RSP Master Archive -- Responses

Field Name Response to Episode , Using Archaeology to Learn about Christian Diversity and Martyr Shrines
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DATE 2021-07-01 07:00:00
TITLE Using Archaeology to Learn about Christian Diversity and Martyr Shrines
CATEGORY: Responses, Season 10
TERMS: Archaeology, Early Christianity, Identity, Martyr Worship, Martyrdom, Paganism, Shrines, Social Group Formation
TYPE: response
EXCERPT: Sarah Griffis highlights how Morehouse demonstrates the central issue of studying diverse social groups in antiquity: “how do you get something new out of what’s already there before it? Whatever it is that’s new needs to be intelligible enough to be compelling and persuasive.”
SUMMARY:

Nathaniel Morehouse’s interview on early Christian diversity and martyr shrines in the fourth century was such a delight, and wove together multiple topics that interest me both in my research and in my teaching. I want to tie together two insights he offered: first, Morehouse remarked that shrines of martyrs can teach us about the lives of regular Christian worshippers. Second, early Christians in all of their own diversity were really comfortable in and familiar with a religious landscape that itself was incredibly diverse. I want to use one specific example as a way of building upon both of these really important themes that can help us think about Christianity in the fourth century, and by doing so I want to exercise a methodology that’s been really influential in my work and training: archaeology. 

Morehouse used the helpful example of Rome in his interview, a city that offers us rich evidence of Christianity in its first few centuries and is associated with ritual practice around the remains of Peter and Paul. I want instead to use the example of Philippi, a small town in the ancient province of Macedonia—that’s in northeast Greece, pretty close to the western Turkish border. Philippi is well known to Christians because it’s a town the apostle Paul visited and we still have a letter addressed from Paul to the congregants there; it’s in the New Testament. It’s also the perfect site to explore the topics from Morehouse’s interview to which I’d like to add more data. 

Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Aristotelis Mentzos Archive

At Philippi the footprint of a fourth-century church called “the Octagon” was excavated. It’s named for its shape, which will become important in a moment. 

The church is part of a complex whose prominent placement in the center of the town tells us it was busily trafficked and highly visible. What’s super interesting about this church is that throughout its multiple building phases it continued to incorporate the preexisting structure of a “pagan” heroon (pronounced “hero” [rhymes with “pharaoh”] + “on”): a shrine dedicated to a traditional Greek hero. This shrine was really old by the time the Christian church began to be built—it was probably built in the second or third century BCE, which means it had enjoyed a lengthy history as a site of cult worship by the time Christian structures started to spring up. And I don’t mean that this hero worship site and the Octagon were just built side by side—I mean that the south wall of the hero shrine was the north wall of this church. The church literally built the hero shrine into its material structure, and we know it was intentional because the first church onsite, a basilica, burned down, and even in rebuilding it, the heroon wall was retained as a wall of the church. 

The octagonal Basilica, Philippi (“File:The octagonal Basilica, Philippi (7272953626).jpg” by Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0″)

Here’s where we get to see the principles at work that Morehouse introduced, at one individual site: the merging of religious identity that Philippi’s archaeological remains puts on display illuminates the lives of ordinary Christian worshipers, and what it shows us about them is that these early Christians had no difficulty existing—materially even—right alongside non-Christians. This is because the towns in which Christianity first developed were simply incredibly religiously diverse. It’s just how things were. Some scholars are convinced that these two cults were celebrated side by side at the same time. And here’s where the octagon shape of the church becomes important. We know that the octagon shape is especially associated with martyria—that is, the same kind of hero-worship at a shrine, but now devoted to a Christian martyr. We don’t know whose it was (some scholars are convinced it was Paul’s!), but what the archaeology puts on display to us is an overlap, temporally and spatially, in worship of heroes, both Christian and non-Christian. Some scholars think the worship of Christian martyrs supplanted hero worship of an earlier time, but if that’s true, it was a gradual process. Certainly simultaneous side-by-side practice is plausible, and to bring a figure into the discussion whom Morehouse also referred to, Julian the Apostate remarked on the astonishing similarities between hero and martyr worship. What this teaches us is that while Christians were one internally diverse group among a large number of different religious groups living alongside one another in ancient cities, their practices around the remains of their beloved dead had much in common with those of their differently-affiliated neighbors. We can infer from this that the lives and practices of early Christian worshippers were really legible to non-Christians as well.

The general concept here is something all historians are concerned with, especially historians of the ancient world who often attend to a long stretch of history and its changes in empire, politics, and religion: how do you get something new out of what’s already there before it? Whatever it is that’s new needs to be intelligible enough to be compelling and persuasive. Christians, internally diverse groups on their own, would argue over how to relate to their past. At the same time they could be seen on the whole as a separate group in a larger landscape of incredible religious diversity. Philippi’s delightful and strange architectural remains help us to ponder this diversity through specific attention to the practice of hero worship. 

For studying Philippi, Charalambos Bakirtzis’s chapter “Paul and Philippi” in Philippi at the Time of Paul and After his Death is crucial reading; so is Eduard Verhoef’s article “Syncretism in the Church of Philippi.” More broadly on archaeology as a way of learning about religious diversity in antiquity, especially around death-related practices, I’ve learned so much from my teacher, Laura Nasrallah, and my colleagues, especially Sarah Porter. If you want to learn more about what archaeological remains can teach us about the early Christianity we read about in texts like the New Testament, Nasrallah’s book Archaeology and the Letters of Paul is such an excellent starting place. Porter introduced me to a book that touches on the topic of gender and practices around martyrs’ remains, a topic Morehouse also briefly discussed: Nicola Denzey Lewis’ The Bone Gatherers: The Lost Worlds of Early Christian Women.

Contributors

CONTRIBUTOR: Sarah Griffis


BIO LINK: "https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/persons/sarah-griffis/"


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Responses

RESPONSE: Power and Diversity in 4th Century Martyr Shrines

RESPONSE_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/power-and-diversity-in-4th-century-martyr-shrines/

RESPONSE_CONTRIBUTOR: // not sure how to do this yet

Field Name Response to Episode , Ritual Theory at the Margins of a Minority Tradition
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DATE 2021-06-25 07:00:00
TITLE Ritual Theory at the Margins of a Minority Tradition
CATEGORY: Responses, Season 10
TERMS: Canon, Categorization, Mantra, Monasticism, Ritual, South Asian religions, Tantra
TYPE: response
EXCERPT: In this response, Joel Bordeaux notes that Ellen Gough’s focus on the ritual components and “tantricization” of Jain ascetic practices offers a new way of thinking through and contextualizing the “notoriously slippery notion of Tantra” in the subcontinent.
SUMMARY:

This episode marks the second occasion in about as many weeks that I have found myself lamenting my lack of familiarity with Jain tantra. When asked recently whether I could identify a mandala a colleague had chanced across, I could only reply with a shrug, “I’m stumped. Must be Jain.” So while I was especially glad for a preview of Dr. Gough’s forthcoming book, let the reader beware: I am by no means an expert on Jainism. Fortunately, as this is clearly a work concerned with the notoriously slippery notion of Tantra as a distinct register of Indic religiosity —sometimes called ‘Tantrism’ to distinguish the category in the abstract from the eponymous genre(s) of revealed texts with which it is most commonly associated— we can take the conversation in that direction. I suspect Dr. Gough has already addressed many of these issues at length in her book, but for now we have at least the opportunity to savor the anticipation. 

The idea of Tantra as something distinct from ‘whatever is written in the tantras’— that is, as a coherent form of esoteric Hinduism at least conceptually distinct from the Bhagavad Gita’s tripartite enumeration of [orthoprax] ritual, philosophical inquiry, and devotional worship as means of ‘union’ (yoga) with the Divine Self; and/or as a rarefied fast-track to enlightenment for the Mahayana Buddhist elite, is itself a subject of considerable controversy. For the 15th century Tibetan scholar Khedrup Gelek Pelzang, imaginatively assuming the form of a deity was the fundamental aspect of Tantra, while in the early 20th century John Woodroffe, the so-called Father of Tantric Studies, treated Tantra as synonymous with occultism. Arguably the most famous contemporary scholar of tantra, David Gordon White, asserts that “sexualized ritual practice is the sole truly distinctive feature of South Asian Tantric traditions,” and I myself have suggested that in Bengal at least, blood sacrifice is commonly taken as its most characteristic [publicly observable] feature. Presently, polythetic definitions of Tantra are probably the closest thing to the norm, or else the term itself is taken as an object for discourse analysis.1 For her part, Gough adopts the eminently defensible position that initiation into the use of mantras (revealed verbal formulae, often regarded as sonic manifestations of deities) capable of both soteriological (viz. eliminating one’s accumulated karma) and pragmatic ‘magical’ applications such as healing is fundamental. This is consonant with the longstanding tendency of Sanskrit authors to refer to Śaiva and Buddhist tantric traditions as the Path or Vehicle of Mantras (mantra-mārga/mantra-yāna), respectively. 

