PANEL 1: Formative Wanderings: Religion, Mobility, and Community
1. Torang Asadi (University of Kansas, Department of Religious Studies), "Walkers, Shepherds, Apostles: Movement in the Twelve Tribes Community"
The Twelve Tribes Community (TT), founded in Tennessee and now present in nine countries, allows for an examination of both the cultural and theological evolutionary processes of a transnational, new religious movement through both migration and technology. Despite its 'brand new culture,' the group is occupied with the 'repristination' of the early Christian church in order to prepare for the Second Coming of Yahshua. The 38 TT communities are geographically distant and demographically diverse, yet theologically and culturally unified by the efficient hierarchy of power, the highly regulated membership, and the strict implementation of social uniformity. Similarly, theological consistency is achieved through the regulation of teachings, rituals, and confessions.
The TT's paradoxical theology (simultaneously premillennialist and postmillennialist; ecumenical and separatist; inclusivist and exclusivist; and restorationist and syncretic) is realized and enforced by the group's production of new text, which not only ensures the routinization of the leader's charisma and the distribution of his exegetical authority to a group of leaders, it also guides exegesis to provide theological legitimation and cultural unification. Publications (i.e. teachings, reports, stories) are sent to each community in digital format and are printed in the extensively equipped print rooms (despite the group's insistence on living a poor life). For example, the Intertribal News (ITN) are monthly, magazine-like publications that consist of news, stories, and pictures from each community.
The ITN, as a reinforcement of the collective identity, allows members to know each other despite the distances between them. It also makes universal the ways in which parent communities (in which leaders reside) dress, decorate, and proselytize. Teachings, which are mostly transcriptions of meetings of the leaders, are published in the same fashion (and in English). Since the Community sees itself as the physical manifestation of the body of Christ, the migration of bodies between communities and to new areas for proselytization is understood theologically and justified eschatologically.
Movement and migration in the TT has been integrated into the theology. Jewish holidays, such as Sukkot, are understood as preparing members to move at any time - ”as the need arises in different communities, such as a new restaurant or the establishment of a new community. Members understand migration as serving the Body and preparing the TT for the End Days. While walkers proselytize and shepherds start new communities, apostles, leaders who between communities, maintain and reinforce consistency through regulation and correction. One recent tradition to start in the TT requires men to roll up their pant legs upon entering the gatherings (michanhs). I witnessed this first in 2011 in Klosterzimmern, Germany, where an apostle family was visiting from the U.S.. The apostle family were on their way to the community in France, who was informed that a new tradition was on its way through the ITN, to introduce the new tradition.
I examine these concepts by discussing the formation and internalization of collective identity, the regulation of bodies, and the innovation of traditions. These are all facilitated through technological methods of communication, production of scripture, and travelling apostles.
2. Christopher C. Jones (College of William and Mary, Religion in the early American republic and Atlantic world), "In Search of the Land of Liberty: Methodist Migration and the Politics of Slavery, 1780-1805"
The Virginia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church was, like its colonial antecedent, a stronghold of Methodist membership and a hub of evangelical activity. It was also a site of external opposition and internal dissent for the church, as debates over church government and slavery threatened to rend the new church in two. In response, some left the sect, joining rival denominations or forming new churches more to their liking - ”ground well-trod by previous historians. Mostly ignored, though, are other Methodists who left Virginia, choosing to migrate to new lands in search of a place to live and worship free from the taint of slaveholding society. In this paper, I compare the experience of two groups of Methodist migrants in an effort to both demonstrate the impact these migrations had on the way in which evangelical religion developed in the early American republic and to consider the ways in which these migrations speak to the complicated intersections of religion, geopolitics, war, and slavery in this historical moment. Throughout the 1790s and into the first decade of the nineteenth century, several hundred antislavery Methodists, frustrated with the creeping influence of slave-owning converts on their congregations, moved from Virginia to Ohio in search of what one termed the "land of liberty." In this paper, I compare their experience with that of another group of Methodists who left Virginia a decade and a half earlier. The two groups shared not only a religious affiliation but also an antislavery ideology, and the earlier migrants used remarkably similar language in describing their own exodus. The crucial difference between the two groups was their race. The earlier migrants were enslaved Africans and African Americans who had escaped behind British lines under the protection of Lord Dunmore's 1775 Proclamation. And instead of heading west, they moved north to New York and then, in 1784, to Nova Scotia, where they established a Methodist foothold in the Atlantic provinces before migrating again, this time across the Atlantic Ocean to Sierra Leone.
