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Table of contents :
List of contributors
1 Introduction: affect and emotion in multi-religious secular societies
PART I: Historical intertwinements of religion and emotion
2 Feeling empty: religious and secular collaborations
3 Emotion and the popularization of anti-Jewish discourse in early modern Europe
4 Guilt or masked shame? Reinhold Niebuhr’s diagnosis of the Christian self: disclosing affect and its contribution to violence
PART II: Affects, emotions, and religiosity
5 From serene certainty to the paranoid insecurity of salvation: remarks on resentment in the current Muslim culture
6 The practice of vision: Sufi aesthetics in everyday life
7 Religious emotions in Christian events
8 On conversion: affecting secular bodies
9 The metaphorics of indescribable feelings in contemporary Christian contexts
PART III: Sensibilities of the secular
10 Disembedded religion and the infinity of references: violated sentiments and threatened identities
11 Secular excitement and academic practice
12 The secular experiment: science, feeling, and atheist apocalypticism
13 Feeling freedom of speech: secular affects in public debates after Charlie Hebdo
Affect and Emotion in Multi-Religious Secular Societies
Emotions have moved center stage in many contemporary debates over religious diversity and multicultural recognition. As in other contested fields, emotions are often one-sidedly discussed as quintessentially subjective and individual phenomena, neglecting their social and cultural constitution. Moreover, emotionality in these debates is frequently attributed to the religious subject alone, disregarding the affective anatomy of the secular. This volume addresses these shortcomings, bringing into conversation a variety of disciplinary perspectives on religious and secular affect and emotion. The volume emphasizes two analytical perspectives: on the one hand, chapters take an immanent perspective, focusing on subjective feelings and emotions in relation to the religious and the secular. On the other hand, chapters take a relational perspective, looking at the role of affect and emotion in how the religious and the secular constitute one another. These perspectives cut across the three main parts of the volume: the first one addressing historical intertwinements of religion and emotion, the second part emphasizing affects, emotions, and religiosity, and the third part looking at specific sensibilities of the secular. The thirteen chapters provide a well-balanced composition of theoretical, methodological, and empirical approaches to these areas of inquiry, discussing both historical and contemporary cases. Christian von Scheve is a professor of sociology at Freie Universität Berlin. Anna Lea Berg is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. Meike Haken is a research associate of the Collaborative Research Center Affective Societies working in a project on “Audience Emotions in Sports and Religion” at Technische Universität Berlin. Nur Yasemin Ural is a postdoctoral researcher at the Freie Universität Berlin.
Routledge Studies in Affective Societies
Series editors: Birgitt Röttger- Rössler is a professor of social and cultural anthropology at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. Doris Kolesch is a professor of Theater and Performance Studies at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.
Routledge Studies in Affective Societies presents high-level academic works on the social dimensions of human affectivity. It aims to shape, consolidate, and promote a new understanding of societies as Affective Societies, accounting for the fundamental importance of affect and emotion for human coexistence in the mobile and networked worlds of the twenty-first century. Contributions come from a wide range of academic fields, including anthropology, sociology, cultural, media and film studies, political science, performance studies, art history, philosophy, and social, developmental, and cultural psychology. Contributing authors share the vision of a transdisciplinary understanding of the affective dynamics of human sociality. Thus, Routledge Studies in Affective Societies devotes considerable space to the development of methodology, research methods, and techniques that are capable of uniting perspectives and practices from different fields. 3 Affective Societies Key Concepts Edited by Jan Slaby and Christian von Scheve 4 Analyzing Affective Societies Methods and Methodologies Edited by Antje Kahl 5 Affect and Emotion in Multi-Religious Secular Societies Edited by Christian von Scheve, Anna Lea Berg, Meike Haken, Nur Yasemin Ural 6 Public Spheres of Resonance Constellations of Affect and Language Edited by Anne Fleig and Christian von Scheve For more information about this series, please visit: www.routledge.com/ Routledge-Studies-in-Affective-Societies/book-series/RSAS
Affect and Emotion in Multi-Religious Secular Societies Edited by Christian von Scheve, Anna Lea Berg, Meike Haken, Nur Yasemin Ural
First published 2020 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2020 selection and editorial matter, Christian von Scheve, Anna Lea Berg, Meike Haken, Nur Yasemin Ural; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Christian von Scheve, Anna Lea Berg, Meike Haken, Nur Yasemin Ural to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in- Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in- Publication Data Names: Scheve, Christian von, editor. | Berg, Anna Lea, editor. | Haken, Meike, editor. | Ural, Nur Yasemin, editor. Title: Affect and emotion in multi-religious secular societies / [edited by] Christian von Scheve, Anna Lea Berg, Meike Haken, Nur Yasemin Ural. Description: New York : Routledge, 2019. | Series: Routledge studies in affective societies | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2019025379 (print) | LCCN 2019025380 (ebook) | ISBN 9780815354345 (hardback) | ISBN 9781351133272 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Emotions— Religious aspects. Classification: LCC BL65.E46 A33 2019 (print) | LCC BL65.E46 (ebook) | DDC 204/.2— dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019025379 LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019025380 ISBN: 978 - 0 - 8153-5434 -5 (hbk) ISBN: 978 -1-351-13327-2 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by codeMantra
List of contributors
1 Introduction: affect and emotion in multi-religious secular societies 1 C H R I S T I A N VON S C H E V E , A N NA L E A BE RG , M E I K E H A K E N , N U R YA SE M I N U R A L
Historical intertwinements of religion and emotion
2 Feeling empty: religious and secular collaborations 17 JOH N C OR R IGA N
3 Emotion and the popularization of anti-Jewish discourse in early modern Europe 33 F R A NÇ OI S S OY E R
4 Guilt or masked shame? Reinhold Niebuhr’s diagnosis of the Christian self: disclosing affect and its contribution to violence 51 S T E PH A N I E N. A R E L
Affects, emotions, and religiosity
5 From serene certainty to the paranoid insecurity of salvation: remarks on resentment in the current Muslim culture 75 L E V E N T T E Z CA N
6 The practice of vision: Sufi aesthetics in everyday life 96 MA IK E N EUFEN D
7 Religious emotions in Christian events 114 MEIKE HAKEN
8 On conversion: affecting secular bodies 132 V E RON I K A Z I N K
9 The metaphorics of indescribable feelings in contemporary Christian contexts 151 R E GI N E H E R BR I K
Sensibilities of the secular
10 Disembedded religion and the infinity of references: violated sentiments and threatened identities 175 MON I K A WOH L R A B - SA H R
11 Secular excitement and academic practice 194 BI RGI T T E S C H E PE L E R N JOH A N SE N
12 The secular experiment: science, feeling, and atheist apocalypticism 211 D ONOVA N O. S C H A E F E R
13 Feeling freedom of speech: secular affects in public debates after Charlie Hebdo
A N NA L E A BE RG A N D N U R YA SE M I N U R A L
Stephanie N. Arel is an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the September 11 Memorial and Museum and a visiting researcher at New York University. She is the author of Affect Theory, Shame and Christian Formation (Palgrave Macmillan 2016) and co-editor of Post-Traumatic Public Theology (Palgrave Macmillan 2016) and Ideology and Utopia in the Twenty-First Century: The Surplus of Meaning in Ricoeur’s Dialectical Concept(Rowman & Littlefield 2018). She is President of the Society for Ricoeur Studies (2018–2020) and actively involved with organizing workshops at the Fonds Ricoeur in Paris. Her most recent research involves assessing the impact of witnessing traumatic content in sites around the world that respond to mass atrocity through the construction of memorials and museums. John Corrigan is the Lucius Moody Bristol Distinguished Professor of Religion and professor of history at Florida State University (FSU). He is a leading scholar in research on religion and emotion, religious intolerance, and religion in America and has published and edited widely on these topics. He has previously held positions at the University of Virginia, Harvard, Columbia, Oxford, University of London, Arizona State University, University of Halle-Wittenberg, University College (Dublin), as a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome, and as the Fulbright Distinguished Research Chair for the Netherlands. He is editor- in-chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Religion, editor of the Chicago History of American Religion book series. His recent books include among others The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion ed., 2008; and Emptiness: Feeling Christian in America, 2015. Regine Herbrik studied sociology and German literature at the University of Constance and finished her exams in 2001 with a thesis titled “Sociological researches on the term ‘Vision’”. Her doctoral thesis was concerned with the communicative construction of imaginary worlds in pen-and-paperroleplaying games and completed in 2009 at the TU Berlin. Subsequently, she received a postdoc scholarship to outline a project that she conducted
in cooperation with Hubert Knoblauch in 2010–2013 at the Cluster of Excellence “Languages of Emotion” (FU Berlin). In 2013, she became a junior professor for qualitative methods and methods of the cultural sciences at the Leuphana University Lueneburg. Since March 2018, Regine Herbrik is an extracurricular professor there and head of the adult education center (VHS) of the rural district Ludwigslust-Parchim. Birgitte Schepelern Johansen is an associate professor at the department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies at the University of Copenhagen. Her work focuses on secularism and secular sensibilities in academia, hate crime and political rhetoric, the role of statistics in counting deviance, and Islam in Denmark. Her publications include the book “Secular Bodies, Affects and Emotions: European Configurations”, Bloomsbury, 2019, co-edited with Monique Scheer and Nadia Fadil, and “Hate, Politics, Law”, 2018, Oxford University Press, co-edited with Thomas Brudholm. Maike Neufend is a research fellow at CNMS, the Centre for Near and Middle Eastern Studies at University Marburg. Her current research explores the Aesthetic Formation of the Social by looking at contemporary practices of Sufism in Beirut. Her research interests include aesthetics, emotion/ affect, uncertainty, and crisis as well as history of ideas with a focus on Lebanese and Syrian society. She founded and edited the peer-reviewed online journal: Middle East – Topics & Arguments, https://meta-journal. net. Here, she is working on open access strategies in the field of Middle Eastern Studies and in particular evaluating and rethinking the ways we produce research and publish it. Donovan O. Schaefer has been an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania since 2017, having previously spent three years as a lecturer at the University of Oxford. He earned his BA in the interdisciplinary Religion, Literature, and the Arts program at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. His master’s and doctoral degrees are from the Religion program at Syracuse University. After completing his PhD, he held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Haverford College. His research focuses on the role of embodiment and emotion in religion and secularisms. His first book, Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution, and Power (2015) challenges the notion that religion is inextricably linked to language and belief, proposing instead that it is primarily driven by affects. His current research project explores the relationship between affect and secularisms. François Soyer, PhD (University of Cambridge, 2007), is an elected fellow of the Royal Historical Society (UK). He is currently a senior lecturer
in early modern history at the University of New England (Australia). His research focuses on the history of anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic propaganda in late medieval and early modern Europe in general and the Iberian world in particular, as well as on the history of Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions. Levent Tezcan is a professor of sociology at the University of Münster (Westphalia). After his PhD in sociology at the University of Bielefeld in 2001, he worked as a research associate in various empirical projects on migration and religion and held fellowships at the University of Konstanz and the University of Essen. He is particularly interested in interfaith relationships and Muslim identity. His research interests lie at the intersection of migration studies, sociology of Islam, and politics and religion in Turkey. His recent publications include “Religiöse Strategien der ‘machbaren’ Gesellschaft. Verwaltete Religion und islamistische Utopie in der Türkei”. (“Religious Strategies of Making the Society. Turkish Islam between Administrated Religion and Islamist Utopia”, 2003) and “Konfliktfeld Islam in Europa” (“Conflict Field Islam in Europa”, edited with Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, 2007). In 2012, he published his book “Das muslimische Subjekt – verfangen im Dialog der Deutschen Islamkonferenz” (The Muslim Subject – entangled in the Dialogue of the German Conference on Islam). Monika Wohlrab-Sahr is a professor in cultural sociology at the University of Leipzig. She has done extensive research on the religious and the non-religious, Islam in Europe and the US, and conversion and is a leading scholar on secularity in a comparative perspective. Her recent publications include the article “Exploring the Non-Religious. Societal Norms, Attitudes and Identities, Arenas of Conflict”(co-authored with Tom Kaden, Archives de Sciences Sociales de Religions 59, 2014), a co-authored book on ‘forced secularity’ in Eastern Germany (2016, in German), as well as a seminal article “Multiple secularities”, co-authored with her colleague Marian Burchardt (Comparative Sociology, 2013). She is also one of the directors (with Christoph Kleine) of the Humanities Centre of Advanced Study “Multiple secularities: Beyond the West, beyond modernities”, inaugurated in 2016, which brings together scholars from various disciplines working on religious-secular boundary making, with a focus on Asia and the “Islamicate World”. Before coming to Leipzig, she has hold academic positions at the University of Marburg, the Freie Universitaet Berlin, and was a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley, the European University Institute in Florence, and JNU in Delhi. Veronika Zink is a sociologist working at the intersection of cultural sociology, the sociology of emotions, economic anthropology, and theories
of social transformation specifically focusing on the study of religion and the cultural production of religiosity. Her recent work focuses on the contemporary formation and valorization of post-religious attitudes driven by a sacralization of the mundane and a profanation of religion. Currently she holds a postdoc position at the chair for the Sociology of Economy and Organizational Studies at the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.
Introduction Affect and emotion in multi-religious secular societies Christian von Scheve, Anna Lea Berg, Meike Haken, Nur Yasemin Ural
Understanding religion from the perspective of affect and emotion has a long and firm tradition not only in the social sciences and in cultural studies, but also in theology. Ever since the classics in the field, such as Rudolf Otto and Friedrich Schleiermacher, certain types of phenomenal subjective experience have been deemed essential to understanding religion and r eligious experiences more specifically. This is reflected in conceiving of religion as a “feeling of absolute dependence”, as suggested by Schleiermacher (2016/1799), in the concept of the mysterium tremendum (the mystery that repels), as proposed by Otto (2014/1931), or in the works of William James (1997/1902), who in great detail discussed the broad variety of religious experiences. Likewise, research on emotion has been concerned with understanding the specifics of religious emotions as particular types of experiences, similar to political emotions or aesthetic emotions (Corrigan, 2017; Järveläinen, 2008; Roberts, 2016). This emphasis on the role of emotions in religion and religious experience is paralleled by a more general development in many societies that is probably linked to the new “visibility of religion” (Casanova, 1994), namely the “emotionalization” of religion (Herbrik, 2012; Knoblauch, 2014). Emotions have (again) become a prominent means and modalities through which religion is lived and expressed. Media images of large congregations of believers from different parts of the world gathering for Pentecostal or Evangelical services, singing and dancing in joy, have become as familiar as, for example, the “Nights of the Lights”, organized by the Communauté de Taizé, or the various religious music festivals, such as the Alive festival in Mineral City, Ohio, that have emerged over the past decades in many Western societies. However, processes of emotionalization have also taken place in the official churches, as is evident, for example, through the gatherings of the World Youth Day, as organized by the Roman-Catholic church on a bi- or triannual basis. Interestingly, emotions in these examples are usually not so much cherished and sought after because of their individual character, but predominantly because of their potential to create bonds when experienced publicly and collectively, as pointed out already by Durkheim (1995/1912).
2 Christian von Scheve et al.
These collective articulations of religious emotions are not only relevant in the gatherings and congregations of specific religious communities. They have increasingly come to occupy a place in public discourse, in particular, with respect to the relations between religious denominations and the state, as well as between different religious denominations. The surfacing of emotions here is typically connected to conflicting interests between religious groups and questions concerning the compatibility of different religious practices with the principles of the liberal-secular state. Controversies surrounding Islam in the West, in particular, are often fueled by allegations that Muslims tend to react in highly emotional ways or proclaim injury and hurt feelings when their religion is at stake. These portrayals of emotional excess and outburst seem to stand in contrast to other prevailing notions of religion and emotion, namely, those religious practices of calm, moderation, restraint, and simultaneous fulfillment, often connected to piety. The role of emotions in these controversies points at two important issues. First, it begs the question of positionality since assessments and evaluations of religious emotions are often articulated from the standpoint of (self- proclaimed) secular or Christian subjects, which in a sense privileges secular and Christian sensibilities over those of Muslims and other denominations. Second, it suggests a perspective on emotion and religion that departs from a view locating emotions as “psychic” phenomena predominantly “inside” individuals, but instead emphasizes the social relatedness and situatedness of emotions. Although this is likewise evident in the “new visibility” and the emotionalization of religion, the context of controversies in multi-religious secular societies seems to require a more fundamental departure from subjective emotional experience in order not only to fully understand religious emotions in social contexts, but also to achieve a comprehensive understanding of their social repercussions. In theoretical and conceptual regard, this departure is performed by those approaches to emotion that emphasize their social and cultural constitution (e.g., Burkitt, 2014; Collins, 2004). In the context of religion, this is perhaps most strikingly argued for by Riis and Woodhead (2010), who suggest that religious emotions need to be conceived of as emanating from various relations among actors, symbols, and objects. Even more radically, this departure is immanent to affect theories. These theories do not capitalize on discrete emotions, such as anger, shame, or disgust, but rather on relational intensities and capacities of bodies to act (e.g., Fox, 2015; Seigworth & Gregg, 2010). Regarding religion, the potential contributions of the concept of affect been most convincingly outlined by Schaefer (2015) and his notion of “religious affects”. The present volume sets out to provide insights into this extraordinarily broad spectrum of approaches to religion and to secularity as they are informed by theories of affect and emotion. Emphasizing the role of affect and emotion in multi-religious secular societies, it seeks to bring into dialogue
those accounts that tend to focus on the religious feelings and emotional experiences immanent to a particular religion with those understandings that capitalize on the relational and discursive facets, rendering the former unthinkable without its interdependency with non-religious entities, a view most vividly reflected in the concept of affect. What all the contributions to this volume have in common, though, is that they seek to advance our understanding of the affective and emotional dimensions of religion and the secular in society.
From emotion to affect – from the inside to the outside The concepts of “religious feelings” or “religious emotions”, as they emerged in Christian theology and the phenomenology of religion, have for a long time been associated with individual faith bound to subjective religious experience, as articulated by Friedrich Schleiermacher (2016/1799). Schleiermacher conceived of religion as a “feeling of absolute dependence” that is experienced by the self, in principle independently of the institutions and dogmas of a church. Understandings of religion as an individual feeling or belief are inextricably tied to modern conceptions of a secular self. This is not particularly surprising, given that the Enlightenment and the manifold steps and processes of secularization associated with it, such as the “Principal Decree of the Imperial Deputation” of the Holy Roman Empire in 1803 or the more general loss of significance of church authorities, gave way to the emergence of an “external” critique of religion. Through this critique, a distancing from ecclesial dogmatism has become possible since the nineteenth century, accompanied by a turn toward the individual human beings, their subjective experience, and individual religiosity (see Knoblauch, 1999). Recent historical and conceptual work in the social sciences and the humanities exploring the evolution on the concept of “emotion”, in general, and “religious emotion”, in particular, has profoundly challenged the concept of “religious emotions”. Some scholars have shown that “emotion” cannot be understood as an analytical category with a trans-historical essence (Dixon, 2003; Frevert, 2014). Instead, these studies have argued that the term “emotion” has only become widespread toward the end of the nineteenth c entury, along with the emergence of psychology as a separate discipline. The term has subsequently come to replace other previously used terms such as passions, affections, and appetites that often carried – either directly or indirectly – connotations of God or a Divine order rather than emphasizing a self-contained individual. As Dixon (2012) writes, emotions “belonged within a secular, morally neutral, and scientific register. The l inguistic shift from ‘passions’ and ‘affections’ to ‘emotions’ thus both reflected and enabled shifts in institutional and intellectual authority” (p. 342). These shifts, among other things, brought a heightened
4 Christian von Scheve et al.
attention toward observable, physiological aspects of emotions. In light of these historical accounts, questions have emerged concerning current scholarship on religious emotions in secular societies: how can we engage with the concept of “emotion” without reducing them to mere physiological and experiential reactions? How can we conceptually approach the links between feelings and emotions, on the one hand, and the religious and the secular, respectively, on the other hand, without being paralyzed by deconstruction? And how can we establish a common conceptual ground in research on “religious emotions”, taking into account the manifold disciplinary, ideological, and methodological differences, for example, between approaches in the s ociology of religion and critical secular studies (let alone the different accounts within these traditions)? These questions are not mere exercises in conceptual and terminological debate, but seemed pressing to us in order to better understand the role of “religious” feelings and emotions in the controversies that characterize multi-religious societies. On the one hand, feelings and emotions as subjective phenomenal experiences seem to play a critical role in these controversies and conflicts since they point at injury and hurt linked to the nexus between religion and the principles of the secular state. On the other hand, feelings and emotions may be misleading concepts in analytically approaching these controversies because they might place undue emphasis on the individual subject, neglecting the social, relational, material, and discursive dimensions of affective phenomena, more broadly conceived. In our view, this broader conception of affective phenomena – one that might enrich our understanding of pertinent controversies concerning religious feelings and emotions – profits from the (re)consideration of affect(s), as developed in cultural studies and parts of critical theory. The emerging field of “affect studies” provides a range of theoretical approaches that, although closely linked to the concept of emotions, goes well beyond subjective feelings, focusing on affect as a force or intensity that links various sorts of bodies. Most concepts of affect converge on the idea of the ultimate relatedness of bodies, their “being positioned”, “acted upon”, and “acting” in relation to one another. Approaching religious emotions through the concept of affect thus challenges dichotomies between the “rational secular”, on the one hand, and the “emotional religious” (which is usually equated with the “irrational”), on the other hand. The concept of affect rather encourages to reflect upon the ways in which “the religious” and “the secular” are constituted in interrelation, each involving practices pertaining to bodies and senses. In that sense, the toolbox of affect theory potentially offers a conceptual alternative to scholarship on religious emotion that (often uncritically) embraces the individualist legacy of what has become the dominant understanding of religious feelings and emotions. It allows us to think in new ways about the religious subject and religious subjectivity in connection to emotion.
This conjecture motivated us to host an international interdisciplinary workshop at the Collaborative Research Center Affective Societies at Freie Universität Berlin in November 2016. The workshop’s objective was to advance our understanding of affect and emotion in multi-religious societies and to promote insights into the many controversies that revolve around religion and the principles of secular societies. The present volume brings together many of the scholars, who participated in the workshop, includes a number of additional contributions we solicited to further extend the volume’s scope, and continues the lively debates we have had at the workshop. The volume shows, so we hope, the potential for a fresh take on issues of secularization and the relationship between “the secular” and “the religious” from an affect- and emotion-focused perspective. Given the distinct approaches to religion, affect, and emotion, we found it useful to distinguish between scholarship that is predominantly interested in an immanent perspective and those approaches that tend to take a relational perspective. “Immanent” and “relational” in this respect carry at least two different connotations. First, this distinction refers to an emphasis either on the subjective and experiential facets of emotion or on the in-betweenness and relationality of affect. Second, the distinction refers to a specific perspective on religion. Here, an immanent perspective can be said to focus on exploring concepts of feeling, emotion, and affect with r egard to a particular religious tradition or practice. Likewise, it can also be understood as referring to the inside the field of religion as such. In contrast, the relational perspective rather looks at how religion is constructed through discourse, in particular by “the secular” as religions’ constitutive other. Religious emotions in this perspective cannot be understood without the assumption of a contested secularity and without looking at the role of feelings, emotions, and affect in processes of boundary making between “the secular” and “the religious”. Affect and emotion in this view are much more of a public affair and assumed to be constructed from an a priori secular standpoint. The contributions to this volume can be roughly arranged along this analytical distinction. Although they span a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds – including sociology, theology, history, and religious and regional studies – they converge in taking seriously, either theoretically or empirically, the challenge of understanding affect and emotion in multi-religious secular societies and of initiating dialogue between affect- and emotion-oriented approaches. The contributions in this volume engage in this dialogue in different ways. Some depart from concrete empirical questions – working on different religious traditions or issues of religious/secular boundary making – while others are more concerned with conceptual, theoretical, and historical questions. The contributors do not necessarily share the same concepts of emotion and religion and also do not pursue the same analytical and methodological strategies. For instance, even for chapters engaging in empirical analyses, the authors
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often take different methodological approaches: some suggest methods of decoding bodily and symbolic communications within religious contexts. Others aim at translating affect’s radical emphasis on relationality into a methodology, collapsing the distinction between feeling rules, emotional expressions, and inner states. Likewise, the contributions cover a broad spectrum of qualitative research methods, including ethnographic methods, narrative and biographical interviews, and participant observation using videography and photo-elicitation. Despite these different methods, all contributions share a common interest in gauging new ways of thinking about the manifold ways in which emotion, affect, religion, and the secular are connected. One of the key purposes of the present volume is to develop a better understanding of the ways in which emotion and affect contribute to the constant reconstruction of “the secular” and “the religious” as – often antagonistic – entities. More specifically, the chapters in our volume address the following questions: How can we conceive of feelings, emotions, and affect with respect to religion and the secular, and with regard to different religious traditions, such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism? In which ways can we conceptualize and empirically investigate the affective and emotional relationality between religion and the secular? How can we describe, reconstruct, and deconstruct affect and (religious) emotions in empirical research on religion and multiple secularities? What is the constitutive role of affect and emotion in the construction of secular and religious subjectivities, in particular with respect to different religious traditions? And which disciplinary differences with regard to conceptions on emotion and affect do we need to acknowledge on these inquiries? The volume Affect and Emotion in Multi-Religious Secular Societies addresses these and other questions in eleven chapters that are arranged in three main parts.
Part I. Historical intertwinements of religion and emotion In the first part of the volume, contributions will take a closer look at how varying concepts of emotion and feeling have evolved in close connection to concepts of religion and the secular. At the end of the nineteenth century, radical transformations in the scientific landscape took place that aimed at systematizing and rationalizing research, manifest, for instance, in the establishment of a psychology of mind. These developments were vital in the establishment and imposition of a certain kind of understanding of emotion that emerges in the mind of the individual body. Contributions in the first part of the volume take up on the scholarship on emotions within religious contexts, such as shame and guilt, feelings of emptiness, or hatred of the “other”. They trace specific ideas through the work of influential scholars in theology and philosophy, discuss the importance of transformations in the sciences, and investigate specific emotional practices in historical (religious)
contexts. Apart from the rich historical insights, these perspectives invite us to reflect concretely on the historical situatedness of “emotion”. Instead of simply “doing away” with emotion, however, contributions in this volume argue that the critical appraisal of “emotion” from a historical perspective represents a vital element in understanding contemporary questions of religion in secular societies. The first part is introduced by the contribution of John Corrigan, who provides a study of how feelings and emotions travel between the realms of the religious and the secular. The same emotions are often practiced differently in different contexts, such as the secular and the religious. Corrigan explicates this idea with a historical retrospect concerning the feeling of emptiness. Especially in American Christian life, the feeling of emptiness is of central importance for salvation, since it represents, as Corrigan shows, the void that is expected to be replaced by or filled with feelings of fullness through the divine encounter. Religious practices thus often aim at cultivating this feeling of emptiness. Practices of emptying the self, such as different forms of bloodletting, sweating as a result of hard work, or fasting, find equivalents in the secular context, which, however, are performed in significantly different ways, like anorexia, self-harm, and labor. At the same time, the feeling of emptiness in the realm of the secular also lacks the expectation of reaching any kind of fullness. From a different historical perspective, focusing on anti-Jewish discourses from Northern as well as Southern Europe and from the early Middle Ages to modernity, Francois Soyer in the second chapter of this part shows how medieval and modern anti-Jewish discourses differ and how a newly generated modern type of polemical literature was no longer used to bring about conversion of the Jews, but to bring about legal proceedings against the Jews. In order to achieve this, it is not the hatred of Christians toward Jews that is at the center of attention, but the fear of Christians of the hatred of Jews toward Christians, which is traced back to the instructions of the Talmud. In this contribution, exemplary emotions such as hatred, envy, and fear are discussed from a perspective that addresses emotions as mediated and constructed through discourse. The third chapter of this part by Stefanie Arel also takes a historical perspective on emotions in the works of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. In her contribution, Arel deals with the fact that Niebuhr addresses in his theological writings feelings of guilt and sin, but neglects the feeling of shame. She aims at emphasizing how shame emerges in Niebuhr’s conception of the Christian self, although it cannot be equated with guilt or be detached from embodiment. A key element of her argumentation is the thesis that it is precisely the masking of shame with other affects (guilt, sin, pride, etc.) that promotes the negative qualities of shame, first and foremost the provocation of the potential for violence. In opposing violence, scholars have to figure out the very essence of what lies behind theological linguistics and rhetoric of guilt.
8 Christian von Scheve et al.
Part II. Affects, emotions, and religiosity Contributions in the second part of the volume investigate the role of feelings, emotions, and affects not by focusing on their discursive or linguistic dimension but rather by probing their relevance for social life. Using qualitative methods of social research, the chapters highlight the various ways in which actors observe, name, and conceptualize feelings and emotions in religious contexts. They focus on how emotions are communicated and can be interpreted and recognized by others (including researchers) and on how emotions are modulated in different social and cultural contexts, in particular, in religious and secular ones. This second section brings together research from a diverse range of religious backgrounds and traditions, such as festive Christian events and movements, the Sufi tradition in Lebanon, or different Muslim life worlds. Likewise, the chapters represent a broad spectrum of research methods and data to identify and describe emotions in religious contexts. This includes verbal and bodily communications, photography, narrations, rituals, and practices, on the one hand, and techniques of videography, ethnography, photo-elicitation, and interviews, on the other hand. In doing so, the contributions to this part also suggest fruitful theoretical and methodological perspectives for thinking about religious emotions, such as the sociology of knowledge, the philosophy of aesthetics, or the affect theory. In the first chapter of this section, Levent Tezcan attends to the discourses of Muslim fundamentalism by emphasizing current issues of ‘seduction’. Extending Weber’s line of thought and instead of conceiving the fear of seduction as culturally given, Tezcan assumes that current Islamic fundamentalism has caused substantial shifts in the Islamic economy of salvation, which results in the notable modulation of affect. These shifts, Tezcan argues, emerge from different dynamics that are related to overcoming the gap between norms and practices as principles of governing social life. He suggests a “pragmatic” and a “fundamentalist” way of dealing with this gap to advance understandings that rest on dominant distinctions, such as traditional vs. modern or secular vs. religious. From this perspective, the secular order in Muslim social life is based, in part, on a pragmatic religiosity and is therefore not in opposition to any kind of religiousness. Tezcan’s approach illustrates various practices in Islamic cultures and thus offers a novel perspective on the question of secularity in Muslim cultures. The second chapter by Maike Neufend explores the issue of emotion and affect in the social practices associated with popular “lived” Sufism. Neufend suggests to understand sensation and perception not as bodily reactions toward an object, but as something that is actively carried out with the aim of producing specific emotions. At the heart of her approach are cultural formations or symbols through which Neufend analyzes the emergence and interconnection of social practices. Religious practices, however, are often characterized by interactions with what remains invisible to a researcher.
Neufend therefore reports on a study that uses photo-elicitation interviews and participant-lead photography that capitalize on interlocutors’ practices of interpreting and producing meaning through visuals. Specific gazes are understood as emotional styles when interacting with religious objects. The photographs are thus analyzed as emotional spaces or atmospheres framing emotional patterns and practices that spatialize ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ modes of experience. The third contribution by Meike Haken focuses on understanding r eligious emotions based on the concept of popular religion. Empirically investigating emotions in the context of specific Christian religious events, she argues that the experience of these emotions can serve as an analytical means connecting micro-level individual religiosity, religious experience, and situated spiritual practices with more macro-level perspectives, for example, of secularization, discourses, and trajectories. Analyzing videographical data that Haken collected at Christian events, for example, the World Youth Day in Crakow, Poland, the Catholic Church Congress, or the German Evangelical Church Congress, she uncovers observable transformations and differentiations in the cultural forms of communication in contemporary religion and religious events. She shows that the religious events she observed feature specific affective orders that serve to produce communality among attendees. In the fourth chapter of this part, Veronika Zink argues that religious conversions signify a symbolic transformation of the self. By means of conversional reports, people do not only proclaim a change in subjecthood, but they do so by communicatively creating the notion of two distinct modes of being: the post-conversional self that is depicted as having an existential and ethico-emotional surplus in comparison to the former, unconverted mode of being. Looking at narratives of conversion, the chapter aims at reconstructing prevailing ideas of “the secular” and “the religious” by focusing on the way religious converts seal a division between their past, unfaithful, secular being and their newly revealed, inspired, religious self. Zink draws on field research and interviews with members of a Christian evangelical, charismatic movement called the Jesus Freaks. The case study serves as a paradigm for contemporary modes of reviving religious beliefs in face of a seemingly secularized age reflecting an ongoing reformation of traditional notions of religiosity and secularity. Finally, Regine Herbrik focuses on the boundaries between the inside and the outside of subjective feelings and emotions, analyzing people’s attempts at describing their inner religious feelings to an outside world. The chapter shows that the faithful make use of a traditional, but continuously changing pool of images and metaphors that is characteristic of the Christian tradition when describing their religious experiences. Although the Christian tradition has a comprehensive assortment of terms to describe out-of-the-ordinary emotions, she shows how new comparisons, metaphors, and images are frequently constructed, recombined, and substituted in these descriptions.
