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Image Wars in Past and Present: Religious Studies and the Figuration of the Unseen - Birgit Meyer (Culture, Media & Society Lunch Seminar)

When 20 Feb 2017
from 12:30 PM to 02:00 PM
Where Raadzaal SW (00.113), Parkstraat 45, 3000 Leuven
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Birgit Meyer (Utrecht University)
Image Wars in Past and Present: Religious Studies and the Figuration of the Unseen

Bio

 

Birgit Meyer is professor of Religious Studies at Utrecht University. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, she studies religion from a global and post-secular perspective, seeking to synthesize grounded fieldwork and theoretical reflection in a broad multidisciplinary setting. She is vice-chair of the International African Institute (London), one of the editors of Material Religion, and has published or edited about 20 books and special issues about the rise and popularity of global Pentecostalism; religion, popular culture and heritage; religion and media; religion and the public sphere; religious visual culture, the senses and aesthetics. In 2015 she was awarded the Spinoza Prize by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Academy Professor Prize by the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). Her most recent book publications are Sensational Movies. Video, Vision and Christianity in Ghana (University of California Press, 2015) and Creativity in Transition. Politics and Aesthetics of Cultural Production Across the Globe (edited together with Maruška Svašek, Berghahn, 2016).

 

Abstract

 

The point of departure of this presentation is that human relations to images are culturally constituted and are central to the politics and aesthetics of world making. Images, and human attitudes towards them, are formidable entry points for cultural analysis devoted to understanding the constitution of worlds of shared life experiences and clashes between such worlds. Evolving around particular figurations of the unseen, religions play a central role in shaping human-image relations, and that has longstanding repercussions for the secular sphere. In this presentation I will 1) address the repercussions of the rejection of images as suitable harbingers of the divine in favour of the biblical text on the part of Calvinists for the concepts and approaches developed in the study of religion (and society), 2) point at the implications of the export of an iconoclastic stance by Protestant missions to West Africa, where they kicked off an image war against the indigenous gods, which were dismissed as pagan, and 3) by way of conclusion, speak to the current struggles over images in a global, culturally, and religiously diverse setting.

 

This seminar is part of the interdisciplinary lunch seminars of the Faculty of Social Sciences