Jain protector deity Ghaṇṭakarṇa flanked by mantras and magic squares. Ghaṇṭakarṇa is especially known to grant worldly powers to his devotees. “yantramantra” by romana klee is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Similarly, her observation that Jain tantra “emerges from asceticism,” though perhaps counter-intuitive in light of the prevailing assumption that many characteristically tantric practices originated in ‘tribal’ or otherwise liminal communities of non-celibate ‘exorcistic visionaries,’ actually mirrors earlier developments in the subcontinent including the way the Śaiva ascetic Ati-mārga (‘Path Beyond’) gave rise to the Mantra-mārga.2 That said, there is a surprising and somewhat perplexing idiosyncrasy in the relationship between ascetic and tantric forms of Jainism: outside of Jain contexts, there are typically separate ritual initiations into monastic life and into the use of liberatory mantras, whereas in this case a single ceremony accomplishes both. An exploration of the extent to which this rite is structurally speaking a fusion of these two forms of initiation, as opposed to ‘just’ a monastic ordination onto which the bestowal of a mantra has been appended, could show us a lot about how Jains understand (at a ritual rather than purely discursive level) the interface between what appear to be two distinct ways of neutralizing karma and its effects.

In broad, ideal-typical terms, South Asian monasticism is a process of withdrawal. The monk or nun, in theory, not only renounces their previous identity but opts out of socially-constructed personhood altogether. The restrained lifestyle of the ascetic can then be seen as an attempt to reduce one’s ‘karmic footprint’ so that meditative practices and/or bodily mortification can burn off karmic reserves. Over time, running this karmic deficit can exhaust the causes that perpetuate the cycle of life and rebirth, resulting in liberation at the time of physical death. Conversely, tantric models for liberation tend to be expansive. Although the prototypical initiation itself eradicates all non-essential karma, it immediately orchestrates the candidate’s rebirth into a divine lineage with all the privileges attendant thereto. From this point, the newly qualified initiate can and indeed must regularly employ the mantras imparted during the ceremony, effectively reenacting their initiation to fully actualize this ‘already-not-yet’ liberated state. By implication, the mantric option for dealing with karma obviates the need for asceticism, allowing the initiate to act in the world without becoming ensnared by it, and to wield deific powers as well. 

Padmavatī, a popular Jain goddess commonly worshipped in a tantric manner.
“File:Trilok Teerth Dham – Exterior – Padmavati Devi.jpg” by Pratyk321 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

To be sure, Indic religions tend to assume that superhuman abilities manifest naturally as a side effect of asceticism, and reports of wonder-working monks on that basis alone are commonplace. It is true too that many members of organized monastic communities also receive tantric initiations with the understanding that these traditions are complimentary, but the divergent theoretical underpinnings of ascetic and tantric practice make the apparent collapse of the two initiations in Jain contexts especially striking. And if the operative logic there is so overwhelmingly ascetic so that, as Cort writes, there is no “full-scale alternative Tantric path to liberation” in Jainism,3 we have a different problem: how to explain the efficacy of mantra without recourse to the basic theory behind tantric initiation or the [fundamentally Hindu] notion of the Sanskrit language as intrinsically capable of manipulating reality? If nothing else the conundrum illustrates once again how ritual can operate independently of doctrine. 

Of course the simplest historical explanation for potential incongruities between the logic of these rituals and the larger Jain tradition is that Jains appropriated them from Śaivas while leaving behind the relevant theological underpinnings. Dr. Gough alludes to this phenomenon herself but chooses for theoretical reasons to focus here on the tantricization of particular “ritual components.” I am extremely curious to read a fuller rationale for this strategy, since it would seem as if the possibility for tracking the tantricization process in Jain contexts comes at the cost of reducing the ‘tantra- ’ part of the equation to abstract ‘ritual tech’ unmoored from history such as can be attested in dateable sources. The main risk in so doing is that tantra itself fades away into the so-called ‘Indian religious substratum’4 taking the analytic utility of tantricization with it. Conversely, if ‘tantricization’ ultimately means becoming more like things initially or most typically described in Śaiva or for that matter Vedic texts, why not just say that?  

Not that I think we should allow texts to drive the conversation entirely; in fact I very much appreciate her approach of reading and indeed leading with contemporary ritual manuals and ethnography, working backwards to ‘classical’ canonical sources. The present is arguably the least arbitrary starting point for diachronic research, and the result in a case like this (though again, at the risk of sacrificing a certain kind of historicity) is more likely to be guided by a logic internal to the tradition under consideration. Based on what I’ve been able to glean from this preview, that strikes me as an advantageous trade. 


References
  1. On the difficulty of defining Tantra, see Padoux, “What Do We Mean by Tantrism?” For Khedrup’s rather technical discussion see Mkhas-Grub Dge-Legs-Dpal-Bzan-Po, Lessing, and Wayman, Introduction to Buddhist Tantric Systems. 163-171. On Woodroffe see Strube, “Tantra as Experimental Science in the Works of John Woodroffe.” White makes the claim quoted above in Kiss of the Yoginī: “Tantric Sex” in Its South Asian Contexts. 13. On sacrifice see Bordeaux, “Blood in the Mainstream.” A recent and thorough polythetic definition can be found in the introduction to White, Tantra in practice. Urban’s post-colonial analysis of Tantra is in the introduction to Tantra.
  2. See Sanderson, “The Lākulas: New Evidence of a System Intermediate between Pāñcārthika Pāśupatism and Āgamic Śaivism.”
  3. Cort, “Worship of Bell-Ears the Great Hero, a Jain Tantric Deity.” 417.
  4. The debate between Sanderson and Ruegg (among others) over whether e.g. Buddhists ‘appropriated’ Śaiva tantric traditions or whether both Buddhists and Śaivas both drew on a common repertoire of deities, ideas, and practices is extensive and ongoing. Their most thorough cases are made respectively in Sanderson, “The Śaiva Age” and Ruegg, The Symbiosis of Buddhism with Brahmanism/Hinduism in South Asia and of Buddhism with “Local Cults” in Tibet and the Himalayan Region.

Contributors

CONTRIBUTOR: Joel Bordeaux


BIO LINK: "https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/persons/joel-bordeaux/"


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Responses

RESPONSE: On the Tantricization of Jain Ascetic Rituals

RESPONSE_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/on-the-tantracization-of-jain-ascetic-rituals/

RESPONSE_CONTRIBUTOR: // not sure how to do this yet

Field Name Response to Episode , “A Space of Encounter:” The U.S. Military and American Religious Pluralism
EPISODE_#: This field doesn’t exist yet.
PERMALINK PERMALINK: “https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/response/a-space-of-encounter-the-u-s-military-and-american-religious-pluralism/”
FEATURED_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/haberski-2.jpg
DATE 2021-06-18 07:00:00
TITLE “A Space of Encounter:” The U.S. Military and American Religious Pluralism
CATEGORY: Responses, Season 10
TERMS: American religion, Evangelicals, pluralism, Symbols, US Military
TYPE: response
EXCERPT: Raymond Haberski, Jr. writes that our interview with Ronit Stahl about Military chaplaincy “provides a nuanced picture of pluralism” in the United States. This reveals how massive institutions like the U.S. military operationalize pluralism to “both incorporate difference and flatten distinctions.”
SUMMARY:

During a radio broadcast in 1954 for the American Legion’s “Back to God” program, President Dwight Eisenhower famously observed: “In battle, [soldiers] learned a great truth—that there are no atheists in the foxholes. They know that in time of test and trial, we instinctively turn to God for new courage and peace of mind.” Ike made this appearance as part of his larger strategy to leverage American religiosity to benefit his administration’s Cold War foreign policy. As historian Harry Stout points out, conflating religion and war has a deep history in the United States, they are, he writes, “symbiotic and grew up inextricably intertwined.” Ike played his role in this history well and presided over a period in the 1950s rife with references to the theological implications of military sacrifice. Not surprisingly, then, Ike also mentioned the story of the “Four Chaplains,” asking his listeners to “remember that, only a decade ago, aboard the transport Dorchester, four chaplains of four faiths together willingly sacrificed their lives so that four others might live.” The president could assume that his audience understood the symbolic significance of those four chaplains and the easy link between politics and religion. But this history is not quite that simple.

Thankfully, historian Ronit Stahl expertly dissects and analyzes all that Americans and their leaders have poured into the role of military chaplains. In particular, she gets the complexity of the chaplaincy (both symbolic as well as real) by relating the history of this position to American religious pluralism. In a podcast episode, “The U.S. Military Chaplaincy and Twentieth-Century Society,” Stahl speaks to host Dan Gorman about her first book, Enlisting Faith: How the Military Chaplaincy Shaped Religion and State in Modern America. The book is both a chronological and thematic accounting of how the U.S. military attempted to recognize and use the diverse and often conflicting faiths of soldiers. And the podcast allows Stahl to describe how she managed a story that involves the largest institution of the federal government and the deeply personal and idiosyncratic nature of religious faith. To do this, she settled on an evocative metaphor of the military as a “space of encounter.” I found that term especially useful because it is at once a social construction (the military needed to deal with the tangible issue of faith), and a fluid situation (even the military cannot order soldiers to practice their faith in a certain way). And organizing the book around the history of military chaplains allows Stahl to give readers a cast of characters in whom this complexity of faith and military sacrifice coexist and develop. In short, Stahl translates Eisenhower’s message in history rather than allowing it to sit as an advertisement for Cold War politics.

A simply stated American religious pluralism fails to capture the conflict and contributions of the nation’s multiple faiths. Many observers have emphasized that point, but among the most significant came from sociologist Will Herberg in 1955, when his book Protestant, Catholic, Jew entered the debate over American postwar religiosity. Herberg rather caustically argued that the Cold War had finally compelled political and religious leaders in the United States to acknowledge other faiths might have near-equal status to the nation’s dominant Protestant churches, thus creating a three-faith construction. Ike had demonstrated how to use a “tri-faith America” (as historian Kevin Schultz called it) to generate a wartime-like unity during a peacetime struggle against communism. But his reference to the Four Chaplains tipped Ike’s hand—he knew especially well (as America’s greatest living general) that the military had already addressed how to operationalize American religious pluralism. 

Stahl explains, though, how the military often had to strike a very tricky balance between acknowledging multiple religious traditions and organizing them through a chaplaincy that still had to be efficient enough to work. Stahl notes in almost humorous aside: “the chiefs of chaplains are kind of throwing up their hands and are like, you know, if we allow every group to be recognized as their specific denomination or their specific group, we’re going to have upwards of 250 or more religious groups and how on earth are we going to manage that? It’s a management problem from the military’s perspective.” But institutions, she points out, both incorporate difference and flatten distinctions—it’s an insight that, it seems to me, provides a nuanced picture of pluralism that usefully demonstrates how we as Americans function with it. 

One of the treats of listening to Ronit Stahl is to hear an expert historian describe the craft of thinking and writing about the complexity of the past. With her first book, Stahl joins other scholars such as Kevin Schultz, whose Tri-Faith America provides a baseline for understanding religious pluralism, and Jonathan Ebel, whose G.I. Messiahs and Faith in the Fight deepens our understanding of how the faith of soldiers and the religiosity of a nation interact. And Stahl demonstrates the conflicts and tensions inherent in our benighted notion of pluralism. For example, before the Second World War, three out of the five Black officers in the military were chaplains. At the same time, those three could only minister to Black troops. So, the military was at once, more progressive than most of the country but still in the grip of segregation. During the Vietnam War, anti-war chaplains had to minister to soldiers killing and, some ultimately, dying in a war they morally opposed. Such tensions, Stahl notes, show how the military paralleled and foreshadowed similar developments in civilian society, including the rising power of evangelicals in post-Vietnam America, the liberalization of Mainline Protestants, the secularization of American society, and the promise of a multi-lingual, multi-racial country.

Among the benefits of listening to a scholar speak about her work is learning how she grapples with balancing interpretation with understanding—Stahl explains that a “winking ecumenism” can coexist with a sincere practice of faith. Stahl’s podcast gives insight into how historians operate as both social critics and chroniclers of lives. And, she helps us see the human agency in institutional policies and comprehending how a massive institution like the military can also reflect the most human need of practicing faith.

Other Sources

  • Jonathan Ebel, G.I. Messiahs: Soldiering, War, and American Civil Religion (Yale, 2015)
  • Jonathan Ebel, Faith in the Fight: Religion and the American Soldier in the Great War (Princeton, 2010)
  • Raymond Haberski, Jr., God and War: American Civil Religion Since 1945 (Rutgers, 2010)
  • Andrew Preston, Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy (Knopf, 2012)
  • Kevin M. Schultz, Tri-Faith America, How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to Its Protestant Promise (Oxford, 2011)

Contributors

CONTRIBUTOR: Raymond Haberski, Jr.


BIO LINK: "https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/persons/raymond-haberski-jr/"


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Responses

RESPONSE: The U.S. Military Chaplaincy and Twentieth-Century Society

RESPONSE_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/the-u-s-military-chaplaincy-and-twentieth-century-society/

RESPONSE_CONTRIBUTOR: // not sure how to do this yet

Field Name Response to Episode , On Tantra, Jain Style
EPISODE_#: This field doesn’t exist yet.
PERMALINK PERMALINK: “https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/response/on-tantra-jain-style/”
FEATURED_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/response_featured_gough_s10.jpeg
DATE 2021-06-11 07:00:00
TITLE On Tantra, Jain Style
CATEGORY: Responses, Season 10
TERMS: Boundary Formation, Jainism, Tantra
TYPE: response
EXCERPT: “The story that Dr. Gough is telling about the development of Jain tantra—the Jain adoption of mantra-practice, but rejection of antinomianism—thus seems to me to be a fundamentally noteworthy case-study,” writes Anne Mocko on our interview with Ellen Gough discussing the ‘tantricization’ of Jain ascetic rituals.
SUMMARY:

There is so much wonderful material in this interview with Dr. Ellen Gough

I resonated deeply to Dr. Gough’s methodology, tracing a specific ritual practice through time (rather than focusing on a particular sect or historical era). This approach is very similar to work I did in chapters of my own book on Nepali royal ritual—but I have never thought to frame the approach as Dr. Gough does, as a crucial strategy to grasp the complex multi-religious histories of South Asia. I also particularly appreciated how Dr. Gough defined tantra as the targeted destruction of karma, and then put that definition side-by-side with a description of the Jain idea of a luminous perfected soul weighed down by physical karma. This pairing of explanations helped me to understand in a fresh way the common tantric claim that serious practice can result in super-human powers (such as “the ability to fly, …clairvoyance, …the ability to cure people with their bodily fluids”1). 

Most importantly, though, I simply find the topic of Dr. Gough’s forthcoming book to be fundamentally important. It is complicated, even counter-intuitive, to include Jainism in the broader discussion of the development of South Asian tantra, and it still seems quite remarkable to me that Jains should have embraced any form of tantrism at all. 

In order to gain entry into the fundamental question as to how and why Jains took to tantra (and what this can tell us about religious processes more generally), I want to pause over an apparently minor detail from the podcast: namely, that the Jain adoption of tantra appears to begin with lay people

Dr. Gough indicates that Jain manuals seem to start including tantric mantra-practice right at the times when monastic mendicant communities are proliferating—because that is the time when mendicants need to compete with one another in order to receive lay patronage. Ascetic mendicants need temples, facilities, food, and material support; lay Jains are positioned to provide them; therefore ascetic mendicants must impress and appeal to lay people in order to secure their patronage.

This point seems important and surprising to me for two reasons. First, it reverses the direction of religious innovation that one might expect. Jains themselves tend to think of their religious knowledge as one-directional—from sacred texts to mendicants to lay people—and it is very common for lay Jains not only to defer personally to ascetics but to refer inquisitive foreign scholars to the proper authorities to get their questions answered.2 Religious studies scholars, too, often presume that religion ‘really’ happens at the level of religious authorities and the texts they write. This might encourage people to assume that new religious ideas or practices start with experts and filter downward to the masses; instead, it is noteworthy here that Dr. Gough insists it was lay people who drove religious innovation.

Second, it seems to me that Dr. Gough might actually be hinting at a more general mechanism operating in South Asian religious history. Is it possible that there are in fact many cases where lay-practitioners within one community have observed some other religion’s practices, and expressed interest/demand for something similar in their own tradition?

It is striking in South Asia how much continuity and similarity there is between the practices of ostensibly separate religions. There is obvious cognate similarity between the puja-rituals found in Hindu mandirs, Jain derasars, and Sikh gurdwaras (plus the Buddhist temples all over the Theravada world). South Asian religious communities have similar devotional singing traditions—similar astrological traditions—similar festivals and processions. Has Dr. Gough put her finger on the process that allowed that to happen? Have lay people, throughout history, been driving a broad process of borrowing, imitation, and mutual invention? If lay Jains were looking at Hindu or Buddhist tantric experts and asking for mantra-expertise from their own authorities… is it also possible that lay Buddhists were looking enviously at Hindu goddesses and asking their own authorities for feminine Buddhist deities? Is it possible that non-priestly Hindus were looking enviously at Jain dietary practices, and demanding a Hindu form of “pure-veg” purity? Might we be able to trace religious history in South Asia as a complex laity-driven process of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’—or better, ‘keeping up with the Joshis’? 

If so, though, we would still need to identify how members of each tradition innovate in ways that are distinctive to their own communities and core commitments. And this is where Dr. Gough’s project is especially important, because she is demonstrating that while Jains do hop onto the tantra bandwagon… they keep clear limits on how much they want to adopt.

Why did Jains adopt some forms of tantra, but not others?

Dr. Gough distinguishes two types of tantra: mantra-based practice (using powerful words/sounds), and transgression-based practice (using powerful rule-breaking). According to her account, Jains join Hindus and Buddhists in adopting the former… but resist adopting the latter. They enthusiastically embraced mantras, but had no appetite for the antinomian (or “left-handed”) forms of practice. 

In the interview, Dr. Gough appears to equate transgressive tantra with ritualized sex. But we might actually get more traction for understanding Jain skepticism if we consider the enormous emphasis in both Hindu and Buddhist antinomian traditions on food and the ritualized consumption of impure substances. 