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Part III. Sensibilities of the secular The third part of the volume is primarily dedicated to understanding specific sensibilities of the secular in relation to the religious, bringing together approaches from disciplines such as sociology, cultural studies, and religious studies. The contributions in this section coalesce on investigating the religious-secular divide under the specific and historically contingent conditions of cultural and social change. They conceive of the secular not only as an outcome of a particular historical process, but also as an ideological backdrop of modernity that is investigated with regard to its particular sensibilities, emotions, and feelings. Scholars address the manifold ways in which the “secular” production of knowledge and scientific practice are themselves suffused, sustained, and regulated through feelings and emotions. In addressing these questions, the chapters look at different fields and contexts, such as science, academia, and the public sphere. They shed light on the relatedness of secular and religious subjectivities, which are often produced by hierarchical power relations that tend to marginalize or exclude the religious from public and political realms. The first contribution to this section by Monika Wohlrab-Sahr departs from the thesis that the most relevant issue in the field of religion at present is neither secularization nor the return of religion, but the drawing of boundaries between “religious” and “non-religious” fields, understood as “secularity”. This becomes apparent through the disembedding of religion, that is, the multiplicity of actors in discourse and the variety of claims at authentic religious representation. In contrast to previous constellations, this multiplicity does not aim at institutional equality, but contains an almost infinite number of claims and references that are, among other things, related to a subjective, inner obligation or religious feeling, which is presented as non-negotiable and essential to an identity that is quickly perceived as threatened. Against this background, the chapter discusses how sentiments gain an important role in religious-secular contestations. Wohlrab-Sahr discusses how they emerge or are provoked when boundaries previously perceived as stable are shifted or transgressed. In the second chapter of this section, Brigitte Schepelern Johansen investigates the role of emotions and affect in scientific practices. While early and late modern understandings of the scientific endeavor have tended to emphasize the exclusion or bracketing of emotions and affect from science, scholars now discuss how the constitution as well as dissemination and distribution of academic knowledge also rest upon the ability to be affected in particular ways, and hence a specific cultivation of sensibilities. Johansen’s paper contributes to such an investigation by exploring the textures and functions of a particular kind of excitement, namely the excitement that arises among scholars and students when discovering and exposing implicit or unrecognized biases (typically framed as religious or ideological) in the work of fellow
scholars. This excitement, she argues, is among other things predicated upon a range of splits: between the empirical, factual, or actual, on the one hand, and interpretations, opinions, and beliefs, on the other hand. Donovan Schaefer in the third chapter of this part discusses the affects that are intertwined with knowledge production. Knowledge is a way of feeling one’s way around the world, and there are obvious moments – of wonder or frustration – where it becomes obvious how knowledge production is suffused with affect. Schaefer argues that these moments are only the most extreme, most visible manifestations of a much larger global system of affects intertwined with knowledge-production, sustaining science at the micro-level. His chapter traces this perspective through the work of three fields of thought: the philosophy of David Hume, the psychology of William James, and contemporary affect theory. These perspectives propose that all endeavors of knowledge production are constituted by an affective connective tissue. This model of science, Schaefer suggests, has direct implications for public narratives of science, religion, and secularism. Using the example of New Atheism and an exploration of the New Atheist Christopher Hitchens, Schafer uncovers the affective dimensions embedded within the “formations of the secular” (Asad, 2003). The fourth chapter by Anna Lea Berg and Nur Yasemin Ural puts the discursive production of the body in the foreground of the analysis. The starting point is the public reaction to the events of January 2015 when the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo fell victim to a terrorist attack. The sensing WE, which is renounced in these reactions, is regarded as a discursive body, which apparently arises through an affective positioning to the attack, bears a relation to other bodies, and displays a secular process. From the perspective of affect theory, which includes literary works on feelings, the authors take a discourse-analytical stance on one of the core aspects of the volume: the immanent/relational distinction.
Concluding remarks and acknowledgments The chapters we gathered in this volume stand for a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach to the manifold intersections of the religious and the secular, on the one hand, and feelings, affect, and emotion, on the other hand. The contributions provide insights into different facets of these intersections, including historical accounts, inquiries concentrating on specific religious traditions and discursive fields, as well as scholarship on specific secular sensibilities in relation to the religious “other”. They encompass both immanent perspectives referring to feelings, subjective emotional experiences, and accounts of specific religious communities and relational perspectives capitalizing on concepts of affect and (discursive) constructions and contestations of the religious and the secular. A key objective of this volume therefore is to provide a better understanding of the ways in
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which emotion and affect contribute to the constant reconstruction of “the secular” and “the religious” as often antagonistic and antagonizing entities. The book could not have been accomplished by the editors and authors alone, and we are very grateful for the various intellectual and material support we have received in pursuing this project. We would first like to thank the participants of the workshop “Inside Out: Affect(s) in Multi-Religious Secular Societies” hosted by the Collaborative Research Center (CRC) Affective Societies at the Freie Universität Berlin for the fruitful and enriching discussions that led to the idea for this edited volume. We would also like to thank Hubert Knoblauch who co-organized the workshop with us and also made important contributions to the conception of this volume. The workshop would not have been possible without the generous financial support of the CRC Affective Societies, for which we would like to express our gratitude. Moreover, we thank the editors of the series Routledge Studies in Affective Societies, Birgitt Röttger-Rössler and Doris Kolesch, who have supported the project from its very beginning. We would also like to thank Tatiana Kozlova, Johannes Finger, and Nils Lüttschwager for their tireless work on formatting and editing the manuscripts and Claudia Czingon for her support in coordinating the projects. Tamar Blickstein deserves a thank you for her careful and thorough language editing. We also thank our editorial team at Routledge, especially Emily Briggs and Elena Chui, for supporting the book from its early conception to the final production process. Last but not least, we would very much like to thank our colleagues at the CRC Affective Societies for their contributions to and comments on the volume, in particular, Jürgen Brokoff, Robert Walter-Jochum, Omar Kasmani, Dominik Mattes, and Antje Kahl.
References Asad, T. (2003). Formations of the Secular. Christianity, Islam, Modernity. Stanford, CT: Stanford University Press. Burkitt, I. (2014). Emotions and Social Relations. London: Sage. Casanova, J. (1994). Public Religions in the Modern World. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Collins, R. (2004). Interaction Ritual Chains. Princeton, CA: Princeton University Press. Corrigan, J. (2017). Introduction: How Do We Study Religion and Emotion. In J. Corrigan (Ed.), Feeling Religion. Durham: Duke University Press. Dixon, T. (2003). From Passions to Emotions: The Creation of a Secular Psychological Category. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dixon, T. (2012). “Emotion”: The History of a Keyword in Crisis. Emotion Review, 4(4), 338–344. Durkheim, E. (1995). The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. London: Allen & Unwin. (Original work published 1912). Fox, N.J. (2015). Emotions, Affects and the Production of Social Life. British Journal of Sociology, 66(2), 301–318.
Introduction 13 Frevert, U. (2014). Defining Emotions: Concepts and Debates Over Three Centuries. In U. Frevert, C. Bailey, P. Eitler, B. Gammerl, B. Hitzer, M. Pernau, M. Scheer, A. Schmidt, & N. Verheyen (Eds.), Emotional Lexicons: Continuity and Change in the Vocabulary of Feeling 1700–2000 (pp. 1–31). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Herbrik, R. (2012). Analyzing Emotional Styles in the Field of Christian Religion and the Relevance of New Types of Visualization. Qualitative Sociology Review 8(2), 112–128. James, W. (1997). Die Vielfalt religiöser Erfahrungen. Suhrkamp: Frankfurt a.M. (Original work published 1902). Järveläinen, P. (2008). What Are Religious Emotions? In W. Lemmens, & W. Van Herck (Eds.), Religious Emotions: Some Philosophical Explorations (pp. 12–26). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Knoblauch, H. (1999). Religionssoziologie. Berlin: DeGruyter. Knoblauch, H. (2014). Benedict in Berlin. The Mediatization of Religion. In A. Hepp, & F. Krotz (Eds.), Mediatized Worlds (pp. 143–158). London: Palgrave. Otto, R. (2014). Das Heilige. Über das Irrationale in der Idee des Göttlichen und sein Verhältnis zum Rationalen. München: C.H. Beck. (Original work published 1931). Riis, O., & Woodhead, L. (2010). A Sociology of Religious Emotions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Roberts, R. (2016). Emotions in the Christian Tradition. In E. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter Ed.). Retrieved from https://plato. stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/emotion-Christian-tradition Schaefer, D. (2015). Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution, and Power. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Schleiermacher, F. (2016). Über die Religion: Reden an die Gebildeten unter ihren Verächtern. Berlin: Holzinger. (Original work published 1799). Seigworth, G. J., & Gregg, M. (2010). An Inventory of Shimmers. In M. Gregg, & G. J. Seigworth (Eds.), The Affect Theory Reader (pp. 1–26). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Historical intertwinements of religion and emotion
Feeling empty Religious and secular collaborations John Corrigan
Religious and secular The emerging consensus of European and American scholars is that the term secularity signifies something more complex, dynamic, multivocal, and in the end more slippery than what we once had imagined. Evidence for a progressive process of secularization, which once seemed so robust, has been challenged by wide-ranging studies of the durability of religion. The term itself has been all but dissolved in the acids of genealogical and philosophical criticisms, its referents challenged, its implicit arguments undermined, and its authority as a standpoint for scholarly discourse impugned. In my area of historical expertise, American religion, interpretation has embraced the notion of secular as a continuously shifting construct that functionally abets identification and definition of religion. That means the secular is faintly conceptualized as not-religion but that it collaborates with religion. Such an understanding has supplied leverage to critical analyses of the entwining of power, institutions, politics, and religion in America. At the same time, the traces of secularization theory, once so dominant, remain relevant to the fact of dramatically declining interest in religion among American millennials. And the distinguishing of secular from religious, for all of the artifice and patchwork argument imbedded in that binary, remains useful, when qualified, in distinguishing behaviors that are contextualized by affiliation with religious institutions from behaviors that are not (Asad, 2003; Fessenden, 2007; Modern, 2011). Some of those behaviors have to do with emotions. The surging study of emotions invites investigation of religion as a field of performance in which emotional practices take shape within ideological matrices that regulate them. What people feel in religious settings – including broad discursive settings alongside built environments, communal formations, and institutional complexes – is irretrievably entwined with the religion that is practiced there. The expression of emotion at a shrine signals the mutual infusion of religion and emotion at that site. Although scholars are not likely to embrace Friedrich Schleiermacher’s late eighteenth-century argument that Christians experience a unique “feeling of absolute dependence” (1958, p. 106), it nevertheless is a good bet that scholarship will remain invested in the idea that the enactment of emotion in religious houses of
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worship tells us something about how each is steeped in the other. More problematic is what happens in private, or in locations where religious influences are weak. The valences of emotions experienced during Passion Week dramas might not be equivalent, or even comparable, to those associated with similar emotions (e.g., emotions expressed in weeping) in secular settings. Hatred in a church pew might be different from hatred in an election polling booth. While a claim that religious hatred differs fundamentally from political hatred would overreach, there is usefulness in marking out a line, a porous line perhaps, between emotion constituted in collaboration with religion and that same emotion experienced against a secular backdrop. The study of religion and emotion has a long history in the West. Even discounting the philosophizing of the ancients, the theologically infused forays of medieval writers (such as Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, Bonaventure, and William of St. Thierry), and early modern experimentation with social and biological aspects of feeling, there are hundreds of years of detailed, complex commentary on feelings, its origins, its meanings, and its management. Because so many of those who wrote about emotion before the eighteenth century did so because of interest in religious experience, the study of emotion is anchored by a great weight of attendance upon feelings thought to be important for religion: fear, love, hope, wonder, hatred, and despair, among others. Much scholarship continues to explore those privileged feelings (Bivins, 2008; Corrigan, 2015; Fuller, 2006). And that scholarship sometimes adopts language about emotions that originated in the agendas of centuries of religious writers. While there is much to be gained from direct critical engagement with theologically tinctured explications of emotions such as fear and hope, there is opportunity in pursuing investigation of different emotions. Scholarly analyses of other emotions – emotions on the periphery of the six or seven most commonly addressed – typically are less bound to a prose that reiterates familiar keywords and themes. Writing about emotions that are understudied is a road less traveled, less constrained by shopworn language, and therefore a pathway more likely to surprise. Additionally, in tacking away from emotions such as fear, wonder, or guilt, research positions itself to open fronts that would enable more creative studies of religion and secularity. Investigations within the broader subfield of religion and emotion in general are constrained within binary frameworks of religious/secular because analyses of specific emotions themselves have been constructed within a discourse that accepts that binary. Attending to understudied emotions accordingly can contribute to refocusing the discussion of religion and the secular.
Religion and feelings of emptiness We might escape some of the constraints coded in the preoccupations of previous writers by focusing on the feeling of emptiness. That initiative especially might enable a clearer vision of how emotion can differ in certain
Feeling empty 19
regards depending on whether it is practiced in a religious frame or a secular one (again, allowing for some qualifications in how to understand religious and secular). A feeling of hatred of sin among pious Christians – which could include self-hatred, despair, and fear – is not the same hatred as some feel for their political opponents, which might be joined with anger and alarm. Recent research on emotions has emphasized the flexibility of the brain – and its unpredictableness – alongside peculiarities of setting in advancing theories about how and why people feel. Lisa Feldman Barrett offers evidence in How Emotions Are Made (2017) that emotions are circumstantial and vary widely from one cultural setting to another and redefines what we mean by emotion as a “construction”. She stresses not only environmental differences but also the continuously shifting and often unexpected roles of individual biology in that construction. In focusing on emptiness, we accordingly should not presume that it is experienced similarly in every instance. It is in keeping with current research to recognize that a feeling of emptiness in a religious setting can differ in certain ways from a feeling of emptiness that is not in a religious setting. While steering away from analysis that would reify feelings of emptiness as a fixed binary of “religious feeling/secular feeling”, it is useful to compare various kinds of experiences of the feeling of emptiness with an eye to the backgrounds that help to shape them. Sometimes the feeling of emptiness can be located within distinct ideological and practical matrices of religion, while at other times, including cases where it is intensely felt, there is little or no religion involved. In some cases, it is possible to see some relational fluidity, even collaboration, between religious and secular in the construction, elicitation, and/or expression of the feeling of emptiness. Moreover, when we consider the crucial bodily aspects of “feeling empty”, whether those are expressed in terms of an empty stomach, a throat empty of words, or an emptying of sweat from the body, we improve our understanding of emptiness as affect. If, as Lisa Blackman (2012) suggested, we take bodies as “affective energies and creative motion”, as “movement and process”, we more easily can recognize “the flow or passage of affect, characterized more by reciprocity and co-participation than boundary and restraint” (pp. 1–2). Emptiness as affect is in motion between religious and secular, defining each, to an extent, while at the same time detonating the singularity of each.
Emptiness and religion The feeling of emptiness historically has been central to Christianity in the United States. It is important to Christianity in other parts of the world as well, but in ways that can differ from its history in North America. In America, Christians long have actively pursued the feeling of emptiness as part of their religious discipline. They have sought occasions to feel it, have cultivated it and promoted it, prayed for it, embraced exercises by which
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to deepen it, written about it extensively and with great conviction, joined religious organizations in which it was highly valued, and lamented loudly when they did not feel it. The feeling of emptiness was much sought after because in Christian schemes of salvation being empty prepared the soul to be filled by God. That simple dynamic – empty the soul of everything in order to make room for the inpouring of divine grace, love, spirit, or any number of other substances imagined necessary for salvation – organized the emotional lives of Christians in stark terms (Corrigan, 2015). In America, the nineteenth-century Adventist prophet Ellen G. White drew followers to her vision by urging them to “empty the self of self” (1973, p. 230). That message, distilled to its essence, was ubiquitous in the nineteenth century, and, in fact, recurs throughout American religious history. Colonial minister Jonathan Edwards promoted it in his many writings about the process of spiritual renewal and offered the example of his wife Sarah Pierpont Edwards as a blueprint of sorts for the process of self-emptying. He wrote of himself: “I love to think of coming to Christ, to receive salvation from him, poor in spirit and quite empty of self”. Sarah’s narrative of her experience of spiritual rebirth, which he edited, sounded the same bare but fulsome tones: “I never felt such an entire emptiness of self-love, or any regard to my private, selfish interest of my own. It seemed to me that I had entirely done with myself” (1870, p. 126). Twentieth-century religious leaders such as Billy Graham and Pat Robertson could extemporize at length about the importance of cultivating the feeling of emptiness. And the deeper the feeling of emptiness, the better. Quaker writers taught their readers to eagerly anticipate that “this depth of need (…) is beyond words” (Barclay, 1867, p. 801). The mainline Protestant churches habitualized the pursuit of emptiness even when they did not promote it as a corollary of a born-again approach as did the revival churches. Catholics, for their part, dined on a rich fare of devotional reading that urged the feeling of emptiness upon them and assured them that emptying of the self in suffering was God’s plan for their salvation. Isaac Hecker, the Catholic convert from Methodism, reflected approvingly on his own spiritual seeking as an experience of emptiness that transformed him: “No joy. No reality. No emotion. No impulse (…) No love, no delight, nothing, nothing, nothing” (1988, p. 308). Christians of all sorts, throughout American history, spoke of their intense feelings of emptiness and how their experience of those feelings signaled to them their spiritual advancement down a road abounding with occasions to deepen their emptiness, intensify their feelings of self-loss.
Religious cultivation of emptiness The purpose in cultivating the feeling of emptiness was that it was expected to lead to a feeling of fullness. As the late twentieth-century evangelical Protestant writer R. Kent Hughes explained, “the key to the Spirit-filled
Feeling empty 21
Christian life is found in a paradox: cultivating an attitude of perpetual emptiness brings with it a perpetual fullness” (1996, p. 35). Expecting to be filled, pious Christians dedicated themselves to feeling empty. They cultivated the feeling of emptiness according to a regimen of disciplines engaged for their effectiveness in emptying a person. Prayer, reading, attendance at services, conversation about religious matters, and other institutionally supervised means of fostering religious feelings comprised one part of a program for stimulating and enlarging a feeling of emptiness. Particular physical disciplines were especially important, however, and made up a large part of the behavioral strategies that Christians employed in pursuing emptiness. Fasting was a pathway to emptiness. Every Christian group in America at one time has urged fasting upon its membership. Devotional exercises such as fasting tend to become popular in cycles, but over time, nearly all Christian groups embrace it. Fasting, of course, is emptying the body of food. It is self-denial. The empty stomach marks the empty person. Food has been denied, self has been denied. Emptiness ensues. When American Christians fast, they engage in an exercise that is meant to cultivate the feeling of emptiness, physically, and also to cultivate it, in Christian terms, spiritually. Empty the stomach, empty the self, and be filled with the grace of God. Fasting has always been important for Christians and is only becoming more important in the twenty-first century. Early Christians fasted. Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians made it part of the liturgical calendar, joining it to the remembrance of holy personages and auspicious events, and also encouraging it as a devotion to be taken up at any time, without regard to day or season. The Desert Fathers – from Seraphim to Chrysostom – modeled fasting as part of the “active life” of physical discipline paired with the fastidious avoidance of sin. John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion (1960), advised that “with a full stomach our mind is not so lifted up to God that it can be drawn to prayer with a serious and ardent affectation and persevere in it” (pp. 1241–1242). French Reformed Protestants embraced it individually and collectively, English Puritans made it a leading expression of piety, and the Quaker George Fox, like English Catholics, kept regular fasts, some as long as ten days. In America during the colonial era, pastors such as Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, and Samuel Hopkins urged fasting on the “visible saints” in their congregations, and in the Early American Republic, Christians such as the Methodist Rachel Stearns were in the habit of devoting entire days to fasting and prayer. Mormons fasted, following the example of their founder, Joseph Smith. For American Protestants, as sociologist Julius Rubin has written, “fasting assisted the saint in becoming a selfless, empty vessel” (1994, p. 109). That was equally true for the rapidly growing Roman Catholic population of America. Friday fasts, holy day fasts, fasting during Lent, and fasting in conjunction with special devotions to St. Jude or St. Anthony all were a
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standard part of American Catholic practice. The widely published Golden Manual (1902) provided instructions for Catholic fasting and defined it as a spiritual process. Episcopalians, among some other Protestants, also took the Manual to heart. What The American National Preacher offered to Protestants in 1831 as “The Proper Method of Religious Fasting” was reiterated in the American Benedictine Review (de Vogue, 1984). At the end of the twentieth century, John Piper’s A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer (2017) served as a summary and synthesis of most previous writing about fasting across the spectrum of American Christian denominations: feeling empty was the desire for God. And the emphasis was on feeling itself. Assent to doctrines of emptiness or cleaving to a Christian ideology of emptiness was not enough. To feel empty one had to be made empty, which required effort, discipline, and above all, suffering. Without suffering emptiness, there could be no profound hunger, no true desire for God. American Christians emptied their bodies in other ways. One obvious way, which requires little commentary, was through tears. The performance of tears has been ubiquitous in American Christianity, from religious conversion dramas played out in public or private according to “born-again” scripts to Passion Week services involving the collective weeping of many persons. Religious weeping empties the body of tears and the soul of self. The testimonies of revival participants typically report strong feelings of emptiness accompanied by the shedding of tears, and an accompanying intense desire for God. American Catholics who pray the Stations of the Cross, or process as a crowd through the street during Lent, often weep as they do so, and especially so if their Catholicism is rooted in Hispanic traditions. Less observed and less understood is the American religious fascination with bloodletting and its entwinement with the pursuit of emptiness. The central mythos of Christianity is the bleeding of Christ on the cross. Evidence that American Christians in the twenty-first century are keenly aware of that is fully present in the receipts for Mel Gibson’s recent movie The Passion of the Christ. A blockbuster movie, it has earned hundreds of millions of dollars and is the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time. It is a movie that made the death of Christ a profound big-screen theatre of cutting and blood. It is a movie about the example of Christ as an emptied self, in this case bled-out physically and psychologically by his tormentors. For many Americans Christians (and perhaps others) that is an inspiring, enlivening, and hopeful message about their own status as spiritual seekers. While American Christians typically are unversed in the historical development of their religion, they are aware of the bleeding of Christ, the early Christian martyrs, and a figure here and there, a sacrificed Joan of Arc or a wounded Francis of Assisi. Other traditions regarding bloodletting also inform Christian imaginings about blood, and at least as much so as do the stories of saints. The history of Christian saints is about not only their
Feeling empty 23
bloody martyrdoms but their disciplines – regular self-cuttings, bloodlettings, wearing shirts with tacks in them, carving the skin, spilling blood in holy wars, and regular bleedings among the members of most religious orders, often in connection with the solstice. In America, the deep consciousness of blood continuously poured out, through disciplines both grotesque and holy, has been present in Catholic fascination with the stigmata. Catholics since the nineteenth century have been drawn to stories about men and women who bleed from their own bodies in mimicry of the five wounds of Jesus, including the feet and hands and the side of the torso. A rich oral culture, reinforced occasionally by institutional validations, promotes the example of stigmatic bleeding as a sign of the emptying of the self, and messages as well the glory of that process for the stigmatic, whose desire for God, presumably, is exceptional. Protestants for their own purposes have drawn upon Catholic imagery of bloodletting, and among American Protestant preachers, the discussion of bloodletting is common, whether it be in relation to The Passion of the Christ – an event that galvanized evangelical congregations into a massive base of blood-hounds – or through references to everyday Christians suffering an event of blood loss through the generosity of God. For Catholics, as historian Paula Kane (2002, p. 84) has demonstrated, there was the popular Catholic “mysticism of the Passion” that contextualized and valorized bleeding. Both Catholics and Protestants in America have embraced the idea that war, when undertaken in the exceptional interests of God’s most favored nation, is a religious crusade and that the bloodletting involved is a sacrificial emptying of the self. Religious persons conceptualized the Civil War as a sacrifice enacted by martyrs whose spilt blood sacralized the cause of American civil religion. The Americans who “would willingly sacrifice themselves on their nation’s altars”, in the words of historian Harry S. Stout (2006, p. 82), were Americans whose ideas about nation, God, and patriotism had been framed from the ground up by a religious culture that esteemed the feeling of emptiness. More complex, and more sinister, were the ritualized lynchings of African Americans, a performance that was “at the core of southern white fundamental Protestantism” (p. 44). Mobs both admired and detested the victim, identified with the victim while remaining distal. To participate in a lynching was to feel emptied alongside the victim, in a complex psychodynamics that protected whites from actual suffering (Mathews, 2000; Patterson, 1998). American Christian reflection on bloodletting eventually was joined explicitly to the imagery of filling the empty vessel. Bleeding was loss, an emptying. Protestant preachers such as Billy Graham played with the imagery of blood and emptiness in developing a theory of transfusion in which the empty Christian soul was filled with God in the same way that a person was transfused with new blood. In Graham’s words: God “gave a life- saving transfusion, the blood of His Son” (1991, p. 52). That blessed blood
24 John Corrigan
was available to the soul who made room for it. A soul thirsty enough for Christ’s blood, intensely desirous of it, would receive it – but not before an acute emotional experience of emptiness. Work, like fasting and bloodletting, involved the feeling of emptiness. Americans constructed work as labor, as a ritual of sweat, even in white- collar corporate settings, luxurious board rooms, or home offices with soft music and humming air-conditioners. Everyone did not actually sweat, of course, but Americans imagined themselves sweating, and that conceit was central to their trust that work was an occasion to empty the self. People could become “workaholics”, or could “marry” their job, or “lose themselves” in work. A much-broadcasted television commercial in the early twenty-first century, featuring an attractive, white, well-dressed corporate- type worker ended with the tag line: “Never let them see you sweat”. It proposed that work is sweat, it was hard and required self-sacrifice, but an emptying of self could be a personal quest, not a public spectacle. For medieval monks, the adage laborare est orare, “to work is to pray”, served as a reminder that the point of work was to subdue the self, not to glamorize or venerate it. That perspective has come down through Christian traditions over centuries to a receptive American soil. Americans have embraced it as an ideal, making labor a religious undertaking and ordaining the emptying of sweat from the body, even when it was not visible to others, a religious exercise. Religious teachers formal and informal repeatedly have reminded Americans of the New Testament pronouncement that Jesus “emptied himself”. That message in the Letter to the Philippians (Psalm 2:7) offers a trifecta of meanings: as a carpenter Jesus emptied himself of sweat, as a sacrifice he emptied himself of blood, and as an obedient man, he emptied himself of himself. The pursuit of the feeling of emptiness could be carried forward through work, contextualized by Christian traditions of work and prayer, and made practical through what Max Weber (1930) called the “inner-worldly asceticism” of Protestants, an ethic of emptying the self even as work led to worldly success.
Secularity and feelings of emptiness There are numerous additional ways through which religious Americans cultivate and express the feeling of emptiness. American Christian notions of space and time, and of belief itself, are deeply rooted in a view of the centrality of emptiness to spiritual growth. American experiences of landscape, anticipation of future events, and engagement with text and image all display a powerful trust in the benefits of feeling empty (Corrigan, 2015, pp. 83–177). Persons who express their feelings of emptiness without recourse to religious frameworks also do so through embodied performance. Sometimes these performances, in their raw physicality, compare in qualified ways with religious ones. As emotions theorist Monique Scheer (2012) might say, their emotional life in this regard is most visibly “practice” (pp. 193–220). That is, the experience of emptiness, like all emotional life, is in some measure
Feeling empty 25
scripted, shaped by social standards, and conformed in one way or another to cultural feeling rules. An emotion that is felt in a religious setting can be felt in other settings that are not religious although it might be performed or practiced in ways that differ in some regard to the religious performance. The association of the feeling of emptiness with fasting, bloodletting, or work in a religious frame of understanding remains possible in a non- religious framework. Sometimes the emotion of emptiness, moreover, is reported as a positive experience outside of religious contexts, but not always for the same reasons that it is deemed positive in religion.1
Anorexia Extreme fasting in religion becomes anorexia in non-religious contexts. It is the pursuit of the feeling of emptiness, as in religion. However, unlike the case of religion, anorexia is not typically a behavior that looks forward to an eventual sense of being filled. It is similar to religious emptiness but also distinct from it. Anorexics do not empty themselves with the understanding that they will be filled, but rather in order to be empty. It is an embodied experience of the raw feeling of emptiness rather than a processual step toward being full. It has more to do with disappearing or altering the self than theologically or philosophically justifying it. A recent study of anorexia argues that it is a “passion” driving the pursuit of certain goals (e.g., not appearing fat and evidencing control) over a relatively long period of time (Beach, 2016). That project includes the pursuit of the feeling of emptiness: I love the feeling I get when I can feel my bones sticking out. I love feeling empty. I love knowing I went the whole day without eating. I love losing weight. I love people telling me, ‘You’re too skinny!’ (Charland, Hope, Stewart, & Tan, 2013, p. 364) Fullness is not the point, and in fact, it is far from what the anorexic desires: When I feel fullness I feel like depressed and I feel like caved in, and I don’t like to be social. I don’t like to talk to people. I don’t like to be in public. When I feel hunger and when I am restricting and I know that my body is empty I feel like I can like open my arms to the world and be part of it. (Beach, 2016, p. 88) The Reddit discussion subtopic, “Eating disorder: No longer about weight, just a longing to feel completely empty” and similar web discussions include numerous statements about the desire to feel empty, emotionally, alongside the physical sense of emptiness caused by not eating.2 Analyses of the affective aspects of the feeling of physical emptiness among persons with eating disorders emphasize how the feeling of emptiness itself can be a relief, a conclusion rather than an intermediate state.
26 John Corrigan
Informants in Stacey Beach’s study of purging (2016) reported how a emptying of the contents of the stomach is a positive feeling, that they are “relieved the food is gone”, a process in which “going from like a sensation of having something in my body to then not having it there anymore feels like a lot of relief” (Beach, p. 89). In one study, participants, explicitly discussed being ‘empty’ as a physical state that they are specifically trying to achieve, and serves a functional purpose. In response to the prompted question regarding one’s experiences, feelings or sensations when one feels physically empty, one individual indicated they ‘just feel better if I just feel empty’. (Beach, p. 92) In addition, another individual also replied to this question that being “completely empty” was the “better place to be”, and “the goal” (Beach, p. 92). A third individual also responded to the prompted question that they are “always trying to be empty” in their “entire digestive track”, and “want to stay that way forever” (Beach, p. 92). One person stated simply, “I was completely empty”, and “that was the goal” (Beach, p. 92). The feeling of emptiness described by some anorexics is taken by them as verification of their control over their life and a marker of their security. Describing the experience of going to bed hungry, one person reported, I focused on feeling empty … So I used to lie in my bed and concentrate on the feeling of being hungry. I thought it was a real good feeling. I felt empty. It was a gnawing hunger. It felt safe and known. (Espeset, Gulliksen, Nordbø, Skårderud, & Holte, 2012, p. 457)
Self-harm Some young adults engage in self-cutting, by far the leading form of bloody non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). It is a widespread practice and the subject of much research. A recent study of over 14,000 college students concluded that fifteen percent engaged in NSSI (Whitlock et al., 2011). Feelings of emptiness play a central role, and studies of NSSI have paid close attention to such feelings. Some research indicates that two-thirds of those who harm themselves report feeling empty prior to doing so. Evidence gathered from Twitter, Reddit, blogs, and other websites corresponds with that research. As in the case of eating disorders, there is no evidence to suggest that self-cutting is undertaken with an expectation of being filled. Rather, like those who suffer anorexia, letting one’s own blood in such cases is a means of emotional regulation. The goal of self-cutting typically is to find relief from emotional pressures, including escaping intolerable emotions and especially feelings of emptiness. Nevertheless, some persons do report that the experience of harming themselves is exhilarating and causes them to feel “more real” (Klonsky, 2009).
Feeling empty 27
Online posts underscore the feeling of emptiness as an emotional state preceding self-cutting. “I cut myself because I feel empty and hopelessly alone”, is a typical complaint. “Feeling so empty that you have to hurt yourself”, writes one person, while another confesses, “I always feel empty inside and this results in me cutting myself. … I cut myself to be free from the emotional pain of that moment”.3 In such instances, the point is to escape the feeling of emptiness, or at least to regulate it so that it is not overwhelming. There is another difference in regard to religious bloodletting as well. In Christian contexts, the emphasis is on the blood that escapes the wounds. The actual draining of blood from the body is of paramount importance in Christianity and underlies the emphasis of Christians on its theologized meaning as a transfusion of grace. The blood that pours from the side of Jesus, blood dripping from the wounds of the stigmatic, the drinking of blood in Catholic services, the curation of the blood of martyrs and saints, and even the bloody garments of slain religious enemies are central exhibits in the theatre of Christian bloodletting.4 Those who engage in NSSI are less concerned with blood than with the pain and the scar. Cutting imagery focuses on the physical witness to the act of cutting. The scar, which is hidden but also begging to be discovered and accordingly often photographed and shared online, is the point. The scar indicates the act of emotional regulation as a conclusion not as a point in a process that ends with being filled (Figure 2.1).
Figure 2.1 Images of self-harm posted online typically show little or no blood although it is vividly present in the act. The act is conclusive and aims at relief through the infliction of pain, not an expectation of an emptiness being filled once blood has been emptied from the body. The scar is the endpoint and that is what is most commonly displayed. Photo courtesy of Nina Grant.