While the reasons for these journeys were specific to their time and place, they were also part of a much larger Methodist history of migration that shaped the growth and development of the movement throughout the Atlantic World; Methodism was first introduced into the American colonies by immigrants, including in Virginia, where an Irish lay minister named Robert Williams first preached in 1772. Preaching both repentance and liberation, Williams and his fellow Methodists successfully attracted both white and black women and men, challenging the slaveholding elite throughout the Tidewater region. Among those converted were members of each of the migrations described above, and over time, as social pressures and internal ecclesiastical politics led Methodists throughout the southern U.S. to accommodate slavery and slaveholders, those converts chose to migrate in hopes of finding their respective "lands of liberty." In considering their stories, I aim to highlight the contributions of both black and white Methodists to debates over the question of slavery within the larger evangelical and abolitionist movements.
3. Daniel Murray (McGill University, East Asian Studies), "Chinese migrants, temple associations, and trans-dialect networks in colonial Singapore"
The migration of Chinese to Singapore under British colonial rule gradually increased throughout the 1800s from numerous locations in southern China, speaking a variety of dialects largely incomprehensible to one another, and bringing their own localized customs and religious practices. This paper will analyze relations between different dialect groups within the Chinese communities in colonial Singapore that organized around the joint construction and management of a number of temples and cemeteries. Based on evidence about such relations from stone inscriptions from these sites, the paper will theorize trans-dialect cooperation prior to the rise of Chinese nationalism through Charles Tilly's theory of trust networks.
In British colonial Singapore, the Chinese community was still largely divided; the numerous groups organized around shared native place or dialect rather than uniting around a shared sense of "Chineseness." However, there was some interaction between the various dialect groups, which largely took place in relation to religious activities. From these records we see how temple associations worked to organize social life in new ways to fit with different circumstances and newly developed relations and conflicts. Such relations were different from ethnic or transnational connections in the diaspora seen in contemporary societies as the various dialect and regional groups generally remained separate. Yet, although local religious practices also varied depending on the region, there was enough sense of shared cosmology to allow different dialect groups to cooperate in the construction of a large scale and long term project like a temple. In colonial Singapore, then, Chinese religion provided a means to bring together groups without necessarily removing their localized identities.
A trust network is based on strong ties that connect people together, result in them taking part in long-term enterprises, and put the group's members at risk to the mistakes and failures of other members. This paper will use the theory of trust network between multiple Chinese migrants groups to illuminate how such networks are able to transform social structures by altering the organization of power, regulate social life, and act as a form of social insurance. Scholars have analyzed temple networks within China, and to a lesser extent how they expanded outside of its borders, but studies of the Chinese networks in Southeast Asia tend to focus on mercantile networks. However, beyond the transnational trust networks between China and various areas of Southeast Asia, another kind of trust network within the wider Chinese communities that was solidified by shared cosmological views also existed.
PANEL 2: The Religious Subject 'Transported': Negotiating Technologies of Mobility and Movement
1. Peter Bernard (Harvard University, East Asian Languages and Civilizations), "Three Journeys Under One Roof: The Case of the Sazae-dô in Early Modern Japan"
The sazae-dô (literally "Mollusk Hall") is a peculiar type of Buddhist architecture that gained popularity from the mid-18th century onward in early modern Japan. The sazae-dô can be said to have two major characteristics: one, it contains miniature recreations of already established Buddhist pilgrimage routes elsewhere in Japan; and two, the space within the hall is arranged in such a way that the "pilgrim" moves through the building without treading the same path twice. Though there are important exceptions, the archetypical sazae-dô is a three-story building, and each floor houses a set of replicas of the main Kannon statues from the temples of the three major Kannon pilgrimages in Japan - the Chichibu, Bandô, and Saigoku pilgrimage routes. The first historical sazae-dô was built in the 1740s, and by the 1790s these unique structures were being built at temples throughout eastern and northeastern Japan; construction was tapering off by the 1840s. Six historical sazae-dô are left standing today.
