date.


The Congress Secretariat of the JARS and the Executive Committee of the IAHR are prepared to make limited funds available for participants who need financial assistance for travel to Japan. Details will be provided in the second circular and/or the page of Financial Assistance of this website.


All proposals, suggestions, opinions or questions should be directed to the following address. A "form for proposals" will be published on this website.

The XIXth World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR), 24-30 March 2005, Tokyo, Japan

Conference Theme

Religion: Conflict and Peace

The conference theme addresses one of the most urgent issues of our time -- conflict and peace -- which is widely discussed in academic circles today.

Scholars of religions can make an important contribution to the debate by analysing the role of religion generally in matters concerning conflict and peace in their various aspects, as well as of single religious traditions in their various forms. This theme concerns ancient as well as living religions. Historical, sociological, anthropological, psychological, textual, iconographical and philosophical approaches: all have relevant contributions to make.

The conference theme is basically concerned with religion and power. It attempts to explore the many facets of human conflict, social stability, and the relationships between majorities and minorities, authorities and dissenters, revolution and evolution, male and female, 'us' and 'them', and so forth. It assumes that religion is a social and cultural factor or, as some would say, a social and cultural construction. Religion is also associated with political power in either an implicit or an explicit manner, which provides another important aspect of study.

Religion may serve as an identity marker in the maintenance of ethnic, social or political stability. But it can also serve as an identity marker in conflicts of such nature. Religion does not have to be the cause of, or a contributing factor to, violent conflict between social groups. Religion and religious ideology can also serve to regulate social violence. At the time of the cold war, religion was often regarded as a constructive factor that could contribute to the stability of peace. In recent decades, however, there has been a growing concern about its destructive side, as evidence seems to suggest that religion may intensify conflicts between civilizations. At the same time, there has been an increasing expectation of solving conflict through a dialogue between civilizations.

Religion can promote discourses of oppression that regulate relations between genders, generations, classes, or other social groups. It can also provide models for an ideal society and for ideal relations between genders and groups. Religion can become a tool in the service of freedom, whether political or existential. Growing violence, political oppression and poverty may contribute to the emergence of new religious movements that are seen to indicate a better future for those who are suffering, but may themselves become the cause of serious new conflicts.

Religions often have traditions in which exemplary individuals, semi-mortal figures, or deities have attained victories for peace and emancipation. On the other hand, gods may be mirror images of their mortal servants, constantly at war with each other, spreading intrigue and misery in the divine and human worlds. The gods may serve as the ultimate justification for violence and hatred, or for peace and harmony between mortals. Some religious figures may invoke doom, exciting instability and frenzy, whereas others may serve as promoters of peace.

In this congress we intend to pursue these matters in such a way that our knowledge and understanding of these issues will be deepened. We hope for exciting scholarly debates that will illuminate the way in which historical and contemporary religions have contributed, and still contribute, to questions of conflict and peace. The study of these phenomena will also lead us to renewed reflection on theories of religion and methodologies in the study of religion.

The theme of this congress invites panels and symposia on a whole range of topics. The following examples are listed as suggested areas only:

* religion and war * religion and globalisation
* religion and violence * religion and migration
* religious persecution * religion and terrorism
* religion and human rights * religious fundamentalisms
* religion and identity * sacred canons of peace
* religious conflict in the media * sacred canons of violence
* religious conflict on the internet * gods of war and gods of peace

Etc., etc. .: We welcome all suggestions.


Sub-themes for the IAHR World Congress in Tokyo 2005

1. The Religious Dimension of War and Peace

Today, religion is often considered a root cause of war. The question is whether this is indeed so. Is religion an obstacle to, rather than an instrument for, peace? It is important to investigate in what ways religion may contribute to either war or peace. This should be done both at an ideological and a historical level. What meanings and values have religions attributed to the ideas of war and peace? And in what ways have they put such ideas into practice in past and present times? These long disputed problems need to be examined and considered anew at the beginning of the 21st century.