28 John Corrigan
Work Persons in non-religious contexts who associate their experience of work with a feeling of emptiness typically do not conceptualize it as a prayerful emptying of self into labor. There is no laborare est orare. There is no intentional pursuit of the feeling of emptiness through work. Rather, there is a sense of how work itself is an exercise that leads to an unwelcome feeling of emptiness. In that sense, it is different from the American Christian conceptualization of work previously referenced. In many cases, the association of a feeling of emptiness with work is a part of a larger negative valuation of the work itself. A recent piece in the Harvard Business Review offered solutions to “What to Do When Success Feels Empty” (Groysberg & Abrahams, 2014). The feeling of emptiness in one’s work arises, according to the HBR and articles in similar journals, because of thoughtless routines and a selfish, preoccupied drive to meet exceedingly ambitious personal goals. The keen focus on work in such cases is not a matter of what the Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990) called “flow”: a deep immersion in one’s tasks that makes time fly as if there was no ego, no awareness of the “I”. For some Christians, work does at times take the form of “flow” and in any event labor itself is sometimes understood as the practice of piety, an activity that is prayerful in its presentist engagements and its other-directed goals. The feeling of emptiness in such religious or quasi-religious cases is the evacuation of ego, an emptying of self (a la Csikszentmihalyi) and not the glamorization of self through self-congratulatory high achievement (Figure 2.2). The feeling of emptiness with regard to work often is expressed in online forums and social media as a profound sense of loss in the midst of what
Figure 2.2 T he trademarked phrase “Never let them see you sweat” that white-collar workers at desks both sweat visibly and conceal it. Such a view differs from the notion that sweat comed as a sign of anticipated fullness. Image courtesy of Corporation.
implies should is welHenkel
Feeling empty 29
appears to be great success. There is no expectation of an imminent feeling of being filled up, no expectation of a forthcoming satisfaction, conclusion, happy ending. When “Liza” complains in an interview that her success has led to her feeling empty, she does not express a trust that the condition is only temporary. Noting her beautiful apartment in a chic neighborhood and her regular stays in the best hotels, she observes: “I fly all around Europe. … I make lots of money. I’ve achieved all my ambitions, but I feel empty inside” (Webber, 2013, n.p.).
Empty and full This exploratory study suggests that there are similarities and differences in feelings of emptiness when religious contexts are compared with non- religious ones. In general, the difference is that American Christians, when behaving religiously, tend to experience emptiness alongside an expectation that it is preparation for them being filled with what they imagine to be grace, love, peace of mind, or other contents. The feeling of emptiness in non-religious contexts is much less likely to include that expectation of being filled. In simple terms, as a secular rather than a holy emotion,5 the feeling of emptiness sometimes is sought as an end emotional experience in itself. With regard to self-harm and anorexic fasting, it is the desired endpoint of cutting or emptying the stomach. The emptying of self in work is, for American Christians who embrace that idea directly or indirectly, a devotional exercise preparing the soul for an infusion of something divine. For workers who feel empty on their job – because of their disappointment in the experience of high achievement but alternatively because their labor is monotonous and boring – the feeling of emptiness is not preparation for feeling full. Lacking the expectation of being filled, the secular experiences of feeling empty that are briefly sketched here differ in important ways from the Christian experiences. When the broad field of human experience of the feeling of emptiness is narrowed for discussion’s sake to just a few instances – fasting, bloodletting, and labor – the differences are clear. But what is equally clear is that in each of those three instances, the feeling of emptiness plays the central part in how people experience that activity. Emptiness is involved in all three instances – fasting, bloodletting, and work – but in different ways. Certainly, the physical indicators of emptiness can translate across the porous religious/secular line. In each respective case, the stomach is empty, the blood flows out, or effort, in the form of sweat, is expended. People feel empty whether in religious or secular settings. Whether that feeling is experienced singularly or as part of a cluster of emotions – that is, in conjunction with expectation, hope, trust, etc. – is worth continued study. The category of full, alongside that of empty, is likely to be of use in further investigations of the feeling of emptiness.
30 John Corrigan
The discussion of religious and secular broached at the beginning of this chapter proposed that a porous line between religious and secular was recognizable in the emotions reported by persons active in those settings. In other words, a certain amount of collaboration, or similarity, between emotions experienced in those settings was identifiable alongside the distinctiveness of experience in each. A specific focus on the emotion of emptiness – i ncluding its affectual bodily manifestations – informed by an awareness of certain situational theological and philosophical frameworks for it, suggests that the feeling of emptiness is experienced similarly in some religious and secular settings but that there are differences as well. That insight recommends that religious and secular remain valid categories for the study of religion but only in as much as we are willing to recognize at the same time that each to some extent is constituted by the other. The play of feeling back and forth between religious and secular takes place even as there are distinctions to be made between how emptiness, for example, is felt in each. What remains as an immediate agendum based on that observation is to investigate whether that dynamic involves symbiosis and if so how the broader study of religion and society can rethink, drawing specifically upon emotional data, definitions of both religion and secular. The study of religion and emotion more broadly could benefit by pursuing research that tracks the practice of emotions, through attention to diverse sets of their physical manifestations together with their discursive settings in culture, through their migrations in and out of religious and social institutions – and presumably into interstitial locations that are yet to be discovered.
Notes 1 A discussion of chronic feelings of emptiness as low positive affect is in Klonsky (2008). A discussion of degrees of feeling empty is in Hazell (1984). 2 “Eating disorder: No longer about weight, just a longing to feel completely empty”, https://www.reddit.com/r/depression/comments/zbjqp/eating_disorder_no_ longer_about_weight_just_a/. Accessed 10/02/2017. 3 “I always feel empty inside”, Yahoo Answers, Psychology, https://au.answers. yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20111119152246AAjxN56. Accessed 10/04/2017. 4 The exceptionally bloody depiction of the torture of Jesus Christ in the box office hit movie The Passion of the Christ (2004) is a striking example of the centrality and power of bloodletting in Christianity. See the photo stills from the movie in The Passion: Photography from the Movie “The Passion of the Christ,” foreword by Mel Gibson (Icon Distribution, 2004). 5 This distinction is for purposes of clarification in the prose and is not meant to imply a class of emotions that are in essence “holy”.
References Asad, T. (2003). Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, modernity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Barclay, J. (1842). A Selection from the Letters and Papers of the Late John Barclay. London: Harvey and Darton.
Feeling empty 31 Barrett, L. F. (2017). How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Beach, S. E. (2016). Feeling Physically Empty: The Emotionally ‘Positive’ and Functional Dimensions of Purging and Restricting Populations (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. Bivins, J. C. (2008). Religion of Fear: The Politics of Horror in Conservative Evangelicalism. New York: Oxford University Press. Blackman, L. (2012). Immaterial Bodies: Affect, Embodiment, Mediation. London: Sage. Calvin, J. (1960). Institutes of the Christian Religion (Vol. 2). (J. T. McNeill, Ed. & F. L. Battles, Trans.). Philadelphia, PA: Westminster. Charland, L. C., Hope, T., Stewart, A., & Tan, J. (2013). Anorexia Nervosa as a Passion. Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, 20(4), 353–364. Corrigan, J. (2015). Emptiness: Feeling Christian in America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row. Eating Disorder: No Longer About Weight, Just a Longing to Feel Completely Empty [Online Forum Discussion Subtopic]. Retrieved from https://www.reddit.com/r/ depression/comments/zbjqp/eating_disorder_no_longer_about_weight_just_a/ Espeset, E. M. S., Gulliksen, K. S., Nordbø, R. H. S., Skårderud, F., & Holte, A., (2012). The Link between Negative Emotions and Eating Disorder Behaviour in Patients with Anorexia Nervosa. European Eating Disorders Review, 20(6). doi: 10.1002/erv.2183. Fessenden, T. (2007). Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular, and American Literature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Fuller, R. C. (2006). Wonder: From Emotion to Spirituality. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. Graham, B. (1991). Hope for a Troubled Heart. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. Groysberg, B., & Abrahams, R. (2014). What to Do When Success Feels Empty. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/06/ what-to-do-when-success-feels-empty. Hazell, C. G. (1984). A Scale for Measuring Experienced Levels of Emptiness and Existential Concern. The Journal of Psychology, 117, 177–182. Hecker, I. T. (1988). Isaac T. Hecker: The Diary: Romantic Religion in Ante-Bellum America, ed. John Farina. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press. Hughes, R. K. (1996). Acts: The Church Afire, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. “I Always Feel Empty Inside” [Online Forum Comment]. Retrieved from https:// au.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20111119152246AAjxN56 Kane, P. (2002). “She Offered Herself Up:” The Victim Soul and Victim Spirituality in Catholicism. Church History, 71, 80–119. Klonsky, E. D. (2008). What Is Emptiness? Clarifying the 7th Criterion for Borderline Personality Disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders, 22(4), 418–426. Klonsky, E. D. (2009). The Functions of Self-Injury in Young Adults Who Cut Themselves: Clarifying the Evidence for Affect-Regulation. Psychiatry Research, 166(2–3), 260–268. Modern, J. Lardas. (2011). Secularism in Antebellum America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Mathews, D. G. (2000). The Southern Rite of Human Sacrifice. Journal of Southern Religion, 3, 1–36.
32 John Corrigan “Mrs. Sarah Pierpont Edwards: Narrative of Personal Experience” (1870). Circular, 33. Patterson, O. (1998). Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries. New York: Basic Books. Piper, J. (2017). A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. Rubin, J. H. (1994). Religious Melancholy and the Protestant Experience in America. New York: Oxford University Press. Scheer, M. (2012). Are Emotions a Kind of Practice (and Is that What Makes them Have a History)? A Bourdieuian Approach to Understanding Emotion. History and Theory, 51, 193–220. Schleiermacher, F. (1958). On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers. (J. Oman, Trans.). New York: Harper and Bros. Sermon XCIX: The Proper Method of Religious Fasting”. American National Preacher 5 (March, 1831). The Golden Manual: Being a Guide to Catholic Devotion Public and Private. (1902). New York: P. J. Kennedy. de Vogue, A. (1984). To Love Fasting: An Observance that Is Possible and Necessary Today. American Benedictine Review, 35, 302–312. Weber, M. (1930). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. (T. Parsons, Trans.). London: Unwin. Webber, C. (2013). I Have Everything But I Feel Empty. Healthista. Retrieved from https://www.healthista.com/unhappy-despite-success-money-work-life-balance/ White, E. G. (1973). God’s Amazing Grace (p. 230). Washington, DC: Review and Herald. Whitlock, J., Muehlenkamp, J., Purington, A., Eckenrode, J., Barreira, P., Abrams, G. B., … Knox, K. (2011). Nonsuicidal Self-Injury in a College Population: General Trends and Sex Differences. Journal of American College Health, 59(8), 691–698.
Emotion and the popularization of anti-Jewish discourse in early modern Europe François Soyer
Historians like to identify turning points in history and historians of Antisemitism are no different. One of the major turning points in Christian perceptions of Jews came in the twelfth century, with the writings of the influential Abbot of Cluny, Peter the Venerable. In the 1140s, Abbot Peter wrote a Latin treatise straightforwardly entitled “Against the Inveterate Obduracy of the Jews”. This text was significant for a crucial reason: it created a fundamentally contradictory image of the Jews. As Irven Resnick (2013), the modern editor and translator of the text, has pointed out, the intention of Peter’s polemic was to bring about the conversion of the Jews. His approach was based on contradictory assumptions that the Jews were rational agents open to be persuaded by philosophical argument and biblical exegesis as well as empirical evidence, but that the Jews’ refusal to convert was ultimately caused by a spiritual ‘blindness’ that stemmed from a persistent form of irrationality, for which they were responsible (p. 40). Abbot Peter argued, along with the Franciscans and Dominicans after him, that Jews were responsible for their fate because of their unshakeable attachment to Talmudic teachings, the root cause of their irrationality. In the Central Middle Ages, Christian polemicists and scholars in both Northern and Southern Europe, keen to convert Jews, had pointed to bowdlerized passages from the Talmud in order to ridicule Rabbinic Judaism and thus “demonstrate” its supposedly manifest falseness and the veracity of Christ’s claim to be the Messiah. They also noted passages presented as blasphemous against Jesus Christ. These polemical attacks on the Talmud itself date back to the thirteenth century, namely the great 1240 Disputation of Paris and the burning of copies of the Talmud that followed it. During the infamous “disputation” between the Jewish convert to Christianity and Franciscan Nicholas Donin and four French Rabbis, the focus remained on the anti-Christian blasphemy of the Talmud but another, darker new development occurred. To prove this point, Donin took a Talmudic dictum (“the best of Gentiles is to be killed”) out of its context as part of a study of the book of Exodus and the Egyptian persecution to claim that the Talmud not only permitted but encouraged the killing of Gentiles. Donin turned the
34 François Soyer
dictum into a specifically anti-Christian one by substituting “Christians” for “Gentiles” (optimum Christianorum occide) (Chazan, Friedman, & Hoff, 2012). For Christian authors writing prior to 1450, the Talmud was to blame for turning Jews into spiritually blind fools and blasphemers. The emphasis of Christian polemics remained focused on the Talmud’s insults against the Christian faith rather than on presenting it as a threat to the lives of ordinary Christians.1 Nevertheless, the monstrous figure of the Jew – the practitioner of black magic, the desecrator of consecrated hosts, and (worst of all) the pitiless murderer of Christian children for ritual purposes – was well established during the late medieval period. The demonization/dehumanization of the figure of the Jews went beyond their “traditional” characterization as weak, fearful, and cowardly and insisted instead on representing them as collectively consumed by the emotion of hate: a “hatred” of Jesus Christ that logically led them to entertain a burning and rabid hatred of all Christians.2 While the medieval period is rightly recognized as crucial in the history of Christian anti-Jewish polemics, the reverse can be said about the early modern period, broadly defined as extending between 1450 and 1750. The prominent historian of modern German Antisemitism, Jacob Katz (1980), perceived anti-Jewish propaganda produced during the early modern period as a bland perpetuation of ideas “rooted in the medieval world, in which theology dominated thought and in which the affairs of the Jews – their law, character, and actions – were judged in the light of theology” (p. 23). Such a view about the continued centrality of theological attacks in early modern anti-Jewish discourse is certainly not wrong but needs nuance. It overlooks the impact of the early modern printing revolution as well as the gradual emergence of a new and expanding lay readership for anti-Jewish polemics. During this period, these polemics began to appear in vernacular languages (rather than just Latin) and their authors were accordingly compelled to frame their arguments in a manner better suited to pander to a lay readership. The early modern period also witnessed the growth of the modern European state system and the process of “confessionalization”, which led to renewed anxieties about the status of religious minorities within the body politic in European states that still based their legitimacy upon a state religion (not just Jews but minorities from different Christian denominations as well, such as Catholics living under Protestant rule or Protestants under Catholic rule).3 The early modern era witnessed important changes for the Jewish communities scattered across Europe. The Jews had already been expelled from England in 1290 and from France during the fourteenth century. In the Holy Roman Empire, Jewish communities were subjected to increased pressure, with a number of expulsions from parts of Germany that contributed to the migration of many (though not all) Jewish communities into Eastern Europe. In Italy, the picture was fragmented, with Jewish communities expanding in some towns and principalities while others were expelled. Finally, in the Iberian world – Spain, Portugal, and their overseas colonies – the mass
Anti-Jewish discourse in early modern Europe 35
conversion of Jews both before and during the expulsions of the 1490s created a large “caste” of so-called conversos, descendants of converted Jews widely accused of secretly professing Judaism, persecuted by the Inquisition and the object of much public loathing and fear.4 This work covers a wide range of regions of Europe across a significant number of centuries. It is certainly dangerous to overgeneralize and to overlook the particular regional, religious, and historical contexts in which the polemics were written and printed. Yet, no one would question the fact that European anti-Jewish and Antisemitic texts have a shared history and themes that stretch back to the earliest history of Christianity. There are discernible trends in some early modern polemics and their anti-Jewish discourse that the study of emotions can help us understand. Due to its short length, this work cannot offer an exhaustive analysis but rather tentatively argues for a reinterpretation of the historical significance of early modern anti-Jewish polemics. The aim of this work is to argue that we need to nuance the perception of the early modern period as one of bland continuity in European anti-Jewish and Antisemitic thought and discourse by examining the aims of early modern works and their “emotional” dimension. As Sarah Ahmed (2004) has noted in her work The Cultural Politics of Emotion, “hate is an intense emotion; it involves a feeling of ‘againstness’ that is always, in the phenomenological sense, intentional” (p. 43). This work argues that the early modern authors studied below intended to “popularize” anti-Jewish hatred by connecting a narrative of Christian victimhood and love for the Christian faith with one that projected negative emotions onto a Jewish “other”. The “otherness” of the Jews stripped them of any individual identity and assigned them a fantasized group identity as “Talmudist Jews” who were defined by a congenital anger, envy, and hatred of Christians. The Jew was no longer a religious other to be converted and brought into the Christian fold. Instead, the Talmudist Jew was an existential threat to all Christian men and women whose removal from Christian contact was an urgent necessity.
The popularization of anti-Jewish discourse in polemics printed in early modern Europe From the second half of the fifteenth century, it is possible to discern what might be termed as a “popularization” of written anti-Jewish discourse. Some Christian authors began producing works whose primary focus was no longer to educate Churchman is dialectics. It did not furnish them with the polemical tools to defend the validity of the Christian faith in debates with Jews and to convert Jews by demonstrating the falsity of the “Old” Jewish faith. Instead, their objective went beyond merely “demonstrating” the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. This work will cover a number of such works that presented themselves to their readers as “warnings” about the “Jewish peril”. They sought to promote fear and hatred of Jews
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among a non-elite readership and in many cases to lobby the secular and ecclesiastical powers to take punitive action against Jews. One of the earliest such polemicists was the mid-fifteenth-century Franciscan Alonso de Espina. Appealing for an Inquisition into the beliefs of Jewish converts to Christianity to be set up in the Spanish kingdom of Castile, Espina explicitly articulated the propagandistic aims of his work: “I have written this book for the ignorant, so that they may find in a brief tome the weapons necessary to face the enemies of Christ” (as citied in Soyer, 2016a, pp. 245–246). Although Espina wrote in Latin, many later authors wrote their works in the vernacular, thus explicitly targeting a lay readership. Nearly a century later, Martin Luther prefaced his most influential anti-Jewish work with the statement that “we are not now talking with the Jews, but about the Jews and their dealings, so that our Germans, too, might be informed” about the Jewish peril (Luther, 1971, p. 140). Toward the end of the seventeenth century, the Franciscan Francisco de Torrejoncillo would go as far as to identify his motives and justify the title of his work in an introductory poem: I am a steadfast sentinel, Against cruel Judaism, Hear-ye you who are Christians, The warnings that I give you, For I stand in the tall tower, Of the Church and clamour; I wish to fulfil my task, Which is only to make you understand, What the Hebrew people, Has done and will do. Centinela firme soy Contra el cruel Iudaismo, Oygan los del Christianismo Los auisos que les doy. En torre eminente estoy De la Iglesia, y clamoreo; Mi oficio cumplir deseo, Que es solo dar à entender Lo que ha hecho, y ha de hazer La gente del Pueblo Hebreo. (as cited in Soyer, 2014, p. 107) The use of poetry is a perfect example of the popularization of anti-Jewish discourse as it is a clear attempt to connect with the oral culture of the majority of the laity. Torrejoncillo was clearly aiming to reach out to a wide readership, and his book features lengthy anti-Jewish poems (see Soyer, 2014).
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This popularization of anti-Jewish propaganda, with its strong admonitory character, did not replace but coexisted alongside the older, traditional polemical literature. One of the most striking differences between them was a marked pessimism relating to the possibility of sincere Jewish conversions to Christianity. A number of authors of early modern polemics explicitly state their belief that the potential for the genuine c onversion of Jews to Christianity was limited to a few exceptional individuals. This was the view adopted by Alonso de Espina in his Fortress of Faith. Although in Latin, it was a precursor of, and source of inspiration for, many vernacular works in later centuries, enjoying enormous popularity and regularly cited in both Northern and Southern Europe. For Espina genuine conversions are possible but very rare. Most conversions are likely to be spurred by insincere motives, notably the lust for “earthly wealth”. The examples of genuine conversions that Espina highlighted involved miracles in which the conversion of a Jew or Jewess was not the result of any spontaneous decision to recognize the truth of Christianity. They were instead a response to miraculous circumstances over which the individual had little or no control, such as after observing miraculous symbols of the cross appear on clothing or, in the case of one woman accused of adultery, after being saved from the fury of other Jews by the Blessed Virgin (Soyer, 2016a, pp. 239–254). In following centuries, many writers in both Catholic and Protestant Europe (though not all, one must caution against generalization) reiterated this pessimistic outlook upon the potential for Jewish conversions. Martin Luther certainly made it clear in his 1543 works On the Jews and Their Lies and On the Ineffable Name that the works were not written with the purpose of converting Jews since he considered religious disputation with Jews to be pointless. In the first of those works, Luther speculated with skepticism and sarcasm “whether we might save at least a few [Jews] from the glowing flames” by practicing a “sharp mercy” (Luther, 1971, p. 268). In the second, Luther (2012a) asserted that it was practically “impossible” to convert obdurate Jews through reasoned argument: It is not my intention to write against the Jews, as if I hoped to convert them. Therefore, I did not call that [first] book Against the Jews, but rather On the Jews and their Lies, so that we Germans might know from history what a Jew is, and thus warn our Christians about them, as one would warn about the Devil himself, and also to strengthen and honour our faith. I do not write to convert the Jews, for that is about as possible as converting the Devil. (pp. 178–179) The same sense of despair was shared by some in southern Europe. One Portuguese doctor of theology (who later became a bishop) made his feelings clear with a remarkable medical metaphor in a sermon printed in 1629:
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It is the doctrine of Galen that when a patient comes to a state where there is no hope left for his life, he ought not to receive any further remedies so that these remedies should not lose their prestige. This [Jewish] disease, gentlemen, is terminal and it has lasted for more than sixteen hundred years. These people are paralyzed and, in accordance with the pulse which we have taken today, there is no longer any hope for their improvement. Let us, therefore, not offer them any more of the medicines that have cured others so that these should not lose their reputation for healing. (Tavora, 1629) This image of the Jews as consumed by hate effectively allowed some early modern polemicists to turn the tables on Jews. The Jews are transformed from a minority persecuted by Christians to a minority effectively persecuting Christians, however, paradoxical this may seem when set against the historical context of expulsions, massacres, and judicial persecution suffered by the Jews and conversos. A powerful narrative of Christian victimhood was created in polemical propaganda produced in Central and Eastern Europe as well as in the Mediterranean area. Moreover, this emotional dimension in anti-Jewish polemics also contrasted the “rational” faith of Christians with the irrational – read emotional – rejection of Christianity by Jews. The hatred that the Jews feel for Christianity and Christians is, just like their refusal to accept the Messiahship of Jesus Christ, consistently presented as irrational, indeed emotional; leading them into uncontrollable fits of rage and violence against Christians. In her research in state building and identity politics, Heather Rae (2002) had argued that the “cultural dimension” is vital to understanding these processes as “state-builders cannot do otherwise than draw upon the prevailing cultural resources available to them as they seek to build a unified collective identity” (pp. 2–3). A focus on emotions can provide us with a conceptual framework that will help us understand how the discourse of anti-Jewish hatred was adapted by some authors from Protestant northern Germany to Catholic Portugal to target a new lay readership. Sara Ahmed (2004) has emphasized that the affective politics of fear create narratives seeking to demonize others and work by “generating a subject that is endangered by imagined others whose proximity threatens not only to take something away from the subject (…), but to take the place of the subject” (p. 43). In the context of early modern Europe, the narrative of those works of anti- Jewish propaganda that did not aim to convert Jews but rather sought to lobby the authorities by promoting popular fear and hatred of Jews follows precisely this pattern. From Protestant writers in northern Germany to writers in Catholic Iberia, many Christian polemicists presented Judaism as an existential threat to Christianity: a competitor religion that sought to either convert Christians and subvert Christianity or to kill Christians and destroy Christianity.
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The Jew as an “other” consumed by anger, envy, and hatred The vocabulary of hatred is prominently on display in early modern polemical literature whether it is printed in Latin or in vernacular languages. The term “hatred” (odium in Latin; odio in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian; hass in German) is a word that appears in the vast majority of early modern anti-Jewish polemics. It is not used to refer to Christian hatred of Jews but rather to Jewish hatred of Christians. The German Jewish convert to Catholicism Johannes Pfefferkorn declaimed in his Judenfeind (1509) that Jews would seize any opportunity to mock Christians for “they hate the sign of the cross” and “they hate Christians much more than any other nations” (as cited in Rummel, 2002, pp. 55–56). Likewise, Luther (1971) asked the rhetorical question in his On the Jews and Their Lies: “Why, then, do we incur such terrible anger, envy, and hatred [from the Jews]?” (Wo mit verdienen wir den solchen gravasamen zorn neid und hass…?) (p. 267). In southern Europe, the Portuguese Vicente da Costa Mattos loudly proclaimed to his readers in 1621 that “an intense hatred of Christians is innate to Jews” (folio 49v) and the Spanish friar Francisco de Torrejoncillo (1691), writing in the late 1660s and early 1670s, wondered “who will be up to the task of revealing the loathing and hatred in which the Jews hold our Catholic Faith as well as us [Christians]?” (p. 141). Some polemicists went to considerable pains to explicitly note that the Jews’ hatred was not an abstract theological hatred directed just at Christ and the faith of Christians but one acted out in unprovoked physical violence against ordinary Christian men, women, and children. Alongside accounts of the sacrilegious desecration of consecrated hosts and other Christian sacred objects, considerable prominence was given both to stories of ritual murder of Christian children (the infamous “blood libel”) and to what could be described as acts of “everyday violence” against ordinary Christians. Martin Luther made this existential threat to all Christians explicit in more than one of his later works. In 1543, he told his readers that: Indeed, if they had the power to do to us what we are able to do to them, not one of us would live for an hour. But since they lack the power to do this publicly, they remain our daily murderers and bloodthirsty foes in their hearts. Their prayer and curses furnish evidence of that, as do the many stories which relate their torturing of children… (Luther, 1971, p. 288) In a pamphlet printed in 1546, Luther continued along the same lines: They are our open enemies (oeffentliche Feinde). (…) they call us changelings and abortions, and if they could kill us all, they would gladly do
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so. And they often do, especially those claiming to be doctors, even if they do help on occasion, for it is the devil who lends them his help. They are also practitioners of the medicine used in Italy, where poison is administered to kill someone in an hour, a year, even ten or twenty years. (Luther, 2012b, p. 201) In Catholic Portugal, sermons printed in the seventeenth century drove home the same point by making the dangerous presence of Jews in Christian society analogous to that of the deadly plague. In 1616, the preacher Francisco de Mendonça compares the crypto-Judaism of conversos with the plague to emphasize the danger it represented: Tell me, if a man infected by the plague entered this city without the knowledge of the public authorities, and if he walked through the squares, the streets, our churches, our houses, speaking and dealing with everybody, what would happen to us? In two days the city would be ravaged by the plague. Well, this Jewish blindness is a plague if it moves among us without being detected. Portugal, I fear for you! (as cited in Glaser, 1956, p. 378) Another preacher, the Augustinian friar Felipe Moreira drew a similar comparison in a sermon printed in 1630: “The company of Jews is contagious like the plague. One would be safer living in the desert than residing alongside them in towns. Flee! Flee! Flee to the hills!” (folio 11v) Such references to the “Jewish plague” are not just literary metaphors but comparisons designed to trigger emotional responses. Periodic outbreaks of the plague in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries decimated entire regions of the Iberian Peninsula and killed tens of thousands of men, women, and children. There can be little doubt that Iberian preachers wanted to harness and exploit traumatic memories, pre-existing fears about disease and sudden mortality to link Judaism and mass mortality and strike fear, even outright terror, into the hearts of their listeners/readers. In order to successfully account for the emotional irrationality of the Jews, Christian polemicists needed to be able to point to its purported source. The obvious source for most was, of course, the Talmud. In the early modern era, the Talmud became the focus of renewed and far more systematic Christian attention due to the rising interest among Christian scholars in the study of the Hebrew language and Jewish texts. Printed works by early modern Jewish converts to Christianity in Germany and the Mediterranean, written by men who presented themselves as “experts” on Judaism and writing with an obviously partisan agenda, contributed greatly to this phenomenon. In the context of the Holy Roman Empire, the neophytes Victor von Carben and Antonius Margaritha accused the
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Jews of cursing Christians and Christianity in their respective books Judenbüchlein (“A little book on Jews” printed in Latin in 1508 and translated into German in 1550) and Der Gantz Jüdisch Glaub (“The Whole Jewish Belief”, 1530). In southern Europe, the Italian Jewish convert João Baptista d’Este wrote a similar work in the seventeenth century.5 The vernacular works of converts were sometimes directed at unbaptized Jews (and aiming to convert them) or intended to provide quasi-ethnographical information about Jews and Judaism to interested Christian academics and churchmen, but they were also repositories of useful information for polemicists. This Christian Hebraism was partly responsible for propagating the image of the Jews as full of anger, hate, and envy. The notion that the Talmud not only taught but effectively brainwashed the Jews into hating and wanting to kill non-Jews became the dominant argument for many early modern authors in both Catholic and Protestant Europe. The notion can be found in the writings of men such as Luther, for instance, who was influenced by Margaritha’s Der Gantz Jüdisch Glaub. Martin Luther (2012c) complained in 1543 that the Jews taught, urged, and trained their children “from infancy to remain bitter, virulent, and wrathful enemies of the Christians” (p. 173). The famous German Hebraist Johannes Buxtorf (1564–1629) went so far as to write an unfinished work explicitly entitled Aus was Ursachen die Juden andere völker alzeit gehasst und veracht haben (“The Reasons Why Jews Have Always Hated and Despised Other Peoples”) (as cited in Burnett, 1996, pp. 91–93). In the Italian Peninsula, anti-Jewish polemics remained largely focused on theology and the belief that Jews taught anti-Christian beliefs to their children through their Talmudic “doctrine”. The Italian author Hadrianus Finus, for instance, commented in his Latin polemic (1538) that Jews inculcated a hatred of Christ to their children through their Talmudic education. Over 150 years later, similar sentiments were voiced by the Italian Jesuit Giovanni Pietro Pinamonti, the author of a book entitled La sinagoga disingannata (later translated into Portuguese and Spanish). Pinamonti’s aim was ostensibly to convert Jews by ridiculing their faith, but his work nonetheless reflects the prominent role given to the Talmud in early modern Christian polemics. He states that the rational judgment and free will of the “Talmudists”, as he terms them, are clouded by two “passions” (passioni): hatred (odio) and pride (superbia). These passions were provoked by the Talmud and the teachings of Rabbis, whose faith Pinamonti (1694) describes as a “demonic religion”: Insofar as hatred is concerned, one of the precepts most closely linked with the Talmud, the new Law of the Jews, is to hate of Christians, to consider them as beasts, whose mistreatment cannot be classified as evil, and who must be [ritually] cursed three times each day. (p. 23)
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For Pinamonti, Talmudic Judaism is guilty of holding the hatred of Gentiles as a “saintly thing” and no individual was worthy to become a Rabbi unless he “cherished it in his bosom” (pp. 65–66). It is possible to see how the negative emotional portrayal of the Jews as taught to hate by the Talmud was perpetuated across hundreds of years in printed polemics. In the Iberian Peninsula, the link between the Talmud, anti-Christian hatred, and religiously motivated violence was explicitly articulated in the sixteenth century by bishop Diego de Simancas. Citing the earlier work of Hadrianus Finus as his source, the bishop eagerly warned his readers about the murderous rage of the Jews, whose Talmud authorized them to kill Christians (Velázquez, 1575, pp. 119–120). In 1674, this notion would be simplified still further by Francisco de Torrejoncillo in his Centinela: “The Jews produced a book, that they call the Talmud, which is full of blasphemies against God and His saints. (…) The Jews say that it is legitimate to kill, which is a heresy” (as cited in Soyer, 2014, p. 180). It is important to note that while no clear scientific theory of race existed in this period, there was a noticeable difference between polemics written in the Iberian Peninsula and those in the rest of Europe. Many Spanish and Portuguese polemicists insisted upon presenting the hatred for Christianity of the Jews, or more accurately of conversos, the descendants of converted Jews, not just as driven by Talmudic scholarship but as a quasi-biological phenomenon over which the individuals concerned appeared to have little control. The notion that the Jews/conversos passed on their faith and anti- Christian hatred to successive generations through their “blood” in a hereditary manner seems to have been widespread in the Iberian World (although it was not without its critics). The concept of a link between Judaism and “Jewish blood” developed into a form of incipient racialism. By way of illustration, the Repertorium Inquisitorium – a Spanish manual for inquisitors printed in Valencia in 1494 and Venice in 1575 – explicitly states that “the Jews transmit the perfidy of the Old Law [of Moses] to each other from father to son, through the blood” (as cited in Sala-Molins, 1981, p. 78). Even though this Iberian concept of limpieza de sangre (“purity of blood”) did not exist in the Holy Roman Empire, the language used in some texts does come perilously close to formulating a proto-racialized vision of the transmission of Jewish beliefs, and therefore anti-Christian hatred. In a short pamphlet printed in 1510, the German printer Hieronymus Holtzel, for instance, clearly described a Jew attacking a consecrated host as acting out of a congenital (angeboren) Jewish “hate” and “envy”. The Protestant pastor Georg Schwartz, another author who appealed to the secular authorities to expel the Jews, embraced racialism far more explicitly when he argued in 1570 that it was the centuries of interbreeding with different Gentile peoples had turned the Jews into “bastards and mongrels” (Bastern und Mengling) (Nigrinus, p. 33) and, somewhat paradoxically, had given them their separate identity. Consequently, Schwartz opined, their conversion to Christianity
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was a futile hope. Like the Franciscan Torrejoncillo in Spain, he used a poem to disseminate his central message to reach out to a lay audience: I say Jews are Jews, whether they are baptized or circumcised, They are not all of one origin, but they still belong in one guild. Ich halte juden für juden, Sie senen getauft oder beschnitten. Sind sie nicht alle einer aufunfft, Gehören sie doch alle inn ein Bunft. (Nigrinus, pp. 122–123) The popularization of a fierce virulent Antisemitism that represented the Jews, inspired by the Talmud, as compulsively driven by strong emotional urges to kill Christians reached its culminating point at the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in both Northern and Southern Europe. In Spain, the Sentinel against the Jews of Francisco of Torrejoncillo became the most popular Antisemitic work printed in the early modern period with no less than fourteen complete or partial editions. In the German-speaking lands, the influential and encyclopedic two-volume work Entdecktes Judenthum (“Judaism Revealed”) of Johannes Eisenmenger (1711) compiled a vast number of stories of blood libel, quotes from previous authors, and quotes from the Talmud removed from their context to achieve its purpose. Its enduring popularity can be garnered from the fact that an abridged English translation appeared in 1748 with the title The Traditions of the Jews, with the Expositions and Doctrines of the Rabbis, a new German edition was printed in 1893 and the text remains a reference work for anti-Semites today. Just as Torrejoncillo’s work included chapters entitled “How the Jews Are Persecutors of Our Holy Catholic Faith” and “How the Jews, in addition to Opposing Our Holy Faith, Are Our Mortal Enemies”, Eisenmenger likewise dedicated an entire chapter of his influential 1700 opus to the subject of “the Jewish hatred against all [Gentile] peoples” (Von der Juden hass gegen alle Volker, pp. 588–630, see also Soyer, 2014).