Though the innovative structure of sazae-dô - the condensation of three disparate pilgrimage routes into a single devotional experience housed in one building - should in and of itself mark an important development in pilgrimage culture in Japan, sazae-dô have yet to receive sustained scholarly attention from the perspective of Japanese religious history. As a result, the goal of this paper is twofold: first, to provide a brief introduction to the historical and physical characteristics of sazae-dô; and second, to suggest how we may use the sazae-dô phenomenon to understand the ways in which the parameters of pilgrimage were changing in early modern Japan.
This paper will thus begin by putting forth the argument that, based on the six historical sazae-dô still standing in Japan as well as on textual sources, there are three different architectural sub-types of sazae-dô. In addition to the three-floored archetype, there also exist examples of sazae-dô that dispense with floors altogether and send the worshipper along a sloped path resembling a double helix. There is also what I call the quasi-sazae-dô type, which resembles a three-storied pagoda that has been made climbable on the outside. This paper explores the historical background of each of these types of sazae-dô, and explains what the spatial and physical experience of passing through one of these halls is like for the worshipper.
This paper will then move on to argue that sazae-dô are an important part of a general drive toward increased ease of access for pilgrims throughout Japanese history, and that, as the result of having pushed this tendency to its limit, they call into question the boundaries of the very concept of pilgrimage. In this way, they represent a sort of self-reflexivity regarding the pilgrimage process that marks an important shift away from pilgrimage practice traditionally conceived. The extreme distillation, both spatially and temporally, of the pilgrimage experience into something so compact, this paper argues, forces a renegotiation of the relationship between pilgrim and religious site, thus providing one example of how the meaning of pilgrimage practice was changing in tandem with larger social developments representative of early modern Japan.
2. Kati Curts (Yale University, Religious Studies, American Religious History), "Temples and Turnpikes in the "World of Tomorrow": Religious Assemblage and Automobility at the 1939 New York World's Fair"
In a special 1939 World's Fair section of the New York Times, Harry Emerson Fosdick proclaimed the vitality of religion in modern America, concurring with historian and Wilsonian internationalist James Shotwell, who declared: "Religion moves, vast and potent, in the world today. One must be blind, indeed, not to see the evidences of its power in both the structure and the movement of our modern world." (Harry Emerson Fosdick, "Faith for a Groping Man," New York Times, March 5, 1939.) Fosdick's affirmation of religious modernism helped prophecy and promote the Fair's primary thematic, which promised visitors a fast-moving "World of Tomorrow." However, Fosdick's was not the only conception of religion in and of the future. For, while streamlined, modernist forms served as cosmic trademarks for the event, corporate and incorporated movement was the real hit among fairgoers - from Democracity's moving walkways and the Life Savers Corporation's Parachute Jump to highly choreographed theatrical performances like "American Jubilee." Across the Flushing Meadow fairgrounds, visitors were transported into a dynamic future that intersected with and reconstituted religion in diverse and divergent ways.
This paper focuses on three specific sites of religious creation and recreation at the New York World's Fair - the Temple of Religion, General Motors' Futurama, and the Ford Exposition. Analyzing promotional materials alongside documentary writings and visual images of these exhibits, this paper identifies three different conceptions of religion in modernity. It argues that these locales and the theories of religion produce therein can and do serve to illustrate three significant historiographical modes deployed by scholars seeking to understand and interpret categorical intersections of the ostensibly religious and the seemingly secular in the interwar years of the twentieth century and beyond - that is, of religious liberalism, of a secularizing modernity, and of the religious practices of secularization.
