The Aesthetics of Religious Belonging: Asian Perspectives (Call for participation)

Odysseus Stone's picture

Dear fellow scholars,

The Center for Contemporary Buddhist Studies (CCBS) at the University of Copenhagen is organizing a workshop on "The Aesthetics of Religious Belonging: Asian Perspectives" on June 26th, 2018. This workshop seeks to gather researchers who are engaging in research on aesthetics, affect, embodiment and sensory experiences in relation to religion and belonging in Asian contexts. Rather than a call for papers, we are looking for scholars who would like to participate in an engaged discussion on this topic in a more nuanced and informal setting. Instead of papers and presentations, we ask participants to read a selection of texts beforehand in order to maximize collaborative and exploratory discussion on the aesthetics of religious belonging.

Researchers who gather information on religions frequently find difficulty articulating affective dimensions of their findings - that is, giving voice to the feelings evoked via connections forged between people and objects, and the impact of aesthetic choices made by those who construct the ideas, sensorial output, and activities that comprise religion's quotidian existence. Attention to the aesthetic draws us closer to compelling responses to perennial questions that hover over religions research, namely why do people commit themselves to demanding forms of religious self-sacrifice; how can we connect the specific nature of religions' material aspects to the ideas, practices, and social conventions its adherents perpetuate; and how do religious aesthetics affect those who do not ‘belong’? While work in religious studies has come to embrace the ‘affective turn’, research on Asian religions is only now turning in this direction. Put simply, we need to do a better job explaining how Asian religions look and feel, and why aesthetics and affect matter to the traditions we study.

This workshop offers a chance for researchers of religion in Asia, particularly those who regularly carry out ethnography, to strategize on ways we may delve more deeply into the aesthetics of topics we research and how we may better speak and write about our aesthetics-related ethnographic data. 

In order to facilitate the planning of the workshop, we ask that you send us an intent to participate, including a short bio and a description of the work you have done that is related to the topic of the workshop, no later than May 1st. With the wish to keep the workshop small in order to better facilitate collaborative discussion, seats are limited. Unfortunately, CCBS does not have additional funding to cover the cost of transportation, lodging, meals, etc.

For more information, please contact:

Elizabeth Williams-Øerberg, University of Copenhagen 

Levi McLaughlin, North Carolina State University