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A Bourdieusian Take on the Imperial Patronage of Cloisonné in Qing China

Julie Bellemare relates the imperial patronage of cloisonné objects for religious and secular purposes in eighteenth-century China to an increased taste for colorful and dazzling surfaces. She uses the ideas of Pierre Bourdieu and Alfred Gell to unpack the significance of this technical enchantment, and to clarify and complicate questions of taste, class, and ethnic identity in the Chinese production and consumption of cloisonné. Bellemare argues that the non-Chinese origins of the medium made it adaptable to the evolving needs of display and an ideal canvas for imperial decoration.

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Blurring the educational lines? Material religion in the undergraduate classroom

Francis Stewart explores the pedagogical possibilities of teaching material religions as a way of differently engaging with the concept “religion.” Using her experiences in a recent undergraduate course at the University of Stirling, Stewart argues that an embodied, sensory-based approach to material religions helps students approach theoretical and methodological tenets in different, nuanced, more embodied ways, ultimately yielding a context in which, for students and professors alike, the classroom can come to function as a sacred space.

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Virtual Buddhist Monk Robes: Cyborgs, Gender, and the Self-Fashioning of a Mindful Second Life Resident

Gregory Grieve studies virtual clothing in Hoben, a Second Life Zen community. He argues that Second Life residents emerge from their virtual practices where the ability to choose one’s gender, clothing and appearance increases mindfulness and offers a creative alternative to conventional heteronormative roles on both a political and spiritual level.

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In Search of Gods: A Short Walk in Nowa Huta

Chris Pinney describes his recent visit to the town of Nowa Huta, Krakow, Poland. Through photos of the landscape and architecture he traces the tumultuous history of this formerly Social Realist town that has been the site of Stalinism, the Polish Solidarity Movement and now the regeneration of Catholicism through new churches. This painful history seems embodied in the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, whose scars elongate with the suffering of her nation.

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History and the Claims of Revelation: Joseph Smith and the Materialization of the Golden Plates

Ann Taves reviews the accounts of the golden plates that Joseph Smith discovered and interpreted. In spite of conflicting historical evidence regarding the actuality of the plates, Taves suggests a nuanced approach of skilled perception as a means to resolve the challenges of accepting their reality wholesale or denying their reality and inferring that Smith intentionally misled people. This excerpt reproduces the first two sections of the longer article cited below.

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The Economies of Temple Chanting and Conversion in China

Eric Reinders discusses the material culture of chant, the complexities of conversion, and the economics of religious “trades” in this intriguing piece. Drawing on excerpts from Christian missionary publications and other writings, Reinders highlights the subtle cultural dynamics at play when two religious traditions encounter one another, especially under conditions when one aims to supplant the other.

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Ayodhya’s sacred landscape: ritual memory, politics and archaeological “fact”

Julia Shaw provides an alternative archaeological perspective on the polarizing issues surrounding the contested site of Ayodhya, India and its significance in Hindu religious imagination as the birthplace of the deity Rama. Written in 2000, this article is a succinct reminder of what a materialized study of religion has to offer to the analysis of disputed sites. In 1992, the ‘Babri Masjid’ (Babri mosque) in Ayodhya was destroyed by Hindu sectarians who claimed the site as the birthplace of the Hindu deity Rama. In 2010, the Allahabad High Court ruled that the disputed site be divided between three parties (Sunni Muslim Waqf board, the Hindu Maha Sabha representing the deity Ram Lalla, and the Hindu Nirmohi Akhara). The verdict was suspended, following appeals, by the Indian Supreme Court in 2011. The debate continues.

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