Whereas tantric sex requires practitioners to develop equanimity in the face of pleasure, transgressive food requires practitioners to overcome disgust. Aghori sadhus are said to eat flesh from human corpses, and drink from bowls made of human skulls; the ‘left-hand’ goddess Matangi can be offered taboo leftover-food from her devotees’ plates. The daily nitya-puja for Kaula tantrics involves preparing a three-ingredient mix of wine, meat, and sexual-fluid.3 On the Buddhist side, there are tantric texts that exhort readers to perform rituals involving “the so-called ‘five meats’ (māṃsa)…  beef, dog, elephant, horse, and human flesh” as well as the “‘five ambrosias’ (amṛta)… faeces, urine, blood, semen, and marrow.”4 

It seems frankly inconceivable that Jains would adopt this kind of transgressive food-based practice. Jains invest eating with an extraordinary religious weight. For Hindus and Buddhists, food is a matter of convention and ritual/monastic purity, but not usually an issue of karma. For Jains, food is a constant source of karmic ‘dirt’ on the soul. Because food comes at the expense of non-human lives, eating itself entails violence (himsa)—and is thus ultimately an impediment to Jain salvation. To limit this impediment, Jains pay meticulous attention to what they eat. All Jains are expected to be vegetarians, and to restrict their diets in varying ways; most Jains (mendicant and lay alike) undertake routine fasts. For Jains, dietary rigor is a point of pride, and a significant index of religious authority.

Where Hindu and Buddhist tantrikas could ‘wow’ their lay followers with their transgressive food practices, it seems impossible for a Jain ascetic to receive similar approval. A Jain ascetic who chose to eat dog-meat would not be signaling non-dual perception and equanimity to the world—they would be demonstrating a reckless disregard for karma, and for the soul-staining power of meat. They would be further clouding their soul with karmic particles, not releasing their soul’s ultimate luminescence. 

If it was indeed lay Jains driving the tantric innovation, it makes intuitive sense that they would not have wanted their ascetics to undertake food-based transgression. 

What this example indicates is that cognate traditions within South Asian religions are not a matter of simple borrowing or copying. Instead, members of each tradition must filter new innovations through their existing core practices and sensibilities—and adjust or reject pieces that fundamentally did not fit. 

The story that Dr. Gough is telling about the development of Jain tantra—the Jain adoption of mantra-practice, but rejection of antinomianism—thus seems to me to be a fundamentally noteworthy case-study. Far from being a curiosity of Indian history, this development would appear to carry crucial implications for understanding how religions grow and change, how traditions in close proximity can simultaneously innovate together but maintain their respective distinctiveness. 


References
  1. Quoted from the minute-mark-13:58 section of the podcast transcript.
  2. I have personally noted the tendency of lay Jains to defer to mendicants, and I think it has also been noted in passing in print—but I confess I cannot easily lay my hands on a citation. Perhaps Whitney Kelting’s work on Jain lay women (Singing the Jinas: Jain Laywomen, Mandal Singing, and the Negotiations of Jain Devotion (2001))?
  3. The Kaula daily ritual (nityapūjā).(last accessed May 16 2021).
  4. Christian K. Wedemeyer (2007) “Beef, Dog, and Other Mythologies: Connotative Semiotics in Mahāyoga Tantra Ritual and Scripture,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Volume 75, Issue 2, June 2007, Pages 383–417, https://doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/lfm006.

Contributors

CONTRIBUTOR: Anne Mocko


BIO LINK: "https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/persons/anne-mocko/"


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Responses

RESPONSE: On the Tantricization of Jain Ascetic Rituals

RESPONSE_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/on-the-tantracization-of-jain-ascetic-rituals/

RESPONSE_CONTRIBUTOR: // not sure how to do this yet

Field Name Response to Episode , Rethinking Narratives of ‘American Values’ in the US Military
EPISODE_#: This field doesn’t exist yet.
PERMALINK PERMALINK: “https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/response/rethinking-narratives-of-american-values-in-the-us-military/”
FEATURED_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/response_featured_cooperman_s10.jpeg
DATE 2021-06-04 07:00:00
TITLE Rethinking Narratives of ‘American Values’ in the US Military
CATEGORY: Responses, Season 10
TERMS: Categorization, gender, narrative, Race, Religion, US Military
TYPE: response
EXCERPT: Jessica Cooperman writes that Stahl’s work demonstrates how racism shapes religious institutions and argues that “it points to the necessity of re-examining American narratives of religious freedom through the analytical lenses of both race and gender.”
SUMMARY:

As a fan of Ronit Stahl’s work, it was a real pleasure to listen to her interview with Dan Gorman about her book, Enlisting Faith: How the Military Chaplaincy Shaped Religion and State in Modern America. Stahl’s analysis of the military chaplaincy demonstrates her sensitivity to the different ways that religion is entangled and experienced within the larger institutions of the state. Military chaplains, and the personnel they serve, have to find ways to make religion function within a complicated government system that is not fundamentally designed with their personal needs in mind. As people navigate their way through this system, they are sometimes driven to make choices that may deviate from civilian practices, but these changes create unexpected new connections. The story that Stahl opens with, about her Jewish father taking church call on Sundays so he could get some extra sleep, as well as the one that Dan Gorman closes with, about his Catholic father attending Mormon services because of air conditioning and ability to nap in the pews, are both great examples of these sorts of adjustments. One might be tempted to see these actions as insincere expressions of religion, but only if one imagines “religion” somehow existing outside of the lived experiences of people. As Stahl shows, people can be deeply sincere about what they believe and still use the religious framework created by the military to carve out space for themselves.

Just as importantly, within the military’s religious system, the pursuit of something as simple as a nap, a free-time activity, or a good meal, brings people in contact with religious traditions and practices that they may never have encountered in their civilian lives.  In 1916, for example, Rabbi Isaac Landman led Yom Kippur services for 500 men serving with General Pershing during so-called “Punitive Expedition” into Mexico, although he estimated that no more than 150 of the troops identified themselves as Jews. (Cooperman, p.31) The other men present may have simply been looking for time off, or something to do, but they encountered Judaism in ways that, for at least some of them, must have been new and unexpected. Encounters like these, regardless of whether or not they were motivated by sincere belief, reshaped how generations of Americans thought about religious traditions different from their own, and about how they understood the scope of religious life in the United States.

The American military has traditionally understood the practice of religion to be both a right of service members and a valuable tool for providing spiritual support in the morally ambiguous circumstance of war. As a result, since WWI, the military has created space for minority religious groups to be recognized, but not necessarily on their own terms. As Stahl describes, during the first half of the 20th century the military understood religion through static categories of “Protestant,” “Catholic,” or “Jewish.” This meant that communities that did not fit within those categories were often lumped together as “Protestant” or “Catholic,” regardless of whether or not this was an accurate reflection of their identities. Mormons and Orthodox Christians found themselves in this uncomfortable position, and presumably made choices similar to the ones that Stahl and Gorman’s fathers made – taking advantage of the options they had, even if it was not a perfect fit.

As Stahl demonstrates, however, minority religious communities were not content to make do with the categories offered to them by the military. They both navigated within them and worked to change the system. Even the inclusion of Judaism was not a given, in spite of the seemingly entrenched tri-faith model of religion that took hold within the World War II American military. Jewish chaplains and religious practices only became officially integrated into the military system during World War I, and then only as the result of new demographic realities following the influx of Jewish immigrants in the late 19th century, and the sustained advocacy by Jewish leaders who became skilled at arguing for the distinctive rights of Jews while working to demonstrate how Judaism would contribute to the wellbeing of the military as a whole. By the second half of the 20th century, as the country grew more religiously diverse due to new immigration policies, Mormons, Orthodox Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims all engaged in similar processes of negotiation, working to expand the categories through which Americans understood religion, and to make a place for themselves in the systems of the military.

Stahl’s work demonstrates that race often proved a more difficult difference to navigate in the American military than religion. Certainly the story she relates, of Chaplain Luther Fuller, whose life was put in danger and whose military career was ruined for denouncing racism in the military offers a deeply disturbing reminder of the ways that racist policies often trumped other freedoms and confounded American categories for thinking about religion. The mid-twentieth idea of a Judeo-Christian America implicitly referred to white people. While recent scholarship has complicated our understanding of how this idea has been deployed politically, Stahl’s work offers a powerful example of how racism — as well as sexism — shaped the institutions through which Americans expressed and experienced religion in the United States. Indeed, it points to the necessity of re-examining American narratives of religious freedom through the analytical lenses of both race and gender.

The other really fascinating change that Stahl traces in both this interview and in her book, is the marked growth in the presence of Evangelical Christian clergy in the military chaplaincy. Stahl makes the compelling argument that political debates surrounding the Vietnam War led some liberal clergy to opt not to serve in the military, while Evangelical clergy were happy to fill this gap. Paying attention to these shifts in the composition of the military chaplaincy alerts us to the ways that the increased social and political influence of Evangelical Christianity in the late 20th century can be understood in at least two ways. It serves as an example demonstrating the shifting forms of discourse about American values, but also of the ways that by carving out a space within the religious system of the military, different communities have managed to change American ideas about religion. If Jews used the military chaplaincy as a tool through which to cement the idea of a “tri-faith America” in the early 20th century, and multiple marginalized religious groups used it as a means to expand American ideas about religion in the mid to late 20th century, then Evangelical Christians fit easily within this same pattern. Symbolically and socially, the military is one of the most powerful systems in American society. Figuring how to “work” that system occasionally offers individual service members ways to take a nap, but it has also offered diverse communities ways to assert their presence within the landscape of American religions.

