This panel seeks to explore how five senses were fully engaged to create a powerful emotional religious experience in pre-modern cultures.
This panel seeks to explore the role of collective sensory (viewing and also tactile and other sensory) engagement with material forms in creating or enhancing the formation of religious communities in pre-modern cultures. In many earlier viewing contexts the visual experience of an object was not isolated from touch. To see was to also grasp. In others, terms such as taste were used to describe the relishing or savoring of a performance. Heightened and heady engagement that blurred the boundaries of the individual and the collective, could itself serve as the conduit to the divine. It could be prized as instant grace, or practiced and disciplined to guide the devotee's trajectory on the path to salvation, if not induce instant enlightenment. Looking at the cultural values associated with such emotional charge allows us to underscore the role of such intensity in binding groups and in the self-definition of communities. In revisiting the engagement with material cultural artifacts prior to the intervention of both print culture and newer digital media, we hope to simultaneously shed light on the distinctive visceral experience of the latter. It allows us to then ask if, and how differently, these newer technologies nurtured their virtual and imagined communities, both mobilizing and also inflected by colonial and post-colonial power relations and rising nationalisms in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.