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Sensing Divine Presence: Media, Mediation, Materiality
Jesko Schmoller (Perm State University)
Stefan Williamson Fa (University of Birmingham)
Guangtian Ha (Haverford College)
Time zone:
Wednesday 22 July, 11:00-12:45, 14:00-15:45

Short abstract:

This panel is devoted to the role of the senses in situations of religious experience. We wish to inquire how our perception of external stimuli enables us to transcend everyday life contexts and seek to trace the real effects of religious materialities in our environment.

Long abstract:

Throughout history, the senses have been crucial in mediating the human-divine relationship. From sound to smell, and vision to taste, the human senses have contributed immensely to lifting the believer beyond the mundane and the everyday, despite their apparently empirical immanence. Thus far, academia has been reasonably attentive to religious experience and the reality beyond, but neither have we so far sufficiently theorised how our perception of music, scents, flavours or other external stimuli helps us transcend ordinary experiences, nor have we linked this connection with transcendence to the broader problematic of media and mediation. Conventional approaches centred on representation have tended to interpret those media merely as signs and conduits for more abstract ideas and concepts. In contrast to these and inspired by new insights in the field of material religion, we prefer to take mediation and materiality seriously by recognising the essential role of religious objects in mediating the human-divine dyad. In this panel, we wish to bring together papers dealing with different religious traditions, historical periods, and social contexts, and through such diversity highlight the real effects and consequences of religious materialities in this world. These can include practices of place-making through the construction of sacred sites, ritual practice, or pilgrimage. They can further pertain to the production of sacred socialities and connections among humans but also between humans and divine beings, where the use of religious objects exposes the presence of the latter.