Contributors

CONTRIBUTOR: Jessica Cooperman


BIO LINK: "https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/persons/jessica-cooperman/"


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Responses

RESPONSE: The U.S. Military Chaplaincy and Twentieth-Century Society

RESPONSE_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/the-u-s-military-chaplaincy-and-twentieth-century-society/

RESPONSE_CONTRIBUTOR: // not sure how to do this yet

Field Name Response to Episode , Sovereignty, Historical Memory, and the Importance of Aliite Worldviews
EPISODE_#: This field doesn’t exist yet.
PERMALINK PERMALINK: “https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/response/sovereignty-historical-memory-and-the-importance-of-aliite-worldviews/”
FEATURED_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/response_featured_sesay_s10.jpg
DATE 2021-05-28 07:00:00
TITLE Sovereignty, Historical Memory, and the Importance of Aliite Worldviews
CATEGORY: Responses, Season 10
TERMS: American religion, Identity, Ideology, Memory, Race, religion and law, religion and politics, Sovereignty
TYPE: response
EXCERPT: “The processes by which the Aliites imagine their history reveal much about how state sanctioned ideas and institutions gain and maintain seeming natural validity,” writes Chernoh Sesay, Jr., in response to our interview with Spencer Dew on the Aliites.
SUMMARY:

It is a joy to comment publicly on such a thoughtful discussion about a fascinating book overflowing with careful examination, thoughtful analysis, and original comment. The recent conversation here at the Religious Studies Project between the interviewer, David McConeghy and the author, Spencer Dew, regarding his recent book, The Aliites: Race and Law in the Religions of Noble Drew Ali (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019) covered many critical issues in a short time. My response to their discussion is twofold: a comment regarding the religious and political imagination of Aliite religious practitioners and thoughts about the study of Aliite religions.

Experiential Sovereignty and Aliite Optimism

The assured outlook and activism of Aliite communities stands out. In the introduction, Dew summarized why Aliites desire that their historical and legal claims be explicitly and formally considered by state sanctioned judicial systems. He wrote that this “stance emerges from an essential Aliite optimism that the legal system, however repeatedly unjust its rulings and processes, is nonetheless patterned on and swayed by the influence of the transcendent ideal that is true law.”1 However, in the interview, McConeghy further questioned how Aliites could remain steadfast in this belief. McConeghy asked Dew to comment further on how Aliites could derive a sense of affirmation and even success from judicial encounters where, for example, Aliite pro se representation concludes with the judge ignoring, dismissing, or otherwise delegitimizing Aliite legal knowledge. Dew responded that for Aliites “it’s not just win or lose,” and that “the charge can be dismissed, you can be sent to prison, but you can still feel that you’ve accomplished something.”2 Dew further explained this sense of accomplishment in terms of what he called experiential sovereignty, a feeling that, although perhaps fleeting, provides the Aliite legal actor with an enabling sense of recognition, even citizenship. Thinking broadly about the desire for recognition, Dew surmised that “It’s something we want, it’s something, I think, we desperately need.”3

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “Members of the Moorish Science Temple of America during annual gathering”
New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 15, 2021.

Rather than focusing narrowly on the efficacy of Aliite legal strategies, Dew allows us to understand how recognition within the legal system provides a particular seduction for Aliite plaintiffs and defendants. In explaining this appeal, Dew differentiated the experience and expression of experiential sovereignty from the hegemonic power of state sovereignty. At the same time, he noted that experiential sovereignty, in the American context, arises from a distinctly American notion of respectability framed by a constellation of ideas including liberal notions of self-determination and self-improvement, allegiance to the state, civic virtue, Protestant piety, capital accumulation, and the comportment of self-affirming ethnic identities within the racial category of Whiteness. Aliite optimism originates from distinctly American ideas and practices of sovereignty, but it also determinedly seeks to reconfigure American legal notions and procedures.

I am struck by the implication in Dew’s analysis that Aliite historical perspective tends not to comprehend American history as tragic.4 This is a critical point in a response to McConeghy’s question about the Aliite resolve to participate simultaneously within and outside of governmental legal epistemologies. Dew shows that the Aliite insistence on the law of God lying dormant or partial in all people allows Aliites to frame American history, and world history, as ultimately progressive. In this conception, progress connotes a steady improvement from the imperfect to the perfect, rather than a dialectical process driven forward to an uncertain, or even certain, future by irony, tragedy, and ambivalence. With captivating detail, Dew notes how Aliite thought approaches the past in ways that reinforce or at least do not trouble its vision for the future.

Aliites did not tend toward the premillennial spectrum of American religious thought, in contrast to much, but not all, of early to mid-twentieth-century Protestant evangelicals. It is not difficult to imagine how a deeply cynical worldview would have rooted itself within a racialized urban community profoundly marginalized in so many ways. Yet, Aliites married a positive certainty to a determined pragmatism. Dew locates the origins of this optimistic pragmatism in the degree of political influence that early Aliites gained within the machine politics of early twentieth-century Chicago.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “Prophet Noble Drew Ali (standing center) and temple members, at religious service of the Moorish Science Temple of America.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 15, 2021.

Aliite pragmatism did not deny racist ideas and structures. However, the Aliite understanding of history as teleological and ultimately progressive aligned with a view of racism more as a problem of individual behavior than as the result of endemic systems. As I understand the emphasis within Dew’s argument, the Aliite solution to racism has much less to do with the eradication of systemic ideas and institutions and more to do with Black people themselves forgetting, or leaving behind, their racial identities to embrace new (authentic) ethnic selves. This seems fanciful at best and misguided at worst, yet there is an important and underemphasized lesson here about how forgetting, intended and unintended, is and has been a significant mechanism for reformulating identity and imagining the future of community throughout American history. Racism could be abrogated by Black people sloughing off their racial selves. Remaking the self was the first step in remaking society, and in these processes of refashioning the self and society, Aliites left little room for the tragic.

The Significance of Studying Aliite Thought

The Aliite view of history is unique, but it is also not as exceptional as it might seem. Dew’s use of sovereignty to understand Aliite worldviews brilliantly highlights why the study of the Aliites, and the Aliites themselves, are broadly significant. Dew’s examination positions the Aliites at the center, rather than the periphery, of discussion and heated debate about the intersections between historical thought, ritual, and community and their relationships to the future of American democracy. Dew’s examination of the Aliites can be situated within the ways that Jean and John Comaroff explain culture, a realm of inherent contestation that arises from the dynamic interplay between invisible hegemony and visible ideology.5 The processes by which the Aliites imagine their history reveal much about how state sanctioned ideas and institutions gain and maintain seeming natural validity. The knowledge of the law presented by an Aliite is gained from a set of circumstances both shared and contested in relation to the law as it has been codified within the American state. Dew’s thorough historicization of the Aliite’s belief in true law demands a nuanced consideration of how practiced forms of sovereignty, are always multiple, relational, and fluid. This is a significant insight for the broader field of Religious Studies and for the insistence that Black political thought, in its immense diversity, matters.


References
  1. The Aliites, p. 12.
  2. “Interview: Race and the Aliites”
  3. “Interview: Race and the Aliites”
  4. My thinking about the relationship between tragic and pragmatic thought is influenced by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., In a Shade of Blue: Pragmatism and the Politics of Black America (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2007).
  5. Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution: Christianity, Colonialism and Consciousness in South Africa. V. 1 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1991).

Contributors

CONTRIBUTOR: Chernoh Sesay, Jr.


BIO LINK: "https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/persons/chernoh-sesay-jr/"


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Responses

RESPONSE: Race and the Aliites

RESPONSE_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/race-and-the-aliites/

RESPONSE_CONTRIBUTOR: // not sure how to do this yet

Field Name Response to Episode , Is Climate Denial ‘Bad Religion’?
EPISODE_#: This field doesn’t exist yet.
PERMALINK PERMALINK: “https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/response/is-climate-denial-bad-religion/”
FEATURED_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/9780520303676-min.jpg
DATE 2021-05-21 07:00:00
TITLE Is Climate Denial ‘Bad Religion’?
CATEGORY: Responses, Season 10
TERMS: climate change, Decolonialism, Envorinment, Evangelicals, Public discourse
TYPE: response
EXCERPT: “Climate change demands intellectual adaptation by scholars of all disciplines, religious studies included,” writes Evan Berry in response to our interview with Robin Veldman on evangelical opposition to climate action.
SUMMARY:

A Response to Robin Veldman’s “Understanding Evangelical Opposition to Climate Action,” by Evan Berry, Arizona State University

What is the impetus for scholarly research about religiously-inflected climate denial? It seems obvious that there is value in understanding how and why religion is and has been an obstacle to meaningful action to address climate change. But what is that value, exactly? Understanding the complex interface of religious life and climate politics is an important scholarly undertaking, one in which I, like Professor Veldman, have invested significant intellectual energy. Acknowledging the explicitly normative orientation of scholarship on religious climate denial raises many thorny questions about the ethics of ethnographic research, the impossibility of objectivity in religious studies, and, perhaps more interestingly, about how to elaborate modes of religion research that aim to be publicly impactful and socially transformative.

