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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P208)

The pragmatics of religious transmission: contexts, case studies and theoretical departures

Location Tower A, Piso 1, Room 103
Date and Start Time 19 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Ruy Blanes ((CSIC) / (INCIPIT)) email
Vlad Naumescu (Central European University) email
Arnaud Halloy (University of Nice Sophia Antipolis) email
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Short Abstract

In this panel we invite our colleagues to explore pragmatic contexts of religious transmission: the complex of communicational and active conditions that affect (through perception, cognition, emotion, interaction and materiality) individuals engaged in religious action.

Long Abstract

The issue of religious transmission and learning has become a thriving topic in the contemporary anthropology of religion. Driven by the creative tension between cognitive and culturalist approaches it prompts interesting debates and exchanges, and the exploration of new methodological and heuristic paths addressing the problem of transmission.

In this panel we invite our colleagues to explore pragmatic contexts of religious transmission: the complex of communicational and active conditions that affect (through perception, cognition, emotion, interaction and materiality) individuals engaged in religious action. From this perspective, religious transmission operates through both implicit and explicit regimes. It can take complex and defined forms in ritual contexts, but it can also impregnate various contexts of the quotidian through different dimensions and agencies: discipline, imagination or aesthetics. Taking these as fundamental dimensions of religious transmission, we invite participants to reflect on their articulation in concrete ethnographic cases.

Discussant: Vlad Naumescu, Ruy Blanes

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Cognitive vs. pragmatic approaches of cultural learning and transmission: methodological and theoretical insights

Author: Arnaud Halloy (University of Nice Sophia Antipolis)  email
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Short Abstract

In my communication, I try to sketch the valuable contributions but also the limitations of a strictly cognitive approach in anthropology for the study of cultural transmission, and I suggest an alternative framework closer to what we could call a “pragmatic” approach of cultural learning.

Long Abstract

In my communication, I try to sketch the valuable contributions but also the limitations of a strictly cognitive approach in anthropology for the study of cultural transmission, and I suggest an alternative framework closer to what we could call a "pragmatic" approach of cultural learning. The most valuable contribution of the mainstream cognitive approach consists in drawing the attention of social scientists to the crucial role of "cognitive constrains" in the elaboration and memorization processes of (potential) cultural representations. Among its main limitations, I want to stress its difficulty to deal with the complexity of real life situations where contextual, but also perceptual and emotional factors may play a crucial role in cultural learning. I see a way of reconciling cognitive and ethnographic approaches by embracing a pragmatic approach of cultural learning. By "pragmatic approach", I mean a theoretical and methodological framework focused on learning processes and able to take into account and articulate the relevant elements of the material, cognitive, emotional and perceptual context of action and communication. My suggestion is that "relevant elements" of cultural learning are "patterns" that can be identified by the ethnographer. They might be subdivided in patterns of acting (involving manipulation of objects and bodies), patterns of interacting (between persons, objects and invisible entities), patterns of thinking, patterns of perceiving and patterns of feeling. Drawing on my own ethnography in an Afro-Brazilian cult, I will try to (briefly) illustrate the explanatory potential of the pragmatic approach.

Religious emotion as a cultural practice among German Methodists in the 19th century

Author: Monique Scheer (University of Tuebingen)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper will explore an understanding of emotions as cultural practices using the example of Methodist worship among Germans in Württemberg (Germany) and the Ohio River valley (USA), for whom emotions were integral to their religious practice.

Long Abstract

An understanding of emotions as cultural practices is slowly evolving: If we conceive of feelings as learned and cultivated, then it becomes clear that they are to be viewed as a form of bodily as well as conceptual knowledge transmitted in specific cultural contexts. For the role of emotions in religion, this perspective means that we can take them seriously as an integral part of practice, not simply as its effect. Sources for this kind of analysis can and should be not only what people say they feel, but also what they do in order to feel a certain way. This paper will explore this claim using the example of Methodist worship among Germans in Württemberg (Germany) and the Ohio River valley (USA). From the class meeting to the camp meeting, different spaces of experience were created for the purpose of cultivating certain emotions, which were understood to be evidence of God's presence. Anglo-American Methodist practices, from singing hymns and listening to rousing sermons, to experiencing conversion and "shouting", were learned by newly arrived German settlers participating in meetings. They may not have understood the language, but their physical presnce at the meetings gave them other avenues for learning. They found a new vocabulary for their bodily experiences and soon began sending missionaries back to Germany, who implemented American practices, adapting them to their local contexts.

The ways of transmission of religious knowledge in Batuque, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Author: Marina Silva (Universidade de São Paulo)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper presents an ethnographic study on ways of transmission of religious knowledge in Batuque Rio Grande do Sul.

