In this edited volume, Andean wak'as—idols, statues, sacred places, images, and oratories—play a central role in understanding Andean social philosophies, cosmologies, materialities, temporalities, and constructions of personhood. Top Andean scholars from a variety of disciplines cross regional, theoretical, and material boundaries in their chapters, offering innovative methods and theoretical frameworks for interpreting the cultural particulars of Andean ontologies and notions of the sacred.
Wak'as were understood as agentive, nonhuman persons within many Andean communities and were fundamental to conceptions of place, alimentation, fertility, identity, and memory and the political construction of ecology and life cycles. The ethnohistoric record indicates that wak'as were thought to speak, hear, and communicate, both among themselves and with humans. In their capacity as nonhuman persons, they shared familial relations with members of the community, for instance, young women were wed to local wak'as made of stone and wak'as had sons and daughters who were identified as the mummified remains of the community's revered ancestors.
Integrating linguistic, ethnohistoric, ethnographic, and archaeological data, The Archaeology of Wak'as advances our understanding of the nature and culture of wak'as and contributes to the larger theoretical discussions on the meaning and role of–"the sacred” in ancient contexts.
Most scholars dismiss research into the paranormal as pseudoscience, a frivolous pursuit for the paranoid or gullible. Even historians of religion, whose work naturally attends to events beyond the realm of empirical science, have shown scant interest in the subject. But the history of psychical phenomena, Jeffrey J. Kripal contends, is an untapped source of insight into the sacred and by tracing that history through the last two centuries of Western thought we can see its potential centrality to the critical study of religion.
Kripal grounds his study in the work of four major figures in the history of paranormal research: psychical researcher Frederic Myers; writer and humorist Charles Fort; astronomer, computer scientist, and ufologist Jacques Vallee; and philosopher and sociologist Bertrand Méheust. Through incisive analyses of these thinkers, Kripal ushers the reader into a beguiling world somewhere between fact, fiction, and fraud. The cultural history of telepathy, teleportation, and UFOs; a ghostly love story; the occult dimensions of science fiction; cold war psychic espionage; galactic colonialism; and the intimate relationship between consciousness and culture all come together in Authors of the Impossible, a dazzling and profound look at how the paranormal bridges the sacred and the scientific.
Winner of the 2006 Distinguished Book Award of the Sexualities Section of the American Sociological Association
Homosexuality has become increasingly accepted in mainstream America over the past two decades. Yet despite indications of progress that can be found everywhere from academia to popular culture, gay men and women remain the target of much discrimination and stigma, particularly within conservative Christianity.
In Be Not Deceived, Michelle Wolkomir explores the difficult dilemma that gay Christians face in their attempts to reconcile their religious and sexual identities. She introduces the ideologies and practices of two alternative and competing ministries that offer solutions for Christians who experience homosexual desire.
One organization—the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches—believes that God made people gay to suit divine purposes. Changing one’s sexuality is therefore impossible and a defiance of God. In contrast, Exodus International preaches that homosexuality is a sin and a symptom of disordered psychological development—one that can be cured through redemptive prayer. By comparing participant experiences in these ministries, Wolkomir explores the paths and processes by which members learn to become gay or ex-gay Christians.
Through careful analysis of the groups’ ideologies, interactions, and symbolic resources, Be Not Deceived goes far beyond the obvious differences between the ministries to uncover their similarities, namely that both continue to define heterosexuality as the normative and dominant lifestyle.
John Courtney Murray, SJ (1904-1967), is most renowned for his ethical writings, which distinguish between the secular and the sacred, and for his defense of civil religious freedom based on natural law philosophy. His later theological writings, however, in which he sought to reintegrate the temporal and the spiritual, civil society and the church, philosophy and theology, have been largely ignored. In this new collection of essays—previously scattered among various periodicals over the course of thirty years—J. Leon Hooper, S.J., presents a selection of Murray's theological writings that not only outlines and highlights the integrity of Murray's moves towards a public theological discourse but also contributes to the ongoing post-conciliar task of integrating the secular and the sacred, thereby invigorating American public conversation today.
In his editorial introductions, Hooper furthers Murray scholarship by identifying two distinct links between Murray's well known non-theological writings and the explicitly theological work that also spans his public life. Common to both areas are Murray's deepening appreciation of the historicity of all human knowing and the cognitional operations that the human person brings to both sacred and profane living.
By making available Murray's explicitly theological and Christian humanism writings, this collection further enriches American ethical, theological and philosophical debate.
