Sensational Religion: Sense and Contention in Material Practice

Sensational Religion: Sense and Contention in Material Practice

Sensational Religion: Sense and Contention in Material Practice

Sterling Memorial Library Auditorium
Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut

Sponsored by the Initiative for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion with the Yale Institute of Sacred Music; Program in American Studies; Public Humanities Initiative; Department of Religious Studies; Department of History of Art; Program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies; and the Yale Divinity School.

Supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and Yale University.


Sensational Religion: Sense and Contention in Material Practice focuses on sensory cultures of religions as well as the degree to which the senses and sensation lie at the heart of contention over religious objects and spaces.  The conference is equally about controversy and about religion’s material engagements of the senses.  In addition to these specific topics, this event also invites into public interaction people who might not ordinarily find space to converse with one another on such subjects.  Artists, curators, religious practitioners, architects, historians, critics, and theologians number among participants.

Tuesday 1 November:

8:30 - 9:30 a.m.     Coffee; Registration Packets available in Sterling Auditorium

9:30 - 9:35 a.m.     Welcome, Emily Bakemeier, Deputy Provost, Yale University

9:35 - 10:15 a.m.    Framing Remarks and Conference Overview, Sally Promey, Yale University

10:15 a.m. - noon    Conversation I:  Devotional Bodies

  • Chair:  Sally Promey, Yale University
  • Byron Kim, New York City, NY
  • Ara Merjian, New York University
  • Laurel Schneider, Chicago Theological Seminary
  • Frederick Lamp, Yale University
  • Judith Weisenfeld, Princeton University

noon – 1:30 p.m.    Lunch Break

1:30 - 3:30 p.m.      Session I:  Possessions

  • Chair:  Sally Promey, Yale University
  • Kati Curts, Yale University, “Shades of Saintliness and Sin in the ‘Ripe Fruits of Religion’: Composite Photographs and the Sensory Materialization of Jamesian Religion”
  • Perin Gurel, Dickinson College, “Tethering Djinns: Sensation, Representation, and the Resurgence of Djinns in Turkish Popular Media”
  • Yui Suzuki, University of Maryland, “Possessions and the Possessed:  the Multisensoriality of Spirits, Bodies, and Objects in Heian Japan” 
  • Michelle Morgan, Yale University, “Materializing the Spirit Hand: Nineteenth-Century Spiritualist Practices and the Sense of Touch” 
  • Paul Johnson, University of Michigan, “Visible Invisibility:  The (Photographic) Look of Spirit Possession”

3:30 - 4:00 p.m.    Coffee Break

4:00 - 5:30 p.m.     Conversation II:  Iconoclastic Objects

  • Chair:  Richard Meyer, University of Southern California
  • Horace Ballard, Brown University
  • Alma López, Los Angeles, CA
  • Eduardo Fernández, S.J., Jesuit School of Theology
  • Selma Holo, University of Southern California

5:30 - 8:00 p.m.     Dinner Break

8:00 - 9:00 p.m.     Public Dialogue:  Exhibiting Religion

  • Kathryn Reklis, Union Theological Seminary and Yale University
  • AA Bronson, New York City, NY

Wednesday 2 November:

8:30 – 9:00 a.m.    Coffee

9:00- 10:15 a.m.    Session II:  Transgressions A

  • Chair:  Richard Meyer, University of Southern California
  • Dana Katz, Reed College, “Senses of Space: Night in the Venice Ghetto”
  • Vasileios Marinis, Yale University, “Piety, Barbarism, and the Senses in Byzantium”
  • Emerson Morgan, Harvard University, “Iconoclasm and the Tudor Organ”

10:15 - 10:30 a.m.    Coffee Break

10:30 – 11:45 a.m.    Session III:  Transgressions B

  • Zareena Grewal, Yale University, "Drawing the Line:  The Danish Cartoon Controversy and the Politics of Recognition"
  • Betty Adams, Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, “’The Best Hotel on the Boardwalk’:  Church Women, Negro Art, and the Construction of Interracial Space in the Interwar Years”
  • Erinn Staley, Yale University, “Disruptive Bodies in the Body of Christ: Intellectual Disability and Multisensory Christian Worship”

11:45 – 1:15 p.m     Lunch Break

1:15 – 2:45 p.m.     Conversation III: Contested Grounds

  • Chair:  Mia Mochizuki, Graduate Theological Union and Jesuit School of Theology
  • Graham Howes, Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge
  • James Clifton, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
  • Haroon Moghul, Columbia University
  • François de Menil, FdM:Arch, New York City, NY

2:45 - 3:00 p.m. Coffee Break 

3:00 – 4:45 p.m.     Session IV:  Transformations A

  • Chair:  Mia Mochizuki, Graduate Theological Union and Jesuit School of Theology
  • Meredith Gill, University of Maryland, “Seeing, Falling, Feeling: The Sense of Angels”
  • Barbara Mundy, Fordham University, “Extirpation of Idolatry and Sensory Experience in Sixteenth-Century Mexico”
  • Gregory Levine, University of California, Berkeley, “The Faltering Brush: Looking at a Zen Buddhist Death Verse Calligraphy”
  • David Walker, Yale University, "Transporting Mormonism: Railroads and Religious Imagination in the American West"

4:45 - 5:15 p.m.      Coffee and Snack Break

5:15- 6:30 p.m.    Session V:  Transformations B

  • Kathryn Lofton, Yale University, “The Spirit in the Cubicle: A Religious History of the American Office, 1960-1986”
  • Margaret Olin, Yale University, “The Materiality of the Invisible: The Eruv”
  • Minoo Moallem, University of California, Berkeley, "Popular Affects and the Aesthetic Making of Religion in the Paintings of Javad Aghili and the Coffee House Painters"

6:30 - 7:00 p.m.    Summation and Summary Discussion

Thursday 3 November:
Joseph Slifka Center, 80 Wall Street

9:00 a.m.-noon      New Scholarship Breakfast and Roundtable

Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Yale University, History of Art; African American Studies
Shira Brisman, Yale University, History of Art
Mary Campbell, University of Tennessee, History of Art
Lee S. Colombino, S.J., Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
Marisa Egerstrom, Harvard University, American Civilization
Emily Floyd, Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Religion and the Arts
Meredith Gamer, Yale University, History of Art
Joshua Levi Ian Gentzke, Stanford University, Religious Studies
Sonia Hazard, Duke University, Religious Studies
Valerie Hellstein, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, History of Art
Olivia Hillmer, Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Religion and the Arts
Ayla Lepine, Courtauld Institute of Art, History of Art; Theology
Michelle Lewis, Yale Institute of Sacred Music, School of Forestry/Environmental Studies
Rachel M. Lindsey, Princeton University, Religion
Ashley Makar, Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Religion and the Arts
Nicole Riesenberger, University of Maryland, Art History and Archaeology
Aaron Rosen, Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Fellow, Religion and the Arts
Ariel Schwartz, Northwestern University, Religious Studies
Heidi Thimann, Graduate Theological Union, Art and Religion
Isaac Amitai Weiner, Georgia State University, Religious Studies
Elaine Yau, University of California, Berkeley, History of Art

With additional conference contributions by Omer Bajwa (Yale University), Megan Doherty (Yale University), Arnold Thomas (The Riverside Church), and Hwansoo Kim (Duke University).
Held in conjunction with Making Sense of Religion in the Yale Archive, an exhibition co-curated by Kati Curts, Olivia Hillmer, and Michelle Morgan, 4 October 2011 to 3 February 2012

Tuesday, 1 November 2011, 8:30 am to Thursday, 3 November 2011, 12:00 pm