Aesthetics and Affects of Power in the Context of Religion
Workshop in Erfurt
To disable and enable in colonial and other contexts did and does not only mean “control of the economy, the political, and knowledge, but also control over the senses and perception”(Mignolo and Vázquez 2013). Religious practices and discourses took and take an especially important role in creating sensory mechanisms that structure power relations by shaping perception via aesthetics and affects. The sensory power mechanisms outlive religious practices and expand beyond the religious sphere; they become alive in the body of the aesthetically affected. This workshop aims to understand—by case studies and theoretical reflection—how these sensory mechanisms function in different (religious) contexts, such as (post)colonial contact zones and global religious and spiritual practices and movements; how they relate and intertwine with intersectional discourses and practices, such as racism, whiteness, (s)exoticization, secularization; and how they affect the scholarly practice of the study of religion.
The workshop aims to understand—by case studies and theoretical reflection—how sensory mechanisms function in different (religious) contexts, such as (post)colonial contact zones and global religious and spiritual practices and movements; how they relate and intertwine with intersectional discourses and practices, such as racism, whiteness, (s)exoticization, secularization; and how they affect the scholarly practice of the study of religion.
Aesthetics. When speaking of aesthetics, we refer to the concept of aesthetics used within Aesthetics of Religion (AoR): “Aesthetics of Religion focuses on understanding the interplay between sensory, cognitive and socio-cultural aspects of world-construction, and the role of religion within this dynamic” (Grieser and Johnston 2017, 2). We acknowledge that the concept of aesthetics is entangled in a history of eurocentrism. The European concept of aesthetics played an important role in disabling and enabling—especially in the last centuries. Hence, we use aesthetics only in its very reduced meaning of “sensory perception” derived from the Greek aisthesis to highlight the role of the senses and their stimulation in meaning-making, in affecting worldviews and social and cultural participation, and in establishing power relations and structures. Speaking of aesthetics thus comes with an understanding of cognition as embodied and situated. Bodies are framed, first, as shaped by culture and society and, second, as interdependent beyond individual body boundaries.
Affects. By speaking of affects we emphasize the potential connections between sensory stimulating and sensory stimulated. Affects compromise a coming together of the physiology and psychology of the affected, as well as the affecting material and social environment. They are thus always relational. Affects can be understood as the cause and the medium, as well as the effect, of aesthetics. Concepts like embodied simulation ground affects in embodied processes and body knowledge. Affects change bodies. On the other hand, affects are instrumentalized to establish order. They are used to subjugate and govern: “Affect theory is about showing the multidirectional vectors of influence between embodied emotions and politics, not about consigning emotions to a private domain” (Schaefer 2015, 8). We believe that “a textured, postessentialist account of bodies helps us to understand the interface between bodies and power” (Schaefer 2015, 13).
We aim our workshop first and foremost to be a place of exchange on method, theory, knowledge to grasp aesthetics and affects of power and to evaluate possibilities to subvert them. For that we are also explicitly interested in aesthetics and affects of disruption and change of power relations and structures.