Are religions intrinsically violent (as is strenuously argued by the ‘new atheists’)? Or, as Girard argues, have they been functionally rational instruments developed to manage and cope with the intrinsically violent runaway dynamic that characterizes human social organization in all periods of human history? Is violence decreasing in this time of secular modernity post-Christendom (as argued by Steven Pinker and others)? Or are we, rather, at increased and even apocalyptic risk from our enhanced powers of action and our decreased socio-symbolic protections? Rene Girard’s mimetic theory has been slowly but progressively recognized as one of the most striking breakthrough contributions to twentieth-century critical thinking in fundamental anthropology: in particular for its power to model and explain violent sacralities, ancient and modern. The present volume sets this power of explanation in an evolutionary and Darwinian frame. It asks: How far do cultural mechanisms of controlling violence, which allowed humankind to cross the threshold of hominization—i.e., to survive and develop in its evolutionary emergence—still represent today a default setting that threatens to destroy us? Can we transcend them and escape their field of gravity? Should we look to—or should we look beyond—Darwinian survival? What—and where (if anywhere)—is salvation?
Black Friday. The War on Christmas. Miracle on 34th Street and Elf. From shopping malls and Fox News to movie theaters, Christmas no longer solely celebrates to the birth of Christ. Considering the holiday in its global context, Christmas journeys from its historical origins to its modern incarnation as a global commercial event, stopping along the way to look at the controversies and traditions of the celebratory day.
Delving into the long story of this unifying but also divisive holiday, Tara Moore describes the evolution of Christmas and the deep traditions that bind a culture to its version of it. She probes the debates that have long accompanied the season—from questions of the actual date of Christ’s birth to frictions between the sacred and the secular—and discusses the characters associated with the holiday’s celebration, including Saint Nicholas, the Magi, Scrooge, and Krampus. She also explores how customs such as Christmas trees, feasting, and gift giving first emerged and became central facets of the holiday, while also examining how Christmas has been portrayed in culture—from the literary works of Charles Dickens to the yearly bout of holiday films, television specials, traditional carols, and modern tracks. Ultimately, Moore reveals, Christmas’s longevity has depended on its ability to evolve. Packed with illustrations, Christmas is a fascinating look at the holiday we only think we know.
In Circuits of the Sacred Carlos Ulises Decena examines transnational black Latinx Caribbean immigrant queer life and spirit. Decena models what he calls a faggotology—the erotic in the divine as found in the disreputable and the excessive—as foundational to queer black critical and expressive praxis of the future. Drawing on theoretical analysis, memoir, creative writing, and ethnography of Santería/Lucumí in Santo Domingo, Havana, and New Jersey, Decena moves between languages, locations, pronouns, and genres to map the itineraries of blackness as a “circuit,” a multipronged and multisensorial field. A feminist pilgrimage and extended conversation with the dead, Decena’s study is a provocative work that transforms the academic monograph into a gathering of stories, theoretical innovation, and expressive praxis to channel voices, ancestors, deities, theorists, artists, and spirits from the vantage point of radical feminism and queer-of-color thinking.
Sacrifice--ranging from the sacrifice of virgins to circumcision to giving up what is most valued--is essential to all religions. Could there be a natural, even biological, reason for these practices? Something that might explain why religions of so many different cultures share so many rituals and concepts? In this extraordinary book, one of the world's leading authorities on ancient religions explores the possibility of natural religion--a religious sense and practice naturally proceeding from biological imperatives.
Because they lack later refinements, the earliest religions from the Near East, Israel, Greece, and Rome may tell us a great deal about the basic properties and dynamics of religion, and it is to these cultures that Walter Burkert looks for answers. His book takes us on an intellectual adventure that begins some 5,000 years ago and plunges us into a fascinating world of divine signs and omens, offerings and sacrifices, rituals and beliefs unmitigated by modern science and sophistication. Tracing parallels between animal behavior and human religious activity, Burkert suggests natural foundations for sacrifices and rituals of escape, for the concept of guilt and punishment, for the practice of gift exchange and the notion of a cosmic hierarchy, and for the development of a system of signs for negotiating with an uncertain environment. Again and again, he returns to the present to remind us that, for all our worldliness, we are not so far removed from the first Homo religiosus.
A breathtaking journey, as entertaining as it is provocative, Creation of the Sacred brings rich new insight on religious thought past and present and raises serious questions about the ultimate reasons for, and the ultimate meaning of, human religiousness.
Maurice Blanchot is among the most important twentieth-century French thinkers. Figures such as Bataille, Deleuze, Derrida, and Levinas all draw deeply on his novels and writings on literature and philosophy. In The Dark Gaze, Kevin Hart argues that Blanchot has given us the most persuasive account of what we must give up—whether it be continuity, selfhood, absolute truth, totality, or unity—if God is, indeed, dead. Looking at Blanchot’s oeuvre as a whole, Hart shows that this erstwhile atheist paradoxically had an abiding fascination with mystical experiences and the notion of the sacred.
The result is not a mere introduction to Blanchot but rather a profound reconsideration of how his work figures theologically in some of the major currents of twentieth-century thought. Hart reveals Blanchot to be a thinker devoted to the possibilities of a spiritual life; an atheist who knew both the Old and New Testaments, especially the Hebrew Bible; and a philosopher keenly interested in the relation between art and religion, the nature of mystical experience, the link between writing and the sacred, and the possibilities of leading an ethical life in the absence of God.
Ecology and the Sacred commemorates and advances the anthropology of Roy A. (Skip) Rappaport. Rappaport was an original and visionary thinker whose writings, like these essays, encompass ecological theory and method; ritual, the sacred, and the cybernetics of the holy; the structural study of social maladaptation or "the anthropology of trouble"; and a policy-engaged anthropology that addresses social complexity and structural disorders in modern contexts. The contributors, who are leaders in anthropological studies of the environment and of religion, address themes emerging from Rappaport's pioneering ethnography of Papua New Guinea through his engagement with contemporary social problems. In addition to presenting significant new ethnographic data and sharp critical perspectives, the collection demonstrates the essential holism of anthropology as represented by Rappaport's contributions and legacy.
At a time when anthropology is fractured by debates over whether it is a science or a humanistic tradition, theoretical or applied, this festschrift testifies that a unified anthropology is both possible and necessary for the understanding of humanity and global transformations. The volume will be of interest not only to anthropologists, but to geographers, sociologists, scholars in science-studies, historians, and experts and practitioners in religious studies, as well.
Ellen Messer is Visiting Associate Professor, Tufts University. Michael Lambek is Professor of Anthropology, University of Toronto.
In seventeenth-century Lima, pious Catholic women gained profound theological understanding and enacted expressions of spiritual devotion by engaging with a wide range of sacred texts and objects, as well as with one another, their families, and ecclesiastical authorities. In Embodying the Sacred, Nancy E. van Deusen considers how women created and navigated a spiritual existence within the colonial city's complex social milieu. Through close readings of diverse primary sources, van Deusen shows that these women recognized the divine—or were objectified as conduits of holiness—in innovative and powerful ways: dressing a religious statue, performing charitable acts, sharing interiorized spiritual visions, constructing autobiographical texts, or offering their hair or fingernails to disciples as living relics. In these manifestations of piety, each of these women transcended the limited outlets available to them for expressing and enacting their faith in colonial Lima, and each transformed early modern Catholicism in meaningful ways.
A radical reinterpretation of the origin of religion through a psychoanalytic theorization of the unknown
Renowned psychoanalytic philosopher Richard Boothby puts forward a novel theory of religion inspired by Jacques Lacan’s theory of das Ding, the disquieting, inaccessible dimension of fellow human beings. This notion of an unfathomable excess, originally encountered in the figure of the mother, led Lacan to break with Freud’s formulation of the Oedipus complex and underlies Lacan’s distinctive conception of unconscious dynamics. Leaning on this account, Boothby shows how our sense of the sacred arises from our relation to what we do not know.
Embracing the Void lays out the range of Freud’s attempts at a psychoanalytic theory of religion and then sketches the rough contours of Lacan’s contrasting approach. From there, Boothby offers the theoretical tools for interpreting the religious impulse and analyzes key religious traditions, from ancient Greek polytheism to Judaism and Christianity, and from Hinduism and Buddhism to Islam, finally turning to modern capitalist culture and the seductive deity that dominates it—money. Lucid, accessible, and compelling, the book provides a cogent intervention in one of the psychoanalytic tradition’s most contentious topics and offers a new approach to our understanding of religion.
Many observers of Kenya’s complicated history see causes for concern, from the use of public office for private gain to a constitutional structure historically lopsided towards the executive branch. Yet efforts from critics and academics to diagnose the country’s problems do not often consider what these fiscal and political issues mean to ordinary Kenyans. How do Kenyans express their own political understanding, make sense of governance, and articulate what they expect from their leaders?
In For Money and Elders, Robert W. Blunt addresses these questions by turning to the political, economic, and religious signs in circulation in Kenya today. He examines how Kenyans attempt to make sense of political instability caused by the uncertainty of authority behind everything from currency to title deeds. When the symbolic order of a society is up for grabs, he shows, violence may seem like an expedient way to enforce the authority of signs. Drawing on fertile concepts of sovereignty, elderhood, counterfeiting, acephaly, and more, Blunt explores phenomena as diverse as the destabilization of ritual “oaths,” public anxieties about Satanism with the advent of democratic reform, and mistrust of official signs. The result is a fascinating glimpse into Kenya’s past and present and a penetrating reflection on meanings of violence in African politics.
