Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

April 30th, 2014

Comparing China and India

posted by

The Modern Spirit of Asia is a book about India and China and the ways in which they have been transformed by Western imperial modernity. In my understanding, the onset of modernity is located in the nineteenth century and is characterized politically by the emergence of the nation-state, economically by industrialization, and ideologically by an emphasis on progress and liberation; “imperial modernity” is the formation of modernity under conditions of imperialism. This book is an essay in comparative historical sociology, informed by anthropological theory. Comparative historical sociology of culture is a field that was founded by Max Weber and practiced by his followers, of whom the late Robert Bellah and the late S.N. Eisenstadt are among the best known. It has been connected to interpretive anthropological theory and to insights gained in ethnography, especially in the work of Clifford Geertz.

January 24th, 2014

Engaging the “spiritual but not religious” vote

posted by

In an essay published at the Atlantic online, TIF editor-at-large Steven Barrie-Anthony urges politicians and pundits to pay closer attention to “spiritual but not religious” voters as a potentially influential bloc.

March 7th, 2013

Are some ‘nones’ combinative religionists?

posted by

Over at the Huffington Post, Sean McCloud reflects on the continued attention given to religious disaffiliation in the American media.

March 5th, 2013

Prayer, imagination, and the voice of God—in global perspective

posted by

Tanya Marie Luhrmann is a psychological anthropologist and a Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. Her work explores how people come to experience nonmaterial objects such as God as present and real, and how different understandings of the mind affect mental experience. She is the author, most recently, of When God Talks Back (Knopf, 2012), which The New York Times Book Review called “the most insightful study of evangelical religion in many years,” and of other books including Of Two Minds (Knopf, 2000), The Good Parsi (Harvard, 1996), and Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft (Harvard, 1989). Her latest project, supported by the SSRC’s New Directions in the Study of Prayer initiative, builds on and extends her research for When God Talks Back, taking her to India and Africa. On a recent rainy afternoon in Palo Alto, I spoke with Luhrmann about her work and its new directions.

January 16th, 2013

A return to the original agenda of Christ

posted by

I am one of those evangelicals who, in Professor Marcia Pally’s words, have “left the right.” As a former President-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, I resigned that position and all other positions that would box me into ideologies that were becoming insidiously narrow and negative. As a 64-year-old pastor, I may not yet be representative of my generation or profession in my political openness, but I am one of a growing number of white evangelicals who are making biblically-based decisions on an issue-by-issue basis, in a wider circle of conversations than ever. We are put off by the “hardening of the categories” that is stifling not only intellectually, but also spiritually.

November 15th, 2012

Los Angeles Review of Books reviews Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon

posted by

The Los Angeles Review of Books recently reviewed TIF editor-at-large Kathryn Lofton’s book Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon.

October 25th, 2012

Secularization and disenchantment

posted by

Over the past decade, scholarly inquiry into contemporary religion has moved from an understanding of religion as waning in the face of ongoing secularization toward a focus on the mutual constitution and interaction of religious and secular that underpins both the ideology of secularism and modern religiosity. This has produced pathbreaking research into the dynamics of religious transformation and generated deeper insights into the relation between religion and modernity. Importantly, these insights yield a new theoretical standpoint that transcends secularist ideologies according to which religion is bound to disappear—or at least to retreat into the private sphere—yet at the same time makes these ideologies subject to investigation. The fact that public debates about the so-called resurgence of religion often affirm the fault lines between “religious” and “secular” positions testifies to the fruitfulness of this new standpoint.

October 18th, 2012

Subjects, spirituality, and smoking: An interview with Hubert Knoblauch

posted by

After discussing the general contours of the sociology of religion in Germany today (see part 1), I had a chance to ask Hubert Knoblauch about some of his own research. In recent years, Knoblauch, who works in the phenomenological tradition started by Alfred Schütz, has been preoccupied with spirituality, popular religion, and near-death experiences.