Victimhood, love, and the Christian collective identity The extensive use of conspiracy theories to reach out to the fears of a wider lay audience about a Jewish threat to their lives or to the lives of their loved ones was another characteristic aspect of the campaign of hatred promulgated against Jews in both Northern and Southern Europe. The individual identities of Jews are discarded and replaced by their portrayal as an evil collective, with a hive mind. The extraordinary spread of the blood libel in
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Central and Eastern Europe (in contrast to the waning of medieval accusations of host desecration) was only one aspect of this. In Spain, Portugal, and France, a clumsily forged letter purporting to have been sent by the Jews of Constantinople to those of Spain (or France, depending on the version) spread the libel of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy to murder Christians and destroy Christendom from within (López, 2016, pp. 467–502). The fear of Jewish violence is particularly embodied in the omnipresence of the conspiracy theory of medical murder, which serves as a good case study. In Northern and Southern Europe, many polemicists peddled the notion that Jewish doctors were deliberately but covertly murdering their Christian patients by administering or prescribing poisons or ineffective remedies. As we have just seen, Martin Luther warned his readers about the dangerous Judendoktor and his devilish poisons, but he was not alone. The sixteenth-century German writer Hans Wilhelm Kirchhoff berated Christians as “careless fools” (unbesunnen narren) for seeking medical assistance from doctors who were their “archenemies” (ertzfeinden): The Jews who pretend to be doctors bring only poverty and physical danger to the Christian who seeks their medical skill. They are convinced that they are serving God when they cruelly torture Christians, when they kill them secretly, or when they cheat them. They also teach this to both their children and their disciples. We Christians are such careless fools that when our lives are in danger we turn to our archenemies in order to save [our lives], thus shaming both God and the medicines of righteous Christian doctors. (Kirchhof & Oesterley, 1869, pp. 255–256) The figure of the serial-killer Jewish doctor also loomed large in the propaganda produced in southern Europe. In Iberia, nearly all polemics produced from the middle of the sixteenth century onward reproduced, in one version or another, the tale of El Vengador (“the Avenger”) a secret Jewish doctor who murdered his Christian patients in accordance with a macabre ritual (see Soyer, 2016b, pp. 233–255). The Portuguese propagandist Vicente da Costa Mattos, writing in the 1610s, particularly highlights and expounds upon the significance of the case of a Master Rodrigo, a converso doctor arrested by the Inquisition and burned in Lisbon. According to the Portuguese polemicist, Master Rodrigo performed the exact same ritual as El Vengador and he laments the fact that conversos had been able to accomplish their murderous objective so effectively under the cover of their medical profession. …a multitude of doctors, surgeons and apothecaries have been arrested in Lisbon and other parts of the kingdom, not counting those who have fled (…), and they have all confessed to willfully perpetrating many murders of Christian noblemen and men of the Church. In some cases, the exact numbers are known because they killed one out of every twelve
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patients. One of them, who was also found to possess a book attacking our holy faith and who was burned at the stake, confessed that he had killed one hundred and fifty Christians, including eighteen noblemen. (Costa Mattos, 1623) The way that the story was presented is clearly intended to lend it verisimilitude for its (Portuguese and Spanish) readers. The story appears to have foundations in reality as a converso doctor named Mestre (“Master”) Rodrigo who was indeed prosecuted by the Portuguese Inquisition in the 1540s and his trial dossier is still preserved in the Portuguese National Archives.6 The historian José Alberto Rodrigues da Silva Tavim (2011) has examined this trial dossier and found absolutely no evidence that Mestre Rodrigo was ever accused of anything more than secretly practicing Judaism. The accusation of medical murder (and vengeful rituals associated with it) never featured in his trial (see pp. 89–91). Thanks to the survival of the inquisitorial documentation the entire story of Mestre Rodrigo’s ritual murder of Old Christian patients, therefore, can confidently be dismissed as an outright fabrication. The representation of “Talmudist” Jews as collectively angry, envious, and full of hate was therefore actually the precursor to nothing less than a metamorphosis of the Jews from the persecuted into the persecutor. Despite the historical evidence of centuries of persecutory laws, pogroms, and expulsions inflicted upon Jews throughout Europe, the Christians assumed the identity of the innocent victims at the hands of Jews who mercilessly sought to murder them. In a passage of his On the Jews and their lies that is dripping with sarcasm, Luther (1971) makes Christian victimhood one of the decisive argument in favor for persecutory measures against the Jews: Since it has now been established that we do not hold them captive, how does it happen that we deserve the enmity of such noble and great saints? We do not call their women whores as they do Mary, Jesus’ mother. We do not call them children of whores as they do our Lord Jesus. (…). We do not curse them but wish them well, physically and spiritually. We lodge them, we let them eat and drink with us. We do not kidnap their children and pierce them through; we do not poison their wells, we do not thirst for their blood. Why, then, do we incur such terrible anger, envy, and hatred on the part of such great and holy children of God [i.e. the Jews]? (p. 267) Over a thousand kilometers away in the Iberian Peninsula, the Catholic authors Vicente da Costa Mattos and Francisco de Torrejoncillo did exactly the same. Torrejoncillo, in particular, reminds his readers never to forget that “no sect has persecuted us more than the sect of the Jews” and that the Jews
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are in fact more determined and savage in their violent attacks than pagans, idolaters, schismatics, or even Protestant heretics (see Soyer, 2014, p. 157). The contrasting juxtaposition of Jewish hatred, anger, and envy and Christian love and victimhood highlighted the threat supposedly represented by the Jews, completely turning on its head the real-life balance of power that existed in Jewish-Christian relations throughout early modern Europe. In contrast to Jewish violence, which was driven by the negatively charged emotions of hatred, anger, and envy, Christian violence against Jews is, unsurprisingly, righteous, “rational”, and always rationalized as a response to the former. A form of self-defense, if you will. Even the emotional motivations behind Christian violence are characterized as positive ones: Christians attacked Jews out of love for Jesus and the Christian faith, incited by the need to defend their faith and their persons against Jewish blasphemy and physical attacks and out of a “rational” and righteous anger. Those polemicists calling for the confiscation of Jewish property and religious books and the expulsion of Jews or (in the Iberian world) of Jewish converts and their descendants presented their calls as justified responses to this “Jewish hatred” against Gentiles and the unacceptable risk and threat that the continued toleration of Jews or descendants of Jews represented.
Conclusion Sara Ahmed’s theory about the affective politics of fear was formulated in reference to tensions within the modern nation-state, but it appears just as relevant in an early modern European context. This was a period that witnessed the printing revolution (and arguably the dawn of mass media), which coincided with the collapse of a unified Church in Western Europe and the advent of the Reformation and, last but not least, the bitter struggles waged against the resurgent Ottoman Empire/Islamic world in the Mediterranean and Central Europe. The notion that the power and legitimacy of secular and ecclesiastical institutions could only be safeguarded by imposing a homogeneity of religious belief upon all members of the body politic – the process now generally described as the “confessionalization” – gained traction and had serious consequences for the Jews. Did early modern anti-Jewish polemics mark a major departure from their medieval equivalent? Clearly, the answer to such a question would appear to be a clear “no”. Early modern authors owed a huge debt to their predecessors who had formulated many of the key anti-Jewish concepts, especially by identifying the Talmud as the putative “source” of Jewish obduracy. Nevertheless, what sets a number of early modern anti-Jewish polemics apart is the following: 1 They display a marked pessimism about the possibility of Jewish conversion to Christianity.
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2 Accordingly, they were not written with the aim of converting Jews or comforting Christians in their faith. 3 They were purely propaganda seeking to mobilize support in order to pressure lay/ecclesiastical rulers into taking action against Jews/ conversos. In essence, this was a new kind of polemical literature as it aimed to encourage the complete religious and cultural eradication of Judaism and Jews from Christian society not through conversion but through legal persecution and expulsions. To mobilize support and generate hatred, they needed to foster a sense of victimhood and appeal to the raw emotions of their readers: fear and anger. Early modern polemicists such as Espina, Luther, Torrejoncillo, and many others did not invent the figure of the hate-filled “Talmudist” Jew, which already existed in medieval polemics since Nicholas Donin’s claims in 1240, but they seized upon this concept and popularized it, turning it into a perennial feature of anti-Semitic propaganda destined for a broad popular audience. The affective politics of fear help us understand why the notion that the Talmud taught the Jews to hate and want to kill Gentiles became a perennial and dominant feature of anti-Jewish propaganda produced in the West in the early modern period. Those authors seeking to create a sense of collective “self” in an era of confessionalization also needed a fear- and horror-inducing Jewish “other”. The traditional image of the obdurate, pitiful but essentially helpless Jew of Augustinian theology was, accordingly, discarded by such authors. In its place, Rabbinic Judaism became caricatured as a death cult whose leaders the Rabbis – or rather “Talmudists” as they were derisively called – inspired hatred of Christians from one generation of Jews to another; a hatred supposedly enacted not only in supposed economic parasitism but in the systematical and ritualized murder of innocent Christian men, women, and children. This sinister legacy has been perpetuated in later centuries. It was not, as is often supposed, supplanted by the racial theories that emerged in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but coexisted alongside it and even merged with it. The figure of the “Talmudist Jew”, consumed by hatred, envy, and anger and straight out of the most extreme early modern propaganda of an Espina, Luther, Torrejoncillo, or Eisenmenger has lived on in diverse strands of anti-Semitic propaganda. It inspired August Rohling’s notorious and influential 1871 work Der Talmudjude and, in 1892, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano sadly recycled the claim that Jews committed ritual murder “in obedience to the Talmud”. This claim was echoed in Nazi propaganda, such as the 1938 Antisemitic picture book for children, Der Giftpilz, which reached out to its young readers through rhyme: In the Talmud it is written, What Jews hate and what they love,
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What Jews think and how they live, All is ordained by the Talmud. (Hiemer, 1939, p. 20) Unfortunately, as we all know, this image of Christian victimhood and of the bloodthirsty Jews inspired with hate, envy, and anger by the Talmud played its part in the mass murder of millions of Jews in the twentieth century. During the Nuremberg Trials, Der Giftpilz’s publisher Julius Streicher acknowledged his debt to his early modern predecessors by arguing that: Martin Luther would be sitting today in my place in the dock if this book representative of the charge were considered by the prosecution. In the book The Jews and Their Lies’ Dr. Martin Luther wrote, the Jews are a brood of snakes, one should burn down their synagogues, one should annihilate them. (as cited in Lindberg, 1994, p. 15)
Notes 1 On the Christian ‘discovery’ of the Talmud in the medieval period and the consequences on Christian-Jewish relations, see Cohen (1999, pp. 317–363). 2 See the classic albeit slightly dated Joshuaa Trachtenberg (1943) The Devil and the Jews and the more recent Robert Chazan (2016) From Anti-Judaism to Anti-Semitism. 3 On confessionalization, see Schilling (1981), Reinhard (1989), and Reinhard and Schilling (1995). 4 For a brief synopsis of the status of Jews across late medieval and early modern Europe, see Foa (2000). 5 On these Jewish converts and their influence of their writings on Christian polemics, see Burnett (1994, pp. 275–287), Diemling (2006, pp. 303–334), and Carlebach (2001). 6 Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo (Lisbon), Inquisição de Coimbra, processo no. 10,714.
References Ahmed, S. (2004). The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo (National Archives of Portugal, Lisbon), Inquisição de Coimbra, processo no. 10,714. Lisbon. Burnett, S. G. (1994). Distorted Mirrors: Antonius Margaritha, Johann Buxtorf, and Christian Ethnographies of the Jews. Sixteenth Century Journal, 25, 275–287. Burnett, S. G. (1996). From Christian Hebraism to Jewish Studies: Johannes Buxtorf (1564–1629) and Hebrew Learning in the Seventeenth-Century. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers. Carlebach, E. (2001). Divided Souls: Converts from Judaism in Germany, 1500–1750. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Anti-Jewish discourse in early modern Europe 49 Chazan, R., Friedman, J. (Trans.), & Hoff, J. C. (Trans.) (2012). The Trial of the Talmud. Paris 1240. Toronto, ON: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies. Chazan, R. (2016). From Anti-Judaism to Anti-Semitism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cohen, J. (1999). Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval Christianity. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Diemling, M. (2006). Anthonius Margaritha on the “Whole Jewish Faith”: A Sixteenth-Century Convert from Judaism and His Depiction of the Jewish Religion. Jews, Judaism, and the Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Germany (pp. 303–334). Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers. Eisenmenger, J. A. (1711). Entdecktes Judenthum. Konigsberg. https://www.europeana. eu/portal/de/record/09302/_ub_ffm_item_sammlungen_urn_nbn_de_hebis_30_ 180010889029.html Finus, H. (1538). In iudaeos flagellum ex sacris scripturis excerptum. Venice. https://www.europeana.eu/portal/de/record/9200110/BibliographicResource_ 1000126646033.html Foa, A. (2000). The Jews of Europe after the Black Death. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Glaser, E. (1956). Invitation to Intolerance. A Study of the Portuguese Sermons Preached at autos-da-fé. Hebrew Union College Annual, 27, 327–378. Hiemer, E. (1939). Der Giftpilz. Nuremberg. https://archive.org/details/DerGiftpilz Holtzel, H. (1510). Ein wunderbarlich Geschichte Wye dye Merckischen Juden das hochwirdige Sacrament gekaufft, vnd zu martern sich vnderstanden. Nuremberg. https://www.europeana.eu/portal/de/record/9200332/ABO__2BZ167045308.html Katz, J. (1980). From Prejudice to Destruction: Anti-Semitism, 1700–1933. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Kirchhof, H. W., & Oesterley, H. (Ed.). (1869). Wendunmuth. Tübingen. Vol. 3. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89002316883;view=1up;seq=9 Lindberg, C. (1994). Tainted Greatness: Luther’s Attitudes toward Judaism and Their ntisemitism Historical Reception. In Harrowitz, N.A. (Ed.), Tainted Greatness; A and Cultural Heroes (pp. 15–36). Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. López, F. B. (2016). La historiografía ante la correspondencia apócrifa entre los judíos de España y los de Constantinopla: una revisión crítica. Studia Historica: Historia Moderna, 38, 467–502. Luther, M. (1971). On the Jews and Their Lies. In: Lehman, H. T., & Sherman, F. (Eds.). Luther’s Works, Volume 47: The Christian in Society IV. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press. Luther, M. (2012a). On the Ineffable Name and on the Lineage of Christ (1543). In Schramm, B., & Stjerna (Eds.), Martin Luther, the Bible and the Jewish People: A Reader (pp. 177–180). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. tjerna Luther, M. (2012b). An Admonition against the Jews (1546). In: Schramm, B., & S (Eds.), Martin Luther, the Bible and the Jewish People: A Reader (pp. 200–202). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Luther, M. (2012c). On the Jews and their Lies (1543). In: Schramm, B., & Stjerna (Eds.), Martin Luther, the Bible and the Jewish People: A Reader (pp. 164–176). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Mattos, V. da Costa (1623). Breve Discurso contra a Heretica Perfidia do Iudaismo. Lisbon.
50 François Soyer Moreira, F. (1630). Sermam que pregou o Padre Mestre Fr. Philippe Moreira, Religioso da Ordem de Sa[n]to Agostinho, Doutor pola Vniuersidade de Coimbra, & qualificador do S. Officio no auto da fe que se celebrou em Euora a 30. de iunho de 630. Évora. https://digitalis-dsp.uc.pt/jspui/handle/10316.2/9208 Nigrinus (Schwartz), G. (1570). Judenfeind. Oberursel. Pinamonti, G. P. (1694). La Sinagoga disingannata overo via facile à mostrare a qualunque ebreo la falsità della sua seta. Bologna. https://www.europeana.eu/portal/ ca/record/9200110/BibliographicResource_1000126566712.html Rae, H. (2002). State Identities and the Homogenisation of Peoples. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. Reinhard, W. (1989). Reformation, Counter-Reformation and the Early Modern State: A Reassessment. Catholic Historical Review, 75(3), 385–403. Reinhard, W., & Schilling, H. (Eds.) (1995). Die Katholische Konfessionalisieung. Gütersloh & Münster: Aschendorff. Resnick, I. M. (Trans.) (2013). Peter the Venerable against the Inveterate Obduracy of the Jews. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press. Rummel, E. (2002). The Case against Johann Reuchlin: Religious and Social Controversy in Sixteenth-Century Germany. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press. Sala-Molins, L. (1981): Le dictionnaire des inquisiteurs. Valence 1494. Paris: Editions Galilée. Schilling, H. (1981). Konfessionskonflikt und Staatsbildung. Gütersloh: Mohn. Soyer, F. (2014). Popularizing Anti-Semitism in Early Modern Spain and Its Empire: Francisco de Torrejocillo and the Centinela contra Judios (1674). Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers. Soyer, F. (2016a). “All One in Christ Jesus”? Spiritual Closeness, Genealogical Determinism and the Conversion of Jews in Alonso de Espina’s Fortalitium Fidei. Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies, 17(3), 239–254. Soyer, F. (2016b). The Recycling of an Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theory into an Anti-Morisco One in Early Modern Spain: The Myth of El Vengador, the Serial- Killer Doctor. eHumanista/Conversos, 4, 233–255. Tavim, J. A. R. d. S. (2011). ‘Murdering Doctors’ in Portugal (XVI–XVII Centuries). In T. Alexander, Y. Bentolila, & E. Shaul (Eds.). El Prezente. Studies in Sephardic Culture. Magic and Folk Medicine (Vol. 5, pp. 81–91). Beersheba: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Tavora, J. M. d. (1629). Sermão que pregou Joanne Mendes de Tavora (…) no Auto da Fé que se celebrou em Lisboa em 2 de Setembro de 1629. Lisbon. https://www. bibliotheque-numerique-aiu.org/records/item/367-tavora-joao-mendes-de-15981646-sermam-que-pregou-ioanne-mendes-de-tavora-no-auto-da-fe-que-se- celebrou-em-lisboa-em-2-de-setembro-de-1629-lisboa-por-antonio-aluarez-1629 Torrejoncillo, F. d. (1691). Centinela contra Judíos puesta en la Torre de la Iglesia de Dios. Pamplona. http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/obra/centinela-contra-judiospuesta-en-la-torre-de-la-iglesia-de-dios--con-el-trabajo-caudal-y-desvelo-delpadre-francisco-de-torrejoncillo/ Trachtenberg, T. (1943). The Devil and the Jews. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Velázquez, D. (1575). Defensio Statuti Toletani a Sede Apostolica saepe confirmati. Antwerp. https://www.europeana.eu/portal/ca/record/9200110/Bibliographic Resource_1000126620985.html
Guilt or masked shame? Reinhold Niebuhr’s diagnosis of the Christian self Disclosing affect and its contribution to violence Stephanie N. Arel
As a public theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr has made an indelible imprint on the perception of the Christian self. Niebuhr developed his theological anthropology in opposition to what he considered the “tender-minded” leanings of liberal theology (Dorrien, 2003, p. 442),1 which he believed neglected the “deep mythical meanings of Christian teaching” and subsequent resources succumbing to “cynical militarism and nihilism, on one hand, and a variety of naïve idealisms on the other hand” (Dorrien, 2003, pp. 466–447). Writing at the dawn of World War II, Niebuhr perceived a world in need of guidance, a world that needed the paradigmatic Christian story to navigate suffering and violence, a presumption that emerges in his analysis of the drama of the Fall. He portrays the Edenic narrative as a symbolic battle between good and evil, interpreting Adam and Eve as characters, whose subjective, internal experiences elucidate human a ffectivity, a biological norm that translates into the exterior capacity to do harm. Niebuhr thus presses the need for moral progress, which, he maintained, begins with the inner world of the individual. To interpret the interworking of the Christian self, Niebuhr uses the Edenic narrative as a basis for his theological anthropology, establishing his role as a master diagnostician of the human condition in Moral Man and Immoral Society and, then, in the Gifford Lectures, The Nature and Destiny of Man, the text on which this analysis focuses.2 In this chapter, I establish how Niebuhr’s translations of affective guilt, anxiety, pride, and sensuality overlook shame. I think that a consideration of shame is implicit in his analysis, but, in order to distinguish the layers of affect Niebuhr explicates and to subsequently mitigate cycles of violence, as Niebuhr’s project intends, showing where shame emerges is critical. I also show why the neglect of shame muddies the sinner’s connection to God, thereby contributing to violence. I argue that we must face shame, not avoid it, in order to achieve this connection. My interest in illuminating shame within Niebuhr’s work entails a consideration of the terms he uses to show how they either entangle with or
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mask shame, raising key questions that clarify the bidirectional relationship between the internal aspect of the affect and how it manifests in external behavior: What new understandings of Niebuhr’s theological anthropology emerge once concealed shame is revealed? Where does shame undulate beneath Niebuhr’s diagnosis of pride and sensuality, which, when distinguished, can further the theological commitment to resist a world plagued by violence? And further, how does making the theme of shame explicit sharpen both the diagnostic and ameliorative dimensions to Niebuhr’s anthropology? Viewing Niebuhr’s work through the lens of affect theory reveals the dynamics of shame in his rhetoric about sin, anxiety, and guilt in his theological anthropology. As established in this volume, an analysis of affect allows a deeper consideration of internal impulses that emerge prior to feeling or emotion, shaping bodies and external behavior. Identifying how unnamed affective shame operates in Niebuhr’s theology shows how it produces a habitus of the Christian self, opposed to the one Niebuhr’s theology intends.
Shame and guilt In recent decades, literature in the humanities, social sciences, pharmacology, and neuroscience interested in the impact of shame has sought to identify guilt and shame as distinct, particular, and unique internal, affective experiences (Gilligan, 1996; Herman, 1992; Nathanson, 1992, p. 147; Tangney & Dearing, 2002).3 Distinguishing shame from guilt clarifies the mechanisms, logic, and impact of each. First, guilt can be differentiated from shame according to its perceivable biological, ontogenetic evolution (Tomkins, 1962/2008, p. 350). Shame emerges earlier in the life cycle than guilt does. Erik Erikson’s (1950/1993, 1959/1980) psychosocial stages assert that the infant encounters “crises” of shame beginning at the age of approximately eighteen months, a time when the child is becoming aware of being observed but lacks the cognitive capacities for more advanced speech constructions. The crisis of guilt begins later, at the age of three, when a child is cognitively able to acknowledge and modify behavior (Erikson, 1950/1993, 1959/1980; Schore, 2003). Tomkins (1962/2008) locates the biological shame response earlier than Erikson (1950/1993, 1959/1980) does, when a child is approximately seven months old. In both developmental paradigms, shame emerges prior to language development and manifests when a child’s emotive response is met by displeasure from the primary caregiver (Sedgwick and Frank, 2005; Tomkins, 1962/2008). For example, if a child smiles and this physical sign of pleasure evokes dissatisfaction or contradictory displeasure in the caregivers’ gaze, the child experiences shame. The ensuing body posture might entail a bowed head, an averted gaze, downcast eyes, blushing, slumped shoulders,
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inhibited movement, and/or other behaviors that signify hiding (Block Lewis, 1987a; Darwin, 1872/2009; Herman, 2007; Nathanson, 1992; Tangney and Dearing, 2002). Such behaviors impede connection between the person enduring shame and the other. Thus, shame influences relationships, regulating distance between people and altering human connections. Furthermore, shame emerges when the affect pair of interest-excitement is present; the child longs to see the approving face of the parent. This posture of interest creates a level of vulnerability to rejection which would solicit shame. Without interest, shame is less easily provoked. Thus, shame indicates attachment and the inner need to develop relationality. When shame’s social function is denied or repressed, because it is painful, interest-excitement becomes partially truncated. The result produces c yclical mechanisms that perpetuate shame and the subsequent desire to eradicate shame, often through means of violence to the self or others. Part of the extreme responses to shame, such as violence, emerge from the fact that shame, an internal preverbal affect, is uncontrollable and immediate, inspiring external action before conscious processes have time to intervene. Blushing and averting one’s gaze when one is embarrassed illuminates a mild form of shame. But shame can inspire a painful trajectory that leads to the inability to speak, to connect with others, or to function socially. Due to shame’s preverbal interiority language alone cannot repair shame, which interred is primal, requiring more neurobiological processing and enduring longer than guilt (Michl et al., 2014). Second, shame and guilt differ according to their accompanying cognitive processes. Shame as a negative affect intertwines with a negative self-perception where parts of the self (or the whole self) are renounced or considered “bad” and inferior. The acuteness of shame intertwines with a particular logic, if a somewhat tragic one: “If I disappear, then no one will see me, and my shame will go away” (Williams, 1993/2008, p. 90). On the other hand, guilt, while experienced internally, emerges when an action or behavior falls outside of what the “I” perceives as good, moral, or accepted. In this case, the manner of behavior is criticized. Thus, guilt as the result of a wrong action, as an emotional response to an apparent mistake or wrongdoing, distinguishes itself from shame, which implies no standard of comparison as distinct from having done something wrong or right. Instead, shame points to some wrong inherent and inescapable in the self. Shame therefore implies an experience of the inferior self in the eyes of another, locating shame’s transpiration in a “logic of exposure”. Being seen when we perceive ourselves as inferior – or in shame – magnifies the shame experience. The idea of being exposed in shame initiates the very physical, exteriorized impulse to hide. The idea that one disappears in shame, escaping the sight of the other, emerges in Tangney and Dearing’s (2002) research, which distinguishes guilt-prone individuals from those who are shame-prone based on stable or
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unstable self-attributions related to behavior. In the case of guilt, individuals concentrate on some kind of committed act involving more “internal, specific, and fairly unstable attributions” (Tangney & Dearing, 2002, p. 53). To illustrate the point, Tangney and Dearing use the example of a guiltprone woman who cheats on her boyfriend, a specific behavior about which she takes responsibility. She discerns the causes of her cheating and lack of truthfulness as variable and internally processes in a way that labels behavior as context specific. She does not perceive herself as promiscuous or disloyal. Tangney and Dearing (2002) explain a shame-prone young man’s response to the same indiscretion; he endures “an acute sense of shame – feeling disgraceful and small, wanting to hide, even disappear. Focusing on himself, he knows he is responsible (an internal attribution)” (pp. 53–54). He understands himself as “disloyal, untrustworthy, immoral, even reprehensible” illustrating that shame focuses on a global, enduring, inferior self, that continually makes “bad” decisions (pp. 53–54). Shame-prone individuals experience a diminished sense of self in relation to another that is pervasive and long lasting. Instead of being focused on a contingent and dependent act, shame-prone individuals internalize and overgeneralize behavior defining their state as deficient. Since guilt does not have the same quality of defining self-worth as shame does, it compels more constructive behaviors instead of leading to destructive judgmental behaviors toward the self and others (Tangney & Dearing, 2002). However, guilt that masks shame, or is misidentified as shame, poses the same problems as shame does. Guilt not conflated with shame can generally be repaired through restitution; often a simple apology can discharge and heal guilt. However, if guilt is left to fester without repair and remuneration, it intensifies and turns into shame, which cannot be resolved or treated through penance (Spinoza, 1677–2005). Thus, shame requires an intervention that involves dissolution of the perception of the inferior self, the restoration of dignity or self-worth, and the repair of broken attachment bonds. If emerging shame is met immediately by some kind of connection to another person, it diminishes. However, unaddressed and dysregulated shame becomes interred in the body and ultimately deleterious. As a result, unlike guilt assuaged by restitution, or a simple “I am sorry”, the amelioration of shame requires reattachment, or the promise of a “return to interest, joy, and connection” (Block Lewis, 1987a, pp. 23–25; Probyn, 2005, p. xii).
The drama of the Fall as a human drama Disentangling shame and guilt enables us to see where each emerges in Niebuhr’s analysis of the Edenic narrative, a drama that he envisions enacted in human life (Cooper, 2009; Gilkey, 2001). The central character in Niebuhr’s (1943) interpretation of the Fall is the devil, symbolizing evil
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which “arises from his effort to transgress the bounds set for his life” by God (p. 180). As the original ‘rebel’ against God, the devil represents the self, full of affective pride and resentful of the limitations set upon him; thus, the devil rejects God who is boundless and free. As a result of this rejection in pride, “sin posits itself” within the devil (Niebuhr, 1943/1996, p. 181). Consequentially, original sin, manifested in the devil’s pride, becomes a “force of evil” and a source of temptation that will subsequently surge through Adam (Niebuhr, 1943/1996, p. 254). To note, Niebuhr neither locates Adam as the actual source of the first sin nor does he believe, as Augustine does, that Adam and Eve initiate the passing of sin from person to person. Sin, for Niebuhr, is neither inherited nor intrinsic because as the devil does, Adam functions figuratively as a representative who symbolizes the embodied condition of humankind, the personification of a Christian person. Niebuhr (1943/1996) wants to assert that the source of sin in Adam is not biological. It is a spiritual force, represented by the devil, “the principle or force of evil antecedent to any evil human action” (p. 180). Located situationally, sin is neither the Augustinian “inherited corruption,” nor is sin intrinsic (p. 263). However, for Niebuhr, original sin resides internal to Adam’s being and creates the conditions for the sinful act, a manifestation of the temptation brought about by the devil. A sinful action emerges out of the sinful condition or the desire to be God. Adam’s refusal of God through the rejection of God’s rule not to eat from the tree of knowledge authenticates his imperfection, internal sin. For Niebuhr (1943/1996), before his first recorded sinful action, Adam was sinless but, because of the devil, has “bias toward sin” (p. 250). If Adam had not acted and if Adam had remained under God’s control fully attached, surrendering his own will and urges to God, his newfound sinfulness would not have come to light. Niebuhr writes further that: Adam is a representative, not of our freedom to choose either good or evil, but rather of our falling through unbelief [in God] and pride into a state of sin that renders us unable to choose the good we would choose. (p. 261) Unable to choose between good and evil, the Christian self, caught between a pull from both the devil and God, can only achieve freedom by submitting personal will to God. Paradoxically, disempowered will, or individual will turned over to God, means to be free. According to Niebuhr (1943/1996), original sin is an inevitable “corruption” illustrative of apathy, the “sloth of nature” born in humanity (pp. 242 and 246). Hence, original sin marks humanity’s “bias toward evil”, which postulates sin not as a problem to be addressed but rather as a dominating bias in human nature (p. 245; Cooper, 2009, p. 17).4
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This predilection for sin is rooted in humanity’s anxious, animal nature, connecting humanity to the devil, temptation, and a refusal to be conscious, which results in humanity’s wrong interpretation that its condition of finiteness is escapable. Niebuhr (1943/1996) posits that Adam fails to bear finiteness and vulnerability, falsely grasping the idea that freedom is an escape from finiteness, succumbing to the anxiety that results from both. Such anxiety transmutes into temptation, which is precisely where Adam discovers the inevitability of original sin – in his own freedom and detachment from God. While never completely assuaged, sin can only be ameliorated by “subjection” of the “particular [individual] will” to God’s will (p. 252). Thus life, while imperfect, can only be improved, according to Niebuhr, when the individual surrenders personal desires and sinful temptations to the will of God. This surrender is tantamount to a refusal of pride or radical trust in God. For Niebuhr (1943/1996), ontological anxiety represents the core state of being in which humanity finds itself, constituting the human condition, which, along with insecurity, comprises the “psychological facts” that support original sin (p. 251). While different from neurotic or pathological anxiety, which can both be considered abnormal states (Cooper, 2009), ontological, everyday anxiety emerges from two sources: Adam’s awareness of being finite, dependent, and imperfect and his inability to accept the limits of his freedom. In the face of his dependency on God, Adam feels anxious. Yet this anxiety also perpetuates his desire to be like God, further evidencing the denial of the limitations of human life. Original sin plus anxiety create the affective conditions from which actual sin “flows” (Niebuhr, 1943/1996, pp. 250–251). Anxiety “tempts the self to sin; the sin increases insecurity which it was intended to alleviate until some escape from the whole tension of life is sought” (Niebuhr, 1943/1996, p. 235). This anxious grasping, for Niebuhr, can never result in anything but more anxiety, and power cannot heal the ontological condition of anxiety. Yet, humanity, according to Niebuhr, believes otherwise, and anxiety, along with insecurity and the search for greater security, leads either to the actual sin of “egoistic” pride (self-deification) or to “egoistic” sensuality (the deification of another) (Cooper, 2009, p. 33).