French and German tourists join Mexican migrant workers to venerate the image of the Virgin Mary at a strip mall in Florida; Latino gang members, deported from the United States to home countries they barely know, find Jesus in transnational churches; U.S. evangelicals use electronic media to preach a “neo liberal” gospel of wealth and health to landless peasants in remote indigenous villages in Guatemala. These are just some examples of how religion in the Americas today intersects in complex ways with the economic, political, and cultural dimensions of globalization.
Drawing on case studies in the United States and Latin America, Manuel A. Vásquez and Marie Friedmann Marquardt explore the evolving roles of religion in the Americas in the face of globalization, transnational migration, the rapid growth of culture industries, the rise of computer mediated technologies, and the crisis of modernity. Combining ethnographic research in local congregations, studies of material culture and sacred space, textual analyses, and approaches to mass and electronic media, the authors challenge dominant paradigms in sociology of religion, such as the secularization and rational choice models. Further, the book offers alternative theoretical and methodological tools to understand the increasing complexity of religious life in the Americas.
By illustratingthe challenges that scholars and students must confront in order to understand the complexity of today’s religious landscape, Globalizing the Sacred makes both important theoretical and methodological contributions to the study of religion’s role in social change.
City plazas worldwide are centers of cultural expression and artistic display. They are settings for everyday urban life where daily interactions, economic exchanges, and informal conversations occur, thereby creating a socially meaningful place at the core of a city. At the heart of historic Los Angeles, the Plaza represents a quintessential public space where real and imagined narratives overlap and provide as many questions as answers about the development of the city and what it means to be an Angeleno. The author, a social and cultural historian who specializes in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Los Angeles, is well suited to explore the complex history and modern-day relevance of the Los Angeles Plaza. From its indigenous and colonial origins to the present day, Estrada explores the subject from an interdisciplinary and multiethnic perspective, delving into the pages of local newspapers, diaries and letters, and the personal memories of former and present Plaza residents, in order to examine the spatial and social dimensions of the Plaza over an extended period of time. The author contributes to the growing historiography of Los Angeles by providing a groundbreaking analysis of the original core of the city that covers a long span of time, space, and social relations. He examines the impact of change on the lives of ordinary people in a specific place, and how this change reflects the larger story of the city.
Man and the Sacred
Roger Caillois University of Illinois Press, 1959 Library of Congress BL60.C313 2001 | Dewey Decimal 306.6
Throughout the world, people believe that much of what they do is accidental, ordinary, and inconsequential, while other acts can bring on divine retribution or earn eternal grace. In Man and the Sacred, Caillois demonstrates how humanity's ambiguous attitude toward the sacred influences behavior and culture.
Drawing on a diverse array of ethnographic contexts, including the sexual rituals of the Ba-Thong of South Africa and evidence drawn from aboriginal Australian, Eskimo, and traditional Chinese social systems, Caillois analyzes the role of the forbidden in the social cohesion of the group. He examines the character of the sacred in the light of specific instances of taboos and transgressions, exploring wide differences in attitudes toward diet and sex and extreme behaviors associated with the sacred, such as rapture and paroxysm. He also discusses the festival--an exuberant explosion following a period of strict repression--and compares its functions with those of modern war.
A classic study of one of the most fundamental aspects of human social and spiritual life, Man and the Sacred--presented here in Meyer Barash's superb English translation--is a companion volume to Caillois's Man, Play and Games.
There are many holy cities in India, but Mumbai is not usually considered one of them. More popular images of the city capture the world’s collective imagination—as a Bollywood fantasia or a slumland dystopia. Yet for many, if not most, people who live in the city, the neighborhood streets are indeed shared with local gods and guardian spirits. In The Neighborhood of Gods, William Elison examines the link between territory and divinity in India’s most self-consciously modern city. In this densely settled environment, space is scarce, and anxiety about housing is pervasive. Consecrating space—first with impromptu displays and then, eventually, with full-blown temples and official recognition—is one way of staking a claim. But how can a marginalized community make its gods visible, and therefore powerful, in the eyes of others?
The Neighborhood of Gods explores this question, bringing an ethnographic lens to a range of visual and spatial practices: from the shrine construction that encroaches on downtown streets, to the “tribal art” practices of an indigenous group facing displacement, to the work of image production at two Bollywood film studios. A pioneering ethnography, this book offers a creative intervention in debates on postcolonial citizenship, urban geography, and visuality in the religions of India.
Plumbing what the poet Michael Palmer calls “the dimension of the Spirit, with that troublesome, rebarbative capital letter,” Norman Finkelstein’s On Mount Vision asks how and why the sacred has remained a basic concern of contemporary experimental poets in our secular age. By charting the wandering, together and apart, of poetry and belief, Finkelstein illustrates the rich tapestry formed by the warp and woof of poetry, and the play of Gnosticism, antinomianism, spiritualism, and shamanism, which have commonly been regarded as heretical and sometimes been outright suppressed.
This beautifully written work begins with an overview of the spiritual problematics found in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American poetry. Traveling slightly outside of the realm of the contemporary, Finkelstein’s discussions of Emerson, Whitman, and Eliot yield to close readings of the works of Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, Ronald Johnson, Michael Palmer, Susan Howe, Nathaniel Mackey, and Armand Schwerner. In restoring verse to its place alongside scripture, Finkelstein reminds us why the sacred remains crucial to our understanding of postmodern American poetry.
M. Jacqui Alexander is one of the most important theorists of transnational feminism working today. Pedagogies of Crossing brings together essays she has written over the past decade, uniting her incisive critiques, which have had such a profound impact on feminist, queer, and critical race theories, with some of her more recent work. In this landmark interdisciplinary volume, Alexander points to a number of critical imperatives made all the more urgent by contemporary manifestations of neoimperialism and neocolonialism. Among these are the need for North American feminism and queer studies to take up transnational frameworks that foreground questions of colonialism, political economy, and racial formation; for a thorough re-conceptualization of modernity to account for the heteronormative regulatory practices of modern state formations; and for feminists to wrestle with the spiritual dimensions of experience and the meaning of sacred subjectivity.
In these meditations, Alexander deftly unites large, often contradictory, historical processes across time and space. She focuses on the criminalization of queer communities in both the United States and the Caribbean in ways that prompt us to rethink how modernity invents its own traditions; she juxtaposes the political organizing and consciousness of women workers in global factories in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Canada with the pressing need for those in the academic factory to teach for social justice; she reflects on the limits and failures of liberal pluralism; and she presents original and compelling arguments that show how and why transgenerational memory is an indispensable spiritual practice within differently constituted women-of-color communities as it operates as a powerful antidote to oppression. In this multifaceted, visionary book, Alexander maps the terrain of alternative histories and offers new forms of knowledge with which to mold alternative futures.
The Midewiwin is the traditional religious belief system central to the world view of Ojibwa in Canada and the US. It is a highly complex and rich series of sacred teachings and narratives whose preservation enabled the Ojibwa to withstand severe challenges to their entire social fabric throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. It remains an important living and spiritual tradition for many Aboriginal people today.
____ The rituals of the Midewiwin were observed by many 19th century Euro-Americans, most of whom approached these ceremonies with hostility and suspicion. As a result, although there were many accounts of the Midewiwin published in the 19th century, they were often riddled with misinterpretations and inaccuracies.
____ Historian Michael Angel compares the early texts written about the Midewiwin, and identifies major, common misconceptions in these accounts. In his explanation of the historical role played by the Midewiwin, he provides alternative viewpoints and explanations of the significance of the ceremonies, while respecting the sacred and symbolic nature of the Midewiwin rituals, songs, and scrolls.
What is Public religion? How does it manifest the sacred? These are the fundamental questions Robert Wuthnow addresses in Producing the Sacred.
Wuthnow uses as a guiding assumption the idea that cultural expressions, religious or otherwise, do not simply happen but are produced. He considers the major kinds of organizations that produce public religion--congregations, hierarchies, special interests, academies, and public rituals--showing how these organizational vehicles shape public religion's messages and how specific types of religious organization draw resources from their environments. He also reveals the implicit and unintended ways in which sacredness is expressed in modern society.
A volume in the series Public Expressions of Religion in America
The figure of Jesus appears as a character in dozens of nineteenth-century novels, including works by Balzac, Flaubert, Dickens, Dostoevsky, and others. The Real and the Sacred focuses in particular on two fiction genres: the Jesus redivivus tale and the Jesus novel. In the former, Christ makes surprise visits to earth, from rural Flanders (Balzac) and Muscovy (Turgenev) to the bustling streets of Paris (Flaubert), Seville (Dostoevsky), Berlin, and Boston. In the latter, the historical Jesus wanders through the picturesque towns and plains of first-century Galilee and Judea, attracting followers and enemies. In short, authors subjected Christ, the second person of the Christian trinity, to the realist norms of secular fiction. Thus the Jesus of nineteenth-century fiction was both situated within a specific time and place, whether ancient or modern, and positioned before the gaze of increasingly daring literary portraitists. The highest artistic challenge for authors was to paint, using mere words, a faithful picture of Jesus in all his humanity. The incongruity of a sacred figure inhabiting secular literary forms nevertheless tested the limits of modern realist style no less than the doctrine of Christ’s divinity.
