CFP: When the Eternal Meets the Imperishable: Plastics and Religion in Contemporary Asia – Association for Asian Studies Conference March 24-27, 2022, Honolulu

Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko's picture
Type: 
Call for Papers
Date: 
August 1, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Religious Studies and Theology, Asian History / Studies

Call for Papers: When the Eternal Meets the Imperishable: Plastics and Religion in Contemporary Asia – Association for Asian Studies Conference March 24-27, 2022, Honolulu

Conveners: Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko & Trine Brox, University of Copenhagen
Title of panel: When the Eternal Meets the Imperishable: Plastics and Religion in Contemporary Asia


Deadline for abstracts: 1st of August, maximum 250 words.


Asia is one of the biggest producers and importers of plastics and plastic waste. As in other parts of the world, Asian nations are often overwhelmed by cheap plastic products that are designed for single use, but whose materiality will outlast the consumer. Although the benefits of plastics as being a super-material able to mimic and supersede other materials are often extoled, plastics have specific qualities and present particular ambiguities. Largely unable to biodegrade, they photodegrade fractiously, separating into ever smaller particles. Lauded as impervious to microbial contamination, they off-gas and absorb environmental contaminants, passing these into the food chains of unsuspecting fish and mammals. Frequently imagined as infinitely suitable and adaptable, they are often unable to be remoulded or repurposed.

 

In this panel we will investigate the ambiguities surrounding the impressions and use of plastics in Asian religions. In their ability to replicate novel forms, plastic-based items offer themselves as cheap, available and ready for use in religious rituals. Though frequently imagined as insubstantial (in spite of their lingering material qualities), plastics are often used to materialise the sacred, giving form to religious icons and replicating/becoming key objects needed to carry out rituals. Buddhist shrines, for instance, frequently contain scarves made out of polyester fabrics, plastic icons and plastic flower arrangements, along with flickering replica plastic-coated electric candles. How do these materials challenge our relationships with plastics and our relationships with the sacred?

 

This panel will explore how the incorporation of plastics into the sacred disrupts our everyday relationships with this now ubiquitous material. We invite papers that explore the imagined and material qualities of plastics as they are present in Asian religions. For example, but not limited to, the use of plastics for purification rituals, the development of single use plastics ritual items, or the use of plastics to generate long-life for religious icons and offerings. We are keen to hear from scholars who are investigating how people negotiate the material ambivalences that plastics present. Comparatively we seek to understand whether plastics are invisible or disruptive, and if and how they change the nature of religious rituals, the form of relationships with the divine, and the accessibility of ritual practice in Asian religions.


We welcome papers that explore plastics, not only as a material used for a variety of different purposes in Asia, but also as it is incorporated into cultural imaginaries in Asian religion.

If you are interested in contributing to this panel, please send your abstract (max. 250 words) and author details to Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko (s.abrahms.k@hum.ku.dk) & Trine Brox (trinebrox@hum.ku.dk) by 1st of August 2021.