These questions are treated very directly in the outset of this episode of The Religious Studies Project. David McConeghy frames Robin Veldman’s work as “really informative for trying to understand how we can work with Evangelicals in the ways that they do think about the environment in order to enact the major changes that are going to be needed going forward… I think we all agree here at the RSP that climate change is a really big issue and that understanding the different factors that go into evangelical opposition to climate change are going to be really important to building coalitions and cooperations in the future.” Breann Fallon concurs, stating that “it’s only by understanding other points of view that we’re going to be able to tackle climate change from all directions.”

These are honest statements that closely parallel sentiments I frequently encounter among peers. Claims like these suggest a constellation of motives and assumptions animating scholarship on religious climate denial, which might be articulated as follows:

  1. there are religious histories that have contributed to the intractability of climate politics in the United States, and that documenting these histories is a necessary step toward creating political conditions more favorable for sustainability;
  2. there is so-called ‘common ground’ between ‘religious conservatives’ and ‘environmental progressives’ that are worth clarifying, perhaps as the means to achieve political consensus on narrow areas of environmental policy;
  3. that understanding the specific discursive contours of religiously-inflected climate denial can enable climate persuasion and coalition building (see, e.g. the work of Katherine Hayhoe); and lastly
  4. that courting white Evangelicals and other groups on the Religious Right is necessary and appropriate given the urgency and scope of the climate crisis.

There is also a converse, yet largely unspoken, set of motives and assumptions that operate in parallel to these more transparent calls for climate-related efforts to advance the “public understanding of religion.” My attunement to these tacit features of scholarship on religious climate denial are indebted to recent publications by Erin Wilson (i.e. her forthcoming chapter on “Secular Climate Fear”) and Anna Gade (i.e. her sharp critique of environmental studies in the introductory chapter of Muslim Environmentalisms). These include the axioms that:

  1. Climate change is “true” and claims otherwise are irrational, dangerous, and backwards;
  2. Religious studies scholars have the potential to shape public debates about ecological issues, and this potential has yet to be fully realized; and
  3. Religious studies scholarship on environmental issues like climate change are likely to have the kind of public salience that researchers imagine.

As a scholar who works in this area, spelling this all out explicitly brings into focus the theoretical and methodological quagmire that is religion and environment research. Speaking candidly, the climate crisis has become for me such an urgent, omnipresent matter that it calls into question my adherence to the norms that constitute the academic study of religion: from conference travel to the topics for introductory level undergraduate classes, from social taboo against collaboration between scholars and governments to the genteel conventions around ‘taking religion seriously.’ What good is it to play by the informal rules of institutions that are quite literally on fire? Crises precipitate change. Climate change is not just a problem to be solved, but a condition that we will live with for a very long time; and climate change demands intellectual adaptation by scholars of all disciplines, religious studies included. What does climate change portend for theory and method in our field?

First, as the work of decolonial scholars becomes more widely appreciated, our theories and methods increasingly acknowledge that the academic category ‘religion’ has never been neutral or objective. ‘Religion’ is a normative term, and we share with the discipline’s forebearers the temptation to differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ religiosities. What distinguishes our challenge today is a commitment to global justice and a strategic de-centering of North Atlantic Christianities. Rather than retreat into a comfortable discourse of scholarly objectivity, research on religion and climate change should compel us to articulate and defend the normative impulses guiding our work.

Second, we should take greater pains to elaborate the public dimensions of scholarship on religion and climate change. Research methodologies are the subject of extensive consideration, but the ‘public impact’ of research in the humanities and social sciences is a less developed area for theoretical reflection. Broader coalitions are quite often politically advantageous, but the work of broadening coalitions for climate action may require scaling back from the ambition necessary to secure the well-being of future generations. Work that engages white Evangelicals (or other groups that may oppose mitigation and adaptation policies) is tactical, not strategic. Seeking collaboration and cooperation is appropriate in some situations, but the broader strategic aim for work on religion and climate change should be explicitly stated: decarbonizing the economies of all the nations of the world in an economically equitable, and ecologically sustainable way and doing so rapidly enough to protect the maximal possible degree of well-being among living things, human or otherwise. Knowledge about religiously-inflected climate obstructionism can serve the purpose of coalition building, but it can also serve the purpose of pressuring, de-platforming, and delegitimization. This line of analysis may make many scholars of religion uncomfortable, but in this brave new world, we have little choice but to wrestle honestly with what it means to study religion as it intersects with a moral crisis.

Contributors

CONTRIBUTOR: Evan Berry


BIO LINK: "https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/persons/evan-berry/"


HEADSHOT: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/persons_berry-evan_2021.jpeg


Responses

RESPONSE: Understanding Evangelical Opposition to Climate Action

RESPONSE_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/understanding-evangelical-opposition-to-climate-action/

RESPONSE_CONTRIBUTOR: // not sure how to do this yet

Field Name Response to Episode , The Problem of Contextuality in Global Environmental Discourses
EPISODE_#: This field doesn’t exist yet.
PERMALINK PERMALINK: “https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/response/the-problem-of-contextuality-in-global-environmental-discourses/”
FEATURED_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/9780231191050.jpg
DATE 2021-05-14 07:00:00
TITLE The Problem of Contextuality in Global Environmental Discourses
CATEGORY: Responses, Season 10
TERMS: Critical theory, Discourse, Environment, islamic studies
TYPE: response
EXCERPT: Decolonizing ecological studies or environmental humanities forces us to “return to the problem of context,” writes Rosemary Hancock in this response to our interview with Anna Gade.
SUMMARY:

A Response to Anna Gade’s Muslim Environmentalisms by Rosemary Hancock, The University of Notre Dame Australia

When I began studying Islamic environmental activism for my doctoral project in 2011, the phenomenon was perceived as marginal and received very little attention from scholars of both Islam, and the environment. So I was delighted to listen and respond to Gade’s interview, and see the positive reception to her recent book Muslim Environmentalisms. The book is an exciting and valuable contribution to Islamic studies and the environmental humanities. Her examination of the theoretical and discursive basis to Muslim environmentalisms – and in particular her empirical focus on Southeast Asia – significantly broadens the academic conversation that has been building around Islamic environmentalisms in the last decade.

Listening to her interview on the Religious Studies Project, what I found particularly appealing was that Gade seeks to expand our understanding of what can be environmental or Islamic through her case study of Southeast Asia. In doing so, she highlights the incredible diversity of practice and discourse that coalesces around the frame of Muslim or Islamic environmentalism, and the importance of engaging with phenomenon as they are in-context.

Gade is clearly critical of the ‘developmentalist’ discourse that applies a narrow and essential ‘Islamic’ framework to environmental work in Muslim-majority contexts, usually for instrumental reasons. She also critiques the use and widespread circulation of a small number of scriptural references within a global Islamic environmental discourse – scriptural quotations that can be ‘read’ to support Western-style environmentalism. Scholars examining religious environmentalism in other contexts have noted similar trends, for example, Emma Tomalin’s excellent work on Buddhism and Hinduism and the ascription of a supposedly ‘inherent’ environmentalism that misunderstands the religious and cultural nature of particular practices. Both environmental practitioners, and scholars of religious environmentalisms, have too often employed reductive and essential notions of what constitutes any given religious tradition – and indeed, what constitutes environmentalism.

However, the development of a ‘global’ and fairly narrow Islamic environmental discourse cannot entirely be reduced to the instrumentalising of religious tradition by development and environmental organisations. Gade’s acknowledgement of the ‘hybrid’ nature of Muslim environmentalisms is an important concession to the ways in which not only environmental and Islamic discourse circulates globally, but also to the fact Muslims environmentalisms emerge in a wide variety of global contexts. The conversation on ‘authenticity’ and whether one can claim something constitutes ‘true’ or ‘good’ Islam or environmentalism is, given the diversity of Muslim environmentalisms, fascinating. Whilst as a scholar Gade, like myself, resists any pressure to make claims of this kind, Muslim environmentalists themselves are sometimes concerned with authenticity.

My research with Muslim environmentalists was grounded in an entirely different context to that of Gade’s study in Southeast Asia: it examined Muslim environmentalists in the United States and Great Britain, and the groups operated in a context where ‘environmentalism’ – even in Muslim communities – is understood primarily through the classic framing Gade describes as inherent to her discipline of environmental humanities: a concern with the preservation of nature and wilderness, and practices aimed variously to modify, mitigate, or oppose the degradation and destruction of nature from human industry (Hancock 2018, 70-79; 2020a, 292).

Some activists in my study were located in Muslim communities where fear of bida’h (innovation) crippled any attempt to grow the support base of their environmental group or take environmental action (Hancock 2018, 94). The activists felt compelled to portray ‘environmentalism’ – which, as noted above, was typically understood through Western frameworks – as somehow inherent to the Islamic tradition. In these circles references to the stereotypical ‘environmental’ extracts from the Qur’an or collections of Hadith were common that Gade critiques were common. Where some organisations claimed this synthesis of Western environmentalism with Islamic scripture and tradition was effective at changing the behaviour of Muslims (Hancock 2018, 89-90), most continued to find theological interpretation and education alone insufficient to effect real change in their communities (Hancock 2020b, 156).