The international “quest of the historical Jesus” has been amply documented within the context of nineteenth-century biblical scholarship. Yet there has been no broad-based comparative study devoted to the depiction of Jesus in prose fiction over the same time period. The Real and the Sacred offers a comprehensive survey of this body of fiction, examining both the range of its Christ types and the varying formal means through which these types were represented. The nineteenth century—despite forecasts of God's death at the time—not only revived older Christ types but also witnessed the rise of new ones, including le Christ proletaire, the Mormon Christ, the Buddhist Christ, and the Tolstoyan Christ. Novelists played a crucial role in the invention and popularization of the historical Jesus in particular, one of modernity's major figures.
These pioneering works of fiction, written by authors of diverse religious and national backgrounds, laid the formal groundwork for an enduring fascination with the historical Jesus in later fiction and film, from Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita to Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The book is enhanced by a gallery of illustrations of the historical Jesus as depicted by nineteenth-century artists.
The term “secular” inspires thinking about disenchantment, periodization, modernity, and subjectivity. The essays in Sacred and Secular Transactions in the Age of Shakespeare argue that Shakespeare’s plays present “secularization” not only as a historical narrative of progress but also as a hermeneutic process that unleashes complex and often problematic transactions between sacred and secular. These transactions shape ideas about everything from pastoral government and performative language to wonder and the spatial imagination.
Thinking about Shakespeare and secularization also involves thinking about how to interpret history and temporality in the contexts of Shakespeare’s medieval past, the religious reformations of the sixteenth century, and the critical dispositions that define Shakespeare studies today. These essays reject a necessary opposition between “sacred” and “secular” and instead analyze how such categories intersect. In fresh analyses of plays ranging from Hamlet and The Tempest to All’s Well that Ends Well and All Is True, secularization emerges as an interpretive act that explores the cultural protocols of representation within both Shakespeare’s plays and the critical domains in which they are studied and taught.
The volume’s diverse disciplinary perspectives and theoretical approaches shift our focus from literal religion and doctrinal issues to such aspects of early modern culture as theatrical performance, geography, race, architecture, music, and the visual arts.
Until September 11th, 2001, few in the West fully appreciated the significance of religion in international politics. The terrible events of that day refocused our attention on how thoroughly religion and politics intermingle, sometimes with horrific results. But must this intermingling always be so deadly? The Sacred and the Sovereign brings together leading voices to consider the roles that religion should—and should not—play in a post-Cold War age distinguished by humanitarian intervention, terrorism, globalization, and challenges to state sovereignty. But these challenges to state sovereignty have deep and abiding roots in religion that invite us to revisit just what values we hold sacred.
Offsetting the commonly shared idea that religion is politics' perennial nemesis, this volume demonstrates that religious traditions, institutions, and ideas are essential elements of the political quest for human rights, peace, order, legitimacy, and justice. The Sacred and the Sovereign brings distinguished scholars of religious studies, theology, and politics together with ranking members of the military and government to reflect seriously about where—and if—safe boundaries can be drawn between religion and politics in the international arena.
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Western nations have increasingly recognized religion as a consideration in domestic and foreign policy. In this empirical comparison of the securitization of Islam in Britain, France, and the United States, Robert M. Bosco argues that religion is a category of phenomena defined by the discourses and politics of both religious and state elites.
Despite significant theoretical distinctions between securitization on the domestic and the international levels, he finds that the outcome of addressing religion within the context of security hinges upon partnerships. Whereas states may harness the power of international allies, they cannot often find analogous domestic allies; therefore, states that attempt to securitize religion at home are more vulnerable to counterattack and more likely to abandon their efforts. Securing the Sacred makes a significant contribution to the fields of political theory, international relations, Islamic studies, and security/military studies.
A history of global secularism and political feeling through colonial blasphemy law.
Why is religion today so often associated with giving and taking offense? To answer this question, Slandering the Sacred invites us to consider how colonial infrastructures shaped our globalized world. Through the origin and afterlives of a 1927 British imperial law (Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code), J. Barton Scott weaves a globe-trotting narrative about secularism, empire, insult, and outrage. Decentering white martyrs to free thought, his story calls for new histories of blasphemy that return these thinkers to their imperial context, dismantle the cultural boundaries of the West, and transgress the borders between the secular and the sacred as well as the public and the private.