Drawing on Cotton Seiler's conception of automobility as discursive apparatus in twentieth-century America and playing seriously with associations of assembly and assemblage - of religious groupings and conveyor belts, of bodies and/in things - this paper attends to the inherent messiness of the categories of religion and the secular. But it also seeks to begin to map some of the discursive thoroughfares - consumptive, performative, affective - that emerged in mid-twentieth-century American imaginaries, where notions of religion and the secular trafficked together. Social groupings, nodes of capital, idiomatic undertakings, and bodily affects helped mobilize particular understandings of religion and the secular in each of these exhibits that privileged a liberal Protestantism and afforded it the ability to move publicly in unmarked - and therefore presumably unremarkable - ways. The temples and turnpikes of the 1939 New York World's Fair serve here as lenses into the ways in which mobility was heralded as an ideal, as a compulsion, and as a necessity, for the religious and the secular, for fairgoers and for scholars of religion, in the interwar years and beyond.
3. Shari Rabin (Yale University, American Religious History and Judaic Studies), "A Rabbi on the Railroads: Mobility and Religion in 19th Century America"
Religion in nineteenth century America was in many ways created on rail lines, as Americans moved through and made a home out of an expanding continent. This paper will consider the religious significance of railroads, focusing on Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (1819-1900), the great leader of American Reform Judaism. Wise was an inveterate traveler and travelogue author who road the rails with regularity, zeal, and lots of documentation. In 1860, writing from a train, Wise explicitly linked railroads and his vision of religious reform: "The wheels of time roll onward and disclose new horizons to our view with every passing moment almost." (Israelite, July 13, 1860, 14). After briefly addressing sea and river travel, this paper will use Wise's experiences and reflections as a point of departure for exploring how railroad travel shaped individual religious imaginaries, national communities, and developing ideologies of progress. It will end with reflections on the potential for a broader religious history of railroads.
Building on Thomas Tweed's theory of crossing and dwelling, I argue that the movement of bodies and media across a new continent enacted a religious project of home-making and orientation (Thomas A. Tweed, Crossing and Dwelling: A Theory of Religion (Harvard University Press, 2006).)
Railroads were the major sign of America's free and expansive mobility, especially for Jews, who in Europe were subject to severe residency and travel restrictions. In America they quickly spread out across the continent, living and moving through places with no Jewish histories or institutions to speak of, often on trains. Railroad cars were liminal spaces, both psychologically and socially. The nature of train travel shaped religious and national subjectivities, allowing for long periods of reflection on the natural world and one's place within it and creating new ways of seeing (Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century (University of California Press, 1987).) The intimate, public/private space of the railroad car - especially on long trips - fostered an environment amenable to conversation with fellow citizens, resulting in fleeting interactions that made train cars a place of self-situation within American society.
The periodic stops and intersecting lines of rail travel influenced Jewish settlement patterns and facilitated brief interludes in towns along the way, shaping spheres of influence and networks of familiarity. Jewish leaders - and none more than Wise - traveled to visit Jews throughout the nation, organizing and exhorting. This regular long distance travel, enabled by railroads, as well as its reportage in Jewish newspapers like Wise's Israelite, helped American Jews to know and thus create a national community. Wise recognized the individual religious significance and communal utility of railroad travel like no one else, and these ultimately shaped his vision of American Judaism. Railroads became a model and metaphor, helping Wise to construct a Judaism that was distinctively American, eminently progressive, and transcendent of time and space. Railroads were not merely a neutral technological means, but helped constitute American religious identities, communities and ideologies, including Wise's influential brand of Reform Judaism.
PANEL 3: Media and Mission in Asia: Histories of Conversion
1. Joseph W. Ho (University of Michigan, History), "Moving Pictures, Mobile Religion: Vernacular Films, Protestant Missionaries, and Chinese Christians, 1930-1947"
My paper, explores the ways that films and filmmaking shape time, space, and cultural and religious imagination in the context of American Christian missions abroad. Using a collection of 16mm silent films produced and screened between 1930 and 1947 by Dr. Harold E. Henke and Jessie Mae Henke, Presbyterian medical missionaries in North China, I interrogate multiple roles of "amateur" or vernacular cinema in missionary networks.