Whilst initially Gade’s work may present an opportunity for Muslim environmentalists concerned with the ‘authenticity’ of an environmentalism shaped by Western conceptions of nature and crisis to side-step the issue by adopting an environmentalism found entirely within Islamic tradition and cultures, I find that we return to the problem of context. The environmentalism Gade articulates as emerging from her fieldwork in Southeast Asia, and the ways in which the participants in her research understood and used Islamic tradition and scripture, is grounded in that particular geographical, historical, and cultural location. Just as forcing Western environmental concepts and frameworks onto their work would be inappropriate, so Muslim environmentalists in Western contexts need to construct an environmentalism that speaks to their geographical, historical, and cultural location.

One of the most exciting aspects of Gade’s work is her effort to decolonize the environmental humanities by showing how concepts from within the Islamic tradition can expand understandings of what constitutes ‘environment’. Resisting ‘theoretical colonization’ (Bayat 2005) by refusing to apply Western concepts to non-Western contexts is only the first step in decolonizing academic disciplines and discourse – Gade takes the second step in having the Islamic tradition speak back into Western theory. As Amanda Baugh pointed out in her response to Gretel Van Weiren’s interview on the Religious Studies Project in October 2020, the study of religion and ecology has a whiteness problem. This echoes the more general ‘whiteness problem’ of Western environmental movements – but, as Baugh argued in her response and I pointed out above, scholars who approach the study of religion and ecology ‘uncritically … perpetuate a colonial project’ that essentializes both “religion” and the “environment”. Gade’s discussion, and indeed her book, gestures to those of us who study religious environmentalisms a potential avenue out of both the trap of essentialism and of critique with no constructive alternative.

References

Bayat, Asef, 2005. “Islamism and Social Movement Theory.” Third World Quarterly 26 (6): 891-908.

Hancock, Rosemary. Islamic Environmentalism: Activism in the United States and Great Britain. (London: Routledge, 2018)

Hancock, Rosemary, 2020a. “Environmental Conversions and Muslim Activists: Producing Knowledge at the Intersection of Religion and Politics.” Social Movement Studies 19 (3): 287-302.

Hancock, Rosemary, “Islamic Environmentalists, Activism, and Religious Duty” in Mario Peucker and Merve Keyiki (eds.) Muslim Volunteering in the West: Between Islamic Ethos and Citizenship. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020b), 141-160.

Contributors

CONTRIBUTOR: Rosemary Hancock


BIO LINK: "https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/persons/rosemary-hancock/"


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Responses

RESPONSE: Beyond Ecological Essentialism: Critical and Constructive Muslim Environmentalisms

RESPONSE_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/beyond-ecological-essentialism-critical-and-constructive-muslim-environmentalisms/

RESPONSE_CONTRIBUTOR: // not sure how to do this yet

Field Name Response to Episode , It’s a kind of magic – Experiences with the Resisting Object
EPISODE_#: This field doesn’t exist yet.
PERMALINK PERMALINK: “https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/response/its-a-kind-of-magic/”
FEATURED_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Banners-by-Alina-Kokoschka.jpg
DATE 2021-05-07 07:00:00
TITLE It’s a kind of magic – Experiences with the Resisting Object
CATEGORY: Responses, Season 10
TERMS: Embodiment, Islam, Material Religion, Visual Culture
TYPE: response
EXCERPT: “The body alone cannot deal with the language problem that we have,” writes Alina Kokoschka in her response to our interview with Richard McGregor on images, aesthetics, and challenge of studying objects in Islam.
SUMMARY:

In the podcast episode on “Following the Objects: Seeing Religion in Egypt and Syria“ with Richard McGregor I find many aspects of my own research and its process. The – as I understand – rather “accidental“ change of direction towards the object. The many surprises along the trails, roads, and boulevards taken in order to track down the objects of choice. The necessity to give “aesthetics“ back its full dimension beyond notions of beauty. The struggle with stubborn Islamic Art History vocabulary and language deficiencies in general.

As a response to McGregor’s research on historical banners: Advertising banner for the opening of “Milk Way”-store and banner with religious calls (Syria, 2006 ), by Alina Kokoschka http://hawass.org/image/680

Let me focus on one of the terms that Richard McGregor thankfully came up with, in order to bring these strands together anew through the perspective of my “objects that resist“ (RM 13:11). This uncommon quality on the long list of attributes we give to objects brings together all the aspects that I just mentioned—aspects that describe well how Islamic Studies research can take new shapes when in dialogue with material culture.

Instead of further working out details of theories of the object-human-relation from, let’s say, Martin Heidegger to Bruno Latour to Jane Bennett, the format of the response allows me to jump back into my own stream of thing-exploration once more. That stream opened up when I needed to follow “my objects“ in order to shed light on Islamisation in Syria (2000-2011) from a different perspective. I “accidentally“ and happily decided on commodities and their aesthetics. Looking back, no other method would have been suitable, neither for the subject nor for me as a researcher. I started the process of seeing, listening and understanding with the vast world of talismans: the biggest group of commodities with an Islamic connotation. So please follow me on a little digression, the same I had to take.

Talismans “kind of magically” (RM 5:41) brought me to non-academic literature and German peculiarities when it comes to material culture. There is an expression in German language going back to a famous 19th c. novel by the unsuccessful philosopher and aesthetic but all the more successful writer Friedrich Theodor Vischer that has become proverbial: “The cussedness of the (inanimate) object” (Die Tücke des Objekts). It describes the experience that things seem to lead a life of their own and sometimes put a spoke in our wheel. It describes the experience of things we mean – and believe – to operate but then realize that it is us who are being handled, who are being determined by the realities things create (tellingly, in German language we “serve” a machine when we operate it): Tools fall apart when we need them most. Laces produce knots when we are on the run. Televisions fail just during the finals.  Throughout 19th and 20th c. German literature we find examples of objects that seem to have some kind of power and life of their own. Animate objects. Most parts of society tried to frame any kind of fetish-belief as “savage”, pathological, the Other. Hence, literature and arts became a playground for the “non-rational”, “non-modern” perspective on objects. In his story “The Cares of a Family Man“ (1917), Franz Kafka describes a thing – wooden, with many threads wrapped around, small and yet complex in shape – that seems to be beyond all known categories and uses. Reader and “family man“ follow it on its ways throughout the house:

“He lurks by turns in the garret, the stairway, the lobbies, the entrance hall. Often for months on end he is not to be seen; then he has presumably moved into other houses; but he always comes faithfully back to our house again (…) Many a time when you go out of the door and he happens just to be leaning directly beneath you against the banisters you feel inclined to speak to him. Of course, you put no difficult questions to him, you treat him – he is so diminutive that you cannot help it – rather like a child. ‘Well, what’s your name?’ you ask him. ‘Odradek,’ he says. ‘And where do you live?’ ‘No fixed abode,’ he says and laughs; but it is only the kind of laughter that has no lungs behind it. It sounds rather like the rustling of fallen leaves. And that is usually the end of the conversation.”

Franz Kafka, “The Cares of a Family Man” (1917)
“I am waiting for my circumcision” greeting card with ufo ( Turkey, 2011 ), Photo by Alina Kokoschka http://hawass.org/image/497

Unsatisfactory dialogues like that happen when a head loaded with ideas and concepts of Islam and Muslim practices encounters unexpected things, things in an unexpected use or place. This head would like to finally situate the object but that irritating thing just keeps moving. It could be a prayer rug that has left its place on the ground or shelf (or even museum!) and has become a simple awning to keep away the sun. It could be a talisman to ward off the Evil Eye that has the blue color and shape of the common Turkish Nazar but is decorated not with the usual abstract eye but with “Tom and Jerry” instead. It could be an Islamic gown decorated with not fewer than three international brand logos. It could be a greeting card for circumcision celebrations where the highly decorated boy is displayed in a UFO. “Häää?,” I remember my German inner voice saying.

To keep this conversation with the Resisting Object alive, new listening skills have to be developed. This is where the “aesthetic communication“ (RM 12:21) needs to set in. Though, when it comes to seemingly banal objects like commodities, Islamicists’ listening often stops. Materials that do not belong to the canon of Islamic Arts are excluded far too often from academic dialogue with the object (rather monologue though, many times). The same applies to mass-produced items.

If I understand Richard McGregor correctly, he aims for a new language, and it has yet to be discovered where that is to be found or learnt. Without question, the body has come into play with its own knowledge of how body and thing interact. Of how an Abaya dress made from polyester sticks to the skin and develops a smell. Of how prayer beads made from wood, glass, ceramics, tin or plastic sound and feel when slipping through the fingers. Of how a finger-long Zulfikar sword worn around the neck gives weight to every movement.

But the body alone cannot deal with the language problem that we have.

I plead for a daring exploration of words and categories that helps us to go beyond museal descriptions supplying era, material and a single use. One major problem on the way is those notions of beauty in the term “aesthetics.” They hinder communication at eye level. So we need to get rid of them for a bit. If contemporary Islamic and Muslim things and their aesthetics are shaped by shimmering crystal, neon light, and gold imitations then these have to be materials and aesthetics we communicate and think with. Hence, they do shape Muslim perception and life on a daily basis. And they will lead us back to Islamic concepts and to their expression in time. To the meaning of al-nur, the light, to visions of paradisical gold and to an Islamic canon of materials to be neglected: in this world.