Long Abstract

This paper presents an ethnographic study on ways of transmission of religious knowledge in the Batuque Rio Grande do Sul. Batuque is one of the regional forms of Orisha worship in Brazil, such as the Candomblé in Bahia and Xangô in Pernambuco. In Batuque the body of knowledge about mythology, dance and choreography, songs, prayers and culinary deities is called by its adherents to "fundamentos." To his supporters the main mode of transmission and learning of these "fundamentos" is through the observation of religious elders and religious practice. The new recruit must be present at the ceremonies of the cult to go through initiation rites and actively participate in all activities of the yard, as it is cooking you learn the favorite foods of the orishas, cleaning the religious objects to take care of the altar (peji), singing and dancing learn to revere the deities, listening to the myths you learn about the history and personality of each orisha. In afro-brazilian religions learn and transmit knowledge liturgical is also transmit and receive the axé, the force that moves the world, which allows to happen and the future. In a religious world in which speech is essential in the transmission of knowledge liturgical body speech and gestures when loaded axé are ways to transmit this force from one person to another, thus continuing to religious knowledge, since for adepts Batuque have a profound knowledge of religion is to have axé.

Embodied aesthetics of rasa theory and anthropology of religious experience

Author: Hrvoje Čargonja (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb)  email
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Short Abstract

In my presentation I would like to discuss traditional Indian theory of aesthetic experience called "rasa theory", appropriated by the Gaudiya Vaishnava theology and practice, as a non-reductionist hermeneutics of religious experience. My presentation will be based on my own ethnographic research of religious experience in the Hare Krishna movement.

Long Abstract

Rasa theory, based on existing models present in India, was particularly expounded in the work by Bharata Muni called Nātyasāstra which Indologists date somewhere between 200 BC to 200 AD. This theory of aesthetic experience (rasa), directed primarily to literature and drama tries to account for emotional and contextual elements conducive to the onset of aesthetic experience in a reader or a spectator. Pervasive throughout the works of traditional Sanskrit scholars like Abhinavagupta, Bhoja etc., the rasa theory became a dominant model to theorize but also to create literary or performative art. Rasa theory discusses elements of experience like dominant and auxiliary emotions, stimulants and enhancers of emotions (individuals, contexts, text and embodied performance) and involuntary expressions of emotions.

In 16th century the theory was taken up by Gaudiya Vaishnava theologians like Rupa Goswami who used rasa theory to develop a model of religious experience and consequent religious practices whose sole aim is to arrange situations and activities that are seen as more amenable in induction of the ultimate aesthetic emotion - that of love of God or bhakti. In Gaudiya Vaishnavism rasa theory thus became a model for personal and communal religious transformation. This "embodied aesthetics of bhakti" (Holdrege) as reverberated through Gaudiya Vaishnavism and its offshots offers perhaps a new, yet traditional perspective on human experience that tries to include both its phenomenology and the intersubjectivity, where experience is evoked and mediated rather than caused or transferred.

Religious transmission in workaday worlds of school and sport

Author: Sally Anderson (Aarhus University)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper examines religious transmission in contexts of school and sport. Highlighting adult efforts to keep 'religion' on the agenda in contexts that privilege other quotidian agendas, I explore the import of endosociality for the transmission of religious morality and relationality.

Long Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in two Danish faith-based schools, Jewish and Evangelical Lutheran, this paper will examine implicit and explicit religious transmission in quotidian contexts of school and sport. A central question is how 'religion' inflects contexts in which religion is normally regarded as slightly out of context and significantly contextualized by more worldly aims and agendas associated with 'school' and 'sport.' Focusing on the ways in which adults strive to keep 'things religious' on the agenda in these experience spaces for children, I explore the potential impact of social closure--endosociality with relevant others--for the transmission of religious morality, relationality and identity.

Communicating values: religious transmission to and among young Christians

Author: Maria Zackariasson (Södertörn University)  email
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Short Abstract

Religious values and beliefs are communicated both to and among young people who are active in a congregation. In this presentation I will discuss what these processes may look like among a number of young active Christians in an evangelical church in Sweden.

Long Abstract

This presentation is based on a qualitative research project involving young people who are active in an evangelical church in Sweden. Using their narratives and experiences as a starting point, I will discuss how religious values and beliefs can be transmitted to and within a group of young Christians, and how this process may involve negotiation, interpretation and reinterpretation of those values.

For young people, who are active in a congregation and its youth organization, religious transmission takes place on several levels and in various environments. There is for instance an official religious message that comes e.g. from the adult representatives of the main congregation, and from the youth leaders. Here the communication is in many ways quite direct, and it may involve a level of discipline, that becomes visible if the implicit and explicit rules within the congregation are not followed. But there is also an ongoing process within the youth group, where beliefs and values are discussed and transmitted within the peer group. The communication process on this level is in several ways different, since the relations and power relations between the individuals are different.

In their everyday lives, the participants in my study also encounter ideas about what it means, or should mean, to be a young Christian today, in contexts outside the church, such as in school. Such more general conceptions are subsequently related to their own faith and the more specific ideas and values that are transmitted in the church context.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.