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Mediatized Religion in Asia

Panel Chairs: Kerstin Radde-Antweiler, Xenia Zeiler | Tuesday, August 25, 1:30-3 p.m.

Religion today, in Asia as well as in the 'West', is extensively media saturated. For instance, religious institutions, groups and individual actors increasingly use media to discuss and negotiate religious authority and identity. Mediatization describes a metaprocess which shapes modern societies, en par with various socio-cultural processes as globalization or individualization. Mediatization research focuses on the individual actors in their mediatized worlds, and consequently, research on mediatized religion is no longer a media-centered but an actor-centered research. The theoretical and methodical approach of mediatization by today is established in Europe and has primarily been researched in ‘Western’ contexts. The panel goes one step further and discusses different aspects of mediatized religion in Asia. The individual papers present different case studies from various regions in Asia, and discuss the data in the light of the current mediatization theory.

Vit Sisler

Playing Muslim Hero: Mediatization of Religious Identity in Arab and Iranian Video Games

Video games are popular mainstream media and constitute an important social activity for a substantial part of Arab and Iranian youth. Unlike other audiovisual media, video games immerse consumers in action and engagement, rather than inaction and passive reception. They provide youngsters with a convenient source of cultural symbols, myths and rituals helping them to form and reflect their own identities. This paper analyzes contemporary Arab and Iranian video games and explores the ways in which the hero’s religious identity is constructed and communicated to the players. The paper is based on content analysis of these games and on interviews with their producers. The key research question is how religious identity can be construed on the level of game play – that is through the interactive transactions between the player and the game’s rule system – and mediatizated through the broader systems of exchange that surround video game consumption and production.

Xenia Zeiler

Mediatized Hindu Festivals: Transformed Organizations of Durgapuja Committees in India Influencing Religious Identity and Authority Negotiations

Durgapuja celebrations involving complex organization since the c. 16th century developed from being status markers for patronizing landlords to popular mass events by the 19th century. The community involvement underwent still another transformation in the 20th century, with emerging mediatization processes. Today, all aspects of Durgapuja are highly mediatized. Durgapuja is a common theme in modern mass media, and the festival is increasingly organized, participated and negotiated via and in a variety of media. This paper highlights transformations in Durgapujas’ organisational structures and the implicit identity and authority negotiations which are explicitly brought about by mediatization processes. For this, it analyzes the mediatized activities of local “Durgapuja Committees” which today strongly compete and massively communicate, organize and negotiate via cell phones, emails, Facebook groups etc. in order to create outstanding festivals, which then serve as identity markers for their respective communities and support both, the committees’ and community’s religious authority.

Christoph Günther

When a Caliphate also Emerges on the Internet: Mediatization and the Establishment of the ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria

One group, inspired by Islamic tradition and driven by a social-revolutionary agenda, had long ago began to employ different kinds of media to disseminate its messages into the public sphere. But it was only since 2013 that IS(IS) would produce audio-visual publications of notable quality and aesthetic mirroring the regard of communicative measures as equally important as military means. Against the background of immense social and cultural changes sparked by IS, mediatization as a theoretical concept in this paper can help to analyse the group’s use of digital media. Within IS’s attempts to both establish state-like structures in Iraq and Syria and spread its influence into other regions, digital media is considered a means to interact symbolically as well as frame and construct reality, history and religious identities in a way favourable to a group with particular interests.

Kerstin Radde-Antweiler

Mediatized Self-Crucifixion on the Philippines: Transformations and Negotiations of Cultural Heritage

Religious groups and actors increasingly use new forms of media and are part of diverse construction processes of religious identity as well as religious action and behavior. An example for this is the discussion of a popular ritual at Good Friday on the Philippines, namely the self-crucifixion. This ritual was invented in 1962 and originates from by the concept of self-flagellation in the 16th and 17th centuries when Spanish missionaries brought Passion plays to the Philippines and introduced the Iberian “Calvary Catholicism”. Public self-crucifixion became very popular and is performed in parts of the Northern Philippines. Nowadays, this ritual is highly mediatized: the Word Wide Web is full of pictures and videos of self-crucifixions which evolve heated discussions. It is also shown and presented in television as a prominent event and cultural heritage. Therefore it is not surprising that certain villages became a famous tourist spot – a fact that is highly criticized by the catholic clergy.

Participants: Vit Sisler, Xenia Zeiler, Christoph Günther, Kerstin Radde-Antweiler


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