I wish McGregor’s book had been out when I wrote mine. It would have made the long process less lonesome. Here is a very much incomplete list of works and authors I am indebted to:

Böhme, Hartmut. 2014. Fetishism and Culture. A Different Theory of Modernity. Berlin & Boston: de Gruyter.

Ingold, Tim. 2010.The Textility of Making. In: Cambridge Journal of Economics 34: 91–102.

Naef, Sylvia. 2000. Einige Überlegungen zur Unterscheidung zwischen sakralem und profanem Raum im Islam. In Religiöse Kartographie. Organisation, Darstellung und Symbolik des Raumes in religiösen Symbolsystemen edited by F. Stolz/D. Pezzoli-Oligiati. Berlin: 289–307.

Pinto, Paulo. 2007. Pilgrimage, Commodities, and Religious Objectification. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 27: 109-125.

Starrett, Gregory. 1995. The Political Economy of Religious Commodities in Cairo. In: American Anthropologist 97:. 51–68.

Contributors

CONTRIBUTOR: Alina Kokoschka


BIO LINK: "https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/persons/alina-kokoschka/"


HEADSHOT: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/K1A7627_korr_sRGB_8_1000x1500px_b.jpeg


Responses

RESPONSE: Following the Objects: Seeing Religion in Egypt and Syria

RESPONSE_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/following-the-objects-seeing-religion-in-egypt-and-syria/

RESPONSE_CONTRIBUTOR: // not sure how to do this yet

Field Name Response to Episode , Following Resistance
EPISODE_#: This field doesn’t exist yet.
PERMALINK PERMALINK: “https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/response/following-resistance/”
FEATURED_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Picture2.jpg
DATE 2021-04-30 07:00:00
TITLE Following Resistance
CATEGORY: Responses, Season 10
TERMS: islamic studies, Material Religion, Method and Theory, Visual Culture
TYPE: response
EXCERPT: How can Islamic Studies help advance the study of religion and visual and material culture, asks Anna Bigelow in this response to our interview with Richard McGregor. One way is through “close attention to the subtleties” of context, method, and discipline that characterize work that intently follows the objects and their “multiple, shifting registers.”
SUMMARY:

In his new book, Islam and the Devotional Object: Seeing Religion in Egypt and Syria (Cambridge 2020), Richard J. McGregor invites us to think of the way that objects communicate as emerging out of resistance. That is to say that objects do not glide through history on tracks well-greased by doctrine and practice, or ritual and law. Rather, they take complex routes that meander, shift, and double-back as they advance through time. These movements resist simple narratives and methods. So McGregor’s invitation to follow the objects (instead of the theologies or the political regimes that inform them) and note how they resist discursive reduction, allows the ways objects communicate in multiple, shifting registers to come into focus. By leaning into the points of resistance, without falling prey to the urge to narrativize and thereby smooth out rough edges and oil the sticky places of the resistant object, the particularities of an object’s aesthetic communications emerge. In McGregor’s conversation with Candace Mixon, the potential for this inherently interdisciplinary exploratory mode unfolds in several tantalizing ways.

A palanquin which carried the Holy Carpet. Black-and-white photograph. (1911) Sladen, Douglas Brooke Wheelton, 1856-1947 (Wikimedia commons)

            First, McGregor’s evocation of ‘resistance’ as the productive tension by which objects refuse to conform to the authorizing regimes that seek to define, interpret, and control them, brings to mind Sara Ahmed’s idea of the sticky quality of affects as they adhere to objects. “Objects become sticky, saturated with affects, as sites of personal and social tension.” (Ahmed 126) To follow an object means to account for these sticky places and to see how and when objects arrive at what Ahmed calls “conversion points.” In the case of the mahmal that not only means understanding changing political authority and relations, but also shifting legal-theological ideas about the status of such objects, and further to observe how the object “scatters,” as McGregor puts it, from its role in the kiswa procession between Cairo and Mecca, into multiple manifestations in processions related to saints’ shrines. As he digs into how a seven-hundred-year-old tradition like the mahmal and its procession could shift from a heavily guarded and patronized tradition, to an unstable and debated one, and finally to a scattered object that no longer transacts between the two cities, McGregor reveals both the contingency and the stickiness of objects. If we consider the effort required to create or change the affects that stick to the mahmal, this opens up additional lines of inquiry, such as the uneven access to the power necessary to change the affective attachments to objects. Further, considering the conversion points, as McGregor does, brings the intersection of multiple necessary analytics into sharp focus.

            It is perhaps not surprising, then, to find a procession from a Sufi tomb in Bengalaru, India with a palanquin, standard bearers, camels, and a replica of the Ka‘ba. [image 1] To mark the ‘urs (death day observations) of another Sufi saint of Baghdad, the famous ‘Abd al Qadir al Jilani (d. 1166), a julus (procession) goes out from the tomb shrine of a local Sufi, Hazrat Tawakkal Mastan Shah. In this southern Indian megacity the assembly includes faqirs carrying standards, a palanquin replica of the tomb shrine, several camels (carrying children), an enormous ship bearing a slogan invoking ‘Abd al Qadir al Jilani (“ya ghous al madad”) along with a model of his tomb, a giant fish, and an enormous replica of the Ka‘ba with the pilgrim’s refrain (“labayk allahuma labayk – I am here, my God, I am here”) written on its kiswa. This too may represent an instance of scattering, but which also demands attention to its own register of aesthetic communication. The urge to draw a straight line between processional aesthetics is certainly strong, but also requires attention to the points of resistance. The resonance helps to uncover the repertoire of objects and materials that authorize the practice, link the saint in India to a saint in Baghdad and to the Ka‘ba, and territorialize the shadow of the saint in whose protection the neighborhood lies. But these are also objects whose local affective attachments are simultaneous and contradictory – producing stickiness and resistance. A largely non-Muslim and non-Arabic script reading audience likely encounter these objects differently and in multiple ways. For some this is an opportunity to witness sacred objects that transmit blessing power (barakat) through the aura they project over the spaces they traverse. For others, these objects are manifestly foreign and the Ka‘ba image itself speaks to an unfamiliar power and allegiance that heightens a growing alienation between Muslim and non-Muslim Indians. Status among the faqirs, the shrine custodians, and the local Muslim population speaks to variable access to and understanding of the tradition. Though young girls ride the camels, no other female participants were present in the procession itself in the year I was present (2009). All these, and other, elements signify the importance of following objects as a means of illuminating a rich and complex world which cannot, as McGregor points out “be reduced to language… [or] to a narrative.” Instead, as he says in this conversation “the objects will resist discursive reduction, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not communicating.”

Image 1: A procession for the ‘urs (death day) observations for ‘Abd al Qadir al Jilani (d. 1166) proceeding from the tomb shrine of Hazrat Tawwakal Mastan Shah Suhrawardi (17th century) in Bengalaru, India (photo by the author)

Second, if we stay with one of the objects McGregor focuses on, the mahmal, as an example of an affective and aesthetic object, we must consider a number of questions – which mahmal? The one sent from Egypt by Sultan Ghawri in the early 16th century or King Fu’ad I in the early 20th? Competing mahmal’s from Mamluk Syria or Baghdad? Or the mahmals associated with Sa‘diyya Sufi shrines and rituals? Is one a template and the others iterative? What are the formal properties of the calligraphic bands, the medallions declaring their patrons, the finials of the corner posts and peaks? Who could have read them or were they meant for such discursive legibility? How are these palanquins produced, maintained, or disposed of? What affective responses did they enable and what continuities and disjunctures existed over time? And perhaps the most vexing question for material religious studies these days – what kind of agency (if any) does the mahmal possess? On the last question, religionists and new materialists find a great deal in common. Powerful objects – objects that do things through their own agency – are both ubiquitous and often debated in many traditions and times.

This leads to a final point that emerges in Mixon’s conversation when she asks what McGregor thinks that Islamic theories of materiality might bring to the field of religious studies more broadly. McGregor rightly reminds us that scholars of religion are often rooted in particular areas (Islamic Studies, Middle East Studies, etc.) but also are also seeking connection across fields as humanists that ask us to think more comparatively and more ethically. This is a question that has also preoccupied me of late – one result of which is a forthcoming edited volume Islam through Objects (Bloomsbury 2021) to which McGregor contributes an essay. Both in this conversation and in the chapters of that volume, various responses emerge to the question of how Islamic Studies can help to advance the study of religion and visual and material culture. Close attention to the subtleties of Islamic thought, the particularities of Islamic aesthetics, and the histories of Islamic cultures are necessary to engage – whether critically or in resonance with – the study of material religion. Without grounding in a particular field, as Mixon and McGregor point out, the comparative inquiry that characterizes the study of religion would be superficial. Attuning ourselves through objects opens up these productive fields of inquiry.

Contributors

CONTRIBUTOR: Anna Bigelow


BIO LINK: "https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/persons/anna-bigelow/"


HEADSHOT: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Bigelow.jpeg


Responses

RESPONSE: Following the Objects: Seeing Religion in Egypt and Syria

RESPONSE_URL: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/following-the-objects-seeing-religion-in-egypt-and-syria/

RESPONSE_CONTRIBUTOR: // not sure how to do this yet