Pride and sensuality: sinful acts facilitate release The dimensions of sin demonstrated by pride and sensuality allow Niebuhr to account for the idea of sin’s “expansion” (p. 226). Significantly, for human experience, both pride and sensuality are qualified by their scope. Pride represents excessiveness substantiated in humanity’s unbounded desire, self-worship, and effort to defy the limitations of mortal life, while sensuality consists of escaping or losing the self in sensual love and idolization of another person or thing.
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Acts of pride, for Niebuhr (1943/1996), operate as the most basic of actual sins. The prideful self aims to “enhance the ego”, to experience “a sense of power” (p. 234). “The boundless and limitless tendencies of human desires” lead the self to commit sins that emerge in the “lust-for-power” and in pride itself related to “prestige and honour” (pp. 253, 211). Rejecting finiteness, the boundless ego seeks infinity, a state that, after the Fall, only God can experience. Thus, full of pride, the self attempts to be God rather than to submit to God. In Niebuhr’s (1943/1996) theology, where boundlessness reflects human ity’s pride and signifies a fleeing away from God toward human power, sensuality signifies a fleeing from God toward the other (a thing or a person) in what Niebuhr calls an “escape” (p. 186). This self cannot bear the anxiety experienced when choosing between surrender to sin or surrender to God’s will. Self-denial results, provoking the “fall into sensuality”, where self-love becomes invested in another, which Niebuhr equates to rejecting God (p. 186). In this “escape” into the other, humanity’s inability to tolerate finiteness and ambiguity manifests itself. Furthermore, as with pride, the act of escaping in sensuality is conducted through a variety of methods, addictive behaviors for Niebuhr or anything that constitutes a “plunge into unconsciousness” (p. 239). He writes that sensuality has become an “instrument of compensation” for humanity’s insecurity and fear of freedom, providing an “avenue of escape” from human pain (p. 236). For Niebuhr (1943/1996), sensuality is “a further sin, which is also a punishment for the more primary sin [of pride]” (p. 238). According to Niebuhr, society sanctions pride (the worse sin) but generally resists sensuality. Niebuhr’s answer is to advise Christians to turn toward God, to refute pride and sensuality in a posture of guilt and repentance, guilt that Niebuhr asserts is “the actual corruption of creation” and the primary affect for which “the sinner must be held responsible” (p. 222).
Ensuing guilt According to Niebuhr (1943/1996), guilt and remorse follow sinful acts. With the sinful act, consciousness of sinfulness awakes, accompanied by confusion and a lack of understanding of the sympathetic nature of God’s grace. “The despair of remorse”, or guilt, follows (p. 238). To demonstrate guilt, Niebuhr quotes Genesis 3:7, “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (p. 238). He asserts that these actions affirm “that guilt becomes involved in sensual passion after the Fall” (p. 238), implying that the bodily, affective response to body awareness is guilt. Furthermore, he claims that Adam’s state of confusion, lack of consciousness, and inevitable sin also elicit guilt. For Niebuhr, Adam represents the sinner, who should confront the guilt that sin incurs.
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Guilt continues to be Niebuhr’s (1943/1996) affective focal point. In his analysis, “guilt is the objective consequence of sin, the actual corruption of the plan of creation and providence in the historical world”, for which, Niebuhr states, “the inner sinner must be held responsible” (p. 222).5 But guilt manifests in varying degrees and for different reasons depending on one’s social location. Even so, for Niebuhr (1943/1996), guilt both illustrates the existence of sin and serves as the inevitable reaction to original sin: through pride or sensuality. Just as Niebuhr (1943/1996) conceives of layers of sin – first original and then actual – he also perceives layers of guilt. The first layer consists of guilt for sloth related to original sin. From that sloth, actual sins emerge for which humanity should also feel guilty inspiring regret and a desire to act otherwise. He asserts, “The fact of responsibility is attested by the feeling of remorse or repentance which follows the [inevitable] sinful action” (p. 255). Thus, again, humanity exists amid the paradox of inevitability and responsibility reflected in Niebuhr’s belief that while sin is equally shared, guilt is proportional even as it is an objective reality we have a moral obligation to confront. uman In Niebuhr’s view, pride as self-love fuels much of the suffering in h life, and subsequently, humanity feels guilty. Guilt, with its attendant remorse for self-love, is thus critical to humanity’s release from such volatile situations. However, only an aware and reflective self can access guilt and therefore address it. This aware and conscious self both indicates the state of sin and participates in the healing of sin. But the amelioration of guilt occurs only when the individual seeks God. Viewed through an affective lens, partially detached from God and subsequently from others, the self exists in a fractured state of isolation, which perpetuates pride, unhappiness, and greed, all pathologies to Niebuhr. Underneath these pathologies lies hidden shame.
Shame emerges Throughout Nature and Destiny of Man, Niebuhr (1943/1996) rarely mentions shame explicitly. However, viewing his work through the lens of affect theory reveals something like shame in Niebuhr’s work elided by other terms. This elision of shame in Niebuhr’s writing is similar to the human experience of shame itself. As Serge Tisseron (2013) asserts, shame functions in the body under the “masque” of something else, including anxiety, withdrawal, general guilt (without the possibility of pardon), generalized rage, and violence. In Niebuhr (1943/1996), original sin, anxiety, pride, sensuality, and guilt all mask shame in some way. Drawing from the work of affect and shame theorists to disentangle these terms from each other permits me to delineate “marks of shame” in Niebuhr’s writing, extricating shame from his rhetoric,
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revealing where it lies obscured. In particular, distinguishing shame from other affects clarifies its role as a central motivator of embodied behavior that when interred has deleterious effects. Sin for Niebuhr (1943/1996) can be described much as Tomkins (1962/2008) describes shame, as “an inner torment, a sickness of the soul” that “strikes deepest into the heart” of humanity (p. 387). While Niebuhr’s idea of sin as posited sounds much like Tomkins’ shame, Niebuhr states that ameliorating this evil in the self requires confronting guilt. Through the lens of affect theory, the fact that unrepaired guilt morphs into shame complicates this confrontation because shame cannot be resolved through penance. Further, the natural response to the sense of inner wrongfulness, or experience of the self as lacking, is not guilt, but shame; as mentioned, guilt is a response to behavior, yet shame is a response to perceived inadequacy in the self. What Niebuhr (1943/1996) understands as guilt or the corruption of creation, the force that misdirects humanity, then, illustrates a shame response. Guilt, thus, assumes the affective qualities of shame in Niebuhr, and this shame aligns with the wound of evil in the self, just as it aligns with torment in Tomkins (1962/2008). Niebuhr (1943/1996) describes the Fall as one from perfection to imperfection. Original sin, present in the individual as an inner defect, marks this descent. Niebuhr’s presentation of original sin as an interior corruption establishes a broken humanity in need of correction and repair. For such reparation, Niebuhr engenders guilt which can be repaired by a turn to God in remorse and repentance. Although amelioration of inner misery can never be total, remorse and repentance help humanity manage sin through the connection to God. For Niebuhr, one is never completely unconnected from God. The inevitability of sin disrupts this either through self-assertion or through sensual escape, but by naming shame as an affective motivator, humanity’s situation improves. A theological vocabulary that helps to identify shame would increase access to divine assistance as Niebuhr perceives it. For Niebuhr (1943/1996), original sin, whether individually “conscious or unconscious”, marks the beginning of what he calls a “pathetic vicious circle” and “the consequence of blindness”, figuratively speaking, to the wound of sin itself evidenced in humanity’s imperfection (p. 250). On a social level, internalizing this gross human imperfection supports shame’s centralization. Individuals thus experience themselves as inferior, blemished, and sick. As Tomkins (1962/2008) asserts, the belief in the inferior self makes counteracting a sense of shame difficult, leading to distress “which further activates shame, which thus ends in further defeat and strengthening the image of the self as inferior” (p. 330). As can be seen, shame and sin progress similarly. In Susan Nelson’s (2012) terms, “Shame wounds and binds like sin wounds and binds” (p. 72). Original sin, in Niebuhr’s (1943/1996) analysis, connects and binds the Christian self to an idolatrous relation to the created order: either as worship of self (pride) or as worship of the other (sensuality).
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The slippage A closer review of Niebuhr’s ideas alongside the insights of shame theorists further elucidates the problem of masked shame. In a fallen world, the subjection of the self to God is always imperfect, and Niebuhr (1943/1996) asserts, partial to guilt. However, if human experience is described and understood in this way, the experience of shame continues to go unaddressed, both theoretically and practically. While Niebuhr names guilt as a response, examining his construction of guilt through the lens of affect theory suggests that the response has more to do with shame. For instance, when he suggests guilt is a result of inferiority, he describes something more like shame than guilt, and when he suggests that Adam and Eve feel guilt at being seen by God, he refers to the phenomenological association of shame with sight. Niebuhr’s description of Adam and Eve’s behavior, and the subsequent internal effects of their behavior, indicates shame. Shame – corporeally expressed as downcast eyes, slumped shoulders, or withdrawal of the body in an act of hiding or covering-up – emerges alongside guilt, or as a result of compounded guilt, as the affective condition of humanity in response to original sin. Shame theorists assert that the internal response to the idea of a deficient self is shame, not guilt. This assumption relies on distinguishing guilt as a response to wrongdoing from shame as a response to a perceived wrong in the self (Tangney & Dearing, 2002). Adam is guilty of wrongdoing, but subsequently and then concomitantly, Adam is also in shame. This “perceived wrong in the self” that Adam carries signifies a wound that cannot be healed, but for which, according to Niebuhr, Adam should also feel guilt. Yet, his external actions show the visceral impact of internal shame. Furthermore, while remorse (as an exteriorized act) psychologically heals guilt, remorse has little to no impact on shame (Tangney, Stuewig, & Hafez, 2011). Guilt and remorse presuppose a unified self, whereas in shame, the self becomes fragmented as a result of the ontological condition of belief that some part of the self is bad. By extension, ameliorating shame presents a far more complex challenge than the healing required for guilt, in part, because shame goes unrecognized so often. Typically, as Block Lewis (1987a) has explained, individuals who feel shame substitute guilt for shame because guilt is a “less acute emotion” than shame (p. 23). Guilt is not as toxic to the body as shame (Gilligan, 1996; Tangney & Dearing, 2002). All of this indicates a much deeper problem than Niebuhr presents; reduced to a sense of worthlessness, the person experiencing shame disintegrates and repressed shame morphs into additional shame or violence. Although Niebuhr (1943/1996) does not name shame as central to the Christian self, he establishes that self as fearing exposure: sinful humanity lies in full view of an omniscient and omnipotent God. Thus, the nature of seeing and being seen lies at the foundation of Niebuhr’s doctrine of God.
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He retains the visual metaphor throughout his work, and this visual field has a direct, if unstated, relation to shame.6 In shame literature, shame rather than guilt connects phenomenologically to the idea of being exposed. To be sinful in the sight of God can easily be read as to be ashamed in the sight of God. Turning to God, therefore, entails an admission of imperfectability. Under the force of shame, an admission of such imperfection is difficult to concede. This is Adam and Eve’s predicament; just as they cover themselves in shame, they seek attachment to God. Exposed before God after sinning and in shame, they struggle to connect to God and all that God represents in paradise. This loss of a facile bond and the subsequent interior sin that diminishes self-worth signify shame’s presence. However, Niebuhr (1943/1996) articulates the response to both sinful action and the sin posited in the individual as guilt, blending the experiential condition of remorse for wrongdoing with the ontological condition of perceiving something wrong with the self. If guilt can be distinguished from shame based on action, then, in the second case, Niebuhr misidentifies shame as guilt. This misidentification contributes to a cycle of shame. On a broader level, part of this cycle – manifested in Niebuhr’s sins of sensuality and pride – includes the attempt to deny human dependence and impermanence. Interestingly, Niebuhr’s images of escape and unboundedness pertaining to sensuality and pride reflect the behaviors of shame identified in shame literature.
Affective exclusion and toxic affect In the Edenic narrative, the desire to eradicate the unpleasantness of what Niebuhr (1943/1996) calls “guilt” compounds anxiety, the ontological condition of mankind antecedent to guilt or sin. In addition, when this guilt is viewed as shame, anxiety, in turn, compounds shame. Therefore, anxiety can be interpreted as marking the existence of shame, which interferes with the attachment to God. Thus, in Niebuhr’s theology, references to anxiety along with insecurity eclipse shame, as references to guilt do, but in different ways. As noted earlier, Niebuhr’s use of the word “guilt” for “shame”, in effect, masks shame with guilt. However, the affective life that Niebuhr postulates includes a cyclical relationship of what can be articulated as shame and a resulting anxiety. Negative affects like anxiety promote shame’s repression, and efforts at reducing the shame affect increase even to the point of damage to the body and violence to the self or others. In fact, both Block Lewis (1987a, 1987b) and Tomkins (1962/2008) argue that overgeneralized, minimized anxiety central to the human self disguises and represses shame, interring it. Tomkins (1962/2008) addresses the over usage of the word “anxiety” labeling it a kind of “socialization of distress”, that generates repression and not
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the other way around (p. 347). In Niebuhr’s theology, anxiety becomes a normalized condition that subsumes other affects, including shame, thereby neglecting and repressing shame. Tisseron (2013) calls shame a “dreadful experience” spurred by anxiety in three phases: the anxiety of exclusion, the confusion that guards against anxiety, and the feeling of shame itself (p. 404). In Niebuhr, the anxiety of exclusion emerges in the distance between God and the self that Niebuhr perceives as resulting from original sin. Humanity’s effort to deny contingency guards against anxiety but in vain. The realization of insecurity in the world, along with the anxiety of exclusion, incurs further shame. This cycle of shame and anxiety emerges when additional shame results from the anxiety of the first shame. Furthermore, anxiety, related to other personal experiences of insecurity, helplessness, and self-doubt, contributes to the evolution of shame, even though shame is none of these (Lynd, 1961; Tomkins, 1962/2008). The necessarily human experience of shame, however, exposes personal attachment, vulnerability, and dependence, all of which are normal experiences and affective responses that become pathologized if not appropriately addressed. Martha Nussbaum (2004) sheds light on this when she identifies shame as aligned with the “primitive” encapsulated in the idea of a “general neediness and vulnerability” (p. 183). Her sense of primitive shame emerges from the narcissistic defeat of the infant in Tomkins’ (1962/2008) work. Aligning herself with Aristophanes, Nussbaum writes that shame emerges when the “primitive longing for wholeness and the sense that one ought rightly to be whole” cannot be fulfilled (2004, p. 186). Individual attempts to find wholeness constitute attempts to eradicate the affective experience of shame, which is often subsumed and obscured by references to anxiety. When people are socialized to feel anxious for conditions about which they feel innate shame, the affects become toxic. This toxicity results when affects such as shame and anxiety converge with other negative affects. Furthermore, in the case of toxicity, the positive affects of interest and excitement, which encourage the attachment necessarily present in shame’s emergence, fail to assemble to transform shame; the strength of shame overpowers them, curtailing connections and thus preventing any amelioration of shame. Instead, negative affects like anxiety promote shame’s repression, and efforts at reducing the shame affect increase even if it takes violence. The shame experience is painful, undermining the experience of the self as dignified and worthy. Gilligan’s (2001) work with violent offenders reinforces what is at stake when shame and guilt go unaddressed. In one prisoner’s words, the motivations to assault or kill someone include reestablishing “Pride. Dignity. Self-esteem” (43), illustrating the ubiquitous presence of shame in the presence of violent behavior.
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The poles of shame According to Niebuhr (1943/1996), the actual sins of pride and sensuality flow from the aggregate of original sin and anxiety. Both sins result in diverting attention from God by investing that attention either into the self or into another person or thing. Niebuhr expresses the human state in these sins as either puffed up, attempting to be boundless and expanded, or withdrawn and evasive seeking, a means for escape. While his descriptive imaging does not detail or formulate shame, his articulations of pride and sensuality mirror the dual behaviors of aggression and withdrawal that, according to shame theorists, are generated by shame. So again, while Niebuhr does not name shame explicitly in his analysis, his recognition of pride and sensuality can be read as indicative symptoms of shame, or as markers of where shame operates even though masked. Significantly, Niebuhr’s diagnosis of original sin as resulting in pride and sensuality parallels Erving Goffman’s diagnosis that shame leads to the stigmatized person becoming either too aggressive, exhibiting a “false bravado”, or being too shamefaced, exhibiting “defensive cowering” (1963, p. 17). Pride correlates with the idea of being too aggressive, while sensuality, in the sense of an escape of the self into another or into drugs may be the result of being too shamefaced. In both Niebuhr and Goffman, either the stigmatized person bears a posture of false bravado as pride, or hubris, or he/she responds with defensive cowering or the impetus to hide. Most often, the stigmatized vacillates rapidly between these two poles. Donald Nathanson’s (1992) shame compass adds dimension to the concepts of “false bravado” and “defensive cowering”, alongside Niebuhr’s pride and sensuality. The compass accounts for a range of behaviors in which shame operates. These behaviors constitute attempts of the person in shame to alleviate shame. Patterns of defense include withdrawal (escape), avoidance (repression), attacking the self, and attacking the other (Nathanson, 1992). Nathanson continues: Each of these categories represents an entire system of affect management, a set of strategies by which an individual has learned to handle the shame affect. Such strategies are characterized by widely divergent assortments of values. And in each, the shame affect is experienced differently – the purpose of the strategy is to make it feel different. (p. 312) Each defense serves as a means of reducing shame or transmuting it into some other affective experience. In either case, within the “shame/pride axis”, most individuals seek more pride and less shame (p. 20). The “attack other” pole relates to Niebuhr’s (1943/1996) primary diagnosis of the human in pride. For Nathanson, this pole of the compass includes
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hubris, the violence-inducing type of pride that disturbs Niebuhr, not the pride that constitutes a good sense of self-worth. The primary aim of the “attack other” pole is to replace shame through the acquisition of pride as hubris, illustrating the observation made by Gilligan (1996) that attempts to restore pride often erupt in violence toward others. As shown, Gilligan (1996) sees such violence as the result of a deep and misguided desire to eradicate shame from the body and to reinstate dignity; he writes that: the basic psychological motive, or cause, of violent behavior is the wish to ward off or eliminate the feeling of shame and humiliation—a feeling that is painful and can even be intolerable and overwhelming—and to replace it with its opposite, the feeling of pride. (2003, p. 1153) Unlike hubris, true pride represents a desire for self-worth and respect, the affective opposite of shame, as “self-esteem, self-respect, and self-love” (Gilligan, 1996, p. 47). Yet violence fails to achieve this aim; to make matter worse, acts of violence elicit additional shame; eventually a very malignant absence of feeling takes shame’s place. This absence of feeling, what Gilligan calls “cold”, “numbness”, and “deadness”, results when shame has been compounded, repressed, and deeply interred into the body with no outlet (1996, pp. 47–48). This sensibility is analogous to the result Niebuhr describes when the self rejects God. Alongside the “attack other” pole in Nathanson’s (1992) theory are the “attack self” mode, avoidance, and withdrawal. These three poles are more closely aligned with Niebuhr’s (1943/1996) conception of sensuality. “Withdrawal” constitutes removing oneself – escaping from shame and the feeling of vulnerability that comes with exposing ourselves to another human being. The “attack self” mode interprets the self as only capable of sustaining relationships with a reduced life. These two poles together constitute a way of living a diminished life. The avoidance pole is a direct way to evade shame by not feeling it, by assuaging shame through drugs, alcohol, or sex. When none of these poles work, the attack other pole fosters a perceived way to ameliorate shame through violence enacted on another. The shame experience thus has several progressions. Shame leads to more shame. For instance, withdrawing to evade human connection perpetuates shame. Often this evasion takes the form of violence, as in the attack other mode, to restore self-worth, shame’s opposite, but it can also take the form of sensuality. Gerhart Piers and Milton B. Singer (1971) investigate these patterns or cycles of shame – shame for shame and shame for rage preceded by guilt – describing the behaviors as falling within either the realm of sexuality or the realm of hostility; these repetitious sequences show how shame influences
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the most essential levels of being, figuring into the discussion of Niebuhr’s sensuality and pride. The first cycle begins with a sexual impulse that contrasts with modes of expected behavior, engages with guilt, and often becomes labeled as “sin”. Social norms, laws, and religious doctrine determine the sexually normative and, as mentioned, the shamefaced. So, when we engage in an act that exceeds the normative, whatever that might be, we might experience guilt, but if this guilt perpetuates itself, shame results. Transgression of boundaries set up by institutions leads to guilt, and then finally, to inhibition or regression. If the guilt of transgression goes unaddressed, it becomes internalized as shame. The sense of having committed a violation or wrongdoing in guilt becomes part of self-definition when it goes unrepaired or ameliorated by remorse or apology. Festering and transmuting into shame, guilt for wrongdoing assimilated into the self invokes the depraved, unworthy self. Feeling sorry for the original infraction turns into disparagement of the self in shame, which fails to inhibit the behavior but rather leads to more acting out, and the guilt-shame cycle repeats itself (Tangney & Dearing, 2002). Gilligan’s (1996) work with incarcerated men who express that they use violence in attempts to eradicate their own shame illustrates and dramatizes this cycle. Like Gilligan, Thomas Scheff (1987) sees that shame and rage relate, stating, “at the core of this issue is the phenomenon of having emotional reactions to one’s emotional reactions” (p. 112). For Scheff (1987), this includes feeling shame, rage, and subsequently experiencing shame for feeling rage. Shame and rage become intertwined, and the person in shame and rage feels further shame for having the feeling. Such cycles manifest dysregulated shame, and shame that is evoked but not repaired increases or maintains levels of symptomatic behavior (Scheff, 1987, p. 109). Thus, shame has a propensity to emerge in some context or another, if intervention fails to occur. Niebuhr’s theological aim is to provide some guidance for humanity on how to mitigate the cycles of aggressiveness, withdrawal, and violence that distance humanity from God, leading to an unjust society. He seeks to show that pride as hubris, what he would call aggrandizement of the self at the expense of others, always break down. Only through connection to God and reciprocity can this be addressed. Viewing his perception of humanity in original sin through an affective lens reveals that he understands shame, but it also affirms that shame is a more serious problem than even Niebuhr represents. Under the mask of anxiety and guilt, while also attached to the idea of a stigma, shame is too easily disregarded. Unacknowledged but not absent, shame leads to withdrawal and further repression. Shame manifesting in “escape, in the language of withdrawal” is “swift and occasionally total”, reducing the self to destitution (Nathanson, 1992, p. 313). Unaddressed shame eventually amounts to the loss of the self. Attempts to recover this
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lost self manifest in efforts to acquire pride as hubris to combat low feelings of self-worth. But all too often, as Gilligan’s (1996, 2001, 2003) work shows, this acquisition occurs violently, and attempts to recover the self through violence always fail.
Paradoxical shaping For Niebuhr (1943/1996), the only way to counter the fall into pride and sensuality is through participation in Christ and therefore grace. Adam assumes the exterior habitus of a guilty man. However, this habitus includes deep, interior shame and all of the ramifications of that state of being. Niebuhr, thus, establishes the grounds from which shame emerges, but he fails to name shame and to bring its consequences to light. If we read Niebuhr (1943/1996) through the lens of affect, shame becomes both the consequence of sin and responsible for sinful behavior (p. 222). When this is the case, Niebuhr echoes the assertions of shame and affect theorists that (1) shame cannot be overcome and (2) shame motivates harmful action to the self and to others. Shame though plays a central part in human life, and even though it elicits pain and can be maladaptive, shame is inherent in the self and in the body. Niebuhr goes awry when he fails to name shame and instead centralizes anxiety and guilt, thus permitting shame to go unnoticed and to be interred in the Christian self. This paradoxical Christian self that Niebuhr perceives situated between finiteness and freedom in relationship to God can also be explored in terms of shame. Landon Gilkey (2001) details Niebuhr’s conception of human nature as establishing interrelated paradoxes each of which taps into the notion of shame in affect theory. Gilkey (2001) first asserts that Niebuhr considers humans as animals with a spiritual quality; “even though as a part of nature, humanity can be self-transcendent” (p. 81). Niebuhr does in fact believe that humanity can ascend from the animal/mortal state and affective life where shame plays a part, as a result of binding the self in subjugation to God. The first mark of shame intertwined with the stigma of original sin can only be assuaged through grace. In Niebuhr’s analysis, the figure to which one would attach to ameliorate but never eradicate shame is God. Gilkey (2001) also asserts a second paradox. Although Niebuhr believes that humans are essentially moral and seek to do good works, they are also immoral beings and commit sins. Sin has a way, in Niebuhr’s opinion, of interfering and distorting the good. Therefore, the choice to do good works necessitates grace. In addition, as noted earlier, Niebuhr does assert that guilt, another mark of shame, represents the proper response for the failure to choose the good insofar as repentance leads individuals back to God. However, by positing original sin in the self and insisting that humanity confronts guilt without naming shame, Niebuhr increases the likelihood of the very condition of humanity that he protests: a boundless ego that rejects God and desires power over the other – in other words, the self in shame.
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In the third paradox, humans, as a result of evil, demand “significance” while they feel “obviously insignificant” (Gilkey, 2001, p. 81). Guilty of evil, individuals can only become free of such evil through full submission to God. Niebuhr struggles with sensuality, in the form of addictive behaviors, escape, and withdrawal, and with pride, as expressed through competition and violence. As shown previously, such behaviors at root indicate shame. Hovering between insignificance and significance, the human lives both feeling guilty and feeling free. He or she is guilty of original sin and incapable of avoiding actual sin but free to choose and free insofar as humanity is created in God’s image. Thus, the Christian self finds the self in another, fourth, paradox. This final paradox emerges as the overarching guilt-ethic in the Christian tradition. Critiquing this ethic as misdiagnosing shame calls its usefulness into question. According to Nathanson (1992), shame emerges as a major component in the discourse around rue and contrition inherent in traditional theology. Nathanson (1992) describes how shame and two other affects operate within the cycle of remorse and repentance adopted by the Christian tradition from the Edenic narrative: “Shame triggered by awareness (both of the nature of one’s actions and the nature of the self who committed them); fear of punishment for what one has done; and distress produced by the constancy of one’s shame” (p. 327). At the heart of the guilt-ethic, as Nathanson (1992) elaborates, lies shame. In this interpretation, shame, not guilt, emerges as the initial and primary affect, but shame also floods the entire Christian experience. Too often though, shame is obscured and interred in narratives, in rhetoric, and in Christian bodies. The resulting exteriorization of the isolated sinner, the central character of the guilt-ethic, is a Christian in shame, and since shame represents a problem of attachment, this ethic – that the lonely sinner seek God – fails. Instead of fostering secure attachment, it provokes shame and shame’s interment. In Gilligan’s (1996) analysis of historical violence, shame without a place for expression, shame unnamed and interred, serves as the central focus and problem. Gilligan (1996) faults systems that advocate punishment and violence as a means of control, arguing, like Nathanson (1992) does, that the guilt-ethic’s binary in the Christian tradition, which emerges in the criminal and justice systems, cannot solve the problem of violence. It cannot because it “does not dismantle the motivational structure that causes violence in the first place (namely, shame, and the shame-ethics that motivates it)” (Gilligan, 1996, p. 235). Gilligan (1996) sees the guilt-ethic bind as sustaining the problem of violence because it directs violence toward the self, which perpetuates shame. Thus, the guilt that Niebuhr asserts repeats the problems within human nature that his work attempts to mitigate. Instead of turning toward others – or to God to seek grace – the shamed self falls deeper into a sense of isolation and affective humiliation, often resorting to violence to ease the pain. Niebuhr’s (1943/1996) entire effort is to speak the ways to break the cycles of shame and violence through grace. For this to occur, internal shame must be faced.
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Conclusion Situated within humanity, the original sin Niebuhr names perpetuates anxiety. Seen through the lens of affect theory, original sin as something inescapably wrong with the self evokes shame. Ontological anxiety, then, parallels a conception of ontological shame, both of which logically stem from the idea of “imperfection”. Ontological anxiety bound up with original sin can be expressed in terms of shame, unavoidable and cause for human angst. To assuage this condition, Niebuhr posits that humanity commits the actual sins of pride and sensuality, behaviors that when viewed through the lens of affect theory both masks shame and signifies shame’s presence. Shame theory asserts that attempts to assuage shame by hiding or restoring pride occur as regular phenomena, and shame appears in what Niebuhr calls the sin of hiding, the human response to exposure. Additionally, shame, in Niebuhr, manifests as pride in the form of violence, which attempts to eradicate the stigma of sin and anxiety. Last, embedded in Niebuhr’s theology is a dialectic of guilt. Guilt represents the affective response that he identifies as part of the wound of original sin and the behaviors of escape and pride, which theorists would call shame. Although Niebuhr fails to name shame directly, he provides theological anthropology with clear marks of shame. In Niebuhr, the Christian self feels anxious about original sin and, therefore, should subject the self to God. Repentance, submission, and attachment to God serve as remedies for the internal wound of original sin. However, if human experience is described and understood in this way, the experience of shame continues to go unaddressed, both theoretically and practically. If the Christian self is marked by shame, in order to keep this shame from becoming toxic and deleterious, compounded, repressed, and interred in the Christian self, shame must be named. Reading Niebuhr through the affective lens that I have provided reveals shame, including how and when shame surfaces in his rhetoric. Shame emerges in Niebuhr’s lexicon undulating beneath the terms of “guilt” and “anxiety”, just as it surfaces in the self shaped by Western Christianity in physical symptoms, as other affects, or as harm done to self or others. Attending to the marks of shame that surface as addiction, withdrawal, and hiding, as well as to the pride that emerges as hubris, which detracts from the human connection and, instead, leaves the Christian self isolated, begins to get at the problem of shame in Niebuhr. But the problem is bigger than it seems. Niebuhr prescribes repentance and connection to God to ameliorate the human problem he identifies as guilt. Embedded in his theological anthropology lies an unnamed affective experience of shame as an unavoidable component of Christian life. However, his impression of the self that seeks God in guilt, alone and in sin, delimits the possibility of the connection with God, he professes, humanity most needs, because shame lies buried in that self
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masked by other affective experiences. Thus concealed, shame is bypassed, and this leads not to connection but to “humiliated fury” and “depressive ideation” that inhibit social bonding (Block Lewis, 1987b, pp. 99, 107). According to affect theory, shame is inherently present in the self, but shame emerges affectively only in relationship to another. A severed attachment incurs shame; the attachment bond must be repaired to ameliorate shame; however, paradoxically, shame also inhibits attachment, especially shame veiled by other terms or affects. Thus, what Niebuhr professes as a solution cannot be achieved because shame has gone unnamed and interred in self to interfere with bonding and attachment to others and to God. To accomplish Niebuhr’s goal of ameliorating violence in the world, the shame that festers beneath it, motivating it, must be disinterred, recognized, and disempowered.
Notes 1 Related to Niebuhr’s political philosophy and mission, see also Holder and Josephson (2012, p. 4); Bacevich (2008, pp. 23–25), and Bacevich (2009). 2 The choice to focus on this text and narrative alone relates to two major points. Since Niebuhr is not a systematic thinker, but instead a preacher and what I have called diagnostician, focusing on one text enabled my analysis to be more organized and precise. Second, Nature and Destiny of Man serves as a culmination of Niebuhr’s thought about human temperament and a development of his thought related to social change and conflict. 3 Tangney and Dearing’s (2002) work on shame and guilt has contributed too much of the current understanding of the psychological differences between shame and guilt evidenced by the Test of Self-Conscious Affect (TOSCA), which was first developed in 1989. Modified several times after this publication to adjust for age, the test measures shame-proneness or guilt-proneness in individuals and is known for its foundation in distinguishing guilt from shame. Nathanson (1992) argues that pharmacological remedies for shame and guilt differ. Even anthropological literature distinguishes the affects from each other (Benedict, 1946). 4 Cooper addresses the self as sin’s source. 5 Gilkey (2001) quotes the same selection in his discourse on sin and guilt where he asserts that sin refers to the vertical, religious relationship to God, for which humanity must repent, whereas guilt is the horizontal, social consequence of sin (p. 113). 6 Niebuhr dramatizes the notion of humanity as sinners under the enduring sight of God. For a more detailed analysis of sight and shame from a theological perspective, see Elizabeth A. Clark (1991), where Clark considers the early Church Fathers’ writing to assert that the primary site where human community experiences shame is under the “All Seeing Eye of God” (p. 235).
References Bacevich, A. (2008). Illusions of Managing History: The Enduring Relevance of Reinhold Niebuhr. Historically Speaking, 9(3), 23–25.