October 10th, 2012

What does spirituality mean in America today?

posted by

But why, first of all, is this subject a significant one? And why does it appear especially pertinent at precisely the present moment? To begin with, growing numbers of “religious nones,” that is, people who have limited or no religious affiliation yet still claim to believe in some kind of divinity, signal an unprecedented shift in the American religious landscape, and many scholars who have sought to understand this phenomenon have indicated that something like “spirituality” might capture an important aspect of their outlook, if not their “identity.” We, for our part, certainly agree that this is a socially significant shift. Yet we also note that much of the interpretation and ensuing discussion about the “religious nones” draws upon and continues to assert uninvestigated understandings of religion and spirituality, where we would argue that the shifts underway should elicit some reconsideration of the terms that are deployed to analyze and interpret this allegedly “new” phenomenon.

October 4th, 2012

Spiritualism and visual romanticism

posted by

TIF editor at large, John Lardas Modern, reviews Charles Colbert’s recent publication, Haunted Visions: Spiritualism and American Art.

September 6th, 2012

The Post-Secular in Question and What Matters? reviewed

posted by

Over at The Revealer, James S. Bielo reviews What Matters? Ethnographies of Value in a Not So Secular Age and The Post-Secular in Question: Religion in Contemporary Society, jointly published with the SSRC by Columbia University Press and New York University Press respectively.

May 23rd, 2012

Dalai Lama to give Templeton money to charity

posted by

Last week at BBC News, Robert Pigott reported that the Dalai Lama will give to charity the  £1.1 million in Templeton prize money that he was awarded earlier this month.

May 2nd, 2012

What Matters? Ethnographies of Value in a Not So Secular Age

posted by

Columbia University Press has just released What Matters?: Ethnographies of Value in a Not So Secular Age, edited by Courtney Bender and Ann Taves.

May 1st, 2012

Three dots and a dash

posted by

“It resists classification…”

Language is a funny thing. Take my epigraph, for example: three words from the fourth paragraph of Frequencies’ project statement. I find these three words interesting—worth re-reading, even un-reading, rather than just reading—because of the contradiction that they carry along with them; for they unsay what it is that we think they just said.

Like I said, language is a funny thing.

April 30th, 2012

What is the aesthetic of contemporary spirituality?

posted by

At Religion in American History, Michael J. Altman takes a broad look at Frequencies, citing his appreciation of individual posts, comparing the site to indie music, and musing on alternative visual choices that would alter the impact and meaning of the content.

April 25th, 2012

Traditional but not religious

posted by

The first thing that strikes you when looking at Frequencies is the scope of the project and the breadth of contributions it includes. The breadth of the essays is truly amazing—people, events, places, books, a CD, ideas. The project covers a lot of ground. And just for the pleasure of reading some of these essays, I’m grateful and moved. I wonder, however, about two things. One is about form and one is about content. First, the question about form:  Is this a genealogy? Second, the question about content:  What are the avenues of spirituality that the project maps?

April 17th, 2012

The impossible road sign

posted by

A friend recently sent me a Huffington Post piece from last summer on the state of New Hampshire putting up one of those road-sign historical markers to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the UFO abduction experience of the mixed racial couple, Betty and Barney Hill.

April 13th, 2012

Frequencies named Official Honoree of the 16th Webby Awards

posted by

Frequencies has been named an Official Honoree of the 16th Annual Webby Awards!

April 10th, 2012

Get it on

posted by

The first thing you notice about Frequencies is the sheer proliferation of categories, though they clearly are not categories in either the Hegelian or the quotidian sense. They are more like soundings into the depths of a shared darkness or lenses through which we might glimpse an otherwise blinding luminescence. Words cluster inside the frame of the screen, that ubiquitous medium through which we all present ourselves to ourselves. At the top is an index. On the side is a cloud of things called “resonances” and “wavelengths,” both terms nodding to Deleuzian technologies of circulation. And within we find an even 100 musings.

April 4th, 2012

Spirituality’s family tree

posted by

Much more than a blog, Frequencies is a treasure trove of deep description and highly creative analysis. The casual observer initially might assume Frequencies to be a motley collection of unrelated reflections on matters ranging from historical figures to chicken sandwiches. Such an assumption could not be more foolhardy, however. The hundred essays that comprise Frequencies could not be more intimately related, as all of them, in their own ways, are part of the same family tree.

