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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.)

“Agents of a Fuller Revelation” Photographs and Religion in Nineteenth-Century America

Rachel McBride Lindsey discusses the significance of photography in the study of religion and, particularly, how photographs were “made sense of” as an emerging technology in the nineteenth century. In reviewing the meaning of photos in American religion, she suggests that these images are not mere “things” but enable an entirely new way of engaging religious practices and doctrines.

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Thoughts on Death and Immortality

Ludwig Feuerbach, the 19th century philosopher and theologian, discusses the modern idea of the soul and immortality in this excerpt from his 1830 book, Thoughts on Death and Immortality. Feuerbach was the original “materialist” in that he felt human existence to be subsumed in the larger existence of nature and society. Philosophical anthropology, the philosophy of the existence and experience of personhood, remained a key theme across all of his work. Feuerbach thought that modern Christianity’s notion of the soul and its immortality was errant. His attempt to ground human existence in the natural world could be seen as one of the earliest attempts to overcome the mind-body dualism that had become entrenched in European religion, through Christianity, and European philosophy, through Descartes. Given Feuerbach’s perspective, a focus on materiality and environment cannot be separate from a philosophical anthropology that supports or denies their significance.

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