Impression of the international conference “Women, religions and gender relations” in Turin, November 9-11, 2016

By Marianna Zanetta

PhD, Cultural Anthropology and Far Eastern Studies, Università degli Studi di Torino

On november 9th, 10th and 11th the international conference “Women, religion and gender relations” took place at the University of Turin (Prof. Stefania Pamisano and Prof. Alberta Giorgi). Interest in the subject of “Women, Religions and Gender Relations” has intensified especially from the mid-1990s in Europe – more recently in Italy – spreading beyond the borders of the sociology of religion and gender studies. Specifically, attention has been focussed on three critical points that we shall address: first, the study of transformations of religious expression within traditional religions and, at the same time, the analysis of contemporary forms of spirituality demonstrate a “feminine specificity” which raises various questions and highlights the necessity to dedicate more attention to the different religious experiences of men and women and to re-interpret critically the basic analytical categories of the sociology of religion; secondly, comparison with non-Christian traditions reveals the importance of a critical reading of women’s role in various forms of religion and spirituality; finally, the development of a gender lens in religion allows analysis of the variegated constructions of the male and the female in different religious traditions.

The conference was articulated over three days for a total of eight panels, two round tables and one keynote speech by Kristin Aune. The first day of the conference was dedicated to Italian speaking speakers with the presentation of the project conducted by Stefania Palmisano (Turin University) and Alberta Giorgi (Coimbra University), followed by the first roundtable entitled “Donne, Religioni e relazioni di genere”, that officially opened the works. The afternoon was consecrated to the first two panels; “Per una religiosità (al) femminile: esperienza spirituale, immaginari alterntivi ed empowerment” with a in-depth analysis of the goddess spirituality and new interpretations of classical female figures, and “Identità religiosa e cambiamenti di status” where the speakers presented a varied landscape of women’s spirituality within established churches.

The second day, fully in English, began with the very interesting keynote speech of Kristin Aune, about the representation of religions on a British feminist webzine, and it continued with the central panel sessions, dedicated to the exploration of the female role, figures and attitude within different religious background, from mysticism and spiritualism to the central topic of Gender, Islam, religion and migration, with a parallel roundtable about Hindu spirituality. In the afternoon, a two-hours session was dedicated to the IARG meeting.

The last day of the conference offered two final panels, about womanhood and manhood in religions, the changing roles of women within religious organizations, and the connection between Religion and Female Sexuality. The concluding remarks, with the discussion about publication plans and possible future collaborations, were conducted by Alberta Giorgi.

This three-days conference was significant under different points of view; first of all, the significant number and quality of participants from all over Europe, which showed the relevance of the debate in the academic world also outside Italy

Secondly the scope of the topic and its declination in different specific context and cultural landscape, which allowed a better comprehension of the significance of the debate in the different areas.

Finally, it has been an incredible opportunity for a concrete network among scholars, researchers and professors from different fields, academic background and research interest, which allowed to widen the debate and to create effective space for further cooperation and contact.


Marianna Zanetta

PhD, Cultural Anthropology

Dipartimento di Culture, Politica e Società, University of Turin