April 2nd, 2012

The fiercest love of all

posted by

Reading the entries posted at Frequencies, an online project that alleges to be “a collaborative genealogy of spirituality,” brings out the bitchy side of my temperament.

When Thomas Tweed asks, “Is ‘spirituality’ a noun? A verb? Something else?,” I want to send him a pocket dictionary that he can consult in future moments of linguistic crisis, so that he does not produce overwrought prose that only calls attention to himself. (Confidential to TT: it’s a noun.)

March 27th, 2012

Rising alternatives to organized religion

posted by

In a recent issue of TIME, Amy Sullivan writes of a 2009 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and an example of American expats in Mexico that both suggest Americans may prefer to grow their own when it comes to religious congregations.

March 15th, 2012

Besides

posted by

I love the story about Shakeela Hassan. I just told it again last night, in fact. In the late 1950s, Shakeela Hassan arrives in the U.S. from Lahore, to begin a medical internship at Northwestern University. She is greeted at the airport by Malcolm X, a young minister in the Nation of Islam, who was sent to meet her because of a chance encounter between her brother-in-law and the NOI prophet, Elijah Muhammad. Her husband’s family is related to the Pakistani publishers of the most widely read English-language translation of the Qur’an, and although Shakeela Hassan never joins the Nation of Islam, she becomes a regular dinner guest at Elijah Muhammad’s home, a great admirer of his wife, Clara, and the improbable designer of the hats which become Elijah Muhammad’s trademark. As readers of Frequencies: A Collaborative Genealogy of Spirituality will know, this is a much-too-short version of the story Winnifred Sullivan recounts in her eponymous entry.

February 1st, 2012

“On Being” Buddhistipalian with Rosanne Cash

posted by

January 5, 2012’s episode of “On Being with Krista Tippet” is a conversation with Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, a singer-songwriter and author in her own right.

January 18th, 2012

Frequencies 91/100 – 100/100

posted by and

Today marks the hundredth entry in Frequencies.

January 4th, 2012

Frequencies 81/100 – 90/100

posted by

Today marks the ninetieth entry in Frequencies. In the ten most recent entries, Benjamin Zeller climbs a stairway to heaven, David Shorter looks for Indian spirit, Lynne Gerber weighs in, Christopher White bathes in the blood of William James, Susan Stinson sings a sweet song of salvation, Randy Martin dissects the debt crisis, Benjamin Anastas prospers, Shaul Magid prevaricates, Darren Grem fries chicken, and Elijah Siegler submits to the algorithm.

December 21st, 2011

Frequencies 71/100 – 80/100

posted by

Today marks the eightieth entry in Frequencies. In the ten most recent entries, Luís León lights a spliff, Wendy Cadge provides spiritual care, Varun Soni talks to college students, SherAli Tareen questions Park51, Erin Martineau moves to the farm, Andrew Ventimiglia takes a course in miracles, Nathan Schneider searches for proof, Rocco Gangle draws a diagram, Ludger Viefhues-Bailey reads German ladies magazines, and Laura Marris contemplates loss.

December 8th, 2011

Frequencies 61/100 – 70/100

posted by

Yesterday marked the seventieth entry in Frequencies, a co-production of The Immanent Frame and Killing the Buddha.

November 23rd, 2011

Frequencies 51/100 – 60/100

posted by

Today marks the sixtieth entry in Frequencies.

November 10th, 2011

Frequencies reaches 50th entry

posted by

Yesterday marked the fiftieth entry in Frequencies.

October 12th, 2011

#OccupyWallSt, spirituality, and faith

posted by

On September 17, protesters heeded the call to occupy Wall Street and set up camp in a semi-public park in downtown Manhattan’s Financial District that is once again known as Liberty Plaza. In the roughly three weeks since the Occupy Wall Street protests began, several commentators have begun reflecting on the place of faith in the movement. The meditation area on Liberty Plaza is only the most overt of the influences of faith or spirituality on the protest movement.