70 Stephanie N. Arel Bacevich, A. (2009). The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. New York: Holt Paperbacks. Benedict, R. (1946). The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. New York: Meridian Books. Clark, E. (1991). 1990 Presidential Address: Shame, Sex, and Rhetoric: Engendering Early Christian Ethics. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 59(2), 221–245. Cooper, T. D. (2009). Reinhold Niebuhr and Psychology: The Ambiguities of the Self. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Block Lewis, H. (1987a). Introduction: Shame – The ‘Sleeper’ in Psychopathology. In H. Bock Lewis (Ed.), The Role of Shame in Symptom Formation (pp. 1–28). London: Psychology Press. Block Lewis, H. (1987b). Shame and the Narcissistic Personality. In D. L. Nathanson (Ed.), The Many Faces of Shame (pp. 93–132). New York: Guilford. Darwin, D. (2009). The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (J. Cain & S. Messenger, Eds.). London: Penguin Books. (Original work published 1872). Dorrien, G. J. (2003). The Making of American Liberal Theology: Idealism, Realism, and Modernity 1900–1950. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. Erikson, E. (1993). Childhood and Society. New York: W. W. Norton and Company. (Original work published 1950). Erikson, E. (1980). Identity and the Life Cycle. New York: W. W. Norton and Company. (Original work published 1959). Gilkey, L. (2001). On Niebuhr: A Theological Study. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Gilligan, J. (1996). Violence: A National Epidemic. New York: Putnam. Gilligan, J. (2001). Preventing Violence. London: Thames & Hudson. Gilligan, J. (2003). Shame, Guilt, and Violence. Social Research, 70(4), 1149–1480. Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. New York: Simon and Schuster. Herman, J. L. (1992). Trauma and Recovery. New York: Basic Books. Herman, J. L. (2007). Shattered Shame States and Their Repair. The John Bowlby Memorial Lecture. Cambridge: Harvard Medical School. Holder, R. W. & Josephson, P. B. (2012). The Irony of Barak Obama: Barak Obama, Reinhold Niebuhr and the Problem of Christian Statecraft. Burlington, VT: Ashgate. Lynd, H. M. (1961). On Shame and the Search for Identity. New York: Science Editions. Michl, P., Meindl, T., Meister, F., Born, C., Engel, R.R., Reiser, M., & Hennig-Fast, K. (2014). Neurobiological Underpinnings of Shame and Guilt: A Pilot fMRI Study. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9(1), 150–157. Nathanson, D. L. (1992). Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Niebuhr, R. (1996). The Nature and Destiny of Man: Vol. 1, Human Nature. Louisville, KT: Westminster John Knox Press. (Originally work published 1943). Nelson, S. (2012). For Shame, for Shame, the Shame of It All: Postures of Refusal and the Broken Heart. In A.S. Park & S. Nelson (Eds.), The Other Side of Sin: Woundedness from the Perspective of the Sinned-Against (pp. 71–86). Albany: SUNY Press. Nussbaum, M. (2004). Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame and the Law. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Guilt or masked shame? 71 Piers, G. & Singer, M. B. (1971). Shame and Guilt: A Psychoanalytic and Cultural Study. New York: W. W. Norton and Company. Probyn, E. (2005). Blush: Faces of Shame. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Scheff, T. (1987). The Shame-Rage Spiral: A Case Study of an Interminable Quarrel. In H. Block Lewis (Ed.), The Role of Shame in Symptom Formation (pp. 109–149). London: Psychology Press. Schore, A. (2003). Affect Regulation and the Repair of the Self. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. Sedgwick, E. K. and Frank, A. (Eds.) (2005). Shame and Its Sisters: A Silvan Tomkins Reader. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Spinoza, B. de. (2005). Ethics (E. Curley Ed. and Trans.). London: Penguin Classics. (Original work published 1677). Tangney, J. P. & Dearing, R. L. (2002). Shame and Guilt. New York: The Guilford Press. Tangney, J. P., Stuewig, J., & Hafez, L. (2011). Shame, Guilt and Remorse: Implications for Offender Populations. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, 22(5), 706–723. Tisseron, S. (2013). De la honte qui tue á la honte qui sauve: De la catastrophe á l’affiliation. In B. Sère & J. Wettlaufer (Eds.), Shame between Punishment and Penance (pp. 389–404). Firenze: Edizioni del Galluzzo. Tomkins, S. S. (2008). Affect, Imagery, Consciousness. 4 Vols. New York: Springer. (Original work published 1962). Williams, B. (2008). Shame and Necessity. Berkley: University of California Press. (Original work published 1993).
Affects, emotions, and religiosity
From serene certainty to the paranoid insecurity of salvation Remarks on resentment in the current Muslim culture Levent Tezcan
The fundamentalist change that has taken place in Islam in recent decades has been widely explored in research. However, a decisive question still remains unexplored: what kind of change does fundamentalism cause in the organization of affects, and with what impact on culture? The present contribution starts with the observation that the emotional state in Muslim milieus is increasingly dominated by an extreme sensitivity toward ‘seduction’. The former, rather serene approach to the difference between religious norms and practices is giving way to a paranoid persecution of the deviation from norms, which triggers a totalitarian logic that seems unending. Thus, the manifestation of the Islamist subject is dominated by a condition of resentment and by constant irritation and affective outbursts, including violent excesses. This paper presents an analytic concept of resentment based on the distinction between the “pragmatic” and “fundamentalist” attitudes toward the world. The concept presented here analytically links affect and one’s conduct of life and paves the way toward a cultural analysis that escapes the pitfalls of culturalism. Within this context, this paper revisits Max Weber’s view of Islam. Weber (2007) attests to the certainty of salvation in Islam, particularly in the early Islam of the aristocrat warriors. However, as this paper argues, Weber’s understanding of salvation in early Islam cannot explain the cultural attitude of the present carriers of fundamentalist movements. These movements are characterized by a paranoid zeal to secure salvation in this world and by the heightened emotional irritation that arises when this goal is missed. Thus, while previous approaches have often stressed similarities between fundamentalist Islam and ascetic puritanism, this paper highlights their differences.
‘Seduction’: challenge of culture and challenge for culture The past decades have witnessed a strengthening of fundamentalist movements among Muslims. Although fundamentalism has been widely studied
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(Riesebrodt, 2000), the affective mood prevailing in these milieus has hardly been the subject of research. The empirical reality offers more than sufficient examples that in certain Muslim milieus an increased irritation prevails. This irritation has manifested worldwide in diverse and sometimes violent forms, including the Rushdie affair, protests due to Mohammed cartoons, and so forth. These incidents reflect a tendency for actors in question to feel easily offended or susceptible to the insults of the world, in a manner which is incompatible with their own understanding of the religious norm. The emotional state of those Muslims has dominated the public-media image of Muslims lately. This emotional state is connected to a certain ethical orientation toward ‘seduction’. The category seduction – or the fear of it – has a central place in the fundamentalist interpretation of the world: a religious ethics in which everything that is deemed incompatible with the norm is considered an invitation to seduction and in which sinful behavior can be prevented by banishing of all possibilities of seduction from social space. Mostly, this category concerns gender relationships in the public sphere, but is not exclusive to it. Uncovered female presence, female laughter or voice, girls in sweatpants, or even song texts or names of dishes can be interpreted as a call for seduction.1 One example taken at random from a flood of cases that have led to heated debate is a statement by the thenMufti of Australia, Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilali, who asserted that women who did not wear a headscarf attracted sexual assault: “If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside … and the cats come and eat it … whose fault is it, the cats’ or the uncovered meat?” (BBC News, 2006; already discussed in Tezcan, 2011, p. 169, and in Žižek, 2015, p. 25). As Norbert Elias described it in The Civilizing Process (Elias, 1994, p. 155), culture under modern conditions promotes the transformation of external constraints into self-constraints. These cases of seduction reflect how, under the duress of such transformation, a particular ethical orientation will lead to the greatest possible tension. The topic of seduction has already attracted academic interest. When Nilüfer Göle pointed out that “social mixing of men and women” in the secular Turkish Republic meant a revolutionary change in Islamic morality, she referred to the particular importance of the fear of seduction: Hence, in a Muslim context, the existence of a democratic public space depends on the social encounter between the sexes and on the eroticization of the public sphere. In short, while in Western societies it is the issue of abortion and freedom of reproduction that provokes collective passions, in the non-Western Islamic context the issue is the freedom of seduction. (Göle, 2014, p. 78)2
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In his notorious critique of secular modernity, Talal Asad also addresses the topic of seduction. He affirms the position of Islamic Sharia, which attaches particular importance to the persecution of seduction. Asad criticizes liberalism for not doing exactly that: In liberal society, rape, the subjection of a person’s body against his/ her wish for the purpose of sexual enjoyment is a serious crime, whereas seduction—the mere manipulation of another person’s desire—is not. The first is a violence; the other is not. (Asad, 2009, p. 31)3 In this article, I will not consider the fear of seduction simply as a cultural given across time. Rather, I assume that the current fundamentalism has caused serious shifts in the Islamic economy of salvation and, as a result, in the modulation of affect. These shifts can best be studied in terms of dealing with the gap between norm and practice that does not follow the norm alone, but emerges from different dynamics. In particular, my analysis contrasts pragmatic forms of dealing with this gap to fundamentalist approaches. I put forward the thesis that the pragmatic way, which has been rather typical of Muslim cultures and used to diminish their tension to social practice, has increasingly given way to the fundamentalist approach. The pragmatic principle, as understood here, is characterized by the fact that the validity of the religious norm is not questioned. However, as I shall argue, the pragmatic principle obviates potential tensions or challenges to social practice through a number of means, thus opening up a broader scope for action. The fundamentalist principle, on the other hand, drives this tension to the extreme. The social practice must be completely subject to the norm. This distinction between pragmatic vs. fundamentalist modes challenges the existing dominant distinctions, such as traditional vs. modern or secular vs. religious. Traditional religiosity can be just as pragmatic as its modern variant. Fundamentalism, on the other hand, cannot be understood simply as a reassertion of traditional religiosity. Likewise, secularists don’t place themselves outside religion. Their religiosity, as stated here, can be quite pragmatic. In any case, one argument I shall make in this contribution is that the secular order in Muslim countries and milieus is based on a pragmatic religiosity that is far from being in total opposition to any kind of religion. On the contrary, pragmatic engagement with the religious norm can be greatly encouraged under secular conditions. This is, first, because political authority is relieved of an offensive religious policy in secular contexts. Second, on the individual level, the political authority under secular conditions can now be recruited against the impositions of enforcing a certain religiously led way of life. An approach centered on pragmatism should therefore serve to allow a different view of the question of secularity in Muslim cultures.
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The reflections made here relate primarily to the Sunni Turkish context. However, they could potentially also be applied to the Shiite religious culture. Mysticism is largely left out but addressed only in a few places for comparison purposes. Affect modulation and mysticism would require a separate study. Alevism as a minority religion in Turkey is also not taken into account here because the relationship between norm and practice poses itself very differently here. Similar to mysticism, Alevi ethics places the struggle against seduction within the subject. In the following, I briefly introduce the central concepts of my analysis. In a second step, I describe the pragmatic handling of the relation between norm and social practice. Examples from different areas should show how the Islamic and non-Islamic are related to one another. A theoretical insert is intended to differentiate the established concept of religious belief in the certainty of salvation in order to emphasize contrastingly the present affective fundamentalist mode, which is here understood as an incessant attempt to secure salvation in this world. This is followed by a presentation of the fundamentalist approach, whereby it shall become clear that the previously legitimate differentiations between different spheres of life are no longer accepted, but only tolerated at best. After a comparison between Islamic fundamentalism with ascetic Protestantism, which in the debate about Islam now and then are considered similar, concluding remarks round off the contribution.
Pragmatism vs. fundamentalism The popular thesis that Islam governs everyday life as a totalistic concept is based on a fundamentalist credo that has established itself in the twentieth century. Contrary to this picture, I highlight two conditions of pragmatic orientation that are of central importance to my argument. First, the Arabist Thomas Bauer (2011) offers a picture of classical Islamic culture that is characterized by a high degree of ambiguity tolerance. He describes a cultural competence that allows different meanings, discourses, and practices that contradict each other to co-exist. Bauer reports of scholars of Hadith or Islamic law from the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries – not to mention the rich secular literature and poetry – who wrote homoerotic poems without risking their salvation or their reputation (Bauer, 2011, p. 277). According to Bauer, this tolerance goes with a high awareness of the separation between the spheres. Examples from medicine and law show that neither the experts of law nor of medicine were selected due to their religious life, but only due to their competence to meet the requirements of their disciplines.4 Thus, the pragmatic principle, as it is understood here, presupposes an awareness that it is legitimate to separate different spheres of social and cultural life from each other. The spheres and situations have their own requirements, which cannot necessarily be brought under a norm – even if at a very general
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level the validity of Islam as an idea is not called into question. The latter brings us to the second condition for the pragmatic approach to the norm: ritualism. This means two things: First, there is a type of a religiosity that is rich in rites. In Weber’s sociology of religion, ritualism as a means of salvation initially impedes the rationalization of everyday action – unless it is rationalized in the context of a religion of salvation. Even then, the danger of a pure ritualism remains. There is no doubt that according to Weber only the ‘ritual-poor’ ascetic Protestantism could consistently eradicate magic action from religion and culture: A religion of salvation may systematize the purely formal and specific activities of ritual into a devotion with a distinctive religious mood (Andacht), in which the rites to be performed are symbols of the d ivine. Then this religious mood is the truly redemptory quality. Once it is missing, only the bare and formal magical ritualism remains. This has happened as a matter of course again and again in the routinization of all devotional religions. (Weber, 1978, p. 530) I am less interested here in the concept of religious ritual than in a further dimension of meaning that is not restricted to religious contexts. In this second sense, following Georg Stauth’s work, I therefore speak of ritualism as a cultural habitus. Stauth criticizes “the contrast constructed by Weber of the combination of practical reason and ‘religious conviction’ on the one hand and ‘ritualism’ on the other” (Stauth, 1993, p. 51). Stauth notes that Weber generalizes the connection between religious devaluation of the world and practical action to a universal criterion with which different cultures are compared. The “hypostatization of ‘lower’, pragmatic interests into the ‘otherworldly fate’ ” (Stauth, 1993, p. 189), which Nietzsche identified as nihilism and ascribed to Christianity, is for Weber a universal mechanism built into all cultures. Whether the other cultures might have consciously prevented such a connection is not even discussed by him. As Stauth describes this habitus, “The truth lies in the acceptance of the rite, not in its essentialization” (Stauth, 1993, p. 196). Moreover, Stauth sees in ritualism moments of freedom for the individual: “Sociology has no idea of the scope of freedom that the ritualistic approach to the norm opened up in Oriental societies” (Stauth, 1993, p. 194). In this sense, ritualism as a cultural habitus helps to circumvent the authenticity claim. Public action is not merely an expression of inner belief. As a simulative game, it has its own value. Whereas Stauth describes honoring the simulative game of public approval in the rite as a specifically “Oriental” tendency, Robert Pfaller extends this into a general cultural pattern Stauth certainly would not have objected. For Pfaller, however, this culture of playing roles in the public sphere is endangered by a culture of inwardness. He interprets Disenchanting
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the World from a psychoanalytical perspective as a too strong “identification with one’s own imaginations”. In contrast to a widespread prejudice which ascribes former societies more and stronger belief, he states (as paraphrased from German): In earlier epochs, therefore, one did not believe more strongly, but less strongly, more loosely. … (I)n the past, people merely represented their illusions … only later did they begin to refrain from these representations because they wanted to believe more and more in these imaginations. (Pfaller, 2017, p. 168; author’s transl.) Pfaller’s argument draws on studies by the historian Johan Huizinga on the serious nature of playing (“Homo Ludens”), on the psychoanalyst Oscar Manoni’s revaluation of “superstition” (in French original: “croyance”) in relation to confession, on Kant’s theses on politeness, and not least, on references by Slavoj Zizek to the Tibetan prayer wheels. In so doing, Pfaller helps to underline a central idea: the mind-relieving function of ritualist action, which enables the subject to generate distance from himself and from his own belief.
A walk in the pragmatic culture Guided by these ideas, I give a few examples from various fields to prove the pragmatic attitude of the world. The geographical space of my presentation is primarily Turkey, taken from a Sunni context. However, I believe it can easily be generalized to other contexts. My examples here are driven from four diverse arenas. First, I consider the religiously contested topic of alcohol consumption. Second, I turn to music and festivities. Third, I consider popular theological culture. And fourth, I discuss classical theological culture. Consumption of alcohol The consumption of alcohol is an interesting case to take into consideration. Although not uncontested, it has commonly been established that alcohol consumption is prohibited by Islamic law. On the other hand, across history there has existed a long tradition of alcohol consumption in Muslim countries until the present. I do not simply refer to the factual, hidden existence of alcohol in the lives of Muslims. A refined culture of alcohol developed alongside the forbidding norm – but without challenging its acceptance.5 Much more interesting is the case of boza, a drink with a low alcohol percentage, produced from millet.6 For many centuries, boza enjoyed the status of a national drink in Ottoman society. Constantinople counted many
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hundreds of pubs selling boza. Only after the Republic abolished official ban on consuming and selling alcohol in public, the drink lost its peculiarity and the pubs gradually disappeared. Alcohol consumption has not decreased even under the current Islamist government that restricted selling and consuming alcohol. My point here is to stress the ritualistic way this command has been dealt with. The norm is not questioned in principle, nor is there is any serious hermeneutical effort to legitimate the consumption theologically.7 The field of argumentation has better to be avoided. Of course, some informal rules can be taken better in mind: to avoid drinking in sacred times, not on Thursday evening because of Friday, and of course, not on a Friday, and not at religious festivities. The sacred has to be honored by respecting it within its border. Music and festivities As alcohol is a highly contested topic, one can argue that its consumption might not be a proper example for evaluating the dominant forms of cultural habit. I shall therefore also present cases from other praxis areas that are far more accepted within the mainstream. Worldly music and popular songs are an appropriate example, as they form an inseparable part of culture – both high and popular. Theologians have always had their own opinions about popular culture. For instance, the catechism of the Turkish office for religious affairs (in Turkish: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı) presents a long series of pro and contra arguments among Muslim scholars regarding music and concludes that there is no uncontestable proof from primary sources that condemns worldly music or other festivities. The catechism concedes that the issue of prohibition or allowance should depend only on the certain content of the songs and that music as such cannot be considered as principally forbidden. A crucial criterion proposed by the office is whether the music seduces people to rebellion, godly veneration of persons, or other forbidden activities or ideas, including erotic ones (Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, 2010, p. 105). Theoretically, despite the general acceptance of music by the office, such a precondition would have practically diminished the worldly music culture dramatically. However, what we see in cultural practice is that the opposite is the case. This is especially so in traditional folk music whose rich erotic elements from mostly ancient anonymous sources calls unabashedly for seduction – although such references were rebuked by the mainstream religious authority. Moreover, in many songs, whether traditional or modern, the beloved person is idolized literally as a God-like being whom the lover venerates explicitly. To give some examples: “After God, you are the women to be worshipped” (Sen tanrıdan sonra inan, tapılacak kadınsın); “I worship God as well as you” (Bir tanrıya taptım, bir sana taptım); “hell with you is a blessing, heaven without you feels like a banishment” (Seninle cehennem ödüldür bana, sensiz cennet bile sürgün sayılır). Insofar as cultural
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life is determined by religious norm, such a statement should lead to the worst accusation in Islam: honoring polytheism. Yet this is not what occurs. On the contrary, irrespective of some notorious, but often lonely warnings from the religious side, a rich culture of venerating love has developed even with such “suspect” semantics. This has only been possible because a clear awareness of separation between the cultural realms does exist. The cultural principle does not aim to create a homogenous resonance space in which all elements are subject to the same norm. Of course, some practical measures can still be taken in order to assure that contradicting statements do not intermingle with each other. One takes a break in singing, for example, if the Muezzin calls for prayer – at least if the call is so present that you cannot ignore it. Religious command is respected in a ritualistic manner, so one can move on to the non-religious world to continue the joyful celebration without bad conscience. Any impulse for subjecting the world to a common religious norm and for creating a consistent conduct of everyday life is “lacking” here.8 One can locate this lack in the inability of Islamic ethics to determine the conduct of everyday life, as Weber did. However, one can also see here a specific tendency of culture to actively save the lack. Popular theological culture Another example comes closer to the topic of religion. The pragmatic approach to the world allows for the existence of some popular “theological” figures, ideas, and practices that help to temper down some affects as bad conscience – a behavior which is problematic from the perspective of official theology. For example, if you suffer from the strokes of fate, the monotheistic frame determines the range of affects and passions you may have at your disposal. Proper orthodox behavior commands one to suffer with patience and accept punishment devoutly. In Islam, it is a central dogma that good and evil come from God. This is theoretically consequent because otherwise, we would have to assume another God who is responsible for the evil acts. Yet such a belief would be the most serious sin one could commit in Islam, which has constituted itself in radical opposition against pre-Islamic Arab polytheism. Thus, arguing with God is theoretically not a legal option, or at any rate it is a dissuaded one, tolerated only for fools and twisted saints. In popular culture, however, there are some possibilities to evade official dogma. It can happen that the felek 9 can fill the void. Anger and frustration can be now directed at the felek, in previous times often described as a whore. Strokes of the felek can throw someone astray from the path. Unsurprisingly, she is, on the other hand, admired as the real teacher for life. Whoever has gone through the “ring” or “wheel” of the felek cannot be surprised by anything in life. The felek is not almighty, and in this respect, she is a continuity from ancient culture. Because she is not almighty, men can outwit her. Celebrating a feast in this world that is so full of suffering means playing a trick on her.
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In addition to recognizing such non-orthodox figures within Muslim popular culture, one may also alienate recognized figures from orthodox theology. If, for religious reasons, a specific situation does not allow one to call to God for help, as is the case with gambling, then one can at least hope for the generous help of Satan (“get plenty of Satan” or “you may have many Satan to your assistance”).10 In all these cases, however, it is crucial to actively avoid the question of whether the belief or behavior at hand is compatible with the dogma of the unity of God. Classical theological culture Above, I discussed evidence of practices that separate different realms within non-official everyday theology – something that can create tension with the official discourse. I shall now continue the endeavor to highlight practices that indicate a pragmatic approach to the world within the accepted parameters of theological discourse itself. Calling the name of God for help is such a case. The expression inşallah, as God allows/wills or God willing, takes a prominent place in the everyday life of Muslims. The formula articulates an awareness of contingency. We are exposed to unpredictable conditions that merge in the absolute power, in God. Only God can oversee what will happen next because he has decided what is to happen. For a Muslim, nothing is more normal than the supposition that God should be asked for permission if one wants to pursue something successfully. But the delicate issue is that the consultation of God for help and permission may not be used inappropriately. Invocation of God’s help should be reserved for decisive and fateful moments. Excessive invocation can be understood as a tricky attempt to manipulate God. Further, someone who asserts his belief too much by repeatedly asking for God’s permission may be suspected of having committed some wrongdoing that he now tries covering up by pretending to be a devout character. But beyond these reasons, the hesitation against excessive invocation in nearly every situation can also refer to another point which anthropologists raise in connection with taboo. Invocation of God is partially tabooed in order to prevent ubiquitous use. This is exactly the function of ritual with respect to the sacred. Ritual specifies communication with the sacred, both temporally and spatially. By sanctioning this relationship, it saves the sacred against devaluation through uncontrolled and undifferentiated use (Durkheim, 2014). We will see in the second form of religious orientation how this obsessive desire can urge one to sacralize the world totally. In the first case, a practical religious colonization of the profane world is neither intended nor approved. This interest in a non-religious area is due not only to profane concerns, but can also be founded on genuine religiosity. Now, let me draw a conclusion about the pragmatic approach to the world. The distinction between religious and non-religious areas, practices, ideas, customs, and so forth, supports a type of habitus that disposes of cultural tools for tempering the stress between norm and social practice.
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Ritualism as described here is a crucial dimension of a pragmatic approach. It does not create a strong enough tension to risk leading one to subject the world to a transcendent principle As we will see through a comparison with the second type of relationship to the world, ritualism works by potentially preventing the hate and anger against those ideas, practices, and persons that are incompatible with the religious norm. That makes ritualism a habitus that is highly compatible with secular culture, so long as it is not entirely captured by the orientation of confession, that means, as long as it is not essentialized.
Certainty or security of salvation? Before I explain the fundamentalist approach to the world, I would like to take up the question of the certainty of salvation in Islam. The thesis that I suggest here is that a change has taken place with fundamentalism. For Weber (2007), the contrast of ascetic Protestantism with Islam played an important role in developing his thesis about the specificity of Occidental rationalism. According to him, Islam provides the believer with a certainty of salvation. The Muslim feels sorrow mainly about his fate in this world. His after-world fate has been guaranteed by following commands that are mostly of a ritual nature. Referring to the dissertation of F. Ulrich, Weber suggests that Islam is characterized by predetermination that is contrasted to Calvinist predestination, which concerns the after-world fate of redemption or damnation. Because the Mohammedan idea was that of predetermination, not predestination, and was applied to fate in this world, not in the next. In consequence the most important thing, the proof of the believer in predestination, played no part in Islam. Thus only the fearlessness of the warrior (as in the case of moira) could result, but there were no consequences for rationalization of life; there was no religious sanction for them. (Weber, 2007, p. 185; cf. also Weber, 1978, p. 574; for an in-depth reconstruction Schluchter, 1987) In Economy and Society, Weber combines this salvation idea with the specific needs of the key supporting class of early Islam, namely the aristocratic Arab warrior class (Weber, 1978, pp. 344, 474, 527). According to him, the cultural ideal in early Islam presents itself in the form of the “world-conquering” warrior whose salvation needs are not primarily oriented toward an after-world life but toward this world – that is, whether he will survive on the battleground. The aristocratic class character eventually “blurred” the ethical core of the salvation concept. Islamic missionary and ideological universalism gave way to the worldly interests of an imperial ruling class. Islamic ethics, according to Weber, does not create impulses strong
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enough for a methodical conduct of everyday life. Enthusiastic m oments of conquering the world are followed by adaptation to the world. In fact, the perspective prevailed that Muslims would not eternally burn in hell, even though some controversy surrounded the notion of a certain salvation, leaving room for the idea that eternal damnation existed (Lange, 2008; especially Chapter 3). Thus, although Weber might not be totally incorrect to concede the certainty of salvation, the story is a bit more complicated. One also needs to consider that Muslims may be certain of their salvation in knowing the path toward it, but this does not mean they can secure it. This raises the question of whether certainty of salvation and securing salvation mean the same thing. While Muslims might sincerely follow their commands, they can never secure that their service is accepted by God. Even their own sincerity cannot be known and secured with final certainty due to radical monotheism. There is a paradox at work here: if Muslims could be secure due to their service and the sincerity of their devotion, that would mean that they put themselves in God’s place. Thus, the final judgment is indisputably a prerogative of the almighty God. Even if predetermination might mean that Muslims worry quite a bit about their worldly fate, caring for their fate in the afterlife remains still more important for the conduct of life than Weber assumed. What causes more concern for Muslims is rather the interim period that starts immediately after resurrection. Therefore, a decisive aspect of the economy of salvation is that the final judgment likely stipulates a time of detention in hell. Thus, Muslims’ efforts are concerned with avoiding punishment in the transit zone, or at least minimizing it. It is an open question whether, or in which way, this modification may have any serious consequences regarding Weber’s final conclusion that Islam could not create a methodical conduct of everyday life. But for our analysis of the current fundamentalist turn in dealing with norms, it is very important to distinguish between certainty and security of salvation. The latter was never seriously at the heart of Islamic religiosity except in current fundamentalism, namely in Islamist movements. Pragmatically acting in the world, which is enabled in a ritualistic manner, corresponds indeed to a certainty of salvation without attempts to secure it, as the final decision must remain open to the power of God. Consequently, the emotional situation is more one of serenity than anxiety. The rich ritual building of Islam facilitates such a ritualistic manner of acting in the world because it serves as a fixed point of orientation. The motto of the pragmatic approach is therefore approximately: “You can never be sure that you are on the right side. Therefore, keep doing your duty. In any case, do not question it at least in principle”. The Hanafi school of theology, to which the Turks belong in the majority, supported this attitude by giving priority not to action (amel) but to faith (iman). This is a theologically legitimated basis for a relaxed attitude in the world. As I argue below, the fundamentalist principle has the same starting point as this, but takes the opposite direction.
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Before I close this section, let me counter a possible foregone conclusion that may have appeared. The pragmatic approach does not simply entail producing “lax” religious subjects. A pious life can still be highly valued. But there exists a sensitivity about the thin line between the pious and the bigots. The criterion for the distinction is whether the demands of different realms of life are respected or not. Different or “deviant” behavior must not be countered by fighting against it. From here one can put forward the thesis that this traditional, or better, classical form of religiosity has formed the very basis for modern secularity in Muslim cultures. Serenity, the typical mood of the former, will be totally lacking in the second type of religiosity I am now going to describe. Consequences for regulating affect lie at the core of my argument in this article.
Fundamentalist attempts to insure salvation in this world While the pragmatic approach in the first case served to respect the integrity of different realms and to give free reign to a non-religious culture, the non-Islamic realm or the tension between norm and praxis is considered only negatively in the fundamentalist approach. It exists only illegitimately. Popular costume, decency, politeness, family relationships, humanity, neighborhood, or other kinds of commitments are devalued or considered as secondary and only tolerated in a given moment. As a result, Islamic law is one of the most – if not the only – relevant point of orientation for conducting one’s life because it measures what is allowed and what is forbidden. In such a social situation, everything that does not conform to the law affects the believer immediately since he does not dispose over any other means beside the law. For the fundamentalist type, uses of the term non-Islamic for issues which are not quite compatible with the law is not fitting. This term still suggests a legitimated separation of life worlds and a potential awareness of distance. Calling certain practices or ideas “non-Islamic” would not necessarily suggest they affect the very nature of the believer in an offending way. This distance is not a feasible scenario for the fundamentalist type, for whom everything gets too close. Thus, the non-Islamic can only be un-Islamic, which therefore places it within the domain of heresy. At this point, Islam becomes more than abiding by ethical commands and ritual practices; it turns into a total meta-norm. This is not only an ethical command that could also be found in the non-Islamic domain (i.e., what Islamic modernism or traditional conservatism usually does), it is also a public norm that, under modern conditions, calls for state power. Sharia ousts adab,11 as sociologist Armando Salvatore formulates it (Salvatore, 2018). Almost everything which does not fit the norm endangers the subject and is perceived by him as a call for seduction against which he cannot resist with
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an inner strength.12 The source of the touchy mood widespread in Muslim milieus in recent times might be assumed here. Let me return to the example of music. As I have discussed, a position built on a legitimated separation between the sacred and profane could condone the enjoyment of worldly music (including joyful festivities) without being confronted with the question of whether this is allowed from the perspective of Islamic law. Even songs with delicate lyrics, such as those with erotic content or veneration of the beloved as God-like, do not create any sentiments that would contradict one’s belief. If the singer performing the piece or the listener clapping rhythmically were asked whether this is compatible with their belief, they would react with irritation, “for God’s sake!” They would resist such an accusation. One listens to or sings and claps along to a song in which God’s attributes are used for the beloved person without any doubts because the two belong to different cultural spheres. After all, they do not sing or applaud in the mosque. This is beside the fact that the content of the lyrics does not play a crucial role anyway. Those who ask the question of adequacy are spoilsports because they ignore the rules of specific settings. And it is only the fundamentalist approach that prioritizes literal content. The ritualistic and playful character of the situation, such as singing a song or celebrating a festivity, is eradicated because one single principle, alien to this specific situation, is seen as guiding all social action. In such a scenario, society appears as a homogeneous entity lacking any legitimate inner differentiation between situations and spheres. The world is organized according to the distinction between Islamic and un-Islamic. From this perspective, there is no more possibility for wasting oneself in non-productive cultural activities (eroticism, festivity, music, sport, poetry, etc.) without being confronted steadily with the question of prohibition or allowance, which is articulated by a transcendent instance. One’s whole energy can and must be accumulated for jihad because there is hardly any other option. The outside world must be continuously conquered and regulated according to a fundamentalist interpretation of the religion’s rules and principles. This habit is prominently represented in the theological literature: As we know, when Islam prohibits something, it closes all the avenues to it. This is achieved by prohibiting every step and every means leading to the haram [prohibited]. Accordingly, whatever excites passions, opens ways for illicit sexual relations between a man and a woman, and promotes indecency and obscenity, is haram. (Al-Qaradawi, 2001, p. 146) According to this religious orientation, sin is not just a result of one’s own failure or inner desire for the unlawful. Rather, sin encompasses any avenue that might potentially lead to prohibited behavior. This habitus might not create much stress within small, enclosed traditional milieus. But in modern
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times, especially in urban contexts where strangers encounter each other in a busy everyday life, believers must always expect the possibility of an unsuitable encounter. Paradoxically, the more the believer tries to ensure his salvation in the culturally diverse secular world, the more he feels insecure. We can see this nervous engagement to secure God’s approval in a micro practice. Above, I spoke of the phrase with which Muslims usually articulate their awareness of contingency: inşallah, God willing. In its pragmatic version, the term is mostly restricted to certain moments in life. This is the way the term has commonly been used in Turkish. Calling for God should not be performed for just any trivial situation, as the Sacred would then lose its value through weakened borders with the profane sphere. From the 1980s onward, with the massive rise of Islamist movements, the use of this phrase has changed – in Turkey as well as among Turkish Muslim migrants. Now, God willing is called for any trivial moment: “I will call you later, inşallah; let’s meet this afternoon, inşallah” etc. Actually, I should not call it trivial, because it is more than a triviality. Within the economy of salvation, every second of life can mean now a crucial moment for salvation. The extremely heated subject cannot cope with this contingency in a calm way anymore. The vague certainty of salvation is no longer enough for him. He attempts to secure the salvation. Thus, any gap between norm and practice reaches a decisive moment in achieving salvation.