Institutionally, the Henkes' films transmitted visual information about their humanitarian and evangelistic work in China back to supporting churches in the United States. At the same time, they also represent and enact (or reenact) community formation, cultural encounters, and spatial and temporal manipulations - characteristics that the missionaries consciously employed in creating the films. The Henkes also used their movie camera to make films in the United States while on furlough, which they subsequently screened and narrated for Chinese audiences after returning to the mission station. Finally, the couple produced a short color film of their time in urban Beijing shortly before the Communist takeover and widespread expulsion of foreign missionaries from Mainland China. Most notably, this film includes footage of a 1947 Easter Sunday service conducted at the Temple of Heaven in the Forbidden City complex, attended by foreigners and Chinese individuals from different Protestant denominations. By drawing from the film collection, personal letters, memoirs, and oral histories, I hope to reconstruct "on-the-ground" experiences of filmmaking and film viewing in the service of religious and cultural meaning-making.
These materials and perspectives allow me to ask important questions about the historical meanings of this visual production. How did these films mediate spatial imaginings of the missionary project for viewers in the United States and China? To what extent are they translocal or transnational visual artifacts, framing specific times and places while also being transported across various geographic spaces and temporalities? And how might the portable materiality of film and its multiple display contexts speak to the missionaries' movement through various cultural and religious spaces, particularly as they produced and projected these motion pictures for different viewing communities in different places (e.g. church congregations in the United States, American friends and family members in private homes, and Chinese Christians and local viewers at the mission station)?
As the subject of filmmaking in foreign missionary projects of this time period is still a relatively unexplored territory, I will draw methodologies from visual culture studies, cultural history, and the history of religion as I work through these questions. I hope that this interdisciplinary paper provides a starting point for greater understanding of transnational visual perception in mobile religious institutions, the multiple cultural identities of Protestant missionaries and local believers in mid-20th century China, and the agency of cinema in shaping religious practices and cultural imaginations.
2. Alexandra Kaloyanides (Yale University, Religious Studies, Asian Religions & American Religious History), "The Baptist and the Pagoda"
When Emily Judson first set eyes on Burma, in November 1846, her entire body began to shake. The site of golden Buddhist monuments rising out of hillsides sent her into teary convulsions until the voice of God soothed her to sleep. This overwhelming first impression of the materiality of Burma's religious culture is not unique to Emily, the third wife of Adoniram Judson, America's first foreign missionary. The nineteenth-century correspondence and travelogues of American Baptist missionaries to Burma reveals similar responses to the sight of soaring Buddhist pagodas, the sound of their bells, and the ritual activities encircling their tiered towers. The missionary Howard Malcom's memoirs, for example, also describe a sensational reaction to the sight of pagodas, although Malcom did not find the shrines nearly as charming. Surveying Burma's mountainous horizon, Malcom writes that "Boodhist zeal has erected pagodas, whose white forms...remind the traveller every moment that he surveys a region covered with the shadows of spiritual death...My heart sickened as I stood beside the dumb gods of this deluded people" (Travels in south-eastern Asia 60-61). Where Judson found divine union, Malcom found a death sentence. But after similarly grueling sea voyages from Boston to Burma, both found a powerful form of Buddhism.
The vast archive of nineteenth-century missionaries' personal writings and published works reveals that physical contact with the people, practices, and products of Asian religions had a deep impact on Baptists journeying to Burma and back. While scholars have long dismissed these missionaries as entirely hostile to and dismissive of Asian religions, Baptist writings prove otherwise. Embodied encounters with Buddhist material culture were key events on American evangelical voyages to Southeast Asia, forging notions of the nature of Buddhism and inspiring new understandings of Christianity. State-side Protestants who read about these experiences in private letters and published travel accounts relived and re-envisioned religious encounter, setting off on their own vicarious journeys to worlds of exotic religious expression and ecstatic union with a more familiar god. As missionaries traveled east and their writings traveled west, the nature of Buddhism became imagined and re-imagined in contrast and concert with shifting notions of Christianity.
This paper explores Baptist descriptions of Buddhist material culture to ask: How were religions defined and compared in this atmosphere of movement and encounter? By bringing missionary writings into the study of nineteenth-century American encounters with Buddhism, this paper questions historiographic assumptions that the Victorian-era work of classifying world religions belonged to academics and liberal authors alone. While stationary scholars studied Asian scriptures, moving missionaries detailed the sight of pagodas, the sound of funeral processions, and the feel of foreign prayer beads. Moreover, evangelical accounts of Asian religions inspired robust and circulating explorations of religion among Protestant communities. This paper analyzes these accounts to examine the patterned ways in which religion was constructed, contrasted, and compared in the travel writings of nineteenth-century American Baptist missionaries in Burma.
