Balkan Summer School on Religion & Public Life

Deadline: 11 March 2013
Open to: agents of change from universities, clergy, media, NGO sector leaders and activists.
Venue: Paissiy Hilendarski University of Plovdiv, Bulgaria; 10-24 August 2013


From 10 to 24 August 2013, the Paissiy Hilendarski University of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, is hosting the Balkan Summer School on Religion and Public Life (BSSRPL) on the theme “Syncretic Societies – Bridging Traditions and Modernity?” The organizers proceed from the idea that religion and  religious identities are central for the life of both individuals and society, and that our religious communities are often those to which we devote our greatest loyalties. In our diverse but increasingly interconnected world, we need to find ways to live together in a world populated by people with very different political ideas, moral beliefs and communal loyalties.


The Balkan Summer School in Religion and Public Life 2013 is paying all the travel and accommodation costs for its participants as long as they are from EU. If you are not an EU resident and there is no way you can get an institution or other party to pay for your travel and stay in Bulgaria, they will cover all your expenses once you contact the organizers at


The goal of the Summer School is to provide a laboratory for the practical pedagogy of tolerance and living with difference in a global society.  Its focus is on religion as a basic identification marker of the individual and society, and its aim is to produce new practices and understandings for living together in a world populated by “differences”.

The Balkan Summer School takes up this very real challenge and tries to critically define differences, especially communal and religious differences between people as the starting point of a publicly shared life. Its basic aim is to help participants realize their prejudices and question their taken-for-granted assumptions of the other through the construction of a safe social space of exploration and interaction that includes an innovative mixture of academic teaching, experiential field experience (practicums) and affective engagement with the challenges of “living together differently”.

For centuries, if not millennia, the Balkans have been characterized by a diverse and complex mixture of religions, nations and ethnicities; of orthodoxies and heterodoxies, normative and subaltern beliefs, practices and ways of life. Not surprisingly, it has also been a cauldron of different forms of religious syncretism, with fractal boundaries between communities and a strong “lived” or practical tolerance of shared practices (rather than of homogenous beliefs). As in many other global spaces, this culture came under the assault of modern ideological agendas (nationalism, communism, fascism, liberal-secularism, etc.) with serious consequences for the practices of shared life that had characterized more traditional communal life-worlds.

The 2013 summer school will explore the issue of religious syncretism (in the Balkans and elsewhere), as a unique form of accommodating difference (in law, community organization, religious practice, family obligations, definitions of gender, etc.). Inquiry into religious syncretism as lived practice in the area of the Rhodope Mountains and the Thracian plain around the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv will thus serve as the sharp lens of our inquiry. Ultimately, however the conference shall be  focusing on the experience of our own boundaries, preconceptions, lived practices, prejudices and preconceptions – to better appreciate how to live with difference rather than deny, trivialize or abrogate it.


The target groups of the Balkan Summer School are the so called “secondary elites” and “agents of change” – from universities, clergy, media, NGO sector leaders and activists.

Drawing on over 10 years experience of the International Summer School on Religion and Public Life the BSSRPL seeks to bring together some 30 fellows from different walks of life and different religious and confessional communities, (as well as those who define themselves as members of no such communities and have no religious identities) to explore these themes together, in conditions of mutual respect and recognition. They look forward to an enriching mix of post-graduate students, professors, NGO leaders, journalists, religious leaders, policy analysts, and teachers from the area of the Balkans, Europe and beyond to join them.


The application for the first Balkan Summer School on Religion and Public Life is due by 11 March 2013. All applications should be sent electronically as a Word document to All queries and questions can be sent to the same address. You should include:

I. Applicant Details

  • Surname (family name)
  • Forename (personal name)
  • Nationality
  • Gender
  • Date of Birth
  • Home Address
  • Current Address
  • Electronic Mail Address
  • Telephone Number
  • Educational Background
  • Areas of Specialization
  • Language Skills
  • Institutional Affiliation and Address
  • Names and Email Addresses of Two References

II. Short Essay

The essay should not exceed five pages, double-spaced type, and should address the following question: Explain the role and importance of difference within your community and how you think participation in the Balkan Summer School on Religion and Public Life will help you in engaging with these issues.

III. Curriculum Vitae

Note on Telephone Interview: Applicants may be contacted by telephone as a means to test their fluency in the English language. Fellows who fail to provide a telephone number will not be taken into consideration.

For more information, consult the BSSRPL blog HERE and the official call for applications HERE.