Is Islamic fundamentalism like ascetic Protestantism? At this point one might make a comparison to ascetic Protestantism.13 Indeed, Islamic fundamentalist religiosity is characterized by a pronounced ascetic attitude. The unreachable one God requires the believer to refrain from any “deification of the creaturely world”. At the same time, the believer is an instrument of God, expected to transform the world according to God’s will. Ascetic religiosity constantly confronts the believer with the perception that God’s grace on Earth is harmed daily – a danger that the faithful can only escape or prevent through a consistent observance of religious creeds in everyday practice. Similarly, Islamic fundamentalism expresses a strong aversion to mystical solutions for resolving the tension between the religious idea and the world. It is no coincidence that the emergence of fundamentalism came at the expense of mystical religiosity within Islam. Likewise, magical popular religious practices are opposed as idolatry, without, however, suspecting religious rituals of being magical practices. Despite their apparent similarities on the surface, there are a number of major differences between ascetic Protestantism and Islamic fundamentalism. Before highlighting these differences, however, it is worth noting the importance of this issue in current political and academic discourse. Within common debates on Islam and modernity, the assumption of
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similarities between ascetic Protestantism and Islamic fundamentalism has promoted the thesis that a “real” modernization of Muslim countries could not succeed, as previously believed, via the secular route, but rather only by genuinely religious movements (for one of the early impulses, cf. Mardin, 1989). For a while, there was discussion on ‘Islamic Calvinists’ (European Stability Initiative, 2005). Not long ago, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, and Fethullah Gülen, founder of the Gülen movement, were celebrated as representatives of a “moderate Islam”. This moderate Islam was supposed to present a genuinely religious alternative to the secular modernization movements that were seen as unable to muster the strength for a sustainable modernization due to a lack of an affirmative references to religion (Casanova, 2004; Kuru, 2009). That may sound paradoxical. According to this shift in the academic research and public discourse, it was no longer the secular position that promised more opportunities for modernizing of Muslim countries, but the fundamentalist religious one. Besides being a short-cut interpretation of Weber’s thesis,14 this argument reveals a classical Orientalist prejudice: the Oriental person is thoroughly religious. It is implied that Muslim cultures (or, to put it more precisely: cultures of Muslims) can be understood mainly by looking at religious treaties or institutions. A consequence that is drawn from this conjecture is that the stricter the visible religiosity, the more authentic the culture, and consequently the greater the potential for modernization. In this light, non- religious Orientals may appear automatically inauthentic. This position, which replicates the Protestantism thesis for Muslim countries (in a superficial way), also has effects on the integration policies in Western countries. Today, the integration of Muslim migrants has been reframed properly as integration via religion – this has become clear in the governmental dialogue initiative “German Conference on Islam” (cf. Tezcan, 2012). The same position was true for the United States as well, at least for a while. The United States supported the vision of a “moderate Islam” as an alternative project in the post-dictatorial countries of the Near East. The “Islamization of Islam” was an endeavor which Muslim fundamentalists and their scholarly observers, as well as some politicians, unintentionally shared (for critical approaches see Al-Azmeh, 2009; Bauer, 2011). This discourse has now landed in a dead end. The dramatic consequences of the religious changes in Muslim countries, even the figures of the so-called moderates such as Erdogan and Gülen, have not only failed to yield any further modernization impulses, but have also wiped out existing achievements of the secular movements in these countries. There is no question that this political development is much too complex an issue to simply be explained by religious habitus. On the other hand, its importance should not be ignored. Now, let me return to the question of locating the essential difference between Islamic fundamentalism and ascetic Puritanism.
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If we consider Islamic fundamentalism as a form of asceticism for a moment, we should take into account that not every kind of asceticism evokes the same affects, and the solutions for coming to terms with those affects differ too. Ascetic Protestantism as Max Weber described it filled Christians with angst over their after-life fate. For Puritans too, the “world” as “the domain of social relationships, is therefore a realm of temptations” and a “site of sensual pleasures which are ethically irrational and completely diverting from things divine”. Moreover, the believer must also beware that the world “fosters in the religiously average person complacent self-sufficiency and self-righteousness in the fulfillment of common obligations” (Weber, 1978, p. 542). But what is the decisive feature of this ascetic religion that distinguishes it from others? Weber explains: This innerworldly asceticism … demanded of the believer, not celibacy, as in case of the monk, but the avoidance of all erotic pleasure; not poverty, but the elimination of all idle and exploitative enjoyment of unearned wealth and income, and the avoidance of all feudalistic, sensuous ostentation of wealth; not the ascetic death-in-life of the cloister, but an alert, rationally controlled patterning of life, and the avoidance of all surrender to the beauty of the world, to art, or to one’s own moods and emotions. (p. 556) At the end of this process, the world is disenchanted. That is to say, the world is profaned through and through. In turn, the person is sacralized (as a man of vocation, a Berufsmensch). Likewise, the Muslim fundamentalist also does not feel at ease in the world. Thus, the world is not so much the place of temptation here, but of seduction. According to scholar of Oriental Studies Gustav von Grunebaum, the difference between the Christian and Muslim ways of judging the world stems from differing concepts of evil. In this sense, von Grunebaum argues that evil in Islamic culture does not appear as a temptation. For von Grunebaum, Christian temptation describes the evil embedded in the very nature of human beings, which stems from the concept of original sin. In the Islamic case, evil appears rather as a confusion resulting from leaving the right path (von Grunebaum, 1960, p. 114). I would add that the confusion is caused by a seduction from the outer world. Fear regarding the world is not directed inwardly but outwardly. It is not so much one’s own desire that is considered a cause for offence, but simply the presence of seducing elements. The creatural world still enjoys a high value.15 Thus it is not necessarily his desire that causes the Muslim fundamentalist to feel offended by nearly everything that is not Islamic (thus, un-Islamic) according to his conception: a part of female body, laughter of women, school girls in jogging suits (inevitably revealing the body’s contours), or
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praising the beloved in songs as God-like. The reason for this anger is not that he (or in principle also she) feels superior to the “sinner” who desecrates the world of God. On the contrary, he absolutely desires worldly goods just like the sinner, but is not allowed to enjoy them as the others do. He has only postponed his joy to the afterlife.16 Others who enjoy this world publicly and do not follow religious law (not at all or not in the way the fundamentalist demands) appear now as those who enjoy life at the ascetic’s expense. We can well imagine the constant state of stress and perpetual alert with which the fundamentalist subject plunges into the globalized world. This is the source for resentment among Muslims.17
Concluding remarks The starting point of this paper was that in the culture of Muslim populations, the fundamentalist principle has for some time now replaced the pragmatic approach to Islam. The pragmatic principle was, as shown above, tied to a specific understanding of ritualism. Of course, one cannot say that the rituals were sidelined in fundamentalism, as was the case for ascetic Protestantism. Therefore, it may seem counter-intuitive to suggest, as I argue here, that the habitus of ritual disappears in fundamentalism. Yet Islamic fundamentalism has something in common with Christian Puritanism. Both essentialize the ritual act and therefore overlook or reject its playful aspect. Puritans reject it because there is still too much magic in it that seeks to manipulate God’s decisions; the playful character of the rite escapes them. Puritans thereby profane the world, vocation advances to the main place of self-fulfillment (Bewährung). Muslim fundamentalists, too, essentialize the ritual by contesting or rejecting its playful dimension. Ritual becomes the law that wants to be enforced in everyday life. The world should now be completely sacralized, an effort that is of course futile. The fundamentalist does not seek his confirmation primarily in a vocation. He resorts easily to the cultural ideal of the “world-conquering warrior”. Only, unlike the Arab warrior nobility from early Islam, who soon had to rule a world empire, today’s fundamentalist, who mostly comes from aspiring lower strata, cannot even save his own four walls in the world’s society. This is a favorable soil for resentment.
Notes 1 Some Islamist intellectuals complained that eroticism was anchored in culture in many places, for example, also in the folk songs. They wanted to explain the causes of rape with the effect of erotic songs (Avcı, 2012). 2 Since Nilüfer Göle had already committed to the thesis that with Islamism as the ideology for an Islamic social order a different, non-Western modernity is emerging (Göle, 1996), she was not further interested in working out the affective implications of her thesis cited above.
92 Levent Tezcan 3 Asad’s thesis provoked a powerful counter-comment by Slavoj Žižek. Referring to the rigid veiling bid, Žižek notes (as paraphrased from German): “The need to keep women veiled speaks in favor of an extremely sexualized world in which the mere encounter with a woman is a provocation that a man cannot possibly resist. The oppression must be so strong because sex is so strong in itself – what kind of society is it in which the clack of metal heels can make men explode with pleasure?” (Žižek, 2015, p. 27). 4 To what extent one can speak here of a functional differentiation, as it is asserted for modern society, is a question that cannot be discussed here – but is not decisive for the further course of the argumentation. At any rate, Bauer does not seem to be averse to seeing here an equivalent functional logic. Incidentally, I do not follow him when he claims that the ambiguity tolerance of classical Islamic culture is lost with the modernization of the culture of the Muslim countries. My examples, even if more about the popular culture and not about the scholar culture, should prove that. 5 The Books of Government of the famous Vazir of the Saljuk rulers in the eleventh century contains advice for Sultans on how to service alcohol at banquets (al-Mulk, 2012). 6 In the novel Strangeness in My Mind prominent writer Orhan Pamuk (2015) tells the story of a mobile boza seller in Turkey of eighties. 7 Or, as one can say with a winking minimal theology of popular version: “In the Koran is only talk of wine, the raki (a national drink of the Turks) does not occur, so the norm does not apply to it.” 8 Of course, the word “lack” only makes sense if a methodical conduct of everyday life is laid as criterion as Max Weber did it. This is why he has used the word often. For Wolfgang Schluchter, this “heuristic, but not normative, Eurocentrism” of Weber is justified by his research question (Schluchter, 1987). 9 Arab. Falak, pl. aflāk old-Oriental figure, goes back to Sumerian root, meaning originally celestial sphere (cf. Hartner, 2012). 10 In Turkish: “Şeytanın bol olsun”. 11 Adab means courtesy, civility, urbanity, and also the sum of knowledge of a profane manner which has existed beside religious knowledge (Gabrieli, 2012). 12 In a comparison between Salafists and Sufis, Jörg Hüttermann (2018) has i mpressively demonstrated how they differ in their treatment of the tension between the religious idea and the world. Both groups share an increased awareness of purity. This is because both apparently do not accept a legitimate separation between different spheres: the divine must fill every moment of life. Sufis locate evil in the inner self and try to achieve refinement in elaborate ritualized i ntra-community ceremonies of politeness. Salafists, however, externalize evil and know only one path to purity: the termination of externalized evil. So they have for every dissenting opinion and attitude, even and especially among the Muslims, only one means: Takfir (excommunication). 13 As Weber describes the term ascetic: “Salvation may be viewed as the distinctive gift of active ethical behavior performed in the awareness that god directs this behavior, that is, that the actor is an instrument of god. We shall designate this type of attitude toward salvation, which is characterized by a methodical procedure for achieving religious salvation, as “ascetic” (Weber, 1978, p. 541). For the concept of ascetism in Weber’s work, see also Treiber (2001) and Breuer (2001). 14 Weber wanted to explain only the spiritual conditions for the emergence of modern rational capitalism. For the question of whether its spread presupposes this spirit, he had a clear answer: “To-day the spirit of religious asceticism — whether finally, who knows? — has escaped from the cage. But victorious capitalism, since it rests on mechanical foundations, needs its support no longer”
From serene certainty to the paranoid insecurity of salvation 93 (Weber, 2007, p. 124). The research on Weber distinguishes clearly between the genetic question of breakthrough to modernity, which was at the center of Weber’s interest and the question of its spread (cf. Schwinn, 2005, p. 13). The debate on Multiple Modernities builds on this (Schwinn, 2005, p. 13). 15 However, this description does not apply to Islamic mysticism, which was not considered in the present analysis. There, the main occupation of the self is the taming of inner lusts, which the animal nature of man produces steady. 16 Who is seduced and who prohibits is literally the man. And it is he who will be rewarded in the afterlife. Women appear primarily as a source of seduction. 17 For philosopher Slavoj Žižek, Islamic fundamentalists (here in particular: the terrorists) are actually not even “real” fundamentalists. Although his definition of fundamentalism differs from my use here, the explanation below sums up the whole issue I discuss here, so I’ll quote it in full: “But are the terrorist fundamentalists really fundamentalists in the authentic sense of the term? Do they really believe? What they lack is a feature that is easy to discern in all authentic fundamentalists, from Tibetan Buddhists to the Amish in the United States — the absence of resentment and envy, the deep indifference towards the nonbelievers’ way of life. If today’s so-called fundamentalists really believe they have found their way to Truth, why should they feel threatened by nonbelievers. Why should they envy them? When a Buddhist encounters a Western hedonist, he hardly condemns. He just benevolently notes that the hedonist’s search for happiness is self-defeating. In contrast to true fundamentalists, the terrorist pseudo-fundamentalists are deeply bothered, intrigued and fascinated by the sinful life of the nonbelievers. One can feel that, in fighting the sinful other, they are fighting their own temptation. This is why the so-called fundamentalists of ISIS are a disgrace to true fundamentalism” (Žižek, 2014).
References Al-Azmeh, A. (2009). Islams and Modernities. London: Verso. Al-Mulk, N. (2012). The Book of Government or Rules for Kings: The siyar al muluk or Siyasat-nama of Nizam al-Mulk. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis. Al-Qaradawi, Y. (2001). The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam. Retrieved from Al Falah Foundation for Translation, Publication & Distribution website: https:// thequranblog.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/the-lawful-and-the-prohibited-in- islam.pdf Asad, T. (2009). Free Speech, Blasphemy, and Secular Criticism. In S. Mahmood, T. Asad, W. Brown, & J. Butler (Eds.), Is Critique Secular?: Blasphemy, Injury, and Free Speech (pp. 20–63). Berkeley, CA: Townsend Center for the Humanities. Avcı, Ü. (2012, September 30). ‘Bu kadar tecavüz türkülerin suçu mu?’ [Are the Songs to Blame for So Much Rape?]. Retrieved from https://www.haberturk.com/ polemik/haber/780951-bu-kadar-tecavuz-turkulerin-sucu-mu Bauer, T. (2011). Die Kultur der Ambiguität: Eine andere Geschichte des Islams [The Culture of Ambiguity: An Alternative History of Islam]. Berlin: Verl. der Weltreligionen. BBC News. (2006, October 27). Australia Muslim Cleric Suspended. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6090136.stm Breuer, S. (2001). Weltablehnung [Rejection of the World]. In H. G. Kippenberg & M. Riesebrodt (Eds.), Max Webers “Religionssystematik” (pp. 227–240). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
94 Levent Tezcan Casanova, J. (2004). Religion, European Secular Identities, and European Integration. In T. Byrnes & P. Katzenstein (Eds), Religion in an Expanding Europe (pp. 65–92). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı. (2010). ilmihal_cilt_ 2 [Catechism] (Vol. 2). Istanbul: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı Yayınları. Retrieved from http://www.dindersi.com/depo/ mbsts-pdf/ilmihal_cilt_2.pdf Durkheim, É. (2014). Die elementaren Formen des religiösen Lebens [The Elementary Forms of Religious Life]. Berlin: Verlag der Weltreligionen. Elias, N. (1994). The Civilizing Process. (E. Jephcott, Trans.). Oxford: Blackwell. European Stability Initiative. (2005). Islamic Calvinists: Change and Conservatism in Central Anatolia. Berlin: European Stability Initiative. Retrieved from http:// nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:gbv:3:5-59627 Gabrieli, F. (2012). Adab. In P. Bearman, T. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, & W. P. Heinrichs (Eds.), Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_0293 Göle, N. (1996). The Forbidden Modern: Civilization and Veiling. Critical Perspectives on Women and Gender. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Göle, N. (2014). The Freedom of Seduction. New Perspectives Quarterly, 31(1), 107–113. Hartner, W. (2012). Falak. In P. Bearman, T. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, & W. P. Heinrichs (Eds.), Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_COM_0207 Hüttermann, J. (2018). Entparadoxierung im Hochgeschwindigkeitsmodus – Anmerkungen zur Soziologik der Chatgruppe im Lichte einer komparativen Analyse. In M. Kiefer, J. Hüttermann, B. Dziri, R. Ceylan, V. Roth, F. Srowig, & A. Zick (Eds.), Islam in der Gesellschaft. “Lasset uns in sha’a Allah ein Plan machen”: Fallgestützte Analyse der Radikalisierung einer WhatsApp-Gruppe (pp. 95–133). Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Kuru, A. T. (2009). Secularism and State Policies toward Religion: The United States, France, and Turkey. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press. Lange, C. (2008). Justice, Punishment and the Medieval Muslim Imagination. Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mardin, S. (1989). Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey: The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Pamuk, O. (2015). A Strangeness in My Mind. London: Faber and Faber. Pfaller, R. (2017). Erwachsenensprache: Über ihr Verschwinden aus Politik und Kultur [Adult’s Speech: On Its Disappearance from Politics and Culture]. Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer. Riesebrodt, M. (2000). Die Rückkehr der Religionen: Fundamentalismus und der “Kampf der Kulturen” [The Return of Religions: Fundamentalism and the “Clash of Civilizations”]. Munich: Beck. Salvatore, A. (2018). The Islamicate Adab Tradition vs. the Islamic Shari‘a, from Pre-colonial to Colonial (HCAS-MS Working Paper No. 3). Retrieved from http:// www.multiple-secularities.de/media/workingpaper_3_salvatore_030418_final.pdf Schluchter, W. (1987). Einleitung. Zwischen Welteroberung und Weltanpassung. Überlegungen zu Max Webers Sicht des frühen Islams. In W. Schluchter (Ed.), Max Webers Sicht des Islams: Interpretation und Kritik (1st ed., pp. 11–124). Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp.
From serene certainty to the paranoid insecurity of salvation 95 Schwinn, T. (2005). Kulturvergleich in der globalisierten Moderne. In G. Albert (Ed.), Das Weber-Paradigma: Studien zur Weiterentwicklung von Max Webers Forschungsprogramm (pp. 301–327). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Stauth, G. (1993). Islam und westlicher Rationalismus: Der Beitrag des Orientalismus zur Entstehung der Soziologie. Frankfurt a. M.: Campus-Verlag. Tezcan, L. (2011). Religion and Control of Violence. In W. Heitmeyer, H.-G. Haupt, S. Malthaner, & A. Kirschner (Eds.), Control of Violence: Historical and International Perspectives on Violence in Modern Societies (1st ed., pp. 165–183). New York: Springer. Tezcan, L. (2012). Das muslimische Subjekt: Verfangen im Dialog der Deutschen Islam Konferenz. Konstanz: Konstanz University Press. Treiber, H. (2001). Askese. In H. G. Kippenberg & M. Riesebrodt (Eds.), Max Webers “Religionssystematik” (pp. 263–278). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Von Grunebaum, G. E. (1960). Von Begriff und Bedeutung eines Kulturklassizismus. In G. E. von Grunebaum & W. Hartner (Eds.), Klassizismus und Kulturverfall: Vorträge (pp. 5–38). Frankfurt a. M.: Klostermann. Weber, M. (1978). Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Weber, M. (2007). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. London: Routledge. Žižek, S. (2014, September 3). ISIS Is a Disgrace to True Fundamentalism. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/03/ isis-is-a-disgrace-to-true-fundamentalism Žižek, S. (2015). Blasphemische Gedanken: Islam und Moderne. Berlin: Ullstein.
The practice of vision Sufi aesthetics in everyday life Maike Neufend
Feeling religiously? The extra/ordinariness of everyday life How can we identify the process and value of being affected by Sufism? While assuming that most of everyday life is ordinary, this paper suggests, based on Ammerman’s research, that “no social domain is always and u tterly devoid of spiritual meaning” (Ammerman, 2014, p. 196). Interlocutors in my study on Sufism in Beirut follow various turuq (sng. tarīqa; order) headed by sheikhs who often reside outside of Lebanon. Some interlocutors gather in Beirut to listen to the ṣuḥba1 (lecture) from Mansour (not his real name), whom many refer to as sheikh, master, or guru. Because actors practice Sufism outside specialized religious institutions and organizations, how they position themselves toward these is important. Considering how actors use the term spirituality one can summarize that they primarily refer to a lack of experience in religion, either by stating that one ‘needs or wants more’ than is given in religion or by stating that spiritual experiences go ‘beyond religion’. That interlocutors of this study have expressed great disinterest in any existent Sufi institutions in Lebanon produces a specific image of these institutions and although it does not tell us anything about the way they practice Sufism, it sheds light on the fact that experience seems to be a decisive factor for being affected by Sufism.2 By concentrating on “lived” Sufism, this paper focuses on how actors standardize everyday experiences as part of a culture of Sufism. In line with Schielke’s argument that there is too much Islam in the anthropology of Islam, I do not concentrate on actors consciously aiming to be pious within the frame of specialized religious groups or organizations but rather detect the ways of doing religion in “the complex logic of lived experience” (Schielke, 2010, pp. 2–3).3 This logic of everyday life is according to Soeffner characterized by a “cognitive style of practice”, i.e. that is, it aims at minimizing the extraordinary. New and alien situations and experiences are standardized in such a way by actors that they seem to be common to all (Soeffner, 2015, p. 16). However, the standardization of the ordinary
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as extraordinary based on the subject’s experience can be referred to as “spiritualization” of everyday life. Knoblauch conceptualizes the larger trend behind this transformation as popularization of religion based on a dissolution of the religious field since actors do not have to standardize their experience of transcendence as religious or as religiously legitimate (2009, pp. 159–162).4 What counts is the subjectivity of experience, not as individual or unique experience but rather as authentic ones (Knoblauch, 2009, p. 271). What Ammerman terms “everyday religion” can refer to rituals and practices that are immediately recognized as religious, “but r esearch on lived religion also includes activities that might not immediately be seen as spiritual or religious by outsiders, but are treated as such by the people engaged in them” (Ammerman, 2014, p. 191). The religious elements in everyday life stories can be detected by paying attention to what we are seeing and hearing: what materiality, style, or ways of moving, acting, looking, and speaking refer to the subjectivity of experience? I would like to invite the reader to listen closely to the experience of an interlocutor narrating stories of everyday life through a photograph taken by herself. Because being affected by Sufism is partly based on the material and embodied aspect of Sufism as it appears in everyday life, one approach to elicit data on Sufism’s tangible forms is participant-lead photography.5 Here, interlocutors and their visual culture condition what is included or left outside the photograph’s frame. This means, images are able to convey something about the culture of the photographer, more than the culture of what is photographed. Still, photography seems useful to gain information on how spectators relate to everyday life objects depicted in the photograph. Assuming that the relation between the actor and the thing acted upon is an “aesthetic practice”, it is organized by an habitual and routinized practice of perceiving, one that aims at sensuality and affectivity, one that affects the viewer (Reckwitz, 2014, p. 25). Part of such an aesthetic practice is sensation and, as Meredith McGuire discerns, sensing religiously is embedded in bodily experiences through senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. While all constitute experiences that are a core part of religious practices, they are not entirely subjective but “socially shaped, trained, and changed” (McGuire, 2016, p. 155). “Religious senses” may be evoked in rituals embedded in what existent religious institutions define as properly religious, or “religion as lived experience” may be constituted by interaction with ordinary objects (Orsi, 1997, p. 11). However, religious practices are often characterized by an interaction with an “invisible”. Birgit Meyer and Jojada Verrips have written on such interactions by conceptualizing the term “sensational forms” as “relatively fixed, authorized modes of invoking and organizing access to the transcendental, thereby creating and sustaining links between believers in the context of particular religious regimes” (Meyer & Verrips, 2008, p. 27). Photographs offer a unique way to analyze “sensational forms” by allowing the studying of material and symbolic forms as historically and culturally
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ordered and the individual practice of viewing these forms as social and not simply subjective.6 Viewing images and talking about their content enables photographs to introduce “sensational forms” into the interview situation (Warren, 2008, p. 572). Subjective experiences, religious senses, and sensational forms are all part of an “aesthetic practice” interlocutors deploy to be affected by Sufism. Zooming in on how actors are being affected by Sufism in their everyday life experiences by means of photo-elicitation allows to carefully examine how an extraordinariness of the everyday is practiced through the sign system of language in relation to material and visual codes. Relating the interlocutor’s sensorial perception (in particular, vision) to her being affected and emotionally involved helps discern how processes of aesthetization are apparent in the everyday culture of Sufism (Reckwitz, 2014, p. 23).
Vision, visuality, and meaning: how to analyze aesthetic practices through photography Sensational forms organizing interaction in religious practices are increasingly multimodal media, in particular, forms of visual culture (Knoblauch & Herbrik, 2014, p. 358). In Meyer’s article “Picturing the Invisible”, the author has outlined the implications of a “pictorial turn” for the study of religion. By understanding religion as a “medium of absence”, Meyer sets out to analyze material media within visual culture as sensational forms that “make visible the invisible” and “materialize the sacred” (as cited in Meyer, 2015, p. 338). Instead of concentrating on a visual order of Sufism through images accessible in public or popular culture (Frembgen, 2012), this paper is grounded on the interlocutor’s choice of a visual order tangible in everyday life. The interlocutor photographed everyday life objects, scenes, or environments chosen by herself (participant-led photography)7 and thus offers data that already carry visual codes employed in “lived” and not textual forms of communication based on the mimetic capacity of photographs (Lister & Wells, 2001, p. 77). One drawback of using photographs as data is that one is at risk to focus on the socially constructed category of vision while attaching less importance to touch, smell, hearing, or taste. In addition, visual perception is not easily differentiated from other perceptive modes. Above all, photographs entail a multi-sensoriality, an aspect to which anthropologist Sarah Pink has pointed as the “sensory turn” within visual studies (Pink, 2011, p. 5). As a result, the practice of viewing a photograph in the interview itself, and later by researchers and colleagues, involves more than vision (Pink, 2009, pp. 81–96). By including a material approach to photography, Elizabeth Edwards has argued similarly to Pink that an “understanding of photographs cannot be contained in the relation between the visual and its material support but rather through an expanded sensory realm of the social in which photographs are put to work” (Edwards, 2012, pp. 225, 228). However, photographs not only address sensorial and emotional dimensions of perception, but also combine form and content by talking about
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a specific subject matter aesthetically (Pilarczyk & Mietzner, 2005, p. 120). Taking a cue from Pilarczyk and Mietzner (2005), photographs themselves can already be understood as part of an aesthetization of everyday life and as such the medium itself is an expression of it (p. 107). Such an expression does not display a clear-cut message; instead, the characteristics of photographs are their inherent ambiguity and diversity (Kulcke, 2009, pp. 42–43). One result of this ambiguity is that most studies using photo-elicitation attach less importance to the photograph itself, especially with participant- generated images where the interpretation of visual data has been criticized as either representing the view of the researcher or imposing a singular reading of the image (Drew & Guillemin, 2014, p. 57). Some studies exist that aim at a combination of both visual and verbal data, while calling for more autonomy of the images themselves (Pink, 2007). Moreover, in many studies that deploy photo-elicitation methods there is a difference between what is shown in the image and what people see. Sometimes images generate talk that has little to do with the image itself (Rose, 2012).8 Nonetheless, images in this study do both, they stimulate talk about relations and ideas that go far beyond what is depicted and interlocutors directly relate their talk to the things depicted. In the case discussed here, what is shown and what is seen is closely linked thus opening a path for investigating this relationship more closely. In the course of this article, an actor’s visual practice is analyzed as a product of the relationship between the viewer and the subject of her viewing. For this purpose, the pictorial representation of viewing visible in the image and the narration of the photographic content by the interlocutor viewing the image are analyzed according to its pattern and motif. This research strategy offers a unique point of entrance to aesthetic situations where a viewer performs in the frame of a particular gaze.9 The visual representation of lived Sufism within the photograph and the discursive dimension by the interlocutor’s narration of the visual representation during the interview make material forms not only visible, but also reconstructable via the interlocutor’s practices of perceiving, interpreting, and producing meaning through these materials.10
The practice of looking in and at the image Compared to studies on “religious images” treating the image itself as “object of gaze” circulated within a “complex flow of multiple originals” (Pinney, 2004; Morgan, 1999, 2005; Edwards, 2012), or studies on “vernacular photography” found within archives or family albums, participant-led photography and photo-elicitation interviews on the broad theme of “lived Sufism” entail a “scopic limitation”. The production of the photograph occurs at a specific place and time. In a task given by the researcher, interlocutors produce images to illustrate everyday life to the researcher and thus pictures are not entirely framed by everyday social life. This aspect is
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accounted for in this paper by not treating the photograph as a scientific end product, but rather as data that need to be analyzed for cultural patterns (Pauwels, 2015, p. 127). The image11 in Figure 6.1 was taken by Nasreen (not her real name) from the driver’s seat looking outside to the sea. The place of the photograph is Mina, the harbor area in Tripoli, the second biggest city in the north of Lebanon. Nasreen, now in her late 30s, grew up in Tripoli since she was ten years old. After finishing her studies in Beirut, she couldn’t find a job in Tripoli, and ever since she has been commuting between both cities that are 80 kilometers apart. Beside Tripoli being her hometown, Nasreen has made a name for herself by bringing tourists, who had abandoned the city due to armed conflicts since 2011, back to Tripoli. Her own business as a tour guide had picked up already in 2015, and she was subject of various media reports on radio and television in and outside of Lebanon. Moreover, as Nasreen comes from a known Sunni family of that area, both her mother and her grandmother are reported by her to practice Sufi rituals following the late Sheikh Nazim from the Naqshbandiyya-Haqqaniyya Sufi order based in Cyprus. A transnational network with a large outreach and commodification industry in Muslim majority societies as well as in the West, the Naqshbandiyya-Haqqaniyya is known for its mainstream (conservative) attitude (Dressler, 2009, pp. 77–96). The city is situated at the Mediterranean Sea. Half of the city of Tripoli is on the coast. Taking a look at the image in Figure 6.1, one observes a strong
Figure 6.1 P hotograph taken by Nasreen, November 1, 2015, Tripoli
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direction of perspective toward the sea; the spectator is looking at the sea directly after recognizing a dervish figure hanging on a translucent thread from above, probably the rear-view mirror. The dervish and the sea are the most symbolic depictions since the dervish could have been photographed in another position and perspective without displaying the sea in the background. The sea, on the other hand, could have been photographed outside the car. Hence, the personal connection to the image by the photographer is not only the dervish and the sea, but the car itself. An indication of the importance of the car is its stylistic device as frame for the perspective of the spectator, a frame for the perspective of the photographer, and as point of departure for the photographer’s experience. Commuting on a weekly basis between these two cities Nasreen is still very much connected to her hometown. Instead of emancipating from the place and her family like most of her friends did who felt ‘too oppressed’ there, Nasreen emphasizes the importance of her family connection. For her own well-being, she is commuting to Tripoli to spend time with her parents. The car depicted in the image is thus part of her home, while also representing independence, particularly for a woman, since she can go when and where ever she wants. In Lebanon, the car is a status symbol of wealth and autonomy. Although her car does not represent an abundance of wealth by being old and “tired”, it also does not represent poverty. The harbor area is in general not a place of trade and commerce as it was in older times, but more a place for leisure time with friends and family.12 The photograph transmits this feeling of leisure symbolized through the shells picked up from the beach and decorated like memorabilia on the front desk of her car. The shells occupy a middle position mediating between the inside and outside in a pictorial dimension: they are collected from outside, placed in a decorative way inside the car, and they also reflect in the window and appear in the sky, resembling the cloud formation. What becomes evident if we follow Nasreen’s narrated direction of view is that three elements (the sea, the dervish, and the shells) are approached by her through an act of “watching” and “looking”. Nasreen narrates that the sea symbolizes a “border”, giving her orientation in her life (PEI, line 4–12). We also learn that in this case looking from inside the car serves as a practice performed by Nasreen with or without a photograph: “sometimes I just park the car and watch the sea, I mean I am in love with the sea” (PEI, line 3–4), and again later “and then when you don’t have the sea you get lost, so for me it’s very important to go and watch the sea and you know like from time to time” (PEI, line 12–13). “Watching the sea” becomes a routinized action performed to spatially and emotionally reassure herself in her daily life – to not lose orientation – and only by telling us about it we can understand the temporal implications of her habit of “watching” illustrated in the photograph. She expresses a specific perception of the situation in which she watches the sea, and by photographing the dervish and the shells
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with her in the car, she emphasizes their importance to illustrate something about herself and her relationship toward these objects (Holzbrecher & Tell, 2006, p. 111). This relationship to both objects is expressed by Nasreen in the following two extracts:13 1 […] and mhm my friend got me this, she went to Konya and I told her please get me the Sufi mhm 2 whirling dervish and I really like him, he’s lovely, he’s all the time with me you know like turning, so I 3 I look at him and I feel happy, I don’t know why, I feel happy it reminds me of something beautiful 4 you know of my of my of my way, of the nice people, of this whirling Dervish that is whirling with me 5 in this car hahaha […] 6 […] so and I think that shell is a miracle also like if you look at it you know the engineering of it like 7 its all this whirls and everything is so perfect you know and every time I look at it I like for me its also 8 kind of meditation its like meditation to God into „Wow! What did God create, its beautiful, like it’s so 9 miraculous you know it cannot be a hasar, a hasard [french] like we say, it cannot be a coincidence 10 that it’s so beautiful you know so, so for me also its very like its very spiritual you know the the the 11 presence of ah shells in my life […]. Photo-Elicitation Interview with Nasreen, 11 November 2015, Beirut.14 A close reading of both statements shows that each follows a similar composition. Nasreen starts by describing the dervish and the shells in terms of their materiality and by signaling “I look at him” (2–3) and “every time I look at it” (7) she states that she performs a different practice of looking. Concerning the dervish, this practice leads to a feeling of happiness (3), and concerning the shell, this practice leads to a ritual practice of meditation (8). The assumption of a difference between a general and a subjective look is based on her clearly stating the contrast as soon as she invites the spectator to look at the shell, “if you look at it you know the engineering of it like it’s all this whirls and everything is so perfect you know” (6–7). The perfection of the material form of the shell is explained to be visible for any spectator, but “every time I look at it I like for me it’s also kind of meditation it’s like meditation to God inno [like], Wow! What did God create, it’s beautiful, like it’s so miraculous” (7–9). By insisting to look at the shell while already looking at the photograph together,15 Nasreen emphasizes a specific way of looking to learn something more about the object, namely its perfect design. Her description of
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the material objects changes from a mechanic description of their form, movement, and composition visible for a general public (1–2; 6–7) to a description of these objects being miraculous, spiritual, and affect-laden for her (3–5, 7–11). She draws at least two parallels between the two objects; first, by describing the movement of the dervish as “whirling” and the shells composited of “whirls” both objects materialize the same form eliciting a particular look by her. Second, both objects are ascribed with an aesthetic value of beauty, although the dervish represents beauty by reminding her of the beauty of a community of Sufis, the shell is said to be beautiful itself by materializing the presence of God. Viewing the shell makes her attest a miracle, and viewing the dervish makes her attest her own identification with a community of Sufis, in both cases her description displays a development from the material aspects of the object to the subjective meaning. To attest the process of being affected as aesthetic practice, I would like to draw attention to two facets: the gaze and its transformative effect and the effect of naming things beautiful. Both are part of the interlocutor’s production of subjective (authentic) experiences organized by an emotion management and valorized by the affective economy of Sufism.