October 11th, 2011

The Feynman Series: scientific…and spiritual (?)

posted by

This past February, the seven-part video series honoring Carl Sagan and his contributions to science was released, attracting the attention of scientists, spiritualists, and curious minds across the world. Now, Reid Gower, the maker of The Sagan Series, “has released a supplement…called The Feynman Series, featuring everyone’s favorite bongo-playing physicist,” Richard Feynman.

September 28th, 2011

Frequencies, twenty transmissions in

posted by

Today marks the twentieth entry in Frequencies.

September 26th, 2011

Secularism in Antebellum America

posted by

Forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, a “pioneering account of religion and society in nineteenth-century America” by John Lardas Modern, contributing editor at The Immanent Frame and co-curator (with Kathryn Lofton) of the recently launched Frequencies.

September 14th, 2011

Nothing is ever lost: An interview with Robert Bellah

posted by

Both an influential scholar and a public intellectual, Robert Bellah is one of the foremost sociologists of his generation. His books and articles have set in motion lasting conversations about the role of religion in public life, both in the United States and around the world. Since retiring from thirty years of teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, Bellah has been at work on his most ambitious book yet, the recently released Religion in Human Evolution (Harvard University Press).

September 1st, 2011

What comes to mind when you think of spirituality?

posted by

After a year of planning and conversation, The Immanent Frame and Killing the Buddha launch today a new web-based project titled Frequencies.

August 3rd, 2011

Forthcoming SSRC book: What Matters?

posted by

Edited by Courtney Bender and Ann Taves, and forthcoming from Columbia University Press, What Matters? Ethnographies of Value in a (not so) Secular Age is the product of a collaboration between the SSRC and the School for Advanced Research.

July 26th, 2011

A whole earth

posted by

Brook Wilensky-Lanford shares her thoughts on the closing MoMa exhibit “Access to Tools: Publications from the Whole Earth Catalog, 1968-1974.”

July 20th, 2011

The rise and fall of Christian rock

posted by

Meghan O’Gieblyn, writing for Guernica, forays into the history of CCM, or Christian contemporary music, which also happens to be that of her own adolescence, tracing the gradual displacement of the more overtly gospel elements of Christian pop, rock, and rap, as the Christian music industry, in its growing drive for “relevance,” felt the squeeze of secular music, especially under the pincers the more profitable and marketing-savvy MTV. More than the fate of explicitly Christian popular music, this course, O’Gieblyn suggests, reflects the simultaneous devolution of a distinctly evangelical way of being in the world, which, stuck as it is between oppositional self-cloistering and secularizing dissipation, seems to O’Gieblyn to have tended toward to the latter.

June 17th, 2011

War on drugs may be interfering with Americans’ spiritual awakening

posted by

Kevin Drum, of Mother Jones, reports on a study conducted by the esteemed researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine that purports to demonstrate the positive, long-term personal and social effects of psilocybin mushrooms, including greater awareness of, and openness to, the spiritual and the sacred.

May 25th, 2011

After Oprah

posted by

On the occassion of the final broadcast of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Kathryn Lofton reflects, in an On Faith article, on what Oprah was.

May 25th, 2011

Every moment an Aha! Moment!

posted by

Kathryn Lofton’s Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon is a work, first and foremost, of cultural anthropology. The back cover confirms this fact. Yes, the book is about the incorporations of Oprah. But more significantly, it is an ethnography of “American astonishment,” of what it feels like to live before screens that enlighten and advertise and encompass (the virtual counterpart of living within the effervescent glare of studio lights and perpetual applause). Lofton captures, as few writers can, the everyday magic of our viral time—what, in the ritual grammar of Oprah, are referred to as “Aha! Moments.”

May 16th, 2011

Oprah the Omnipotent

posted by

Lofton tells me she shares with Jonathan Z. Smith the view that difference is the beginning of any good conversation. I am going to take her up on that notion and dwell here on a point of disagreement rather than those points, about the wild commingling of religion and consumption, upon which we agree. . . . I agree with Lofton that there is all too much about Oprah’s world and her devotees to make one wonder—at least from a certain highbrow academic standpoint—about “the intensity of their shallowness.” Call me an unreconstructed humanist, an overly hopeful liberal, but I doubt that banality is the sum of the matter, even for Oprah’s most frivolous (or lighthearted) fans.

