Grouping together in lived ancient religion: Individual interacting and the formation of groups

New publication by Paul Lichterman (University of Southern California), Rubina Raja (Aarhus University), Anna-Katharina Rieger (Uniersität Erfurt) and Jörg Rüpke (Universität Erfurt).

2017.04.03 | Christina Levisen

This is a special issue of Religion in the Roman Empire (RRE) edited by Reinhard Feldmeier, Karen L. King, Rubina Raja, Annette Yoshiko Reed, Christoph Riedweg, Jörg Rüpke, Seth Schwartz, Christopher Smith and Markus Vinzent on the theme of "Groups in Lived Ancient Religion". RRE is published by Mohr Siebeck.

Lichterman, P., Raja, R., Rieger, A.-K. and Rüpke, J. (2017). Grouping together in lived ancient religion: Individual interacting and the formation of groups. Religion in the Roman Empire 3:1, 3-10.


The present volume focuses on the dynamics of groups in religious contexts. How do groups come into being? How do the members interact, internally and externally? What is the role of religiously determined groups in changing societal and political situations? And how are collective and individual identities in and of these groups shaped, negotiated and communicated?

Once religion is conceptualised as an individual resource or strategy to redefine the ‘reality’ of a situation, this new reality can be viewed both as an invitation to others to concur in the redefinition and as a move in a powergame. It thereby provides the opportunity to form groups – more or less stable or fluid, momentary or continuous. The formation of groups or of networks is a classificatory enterprise of the individuals involved as well as a strategy of interaction. The concepts of ‘culture in interaction’ and ‘group styles’ are central to the approach of ‘lived ancient religion’. These concepts allow for theorising situational differences in creating and reproducing religious representations, knowledge and practices – away from public norms and religious specialists in ancient societies that control the conduct of a given set of religious practices by groups and individuals. The concept of ‘group styles’ has been developed in the ethnographic analysis of contemporary societies to distinguish different ways in which people group together and coordinate their action. ‘Culture in interaction’ signifies that people interpret and use the same codes, discourses or other collective representations differently in everyday settings that are orchestrated in different styles. Different modes of speech, texts, selection of objects, dress and gesture, as well as choice of time and place might be significant in order to establish groups or classify people, at least on a temporary basis.

History and archaeology