2. Technology, Life, and Death

Religion can be seen as a system that mediates nature to humanity. In fact, religions have produced various systems of ideas and practices according to which people live and die in their natural environment. Such systems inevitably reflect the technological resources of their time and place. Contemporary innovations in techno-sciences and -industries are not only destroying indigenous religious systems of knowledge, but also introducing new questions concerning the human body, natural environments, humankind's and nature's life and death, that are often problematic. Addressing these unprecedented difficulties is one of the tasks confronting scholars today. In view of the long history of religions, it is also an urgent task for scholars of religion.

3. Global Religions and Local Cultures

Some religions show a tendency to universal expansion, attempting to transcend the cultural and regional limits in which they originally emerged. At the same time, religious traditions are deeply rooted in particular regional cultures. The so-called world religions have to integrate themselves in a local culture and become indigenous in a sense, in order to fully actualize their universal aspirations. The combined processes of globalization and localization (glocalization) of the contemporary world necessitate revising traditional dichotomies and terminologies, such as world religions and ethnic religions, monotheisms and polytheisms, and others.

4. Boundaries and Segregations

Religions offer epistemological schemes to understand, evaluate, and order objects, events and humans in the world. Drawing clear lines between 'us' and 'others', inner and outer groups, etc. is one important function religion may assume. Today, however, the drawing of boundaries and the creation of segregation should be examined in relation to the universalist claims of human rights. In fact, religions have often recognized the importance of particular distinctions among humankind, for example those of men and women, and as a result legitimized certain forms of discrimination. In some cases, religious groups, despite advocating the fundamental equality of humankind, have nevertheless deemed certain people or groups to fall outside this category -- to be inhuman, in other words -- thus justifying aggression towards that which is deemed external to society. These aspects and functions of religion need reconsideration from a wide perspective.

5. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion

Methodological reflection is a continual task in the study of religion. The complex interplay between method and theory in the human and social sciences plays an integral role in academic reflection and scholarly debates related to it. In recent decades, it seems that under the influence of sister-disciplines as well as because of other factors, the study of religion has witnessed remarkable changes and developments in the fields of method and theory, in comparison with earlier eras. Further evaluations and discussions need to be carried on in order to refine methodological reflection and debates. These debates are even more compelling, in the light of the main theme of this congress.


Opening Symposium

Religions and Dialogue among Civilizations

Recently, as scholars have been discussing the idea of a 'clash of civilizations', incidents and events have been happening around the world as if to prove the timely and urgent nature of this discussion. Many people believe that the cornerstones of civilizations are their respective religious traditions. Considering the wars and conflicts in many parts of the world that have taken place since the late 1970s, we may be persuaded that differences in religion and the way these religions have helped structure differing civilizations, are factors that have greatly contributed to the wars and conflicts of recent years.

In light of these developments there has been a growing appreciation of the need for dialogue between civilizations. For some time now there have been attempts among the religious communities of the world to undertake a dialogue between religions. Scholars have been trying to construct theories of religious pluralism and to organize religious cooperation in many parts of the world.

At present, when people wish ever more seriously than before to maintain a dialogue, develop mutual understanding and reconciliation between religions, we should ask how we can learn from the experiences of these past endeavours. What kind of ideas and activities do we need for the 'new' dialogue?

The symposium will be open to the general public. It will provide an opportunity to think and reflect on what religions can do contribute to peace in the world, and what role the scholarly study of religion might have in this respect. While this symposium will demonstrate the hope for peace to society at large, it will also deepen the academic understanding of the problem of the dialogue between civilizations and religions.


Prof. Susumu Shimazono, President of the JARS Congress Secretariat of the 19th World Congress of IAHR
Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Letters, University of Tokyo
7-3-1, Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan 113-0033
TEL: (81)3-5841-3765@ FAX: (81)3-5841-3888
E-mail address:
Congress website: http//