Comparing Notes: Realising the Sacred and the Self in Art 
Anita Datta (University of Durham)
Alina Apostu
SOAS Senate House - S320
Sunday 3 June, 9:00-10:30 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

This panel explores the relationship between sacred art, personal belief and spiritual/artistic experience through comparative ethnographic and auto-ethnographic perspectives in relation to the same artistic stimulus.

Long Abstract

What/who does sacred art, in its most extended form, represent? In the relation between the spiritual individual and the entity to which he/she seeks to relate, art, in its sensorial and material forms, mediates, generates sacred presence (Meyer 2014), constructs and is constructed by (spiritual) selves (see Miller 2005). Indeed, to what extent can art mediate, alter or even realise our personal beliefs and spiritual experience of the lived world? This panel explores the relationship between spiritual disposition and the production and experience of art through ethnographic perspectives on sacred choral music in England. The approach proposed is unique in drawing together comparative perspectives on the same choir and field site from two anthropologists, one working from a classic 'outsider' ethnographer position and the other through auto-ethnography in dual role as professional musician and anthropologist. The discussion will explore these questions through comparing notes on the materials, histories, rehearsals and practices of making by which the representation of the sacred is realised in the self and the self is artistically performed in view of the sacred. We will supplement this discussion either by introducing another anthropologist/auto-ethnographer pair working on the same artistic context, or through a third perspective on Christian belief and experience of sacred music.

Accepted papers: