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In the Context of Change: Approaching Emotions and Objects of Material Culture

Panel Chair: Barbara Schuler | Thursday, August 27, 9-11 a.m.

Every text and every material object – from architecture to food – is directly or indirectly related to emotions, either being shaped by emotions, aiming to evoke emotions, or stimulating emotional memories. All religious emotions (take fear of polluted and polluting things as an example) are to a great extent constructs of societies and cultures, and as such subject to historical change. The panel will explore how emotions and material objects are observed, described, evaluated, assigned roles, and used in strategies of persuasion; and how the ‘regime’, appraisal, control, and display of emotions changes depending on context, communication strategies, historical period, and ‘emotional communities’ (lay people, clergy, deities, members of specific traditions, elites etc.). Which material objects (iconography, clothing, religious art etc.) evoke which emotions in whom? Which emotions are encouraged (and at times exalted), and which are discouraged? These and similar questions will be asked all against the background of change.

Anne E. Monius

Loving Śiva’s Liṅga: The Changing Emotional Valences of a Beloved Image in the Tamiḻ-Speaking Śaiva Tradition

This paper examines the complex ways in which the most celebrated aniconic representation of Śiva—the liṅga—centers and generates an array of emotional experiences in the Tamiḻ-speaking Śaiva tradition, from the earliest seventh-century devotional hymns of the great bhaktas or poet-saints through the twelfth-century hagiography of those saints, the Periyapurāṇam, and the theological treatises (composed in the twelfth through fourteenth centuries) of the Tamiḻ Śaiva Siddhānta. Particular attention will be paid to the ways in which emotions generated by and attached to Śiva’s liṅga change dramatically in the textual tradition over time. While the earliest devotional poetry focuses upon the liṅga as inspiring the highest degrees of exultant joy, for example, the Periyapurāṇam often infuses such joy with rage and frustration. The Śaiva Siddhānta works, on the other hand, largely ignore the liṅga altogether, focusing instead on the living figure of the guru over the details of temple-based worship.

Irina Glushkova

From Constant Yearning and Casual Bliss to Hurt Sentiments: An Emotional Shift in the Varkari Tradition (India)

Poets from Dnyaneshvar (13th c.) to Tukaram (17th c.) who had eulogised the Hindu god Vithoba of Pandharpur are known for expression of their own psychological states including such polar emotions as talmal (yearning) and anand (bliss). With more or less intensity these feelings are aimed at / evoked by Vithoba, whose spatial separateness made their urge more acute. Nowadays, the images and temples of Vithoba erected here and there make yearning, however, unnecessary and bliss achievable. It might be this haunting visuality and easy accessibility of the divine object that have turned the flow of devotees’ emotions from the god to the profane world and made them react to what other people think, say and do. This shift has also been substantiated formally, by establishment of such institutions as Varkari Sena, and by the latter’s announcement to protect the ‘hurt sentiments’ of millions of Varkaris.

Kiyokazu Okita

Salvation through Colorful Emotions: Aesthetics, Colorimetry, and Theology in Early Modern South Asia

In his article ‘The Concept of Emotion in Classical Indian Philosophy’ in Sanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Joerg Tuske argues that classical South Asian religio-philosophical traditions commonly focus on the eradication of emotion. However, there exist in the subcontinent influential traditions that aim at transforming emotions rather than removing them. They might be called the school of devotion or bhakti, to use an emic term. Bhakti advocates argued that binding emotions can become soteriologically effective if they are directed towards God. By the time this idea reached Bengal in the early modern period, it acquired sophistication through its encounter with cosmopolitan Sanskrit traditions. For example, Rūpa Gosvāmī in the sixteenth century presented an innovative analysis of devotion through the terminology of dramatology and rhetoric. In this paper, I shall examine the way in which Rūpa analyzes various shades of devotional emotions through the lens of color science that was developed in classical Sanskrit dramatology.

Angelika C. Messner

The Logic of the Concrete in Chinese Emotion Practices

Sacred sites in Chinese history and present have been investigated in their multiple identities: as part of imperial ritual (Emperors throughout journeyed to sacred mountains in order to perform rituals to legitimate their political power), as part of mysticism, as part of life and fertility performances (women, as part of pilgrimage associations or with their family members, came to pray for baby sons), as part of death and purgatory sites (male villagers came to pray for departed ancestors), as part of Confucian, Buddhist and Daoist sites of worship and ritual, as sites for performing self cultivation and rectification of the minds. With a strong focus on practice and embodiment and by breaking away from a single discipline approach my paper is concerned with the question why people were supposed to achieve the Sacred and why and how people narrated their own encounters with the Sacred.

Irene Galandra Cooper

Cose di casa: licit and illicit domestic piety in Cinquecento Naples

What did it mean to be a good Catholic in Renaissance Naples? Agnus Dei and rosaries were often recorded amongst the ‘Cose di Casa’ listed in post-mortem inventories at the end of the Cinquecento. Verbs and adjectives that accompany these long-gone religious objects, such as ‘a corona da dire’ or ‘la cara cona della nostra donna’, evoke the devotional nature of the object and emphasise the deceased’s piety. As practices related to these objects became signposts of new Christian vigour in the battle against heresy during the aftermath of the Council of Trent, these documents and objects tell the stories of devout Christians. However, Inquisition trials found in the Archivio Storico Diocesano of Naples convey another story. Focussing on case-studies, and combining a variety of sources, this paper will explore the licit and illicit use of small devotional objects at the pivotal moment of change following the Council of Trent.


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