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Earl Jeffrey Richards

In May 1995 German academe was rocked by the revelation that one

of its most respected members, Hans Schwerte, the recently deceased

former rector of the University of Aachen and Goethe scholar, was

actually Hans Ernst Schneider, a high-ranking official in Himmler’s

research organization, the SS-Ahnenerbe (“ancestral heritage”). Since

this revelation there has been a veritable explosion of literature, no

less than twelve monographs and essay collections, devoted to the

questions of whether Schneider as Schwerte is an exemplary or symbolic

figure for Germany’s transformation into a democratic society,

whether his career as an “academic manager” in the Third Reich and

his university career in the Federal Republic attest to the well-known

continuity of elites, independent of political beliefs, and whether

Schneider owed his subsequent professional success to connections

with somewhat unsavory (albeit fully legal and quite public) networks

of former Nazis.

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Louise K. Davidson-Schmich

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Bloc provided students of Germany and eastern Europe with unprecedented opportunities to investigate the attitudes and values of those socialized under communism. Extensive mass and elite opinion studies have documented that after decades of rule by an all-encompassing political party imposing iron discipline, eastern Europeans distrust political parties as well as party discipline. Students of eastern Germany have found similar patterns, both at the mass and elite levels. Eastern German politicians and their voters clearly are skeptical of strict party discipline and united in their belief that common interests should outweigh partisan concerns when legislation is made. These attitudes differ sharply from western German opinion, which is more supportive of both parties as a whole and party discipline in particular.

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Sonia Hazard

Material things and phenomena have come to vie with belief and thought as worthy subjects of inquiry in the interdisciplinary study of religion. Yet, to the extent that we are justified in speaking of a “material turn”, no consensus has arisen about what materiality is or does. This article offers a preliminary sketch of the diverse terrain of material religion studies, delineating three dominant approaches to religious materiality as well as an emerging alternative. It argues that the dominant approaches—respectively characterized by an emphasis on symbolism, material disciplines, and phenomenological experience—continue to privilege the human subject while material things themselves struggle to come into sharp focus. That is, they remain anthropocentric and beholden to the biases against materiality deeply entrenched in the study of religion. Such biases may be negotiated more successfully via the emerging alternative “new materialism”.

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The 'Empty Tomb' as Metaphor

Finding Comfort in Nothingness

Donna Young

This article considers the ways in which Roman Catholic pilgrims on a tour in the Holy Land reacted to displays of emotion, exposing both the fragility and the strength of a religious community struggling with uncertainties concerning belief and practice. Participants focused on a reading of the biblical gospel that, in its original form, omitted the story of Christ's resurrection. The pilgrims were encouraged to identify themselves with the earliest Christians confronted by an empty tomb and to explore the lessons in Mark's gospel for a community of Christians in crisis. The 'empty tomb' is read here as a metaphor for the 'limits of meaning', found in all practices of interpretation, whether exegetical or anthropological. Attention is focused on how various actors responded to each other and to a place, the Holy Land, which challenges the interpretive skills of most, particularly those encouraged to remain open and respectful of the stories and religious traditions of others.

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Akulina Mestnikova

The article provides an overview of recent initiatives spearheaded by indigenous peoples in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) that seek to improve the existing language policy put forth by the state government. Although there has been some research conducted on the activities of public organizations and associations of indigenous peoples in the region, more must be done to better understand activities specifically related to language policy. The article presents a history of indigenous and minority organizing in the republic since the end of the Soviet era, with special attention paid to the campaigns regarding the status of native language and its presence within the educational sphere. It then analyzes the results of a 2011 sociological study regarding people’s beliefs about responsibility for native language maintenance and revitalization.

