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Maria Sabaye Moghaddam

Zâr denotes a class of spirits, the illness that they cause when descending upon a person and the ritual that is necessary to pacify the spirits and secure the alleviation of the patient's symptoms. The ritual involves holding a ceremony where incense, music and movement play a role in appeasing the Zâr to provide relief for the patient. This article, based on field studies carried out in 2007-2009, provides a current account of Zâr practices in Bandar Abbâs and Qeshm Island in Iran.

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An Author Meets His Critics

Around Manuel A. Vásquez’s “More Than Belief: A Materialist Theory of Religion”

Manuel A. Vásquez, Abby Day, Lionel Obadia, David Chidester and Chad E. Seales

Manuel Vásquez begins his book by describing university courses that frustrate his students by being text-based and divorced from real life. He rightly concludes that analyzing sacred texts does not alone explain lived religion and complex issues such as globalization, transnationalism, and hybrid identities. He is writing from a Religious Studies perspective that, as he says, sometimes suffers from an overly theological bias. Moves within the discipline to abandon ‘religion’ for something as equally diverse and difficult to pin down as ‘faith’ do not, he argues, take us any further, particularly because religion really matters to many people and therefore cannot be dismissed just because we scholars find it problematic. To adopt an approach that explores how religion is understood and lived by the people who practice it is, I agree, the most important task for people studying religion. If this serves as a wake-up call for people who still study religion as something, in Vásquez’s words, of angels rather than of people, then the book has done a great job.

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W. S. F. Pickering

From its historical root the word croyance refers to religious belief. It is associated with an assertion relating to a religious proposition. Such propositions (beliefs) have sometimes been gathered together to form a creed, as recited by Christians in public worship, or which can be held to be a test of orthodoxy (see Ruel 1982).

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Rosalind Barber

Beliefs acquired from authoritative sources and maintained over time, tend to achieve the status of truths. As a result, though there are many possible ways of interpreting historical data, consensus beliefs are so powerful a determinant of interpretive outcomes that new interpretations of historical evidence will tend to be rare. In addition, any evidence that conflicts radically with a belief that has achieved the status of a truth will logically be dismissed. Such, historically, has been the status of the Shakespeare authorship question. Since we know who wrote the Shakespeare canon, there is no apparent point to research.

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Dan Smith

Olivia Plender’s single-volume comic A Stellar Key to the Summerland (2007) offers an account of the origins of the Spiritualist movement. This book is part of a practice that deploys historiographic methodologies. Plender explores social and esoteric beliefs from the past that disturb contemporary expectations. The illumination of alternative formations and beliefs in the past offers a redress to the apparent inevitability of the social and economic topographies of the present. The use of comics is read here as part of an ongoing practice of excavation. A Stellar Key to the Summerland uses the form of graphic narrative to create a reflexive history. The work contributes to a practice that overlays dream geographies onto perceptions and expectations of social reality, and is suggestive of the possibility of social change while engaging with notions of belief and religiosity.

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The Perceptibility of the Invisible Cosmology

Religious Rituals and Embodied Spirituality among the Bahraini Shi‘a

El-Sayed El-Aswad

This article analyses the relationship between the seen and the unseen in the cosmology and practices of Bahraini Shi'a. Rather than contrasting the visible and the invisible, the study delineates the hierarchical relations between them, within a whole or cosmology, as reflected in various discursive and non-discursive actions that are supported by the religious beliefs of Bahraini Shi'a. Issues of the Hidden Imam, concealment, dissimulation and other unseen dimensions of the cosmos are discussed. The article finds that the Shi'a construct the invisible in their social world by using visible ways of creatively enacting their hidden thoughts and beliefs, as represented in their religious discourses, rituals and body symbolism. Their belief in a divine higher power provides a source of emotional, spiritual and socio-political empowerment.

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Alexandra Tankard

In nineteenth-century Britain, pulmonary tuberculosis – known as phthisis, decline or consumption – killed more people than any other disease. Furthermore, the social and ideological impact of consumption extended far beyond mere mortality. The common belief in an identifiable, hereditary ‘consumptive type’ of person, combined with the often chronic nature of tuberculosis, caused the disease to be regarded as a permanent, identity-conferring condition. Popular belief in the hereditary ‘consumptive type’ long predated the publication of Darwin’s theories of human evolution in 1871 and survived long after 1882, when the disease was proven to be contagious rather than hereditary, indicating that consumption carried a complex cultural significance independent of its scientific status.

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Jonathan Magonet

When speaking about Wendy Greengross at a memorial service shortly after her death, Rabbi Lionel Blue likened her to other exceptional British Jewish women, like the Hon Lily Montagu and Lady Henriques, who were deeply motivated by their religious beliefs and who undertook pioneering work within the Jewish and wider community.

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Graham Holderness

Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, The Invisible Gorilla (New York: Random House, 2009).

Laurie Johnson, John Sutton, and Evelyn Tribble, eds, Embodied Cognition and Shakespeare’s Theatre (London: Routledge, 2014).

Jacques Ranciere, trans. Gabriel Rockhill, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible (London: Bloomsbury, 2004).

David Hillman, Shakespeare’s Entrails: Belief, Scepticism and the Interior of the Body (London: Palgrave, 2007).

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Paul Gordiejew

In examining the Jews of the former state of socialist Yugoslavia as a test case, this paper asks a familiar question: can Jews maintain their identity and survive as a distinctive group without the beliefs and practices of the Judaic religion? In their case, the change in the scope of secularization was abrupt and dramatic because of the devastation of the Holocaust and a contemporaneous radical political restructuring of society that denigrated religion. Although there were precedents of secular ideologies and movements, such as Zionism, and new inclinations to participate in broader movements, such as Communism, which influenced Jewish belief and behavior before the Second World War, the abruptness of the secularization and the postwar Jewish leadership's enthusiastic and nearly complete embrace of it put into action what can be called an experiment in secular Jewishness. It is this 'experiment' that is the focus of this paper.