Sovereignty and the Sacred challenges contemporary models of polity and economy through a two-step engagement with the history of religions. Beginning with the recognition of the convergence in the history of European political theology between the sacred and the sovereign as creating “states of exception”—that is, moments of rupture in the normative order that, by transcending this order, are capable of re-founding or remaking it—Robert A. Yelle identifies our secular, capitalist system as an attempt to exclude such moments by subordinating them to the calculability of laws and markets. The second step marshals evidence from history and anthropology that helps us to recognize the contribution of such states of exception to ethical life, as a means of release from the legal or economic order. Yelle draws on evidence from the Hebrew Bible to English deism, and from the Aztecs to ancient India, to develop a theory of polity that finds a place and a purpose for those aspects of religion that are often marginalized and dismissed as irrational by Enlightenment liberalism and utilitarianism.
Developing this close analogy between two elemental domains of society, Sovereignty and the Sacred offers a new theory of religion while suggesting alternative ways of organizing our political and economic life. By rethinking the transcendent foundations and liberating potential of both religion and politics, Yelle points to more hopeful and ethical modes of collective life based on egalitarianism and popular sovereignty. Deliberately countering the narrowness of currently dominant economic, political, and legal theories, he demonstrates the potential of a revived history of religions to contribute to a rethinking of the foundations of our political and social order.
A crucial text for any university course on the interaction of archaeology and the Bible
The world of early Christians was not a world lived in texts; it was a world saturated with material reality and concerns: what, where and when to eat or drink; how to present oneself in the space of bodily life and that of death; how to move from one place to another; what impacted status or the adjudication of legal charges. All these and more controlled so much of life in the ancient world. The Christians were not immune from the impact of these realities. Sometimes they absorbed their surrounds; sometimes they quite explicitly rejected the material practices bearing in on them; frequently they modified the practice and the rationale to create a significant Christian alternative. The collection of essays in this volume come from a range of international scholars who, for all their different interests and critical commitments, are yet united in treasuring research into the Greek and Roman worlds in which Christians sought to make their way. They offer these essays in honor of one who has made a lifetime's work in mining ancient material culture to extract nuggets of insight into early Christian dining practices: Dennis E. Smith.
Rich examples of method in the utilization of ancient material culture for biblical interpretation.
Thirteen essays with a response from Dennis E. Smith
From the veils of the first-century Jewish temple, to the Orthodox iconostasis, to the tramezzi of Renaissance Italy, screens of various shapes, sizes, and materials have been used to separate spaces and order communities in religious buildings. Drawn from papers presented at a recent Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Studies symposium, the contributors to this volume use a variety of perspectives to approach the history of religious screens and examine the thresholds that they mark. Focusing on the Middle Ages and Renaissance in the East and West, the volume includes discussions of screens in Egypt, Byzantium, the Gothic West and Italy. Some authors argue that screens, and particularly the one marking the threshold between the sanctuary/choir and nave, were conduits rather than barriers. Other authors emphasize the critical role of screens in dividing the laity and clergy, men and women, the pure and impure.
This volume provides new research on the history of religious screen and important insights into the many ways in which the sacred and profane are separated within ecclesiastical contexts.
Here Davie, a writer attuned to both the changes of the modern world and a living literary tradition, turns to the lapsed poetic practice of translation and imitation of the Psalms of David. The result is a series of poems that speak powerfully of moral indignation and spiritual discovery within the complex of modernity.
"Few modern poets have managed to achieve Donald Davie's sense of human worth."—Times Higher Educational Supplement
In Transatlantic Fascism, Federico Finchelstein traces the intellectual and cultural connections between Argentine and Italian fascisms, showing how fascism circulates transnationally. From the early 1920s well into the Second World War, Mussolini tried to export Italian fascism to Argentina, the “most Italian” country outside of Italy. (Nearly half the country’s population was of Italian descent.) Drawing on extensive archival research on both sides of the Atlantic, Finchelstein examines Italy’s efforts to promote fascism in Argentina by distributing bribes, sending emissaries, and disseminating propaganda through film, radio, and print. He investigates how Argentina’s political culture was in turn transformed as Italian fascism was appropriated, reinterpreted, and resisted by the state and the mainstream press, as well as by the Left, the Right, and the radical Right.
