Religion as Media RELST-GA.3397 ANTH-GA.3393
Spring 2012/ Tues 2:00—4:45
726 Broadway room 560
This course will introduce you to the longstanding and complex connection between religious practices and various media, based upon the premise that, like all social practice, religion is always mediated in some form or other. Yet, religion does not function simply as unchanging content, while media names the ways that content is formed. Instead shifts in media technique, from ritual innovations to the invention of printing, through TV, to the internet, also shape religious practice which has, in turn, influenced its media. We are interested in gathering theoretical tools for understanding the form and politics of this mutual dialectic.
We will analyze how human hearing, vision and the performing body have been used historically to express and maintain religious life through music, voice, images, words and rituals. Then we will spend time on more recent electronic media such as cassette, film, television, video, and the internet. We will consider, among other things: religious memory, both embodied and out-sourced in other media; the role of print and reading; the role of TV in the rise of the Hindu Right; the material culture of Buddhism (icons, relics, sutras); religion and commodification; film as religious experience; Christian Evangelical media; indigenous and digital media.
Books for the course:
The following *books are required in their entirety—find them at Shakespeare’s, Broadway at Washington Place:
*Berger, Peter. The Sacred Canopy: elements of a sociological theory of religion (well, 100 pages)
*Connerton, Paul. How Societies remember
*Dorsky, Nathaniel. Devotional Cinema
*Graham, William A. Beyond the written word: oral aspects of scripture in the history of religion
*Hendershot, Heather. Shaking the world for Jesus: Media and conservative evangelical culture
*Hirschkind, Charles. The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons And Islamic Counterpublics
*Lyden, John. Film as religion: myths, morals and rituals
*Morgan, David. Visual Piety: a history and theory of popular religious images
*Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy: the technologizing of the word
*Rachel Wagner. Godwired: Religion, Ritual and Virtuality
Two recommended collections (we’ll read at least 3 pieces from each):
DeVries, Hent and Samuel Weber, eds. Religion and Media. Stanford University Press, 2001.
Hoover, Stewart and Knut Lundby, eds. Rethinking media, religion and culture. Sage
Xeroxed readings will be placed on: Blackboard. The books will be on reserve at Bobst.
Evaluation: Discussion: 25% : Students will be expected to read everything for each week and be prepared for discussion: students will sign up to facilitate one week’s discussion
Responses: 25%: Students will post a response to the reading on our online forum each week—and please attend as many of the events mentioned below, posting a short-short response: 50%
Final conference paper/presentation: Depending upon how many we are, the last day of class (and one other scheduled meeting) will be devoted to a “Show&Tell” paper presentation that should read aloud in 20 minutes, including your media. We’ll group them into “conference panels”. We’ll time them! (To be handed in to me at that time.)