May 2nd, 2011

O tedious selfhood, O aftertaste of splinters

posted by

It’s striking to me how often, with what little resistance, the many scholarly forums this book has now generated have likewise settled into for-and-against discussions of Oprah. This no doubt is tribute to Lofton’s remarkable creation of what Daphne Brooks calls a “self-help meta-empire of scholars trying to come to terms with their own Oprah addictions.” It’s also, perhaps unavoidably, an Oprah effect: What other books have so readily pressed scholars into sharing our experiences, our feelings, about the subjects they engage? (Could we imagine Born Again Bodies prompting a gabfest on our struggles with weight loss and gain? The Mormon Question drawing out our deepest thoughts on monogamy alternatives? The New Metaphysicals eliciting a coming-clean on the checks we wrote to the astrologer?)

April 26th, 2011

Reading the paranormal writing us: An interview with Jeffrey Kripal

posted by

Jeffrey Kripal, who chairs the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University, is an authority on the mysterious. His books include a wildly controversial study of Ramakrishna’s mysticism; a history of Esalen, an influential spiritual retreat center tucked away in the cliffs of Big Sur; and, now, a probing investigation of several very mysterious thinkers: Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred.

April 18th, 2011

De-provincializing Oprah

posted by

In Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon, Kathryn Lofton holds up a lustrous mirror to the polymorphously perverse dynamics of boom and bust, surplus and lack, and redemptive optimism and paranoid anxiety that characterize America (and much of the world) at the turn of the twenty-first century…. [Her] insight into the intense and extensive contemporary intra-activity of materiality and spirituality is a powerful explanatory tool. For example, it helps explain the explosive growth of global Neo-Pentecostal networks and cultures, which operate through mass media and popular culture to spread a gospel of health and wealth based on the notion that spiritual salvation, economic success, and physical well-being are mutually implicative.

April 7th, 2011

OMG: Oprah Winfrey, pop religion, and the temple of our familiar

posted by

I have been—and perhaps in some ways will always be—one of the denizens, the followers, the 100% skeptical and yet 100% “true believers” of and in the Oprah Nation. I have been both captivated by her programs about white supremacy in all-white Forsyth County, Georgia (which aired in 1986, my freshman year in college) and the Little Rock Nine’s steely and yet graceful fortitude (which aired in 1996, when I was in graduate school) and embarrassed by her ostentatious obsession with the material (see the “My Favorite Things” episodes from any year). Still I can’t deny that O’s consistent engagement with the cultural memory of the Civil Rights movement and her equally consistent obsession with spectacular consumerism are somehow entwined.

April 5th, 2011

Oprah, the Rorschach test

posted by

Focusing on Oprah as an icon/inkblot, we can use our reactions to her as a Rorschach test:  What do we project onto Oprah and what analytical blind spots result from these projections and the discursive anxieties that underlie them? The uneasiness, evident in Lofton’s tone throughout the book, is an index of fundamental contradictions that many of us, as members of the intellectual elite, embody.

March 30th, 2011

Adrift on common dreams

posted by

What a strange, provocative experience it has been to dwell with Kathryn Lofton’s Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon during these unsettling months. The seams of public life seem especially frayed of late—a precariousness underscored by disasters natural and political that keep coming. And yet ours is the radiant moment of endless possibility so central to Lofton’s subject, whose chief promise is that of a self that matters, that experiences abundance and becoming. It was with this coexistence in mind that I plunged into Oprah’s world.

March 23rd, 2011

The evolution of a text

posted by

In his 1915 essay, “Thoughts for the Times on War and Death,” Sigmund Freud wrote, “It is indeed impossible to imagine our own death; and whenever we attempt to do so we can perceive that we are in fact still present as spectators.” Four years later, the American Theosophist Walter Evans-Wentz, traveling in the Himalayas, chanced upon a Tibetan text and asked the English teacher of the Maharaja’s Boarding School for boys in Gangtok, Sikkim to translate it for him. What is known in the West as The Tibetan Book of the Dead is the product of their collaboration.