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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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‘No Mud, No Lotus’: Experiencing Great Pines Monastery through Edward Soja’s Thirdspace.

Sara Swenson explores how concepts of Buddhist community are spatially configured among a diverse population at Great Pines Monastery (GPM). In this paper, she explores how GPM operates as several different simultaneous “sacred spaces” using Edward Soja’s theory of thirdspace. GPM’s proximity to Denver marks it as a uniquely urban sacred space, and how the space serves to reaffirm two distinct but shared community identities for its Vietnamese and English-speaking communities.

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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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Visiting Laurel Kendall at the American Museum of Natural History

Laurel Kendall speaks about the challenges and rewards of her role as curator of the Asian collection at the American Museum of Natural History, and Faculty at Columbia University. John and Urmila visited her in her office at the AMNH and were offered a tour of the collections, some aspects of which are highlighted in the interview. In this interview, Laurel conveys the excitement of working in a unique space between the material expressions of cultural heritage and their value for diverse peoples. (Published 3 June 2015.)

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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