3. Kathryn Montalbano (Columbia University, Communications), "Mediating Messages in Uncharted Territory: Conceptualizing Profession in 13th-Century Franciscan Travel Narratives"
Missions to the Middle and Far East in the 13th century were not confined to one particular order, nor were they confined to religious men. Disparate missions within religious orders, moreover, varied in their objectives, and the writing accompanying those missions naturally varied in their audiences. It follows that the limited scholarship on medieval travel writing tends to analyze narratives of merchants alongside missionaries, as well as across rather than within orders. However, this paper will specifically probe accounts of Franciscan missions to Mongolia and China - not to distinguish Franciscan missions from non-Franciscan missions - but to think about how Franciscans conceived of their professions and identities while moving within foreign lands inhabited by non-Christians, lands devoid of the rules of the Franciscan Order. In what way does movement across space, as recorded within the travel narratives, relate to how the missionaries conceived of their vocations, particularly given the near absence of bishops and relics in the letters? The process of articulating their presence in these unfamiliar lands - to the non-Christian encounters through oral communication and to their Franciscan brothers back home through written communication - both confirmed and challenged the categorical framework through which the missionaries understood their vocations. Though such writing would not have been considered "new" media in the 13th century, the mobile nature of missions induced new challenges to the Franciscan Order and the professions of its constituents. Challenges of professionalization in the medieval orders can shed light upon more contemporary challenges of authority posed to religious institutions by "new" media today, and whether said institutions compromise internal stability when entering into unfamiliar media domains.
This paper will analyze the travel accounts of three Franciscan missions, led by: 1.) John of Plano Carpini (accompanied by Brother Benedict the Pole), whose mission was essentially political; 2.) William of Rubruck, whose mission was more religious than that of his predecessor; and 3.) John of Monte Corvino, whose mission was the most ostensibly religious of the three. The paper explores the narratives to understand how the Franciscan missionaries conceived of their religious vocations and professions while moving across unchartered territory, and consequently whether the concept of a "vocation" was compromised in space unstructured by the Franciscan Rule. As is true with any academic analysis of letters and journals, we must recall that such accounts were often constructed in a certain light, cognizant of the intended receiver and the possibility of interception. The paper argues that what is distinctive about the Franciscans in understanding the trajectory of 13th-century missions is how, from the time of John of Plano Carpini's and William of Rubruck's missions to the time of John of Monte Corvino's mission, the writings amassed religiosity and moved away from a scientifically written narrative despite the increasingly information-driven missions of the late Middle Ages. Perhaps the Franciscans are an anomaly in the larger movement toward information-driven missions in the Middle Ages, or perhaps closer examination of the missions of varied medieval religious orders will provide a more nuanced understanding of the movement toward an information-driven society by the late Middle Ages, one that is less linear and clear-cut than has been previously understood.
