Religion in the Digital Age: Media, Performance and 'Spectacular Activism'
Religion, politics, and performance have been deeply intertwined with the contemporary circulation of media in the recent unprecedented social and political upheavals in the Middle East, North Africa, and the burgeoning Occupy movements throughout the world. We have seen public spaces transformed into contested arenas for staking political, and ethical claims on the body politic through creative performances, ranging from the dramatic to the comedic. These and other sites of recent “spectacular activism” have gripped the public imagination over the past year, as have prior movements such as Gandhian satyagraha, the American Civil Rights movement, and the role of Buddhist monks in the Burmese Saffron revolution. This conference invites analysis of the role of religion in mediated performances of all sorts in these and other local political and cultural movements that have garnered attention on the world stage.
- How do we understand religion’s presence in these forms of cultural activism? How do religious modes give meaningful structure or authority to performative politics, particularly politics based on various ethical positions?
- How are questions of social justice, ethics, and morality taken up/reframed/ introduced by participants who have become involved as members of religious groups?
- How do ethical notions slip into the religious as they make their way into the very fabric of the performative? For example, ethics/religion were prominent aspects of the occupation in London – with the adoption of the slogan ‘what would Jesus do?’ on banners at the site being a ubiquitous element of media representations of the protest.
- How do digital forms amplify religious influence in volatile political contexts, where the capacity of new technologies renders these processes visible and audible on the political stage?
- For example, how does the eruption of violence associated with these contested arenas itself becomes the object of performative ethical critique, especially when particular events become memes re-presented and circulated in mediated form? (A notable case is the circulation of images of the pepper spraying security guard against Occupy UC Davis protesters were photoshopped into religious paintings, such as The Last Supper. )
- How does the global visibility of media actually distort the recognition and representation of religious organizations and their particular ways of operating in localities?
- How is knowledge about religion and its implications for international politics, diplomacy and human rights being transformed via online commentary, citizen journalism, and the blogosphere?
- How do different performative genres drawing on religious idioms – including comedy, melodrama, political satire, narrative film, television, digital video -- underscore dominant or offer alternative narratives to hegemonic understandings of what constitutes contemporary religion, and what impact does this have on these movements? What is the relationship between “liveness” and virtual circulation (such as You Tube)?
DETAILS AND ARRANGEMENTS
The conference will be a mix of an invited keynote (Charles Hirschkind of UC Berkeley) organized panels for presenting papers (each paper about 25 minutes long), as well as a few invited roundtable sessions.
Please send a 100-300 word titled abstract of a paper presentation you would like to give to both email@example.com, and faye.ginsburg@nyuedu. Deadline for submission is ASAP, or alternatively no late than February 29, 2012. We will consider submissions as they come in since we do hope to finalize the program as soon as we can.
We expect that chosen papers, sessions, will make themselves available for further writing up toward publication.
A grant from the Henry R. Luce Foundation initiative in Religion and International Affairs means there is no conference fee, and the Center for Religion and Media will fund travel (up to1400 per person), accommodations and a modest honorarium for all participants.