As Finchelstein explains, nacionalismo, the right-wing ideology that developed in Argentina, was not the wholesale imitation of Italian fascism that Mussolini wished it to be. Argentine nacionalistas conflated Catholicism and fascism, making the bold claim that their movement had a central place in God’s designs for their country. Finchelstein explores the fraught efforts of nationalistas to develop a “sacred” ideological doctrine and political program, and he scrutinizes their debates about Nazism, the Spanish Civil War, imperialism, anti-Semitism, and anticommunism. Transatlantic Fascism shows how right-wing groups constructed a distinctive Argentine fascism by appropriating some elements of the Italian model and rejecting others. It reveals the specifically local ways that a global ideology such as fascism crossed national borders.
The eminent political scientist Manfred Halpern (1924–2001) viewed politics as belonging to each of us, as part of the nature of being human. In A Comprehensive Philosophy of Transformation, his magnum opus, Halpern elucidates the interconnected “four faces of our being”: the political, personal, historical, and sacred. This momentous volume identifies several modes of political activity, warns against the dangers of leaving politics to professional politicians, and urges us to build networks of compassion that include everyone in a just society. Overall, Halpern calls for a transformative politics achieved through enhanced participation and understanding.
Never before translated in English, this 1973 discussion between René Girard (1923–2015) and other prominent scholars represents one of the most significant breakthroughs in mimetic theory. Organized by the French journal Esprit, the conversation was an opportunity for Girard to debate with his interlocutors the theories he expounded in Violence and the Sacred (1972). These scholars prompted him to reconsider the book’s strictly sociological interpretation of religion, highlighting the misrecognition of violent scapegoating at its origins and in its myths and ritual practices, by addressing the relation between his critique of primitive or archaic religion and the role of Judeo-Christianity. The ensuing discussion opened up an entirely new and admittedly startling phase of his thinking, where he deployed an epistemology rooted in Biblical revelation, which he viewed as an ongoing deconstruction of sacrificial practices. In this text, he vindicates for the very first time the anthropological relevance of Judeo-Christian scriptures. The 1973 discussion thus marks a new and decisive step in Girard’s intellectual journey, making this volume a critical document for understanding the transition period between Violence and the Sacred and Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (1978).
The prehistoric native peoples of the Mississippi River Valley and other areas of the Eastern Woodlands of the United States shared a complex set of symbols and motifs that constituted one of the greatest artistic traditions of the pre-Columbian Americas. Traditionally known as the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, these artifacts of copper, shell, stone, clay, and wood were the subject of the groundbreaking 2007 book Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms: Interpretations of Mississippian Iconography, which presented a major reconstruction of the rituals, cosmology, ideology, and political structures of the Mississippian peoples.
Visualizing the Sacred advances the study of Mississippian iconography by delving into the regional variations within what is now known as the Mississippian Iconographic Interaction Sphere (MIIS). Bringing archaeological, ethnographic, ethnohistoric, and iconographic perspectives to the analysis of Mississippian art, contributors from several disciplines discuss variations in symbols and motifs among major sites and regions across a wide span of time and also consider what visual symbols reveal about elite status in diverse political environments. These findings represent the first formal identification of style regions within the Mississippian Iconographic Interaction Sphere and call for a new understanding of the MIIS as a network of localized, yet interrelated religious systems that experienced both continuity and change over time.
What Color Is the Sacred?
Michael Taussig University of Chicago Press, 2009 Library of Congress QC495.3.T398 2009 | Dewey Decimal 390
Over the past thirty years, visionary anthropologist Michael Taussig has crafted a highly distinctive body of work. Playful, enthralling, and whip-smart, his writing makes ingenious connections between ideas, thinkers, and things. An extended meditation on the mysteries of color and the fascination they provoke, What Color Is the Sacred? is the next step on Taussig’s remarkable intellectual path.
Following his interest in magic and surrealism, his earlier work on mimesis, and his recent discussion of heat, gold, and cocaine in My Cocaine Museum,this book uses color to explore further dimensions of what Taussig calls “the bodily unconscious” in an age of global warming. Drawing on classic ethnography as well as the work of Benjamin, Burroughs, and Proust, he takes up the notion that color invites the viewer into images and into the world. Yet, as Taussig makes clear, color has a history—a manifestly colonial history rooted in the West’s discomfort with color, especially bright color, and its associations with the so-called primitive. He begins by noting Goethe’s belief that Europeans are physically averse to vivid color while the uncivilized revel in it, which prompts Taussig to reconsider colonialism as a tension between chromophobes and chromophiliacs. And he ends with the strange story of coal, which, he argues, displaced colonial color by giving birth to synthetic colors, organic chemistry, and IG Farben, the giant chemical corporation behind the Third Reich.
Nietzsche once wrote, “So far, all that has given colour to existence still lacks a history.” With What Color Is the Sacred? Taussig has taken up that challenge with all the radiant intelligence and inspiration we’ve come to expect from him.