Yale Initiative for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religions
An Interdisciplinary Collaborative Affiliated with the ISM
The Yale Institute of Sacred Music is pleased to announce a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to support the newly created Initiative for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion at Yale University. The Yale Initiative seeks to provide an interdisciplinary, multi-religious, international, scholarly, and practical forum for study and understanding of its subjects. Directed by Sally M. Promey, professor of religion and visual culture at the Institute and at Yale Divinity School, and professor of American Studies, this venture will shape a first-rank scholarly center of engagement for religion and visual/material culture studies while exploring and elaborating relations to religious and artistic practice and performance. In this approach, the Initiative deliberately contributes new opportunities for reflection on the complex relations of scholarship and practice, inviting formation of an active consortium of partners at other institutions to collaborate in this enterprise.
Over time, the Initiative will accomplish its work in three overlapping tiers of effort: an ongoing set of core activities on the Yale campus; a national and international working group engaged in a series of project-centered activities; and a related curriculum of Yale courses. The first project cycle will encourage collaborative scholarly inquiry concerning the subject of religion and the politics of vision, examining especially points of visual/material controversy and contention, in multiple religious traditions, locations, and times. Art historians Richard Meyer, University of Southern California, and Mia Mochizuki, Jesuit School of Theology at the Graduate Theological Union, will co-direct the first three-year project cycle. This first cycle will generate three scholarly fellows’ seminars, a major conference at Yale in November 2010, project-related resources (for web-based publication), opportunities for international/interfaith consultations, regular clergy/practical theologian involvement and contribution, and an edited volume of essays. Understandings of both religions and arts have shifted and expanded in the last two decades in ways that invite broader and deeper dialogue between them. The model of inquiry proposed by this Initiative draws its experiential connections among human values, lived religions, and visual and material discourses. It considers the everyday visual and material practices of religions as well as the world’s great art and architecture. It also promotes “disciplinary” expansions of other sorts, illuminating, for example, the extent to which religious commitments, activities, and interpretations permeate the political, social, and economic realities of world affairs.
Yale University is ideally situated to host this new collaborative venture, an interdisciplinary and multi-vocational set of conversations concerning the study of visual and material cultures of religions. One outcome of the Initiative will introduce a new model for the arts in theological education. This model is characterized both by its subject of inquiry (the sensory cultures of religions) and by the form of activity it proposes (conversational, collaborative, multi-religious, international, interdisciplinary, multi-vocational). The project is equally about the study of pictures and objects in religious practice and about training for ways of being in conversation; it is about habits of engagement that serve religious pluralism as well as visual/material education. The political and social lives of religious images and things will sustain real interaction with aesthetics and theology. This course of study and activity has a clear charter but porous boundaries, engaging many and various scholarly constituencies invested in the visual, material, and sensory cultures of religious worlds.
The project, initially funded from 2008-2009 through 2011-2012, is also supported by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.
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