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Raw liver, singed sheep's head, and boiled stomach pudding

Encounters with traditional Buriat cuisine

Sharon Hudgins

Indigenous to Inner Asia, Buriats are a formerly nomadic people who now reside in southern Siberia, in the areas east and west of Lake Baikal. Although settled members of the Russian Federation, their traditional cuisine reflects their nomadic roots. Milk and meat products - from horses, cattle, sheep, and goats - are still the two main components of the Buriats' diet, supplemented by wild and cultivated plants (primarily hardy grains and root vegetables). Despite living within the dominant Russian culture, some Buriats still retain their shamanistic beliefs and make offerings to deities or spirits when drinking alcohol or eating certain foods. They have also preserved their ritual methods of slaughtering and butchering livestock, as well as traditional ways of processing the meat.

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Contemporary religious life in the Republic of Altai

The interaction of Buddhism and Shamanism

Agniezka Halemba

Based on extensive fieldwork, this article analyses the state of religious beliefs and practices in present-day and recent Altai. The contending claims and historical traditions of Shamanism, Buddhism and Burkhanism are discussed as part of the process of forging a new Altaian national identity. Altaian intellectuals tend to favour Buddhism over Shamanism, as providing more systematic philosophical content and links with the wider Buddhist community in neighbouring countries. Shamanism, however, more spiritual, unstructured and heterogeneous in its make-up, is more popular at grass-roots level, though there are some attempts at institutionalization and interaction with the political process. Supporters of this view see Buddhism as extraneous and non-indigenous and 'un-Altaian'. Despite instances of open clashes, the author concludes that in the future there may develop more constructive interaction between the two religious traditions.

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Valentina R. Dedyk

This article analyzes the morphological and semantic patterns of personal names found among Koryak-speaking people in the village of Middle Pakhachi (Oliutor Raion, Koryak Autonomous Okrug) in northern Kamchatka. Names are connected to the essence of a person, and are thus connected with beliefs about personhood, reincarnation, spirit attack, and sickness. Names are typically from nouns, but can also come from verbs or modifiers. They are often nominalized. Many names come from compounding roots, which is common to distinguish two individuals with the same name in the same village. Most names are gendered. Feminine gender is overtly marked, but masculine is not. Not all names have analyzable meanings apparent to ordinary speakers of the language, but names are thought to reflect the inner essence or character of a person.

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Digital Natives

Making Sense of the Digital Political Landscape and Assessing the Potential for Mobilization versus Apathy

Patrick Readshaw

Those aged 18 to 25 are frequently cited in political rhetoric and scientific literature as one of the most apathetic demographics in Britain. They simultaneously constitute the prime users of new digital media. The assumption of apathy is based on traditional conceptions of political engagement—attendance at rallies, membership in political parties, and voting—that don’t consider a phenomenon like political consumerism, which is estimated to account for 22 to 44 percent of political engagement in the United States and Europe. This article explores youth involvement in politics by drawing on a series of interpretative phenomenological analysis interviews regarding social media usage and its suitability as a medium for facilitating political and civic mobilization. It argues that social media enables people to obtain political knowledge and generate feelings of solidarity, and illustrates how internal belief systems act as predictors of trust in the existing political structure and the media systems surrounding it.

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Martyn Bone

In 1980, Lewis Simpson published an essay entitled ‘The Closure of History in a Postsouthern America’. Simpson coined the term ‘postsouthern’ to denote the emergence of a new literary moment in which a central concept of southern renascence writing, ‘the history of the literary mind of the South seeking to become aware of itself’, no longer appeared to operate. Though Simpson’s initial definition of ‘postsouthern’ was tentative and particular, the neologism introduced into southern literary and cultural criticism an imperative to reassess the legitimacy of other established tropes, beliefs and constructs. Hence, Michael Kreyling has suggested that ‘Simpson characteristically had picked up on the symptoms of the postmodern/postsouthern before the rest of us.’ As it has been extended and reapplied by subsequent critics such as Kreyling, ‘postsouthern’ has been ‘an enabling word’ – similar to and synonymous with ‘postmodern’– with which to reassess the meaning of such foundational terms as ‘south’ and ‘southern’.