PANEL 3: Across Time and Space: Mobility by Tradition
1. Suma Ikeuchi (Emory University, Anthropology), "'God Is Like an iPhone': New Media, Transcendence, and Authenticity among Brazilian Pentecostals in Japan"
"God is like an iPhone. It doesn't matter if you are in Brazil or here in Japan: You can connect it the same way anytime anywhere," exclaimed the presbyter of one Pentecostal church in Karya during his sermon in July 2012. The roughly 200 attendants were a mixture of Nikkei Brazilians, Brazilians of other ancestries, and mesticos between Nikkei and non-Nikkei parents. The majority were Brazilian nationals who secured their "long-term resident" visas in Japan by proving that they were, at least partially, of Japanese descent. Whereas Brazil confers citizenship on the basis of place of birth, Japan follows kettoshugi or the "principle of continuous bloodline" even in its major visa policies. The Japanese ideology of blood idealizes racial purity as the centerpiece of national continuity. Brazil, in contrast, has long upheld "racial democracy" in which racial mixture becomes important as the root and future of Brazilian society. In such discourse, it is terra natal or "land of birth" that becomes valorized as the foundation of national identity. Even with their Brazilian birth, however, second- and third-generation Nikkei Brazilians have never been entirely free from the Brazilian majority's suspicion that they are innately incapable of assimilating. The recent 'return' migration of many Nikkeis to Japan further complicates this ambiguity of identity. There are today roughly 240,000 Brazilians in the country, forming the third largest group of foreign residents after the Chinese and the Koreans. Instead of an intimate ethnic homeland, they usually discover the alienating mainstream Japan in which they are, yet again, a minority. Situated between two divergent rhetorics of national belonging, this project engages an increasingly visible presence of Pentecostalism among Brazilian migrants in Japan and investigates the following question: Can God - invoked by the presbyter as the epitome of transnational transcendence - indeed resolve the ambiguity of multiple ethnic identities and national belonging? Given the believers' active and constant employment of various new media, this paper also looks into the roles of photos, videos, and the internet - especially Youtube - among converts: Why is the performance of faith to the anonymous online audience so important for the ethical cultivation they pursue? How does the supposedly global viewership - made real by the internet - reconfigure their visions of the transcendental Other? How do new media mediate the cultivation of faith as well as the authenticity of religious experiences? The discussions will be based on preliminary findings from my fieldwork in the Aichi Prefecture of Japan during the summer of 2012. By exploring the critical intersection between migration, religion, and media, this paper will investigate how and why the transcendental Other can be real and important for these migrant believers.
2. Devaka Premawardhana (Harvard University, Anthropology of Religion / Global Christianity / African Studie), "The Influence of 'Traditional' Spatial Practices on Pentecostal Conversion"
This paper, based on one year of fieldwork in northern Mozambique, begins with an empirical fact: that of the ambivalence with which Pentecostalism is received in this particular setting. Such an underreported phenomenon counters the prevailing narrative of Pentecostalism's inexorable rise and offers an opportunity to reassess a regnant theoretical paradigm in Pentecostal scholarship: that of discontinuity. Often conceived of in temporal terms - as a "break with the past" (Meyer 1999) - this paradigm presents Pentecostalism's distinctive attribute as openness to the radically new. This is salutary, a challenge to the social scientific tendency to view people as reproductive of the past. The problem is the implicit assumption that traditional cultures - Pentecostalism's contrast class - are static by comparison. My research reveals that Makhuwa-speaking people of northern Mozambique prove themselves exceptionally capable of change, and not solely as the result of conversion to Pentecostalism. The aim of this paper is to elaborate the features of Makhuwa mobility and mutability. I detail the ways this approach to novelty is shaped particularly by the spatial features of such 'traditional' practices as initiation rituals, dance traditions, matrilocal marriage, shifting cultivation, mortuary ceremonies, and long-distance migrations. These and other activities transport people as much as they transform them, inculcating a bodily disposition toward mobility which carries over into new religious 'movements' such as Pentecostalism. This disposition toward mobility entails a facility of movements across borders, whether between the world of the living and the dead, the bush and the town, the natal home and the marital home, or one crop field and another. If such mobile spatial practices precede the arrival of the churches, they also bring people to the churches. More interestingly, they also facilitate exit from the churches. Movement is incremental and regular; it is also reversible. The churches in my study fail to retain members not, as their leaders complain, because people are too rooted in their ancestral ways, rendered immobile by tradition, but precisely the opposite: they are un-rooted, mobile by tradition.
3. Cara Rock-Singer (Columbia University, Department of Religion), "Reaching for God and the Next Generation: Texts, Mystics, and Old-World Magic"
Religious experience, in the legacy of Friedrich Schleiermacher and William James, has come to describe experience that cannot be explained in non-religious terms. In this tradition, the communal, textual, ritual, etcetera are bracketed off and the â€śreligionâ€ť of religious experience comes to be the strange, unexplainable, or supernatural. This paper will challenge the limits of this definition by viewing religious experience through the lens of the lived experience of an American, Modern Orthodox Jewish woman in the midst of a struggle with repeated miscarriage. Through the narrative of a woman called Devorah, I will argue for an understanding of religious experience that bridges what Devorah describes as rationalized, traditional Jewish practice; communion with God mediated through community and the body; Jewish mysticism; and magical Old-World Jewish life.