Performing vision: the gaze and its transformative effect The dervish and the shells are objects constructed by Nasreen to either imagine a community or to communicate with the divine. Both of these actions have been described by David Morgan in regard to religious images and their function within visual culture as “religious gaze” (Morgan, 2005, p. 55.). Understanding visualization as a significant religious act is also supported by scholars of Sufism who assume that we find a methodical concentration on vision in general. Instead of depending on reason to establish categories and distinctions defining the human relation to God, Sufis develop, “a suprarational vision of God’s presence in the world and the soul” which is called imagination (khayāl). Chittick argues that for Sufis, imagination is the souls” ability to perceive the presence of God in all things (Chittick, 2007, p. 30). This concentration on visuality becomes even more evident if we consider the visualizing practices evident in the culture of Naqshbandi Sufism, a path of Sufism spread transnational and which Nasreen is identifying with. Shahzad Bashir has written on “Narrating Sight” within hagiographic literature and by example he mentions the practice of connecting and bonding between a master and his or her disciple. In Naqshbandi Sufism, this practice is called “rābiṭah”, literally “connecting”, and it is done to enhance one’s “inner reality” by visualizing (taṣawwur, lit. imagining) the external form of the master. This visualization is meant to “anchor the relationship between master and disciples and to maintain a telepathic contact between them” (Bashir, 2013, p. 243). Visualization can also be performed by looking at an image of the Sheikh in the internet or
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on the living room wall. Bashir describes this practice of visualizing as an “image settling into the heart” practiced by two performances – firstly, through absorbing the image of the master’s body through one’s own bodily senses and, secondly, through implanting the image into one’s heart by using internal senses. The act of looking not only with your eyes but also with your heart resembles a kind of synesthaesia; an image is known by being incorporated, tasted (dhawq) (Kapchan, 2013, p. 139).16 This ritual marks the beginning of the relationship between student and master, and “vision appears to be the sensorial doorway through which one absorbs a master’s presence into oneself, in order to progress further along in the Sufi path” (Bashir, 2011, p. 243). According to these examples, practices of visualizing and visuality are performed to mediate one’s own self-transformation in the culture of Sufism. But, vision occupies a place that is not necessarily “visualist” – in the sense of detached observation – but rather visualizing is a trained sense characterizing religious practice (Grasseni, 2004). In this way, vision is not just a practice but a performance through which eyes are tuned to perceive the environment in a specific manner enabling one to experience intensely and repetitive. Taking a cue from Martin Seel, this practice can be described as aesthetic perception which cannot be reduced to a sensation but includes an attentiveness or mindfulness (Aufmerksamkeit) for the object (Seel, 1996, p. 49). Concerning objects of ritual practice rooted in faith, Wendy Shaw argues that “performative visuality” is a practice aiming at accessing the symbolic presence of the prophet in Islam more generally (Shaw, 2013, p. 215). The “performative aspect of the gaze” differs from other forms of viewing. Objects to which one directs the perceptive faculties in an attentive modus and in a performative way evoke a devotional practice. Nasreen directs her gaze at the shells to actually “meditate” by expressing admiration of the beauty of God’s creation visible through the whirls. As mentioned above, the Sufi gaze is trained to achieve a transformation of oneself and, in this way, Nasreen, as the viewer of the objects, becomes a “performer of meaning” (Shaw, 2013, p. 203). Through her way of viewing, she perceives information about the form, shape, and movement of the objects to witness a divine presence. One may conclude that Nasreen’s practice of viewing is a way to transform herself from an observer to a witness, i.e. that is, to someone experiencing the objects of gaze and by that access the transcendental. Finally, the verbal expression of being a witness of God’s presence indicates the religious act toward a possible Other. This practice of witnessing is not only based on Nasreen’s practice of vision but also on the object that her vision is directed at. Aesthetic perception, says Seel, is perception for the sake of perceiving and for the sake of the object perceived (Seel, 1996, p. 50). That Nasreen is affected by the encounter with these objects is, on the one hand, due to their specific materiality and cultural history. On the other hand, how Nasreen is affected by
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them offers insight to how the affective economy of Sufism is produced by an emotion management toward these material and symbolic contents. Her feeling of admiration and happiness are effects of perceiving the objects as “sensational forms” that are ascribed by Nasreen with a specific quality of beauty. By naming things beautiful Nasreen standardizes her experience of the transcendental in a way that is common in the culture of Sufism.
The affective economy of Sufism: seeing beauty and naming it The perception and naming of beauty is a well-known practice within Islam and in particular within Sufism: “everything beautiful is a reflection of God”, says Nasreen when asked about her relationship to fellow Sufis in Beirut. Instead of labelling this relation as friendship Nasreen explains: […] we just love each other in a very volatile way let’s say, when we meet we are very generous with each other we are very you know [person’s name] is telling me “Oh you are so beautiful” you know, like it’s nice when you hear this I mean, and also in Islam beauty is also very important, not beauty only I mean of course aesthetic beauty is beautiful, but for us also everything beautiful is a reflection of God […]. Biographical Interview with Nasreen, 04 November 2015, Beirut. The act of naming both objects in the photograph beautiful is thus a routinized and habitual aesthetic practice to perceive God’s reflection.17 At the same time, things that are perceived as beautiful obtain a “being-for-itself”, which, according to Simmel, is not replaceable by another thing, even if it may be as beautiful in its kind (Simmel, 1950, p. 47). This is supported by the fact that Nasreen collects “too many” shells and suggests she cannot get enough of them, as if every shell has a unique value of beauty in itself, one shell unable to represent any other (PEI, lines 43–44, lines 49–50). Beauty is thus the value related to “uniqueness”, “totality”, and “perfection” that makes these shells neither less nor more valuable by their reproduction. That Nasreen recognizes “beauty” when looking at the shells and their geometrized form of a spiral (whirls) connects her to a cultural knowledge of beauty and to others who would recognize this knowledge of beauty as well.18 In a religious sense, the idea of beauty here is not simply to interpret the form and shape (or the appearance) as exceptional or wonderous or pleasing but to experience it as sign of God’s reflection. Nasreen’s practice of witnessing is a result of her specific emotion management. By managing her feeling (expressing, evoking), she contributes to the creation of it (Hochschild, 1990, 120).19 In another sense, the feeling of happiness could also be read as a form of capital. According to Sara Ahmed, emotions do
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things rather than being based in the subject or object, they are produced “as effect of its circulation” (Ahmed, 2004, p. 120). In this affective economy, the subject is just one point in the network of circulation and exchange. By expressing her feeling of happiness the emotion (attached to an idea of beauty) is not only created by Nasreen as conscious act of perception but becomes part of the circulation across time and space, physical and social worlds, across public and private as well as institutional and autonomous realms (Fox, 2015, p. 310).20 The practice routinized in the affective economy of Sufism in this situation is to feel happy while witnessing the presence of God through performing vision and verbally praising what is witnessed. Both Ahmed’s and Hochschild’s approach may be combined in what Monique Scheer has described as practicing emotion, that is, the naming and regulating of emotions where both actions are part of an emotional management. First, naming the object beautiful is part of Nasreen manipulating her “body and mind to evoke feeling” (Scheer, 2012, p. 209). Second, Nasreen’s learned habit of feeling happy is regulated by an emotional style that proceeds via “tacit socialization” as well as “explicit instruction” (Scheer, 2012, p. 216).21 The habitus of the community of Sufis that Nasreen is reminded of may display a specific order of knowledge that informs what is accepted and even instructed as “proper feeling”. Reading the practice of naming an object of everyday life beautiful as “proper feeling” in Sufism is a product of sharing it with others. One feature of this “lived” Sufism is the “primacy to the here and now of subjective embodied experience and affect, as the ultimate aim of ritual practice”, like Paola Abenante has shown for the Burhani Sufi order in Egypt (2017, p. 135). Nasreen neither mentions that the dervish displays faith nor that it ensures safe journey as is a common explanation for hanging religious symbols in rear-view mirrors (Vassenden & Andersson, 2015, pp. 85–102).22 Instead, the dervish figure evokes a feeling and memory by “reminding her of something beautiful”, of an imagined community of Sufis. But, is this representation of a community visible to a public?
Concluding remarks: an extraordinary look at the ordinary In Lebanon, religious affiliation stands for communal identity. It is in fact often a question of social, class, and political identity rather than personal identity (Khalaf, 2012, p. 12). Many Lebanese are against the political system of sectarianism employed since the beginning of the 1990s.23 For the younger generation, religious identifications, and the fact that they often go hand in hand with social and political ones, are often experienced as brutal limitations to their reality.24 As Joseph Daher and others have shown, the fact that the bourgeoisie has given a confessional aspect to class struggle helped them “strengthening control of the popular classes and keeping
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them subordinated to their sectarian leaders” (Daher, 2016, pp. 22–23). As might be expected, Nasreen expressed that being religious alienated her many times from her friends. Identifying as Muslim is disliked by many of her friends who consider themselves secular and communist, by this opposing a sectarian logic. Being Sufi, on the other hand, is interesting to her peers because it is not perceived as part of the Lebanese political system. As a “Westernized” product, Sufism is linked much more to the ideology of individualism based on consumers who pick and choose what suits them (Martin, 2014, p. 42). By hanging a dervish on the rear-view mirror, Nasreen chose a symbol that is part of a global popular culture of Sufism. In particular, in the West the dervish has become a spiritual symbol often devoid of any Islamic identity and thus more a cultural signifier (Ali, 2017). In public auditoriums or cultural centeres in Beirut one might find dervish music or dancing once in a while, but as one interlocutor reported, before he learned about Sufism he did not necessarily identify the dervish as specific Islamic symbol. Moreover, the dervish in the photograph is a souvenir, a present brought to her from Konya in Turkey. Many pilgrims reach Konya every winter to celebrate the Muslim poet Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi, who has become a symbol in-between “religious spirituality and institutionalized faith” (Ali, 2017, par. 14). At the one hand, this souvenir stands for a quite touristic and popular perspective on the culture of Sufism, one that has a great appeal for a Western audience and for my interlocutors in Lebanon as well. At the other hand, it represents the global community of Sufis with whom one is connected (via digital media) while meeting face-to-face maybe once a year. Her being reminded of a community of Sufis through the dervish may be understood as a translocal practice that actually (re-)integrates an already deterritorialized locality (Reuter, 2004, p. 243). Her reappropriation of Sufism, as neither simply Middle Eastern nor Western, is symbolized by the stylized object of the dervish as a form of popular culture. Hanging it in the car is already an act of creating realms of experiences that are neither only private nor public. In line with what Knoblauch terms “popular religion” the dervish can be seen as part of a global popular culture permeating the boundary between religious and non-religious identifications in Lebanon in a subtle way. Objects depicted in this photograph are consciously framed by an actor to raise our awareness toward them. Without being depicted inside the photographic frame, we would not have considered the interior of Nasreen’s car to be of importance to her religiosity and we may not even have considered the quality of any of the objects. The frame elicits the special response we give it as social research data. However, the photography itself is not only a target of the interlocutor’s and our perception – framing through photography allows one to perceive in a specific manner: the frame of the photograph serves to illustrate a situation experienced in everyday life which can be understood
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as aesthetic in itself, namely Nasreen’s watching the sea. The frame of the car within the photograph establishes a boundary through which the experienced situation is unable to move outside to the world or the outside world into the situation, much like a picture frame (Simmel, 2009, p. 98). Both frames thus sensualize an inner unity of the image focusing our perception toward that which lies inside the frame. Participant-led photography allows us to see what would have been hidden otherwise, the everyday life objects would have remained peripheral to our vision. Nonetheless, as Daniel Miller argues, this does not render them indeterminate, instead: the less we are aware of them [objects], the more powerfully they can determine our expectations by setting the scene and ensuring normative behavior, without being open to challenge. They determine what takes place to the extent that we are unconscious of their capacity to do so. (Miller, 2005, p. 5) Nasreen’s emotional response to both objects fits well into the general shift from understanding religion as obligation toward an increasing emphasis on consumption or choice (Davie, 2013, p. 97). As implied earlier by the term “individual religion”, Grace Davie argues similarly that a common feature of this religiousness in late modern societies is the “experiential” and the “feelgood factor”: The point in religious movements is that we feel something (Davie, 2013, p. 150). Nasreen feels happy, and her emotional reaction toward these objects is based on their historical and visual order as well as the emotional management trained and learned within the culture of a popularized Sufism. Her practice of viewing is an embodied visual perception which is entangled in the affective occupation of the objects themselves while also being informed by her own social position and (middle) class identity. The practice of looking narrated and illustrated by Nasreen is aesthetic because not only is she affected by these objects through naming them as beautiful and miraculous, but the aim of her emotional practice is to feel happy, a feeling that she is able to recreate every time she performs this kind of vision.
Notes 1 ṣuḥba (companionship/conversation) is defined in Richard Netton’s book Sufi Ritual as “the intimate conversation between master and disciple conducted on a very high spiritual level” (Netton, 2014, p. 85). In the gatherings in Beirut, these ṣuḥbas tend to be like lectures with a question and answer round at the end, and occasionally a meal. 2 Deinstitutionalized (Sufi) spirituality could as well be termed “individual religion” referring to individuals “as subjects of capitalism” and of the petty bourgeoisie, but I do not refer to this aspect here (Martin, 2014, p. 6). 3 In the anthropology and sociology of Islam, this aspect is inadequately represented. Studies focusing on Muslims rather frequently choose to concentrate only on the “muslimness of Muslims” instead of broadening the understanding of what being Muslim entails in the complexity of everyday life (Schielke, 2010).
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5 6 7 8
See also the debate about the “opposition between piety and the everyday” within the anthropology of Islam (Deeb, 2015). Knoblauch intends to dissolve the boundary between private (invisible) religion and public (organized) religion by conceptualizing recent transformations of religion as “popular religion”. He therefore not only accounts for the publicness of subjective experiences but does also refer to the neccessity for actors to produce something subjective (like experiences) (Knoblauch, 2009, p. 272). The procedure of the photo-elicitation interview is inspired by the work of Harrington and Schibik (2003, p. 30) and Ammerman and Williams (2012, p. 6). On a conceptual level, the term aesthetics is used in this paper similar to Pinney’s use of the term “corpothetics” as embodied corporeal aesthetics outlining not “how images ‘look’, but what they ‘do’ ” (Pinney, 2004, p. 8). The procedure of the photo-elicitation interview is inspired by the work of Harrington and Schibik (2003, p. 30) and Ammerman and Williams (2012, p. 6). The empirical data used in this paper is only a small section of a larger set which is part of my PhD study in which the methodological approach to photographs and photo-voice is elaborated and defined along specific steps. For the purpose of this paper, the focus lies on two short extracts. I rely on the broader meaning of gaze that David Morgan has defined as “the visual field that relates seer, seen, the conventions of seeing, and the physical, ritual, and historical contexts of seeing” (2005, p. 4). However, Morgan continues that gaze is a practice and as such a way of seeing that viewers share. The ccular pracacts of vision or the visual practices denote all the possible ways of o tices each depending on various conditions of in-/visibility (Morgan, 2005, 5). Although no verbal reference to religion was made by me, all interlocutors know that my research is on Sufism, a fact that will have partly influenced the appearance of “religion” in these photographs. Still, that Sufism is expressed as lived religion in the photographs and interviews is due to its place in everyday life, without the researcher specifically asking for it. In autumn 2015, I recorded two interviews with Nasreen, one biographical interview based on her belief story (BI) and a photo-elicitation interview (PEI) based on the photograph(s) taken by her (ill.). If there is any interest in reading the interviews, please email the author. Like most of Lebanon the harbor area in Tripoli is oriented toward the service sector with restaurants and cafés stretching along the corniche. Still, fishing is the second biggest economic activity. All in all, 90% of Lebanon‘s maritime transport is absorbed by Beirut‘s port (Llaonart, 2018). By lifting these two segments from their broader context to be interpreted does not aim at disregarding NasreenMira’s intended photographic staging, it rather follows her own production of temporal and spatial meaning by addressing the object’s symbolic content. The interpretation of single elements is a valid step for analyzing images (Breckner, 2008, p. 4) and is part of my methodical approach. All interviews with Nasreen were originally conducted in English. Besides interlocutors looking at the image together during the interview, my colleagues and I look at the image as data to be analyzed and interpreted. “Looking” within photo-elicitation has various levels and mostly includes more then vision (Pink, 2009, pp. 81–96). I am thankful for the inspiring discussions about this photograph at the workshop on “Bilder als Gegenstand und Darstellunsgmittel von sozialwissenschaftlicher Erkenntnis” organized by Jagoda Motowidlo and among others with Heike Greschke and Roswitha Breckner at the Justus-Liebig Universität in Giessen, Germany. The economy of gaze in Sufism is classified by a distinction between eyesight (basar) and spiritual insight (basira) producing a specific understanding of the relations
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17 18 19
between lover and beloved. According to this understanding “the beloved’s form may be imprinted on the very existence of the lover” (Shakry, 2017, pp. 38). The terms “beauty” (jamāl) and “majesty” (jalāl) are both references to divine attributes and play a significant role in Sufism which cannot be discussed in this paper (Chittick, 2007, p. 12). For a culture-specific framework of the practice of seeing in Islamic history take a look at the journal Muqarnas on “Gazing Otherwise” (32/2015) edited by Gulru Necipoğlu et al. According to Arlie Hochschild, a feeling is a “milder” emotion by being less marked by bodily sensations (Hochschild, 1990, p. 119). Interlocutors refer to a similar difference between “emotions” (mashāʿir) and “feelings” (iḥsās). Emotions need to be controlled so that these do not interfere with any decisions the actor is making (“its about being the master of your emotions”) particularly because emotions effervesce. “Iḥsās” (sngl. ḥiss: “sense perception”) is according to philosophers an “act of perception” and a conscious operation (Arnaldez 2012; Mattock 2012). However, the difference interlocutors claim is also normative: “I wanna feel but I don‘t wanna have emotions […] you have to understand this, feeling I love the sky BEAUTIFUL I love you, you are BEAUTIFUL girl, you have beautiful soul, bass [but] I don‘t have emotion, emotions are problem, I have anger, I have frustration” (group discussion at an interlocutor’s in Byblos, Lebanon, 21 October 2015). Fox follows a materialist sociology of emotion by using the concept of an “affective assemblage” that “incorporate[s] bodies, things, social forms and abstract concepts” (Fox, 2015, p. 310). The verbal praise of witnessing the presence of God may also be related to the idea of the “evil eye” and mental health in Islam. Not praising verbally what is witnessed as beautiful means that someone fails to recognize the creator of that thing which may cause God to create harm in that particular thing. Haque and Keshavarzi argue that it is believed by some Muslims that viewing that thing then affects a person like poison or harmful medicine (2013, p. 308). For a Lebanese car rental advertisement making fun of the practice of hanging and placing religious symbols in your car, watch this youtube video – “ funny lebanese car rental ad”. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=0Nyv2YuA-38. The customer in this advertisement is given a car according to his religious affiliation with various holy figures who are supposed to guide him since the government has failed to take care of infrastructure (potholes in the street; the lights going off due to power cut; missing road signs in general). This system that is based on mutual coexistence between Lebanese religious sects was installed in the Taif agreement from 1989 ending Lebanese civil war but also, according to historian Fawwaz Traboulsi, building the basis for today’s political problems (Traboulsi 2012). One example for this limitation is the non-existence of civil marriage in Lebanon. Marriage and divorce rights are under religious jurisdiction, institutions known to be patriarchal (Daher, 2016, p. 126).
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112 Maike Neufend und Bildverstehen. Methodische Ansätze Aus Sozialwissenschaftlicher, Kunst- Und Medienpädagogischer Perspektive (pp. 107–120). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag. Kapchan, D. (2013). The Aesthetics of the Invisible: Sacred Music in Secular (French) Places. TDR/The Drama Review, 57(3), 132–147. Khalaf, S. (2012). Lebanon Adrift: From Battleground to Playground. London: Saqi Books. Knoblauch, H. (2009). Populäre Religion: Auf dem Weg in eine spirituelle Gesellschaft. Frankfurt a. M.: Campus Verlag. Knoblauch, H., & Herbrik, R. (2014). Emotional Knowledge, Emotional Styles, and Religion. In C. von Scheve, & M. Salmella (Eds.), Collective Emotions: Perspectives from Psychology, Philosophy, and Sociology (pp. 356–371). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kulcke, G. (2009). Identitätsbildungen Älterer Migrantinnen: Die Fotografie als Ausdrucksmittel und Erkenntnisquelle. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag. Lister, M., & Wells, L. (2001). Seeing beyond Belief. In T. V. Leeuwen, & C. Jewitt (Eds.), The Handbook of Visual Analysis (pp. 61–91). London: SAGE Publications. Llaonart, J. (2018, April 3). The Economy of the Lebanese port of Tripoli, loomed by Syrian sectarianism. MésEconomia. Retrieved from https://www.meseconomia. cat/the-economy-of-the-lebanese-port-of-tripoli-loomed-by-syrian-sectarianism/ Martin, C. (2014). Capitalizing Religion: Ideology and the Opiate of the Bourgeoisie. London/New York: Bloomsbury Academic. Mattock, J. N. (2012). Ḥiss. In P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. (Eds.), Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.). Leiden: E. J. Bril. McGuire, M. B. (2016). Individual Sensory Experiences, Socialized Senses, and Everyday Lived Religion in Practice. Social Compass, 63(2), 152–162. Meyer, B. (2015). Picturing the Invisible. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 27(4–5), 333–360. Meyer, B. & Verrips, J. (2008). Aesthetics: From Aisthesis to Aesthetica. Kant’s Legacy Religion as Mediation and the “Aesthetic Turn”. Religious Aesthetics. In D. Morgan (Ed.), Key Words in Religion, Media and Culture. New York: Routledge. Miller, D. (2005). Materiality: An Introduction. In D. Miller (Ed.), Materiality (pp. 1–50). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Morgan, D. (1999). Visual Piety: A History and Theory of Popular Religious Images. Berkeley: University of California Press. Morgan, D. (2005). Sacred Gaze: Religious Visual Culture in Theory and Practice. Berkeley: University Press Group Ltd. Morgan, D. (1999). Visual Piety: A History and Theory of Popular Religious Images. Berkeley: University of California Press. Necipoğlu, G., Leal, K., Bush, O., & Shalem, A. (Eds.). (2015). Muqarnas 32: Gazing Otherwise: Modalities of Seeing in and Beyond the Lands of Islam. Leiden: Brill. Netton, I. R. (2014). Sufi Ritual: The Parallel Universe. London: Routledge. Orsi, R. (1997). Everyday Miracles: The Study of Lived Religion. In D. D. Hall (Ed.), Lived Religion in America: Toward a History of Practice (pp. 3–21). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Pauwels, L. (2015). Reframing Visual Social Science: Towards a More Visual Sociology and Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pilarczyk, U., & Mietzner, U. (2005). Das reflektierte Bild: Die seriell-ikonografische Fotoanalyse in den Erziehungs- und Sozialwissenschaften (1st ed.). Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt, Julius.
Sufi aesthetics in everyday life 113 Pink, S. (2007). Doing Visual Ethnography: images, media and representation in research. London: SAGE Publications. Pink, S. (2009). Doing Sensory Ethnography. London: SAGE Publications. Pink, S. (2011). A Multisensory Approach to Visual Methods. In E. Margolis, & L. Pauwels, The SAGE Handbook of Visual Research Methods (pp. 601–613). London: SAGE Publications. Pinney, C. (2004). ‘Photos of the Gods’: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India. London: Reaktion Books. Reckwitz, A. (2014). Die Erfindung der Kreativität: zum Prozess gesellschaftlicher Ästhetisierung (4th ed.). Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag. Reuter, J. (2004). Postkoloniales Doing Culture. Oder: Kultur Als Translokale Praxis. In K. H. Hörning, & J. Reuter (Eds.), Doing Culture: Neue Positionen Zum Verhältnis von Kultur Und Sozialer Praxis (pp. 239–58), Bielefeld: Transcript. Rose, G. (2012, May 21). Photo-Elicitation and the Sensory Experiencing of Urban Design. Blogpost. Retrieved from https://visualmethodculture.wordpress. com/2012/05/21/ /photo-elicitation-and-the-sensory-experiencing-of-urban-design/ Scheer, M. (2012). Are Emotions a Kind of Practice (and Is That What Makes Them Have a History)? A Bourdieuian Approach to Understanding Emotion. History and Theory, 51(2), 193–220. Schielke, S. (2010). Second Thoughts about the Anthropology of Islam, or How to Make Sense of Grand Schemes in Everyday Life. ZMO Working Papers 2. Seel, M. (1996). Ethisch-ästhetische Studien. Berlin: Suhrkamp. Shakry, O. El. (2017). The Arabic Freud: Psychoanalysis and Islam in Modern Egypt. Princeton: University Press. Shaw, W. M. K. (2013). Performing Vision: Re-presentation in Islam. In F. Peter, S. Dornhof, & E. Arigita (Eds.), Islam and the Politics of Culture in Europe: Memory, Aesthetics, Art (pp. 203–218). Bielefeld: Transcript. Simmel, G. (1950). The Sociology of Georg Simmel. In K. H. Wolff (Ed.) The Sociology of Georg Simmel. Glencoa: Psychology Press. Simmel, G. (2009 ). Soziologische Ästhetik. In K. Lichtblau (Ed.), Soziologische Ästhetik (pp. 67–79). Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Soeffner, H.-G. (2015). Auslegung des Alltags. Der Alltag der Auslegung: Zur wissenssoziologischen Konzeption einer sozialwissenschaftlichen Hermeneutik (2nd ed.). Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp. Traboulsi, F. (2012). A History of Modern Lebanon. London: Pluto Press. Vassenden, A. & Andersson, M. (2015). Religious Symbols on Rearview Mirrors: Displays of Faith or Hopes for Safe Travel? In R. Williams (Ed.), Seeing Religion. Toward a Visual Sociology of Religion (pp. 85–102). London: Routledge. Warren, S. (2008). Empirical Challenges in Organizational Aesthetics Research: Towards a Sensual Methodology. Organization Studies, 29(4), 559–580.
Religious emotions in Christian events Meike Haken
Religious emotions in Christian events1 A glance at social science research on religion over the past decades reveals a striking contrast between individual and societal approaches. While one tendency has focused on individual religiosity, religious experiences, and spiritual practices, another strain addresses the sociology of churches or macro-sociological inquiries dealing with secularization, for example. This chapter proposes an alternative approach to the empirical analysis of religious emotions. Instead of dividing religious phenomena into abstract classifications of micro-, meso-, or macro-aspects, this chapter emphasizes the power of religious emotions to transgress and connect these different levels of analysis. Since the eighteenth century, various scientific disciplines have examined religious emotions and raised questions about their ontological status. This ontological question is intimately connected to a much more fundamental set of questions: what is religion? what do we understand by the attribute “religious”? and what is its relation to the “non-religious” or “secular”? Rather than adding yet another theoretical contribution to an already-diverse field of comparative and exegetical perspectives,2 my aim in this chapter is not to engage in a comparison of theories or a theoretical exegesis. Rather, I suggest that this diversity of perspectives on religion leaves us with little concrete understanding of what religion actually is. The same is indeed true for sociological perspectives on emotions. If we do not fully understand religion and emotions themselves, how could we possibly understand religious emotion? In the first part of the chapter, therefore, I am not so much interested in empirically testing a theoretical concept or thesis than in discussing some theoretically informed heuristic tools researchers can use in the field in order to answer these questions. The theoretical perspective one takes, be it critical theory, systems theory, social constructivism, or post-structuralism, inevitably affects how one analyses social reality, what one looks at in research, and how – in the case of qualitative empirical social research – one will draw epistemic insights from data. The starting point for my interest in the analysis of religious emotions in Christian mass events is the observation that emotions take a different form than in other fields. In the current state of research on religious or Christian
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events, one finds arguments concerning emotion and intention that do not coincide with this observation (cf. Haken, 2017). Most sociological studies on Christian events argue that religious emotions cannot be empirically identified and distinguished from other “non-religious” emotions (Gebhardt, 2000; Hitzler, 2011; Hitzler & Pfadenhauer, 2000). These authors often suppose that these events are primarily about enjoyment and hedonistic pleasure and rarely about religion in the narrow sense. This perspective has several shortcomings, for example, the assumption that emotions become merely instrumentalized and subjected to event management and planning. Such a perspective also ignores the specific public performances of emotions, as they occur, for example, in sports, religion, or music audiences. Since much of the existing research can be located in this school of sociological event studies, it is somewhat less surprising that there are hardly any studies on the role of religious emotions in Christian events and that there has been little sociological research on religious emotions very generally, despite calls for more research (Riis & Woodhead, 2010, p. 217). However, from a different social theoretical standpoint, I assume that there are indeed emotions that can empirically be observed and identified as religious emotions. To better understand and identify these emotions, we must first clarify their particular social theoretical contexts. Furthermore, to properly investigate religious emotions, we must draw a conceptual distinction from related concepts such as affect and feeling. In what follows, I argue that a specificity of religious emotions is that they performatively communicate affective relations to something “absent” or “transcendent”. This affective relationality is dependent on what I call an ‘affective order’, consisting of a temporal order (affective dramaturgy) and a social-spatial order (affective arrangements). I use prayers as an exemplary communicative form, and veneration as a specific emotion that refers to something “absent” while requiring that the absent be made present in some way. With the term “absent”, I refer to instances of Schütz’s and Luckmann’s (2003, p. 598 ff.) “great” transcendences, which denote experience of unavailable realities. Prayers are well suited to understanding religious emotions because they typically encompass a broad variety of emotional expressions and require complex stocks of knowledge that become obvious in the performance of prayers. Based on data of a youth mass during the World Youth Day (WYD) 2016 in Cracow, Poland, I provide an in-depth description of religious emotions and their various expressions. In the final part of this chapter, I give an outlook on further research.
Communication, religion, and event Taking the perspective of communicative constructivism (Keller, Knoblauch & Reichertz, 2013; Knoblauch, 2017b), I seek to approach the question of how religious emotions can be empirically identified by assuming that emotions are both communicative and communicated. According to this theoretical tradition, communication is fundamentally a multimodal phenomenon.
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As such, communication is not limited to language or “programs” of facial expressions of emotions, as had been suggested by the early studies of Ekman (1972). I therefore do not solely focus on facial expressions as a “medium” of communication or communicating emotions, but rather seek to account for the entire ensemble of verbal, paralinguistic, gestural, facial, and postural forms of communication. To acknowledge this in both data acquisition and analysis, I draw on methods of videography I conducted at different Christian events (Knoblauch, Tuma, & Schnettler, 2014).3 My understanding of religion is likewise rooted in interactional and communicative perspectives, as outlined by Knoblauch (2014a). A characteristic of this understanding of religion is that it substitutes the concept of sacrality with that of transcendence. While sacrality constitutes the core of the theory of religion in the tradition of the Collège de Sociologie,4 transcendence aims at emphasizing the importance of the social for religion (Knoblauch, 1999, p. 124). Transcendence and immanence are not opposed. Rather, transcendence is part of everyday culture and knowledge and therefore is immanent as well. Adopting the theory of transcendence by Schütz and Luckmann (2003, p. 598 ff.), even substantial transcendence becomes part of everyday life because it was produced and made perceptible through communication in everyday life. Religion is thus not a static or unchangeable substance of the final things in the world, but emerges through communicative action. Knoblauch has pointed out that contemporary manifestations of religion are characterized by cultural transgressions, as described in the concept of “popular religion” (2009). These transgressions become evident in forms of communication (e.g., music, new media, and ceremonies) that previously belonged to the sphere of popular culture, but have subsequently entered the domain of organized religion, including in churches. At the same time, traditionally religious elements (e.g., religious symbols, architecture, and objects) are increasingly integrated into popular culture. This becomes obvious, for example, when looking at religious “events”. The term “event” here refers to large and usually mediatized gatherings of different sorts, and scholars have long since pointed at the general eventization of religion (Forschungskonsortium WJT, 2007; Hepp & Krönert, 2009). Religious events hence are ideal fields in which to investigate the communicative manifestations of religious emotions. Building on videography, I understand the religious not as something that is determined beforehand, but as a phenomenon that needs to be explored openly and made visible for further interpretation. To better understand the importance of religious emotions for these events, we have collected data on religious events (2015–2017) in various mega churches in the German-speaking world, as well as at various large-scale events (German Catholic Church Congress in Leipzig, German Protestant Church Congress in Berlin, and Catholic WYD in Cracow) that add up to more than seventy hours of video data. In addition, we conducted focused ethnographies of these events, as well as field reports and field documents (flyers, song books, and photos). The ethnographic data provide a sample of settings
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and types of events and allow for a systematic sampling and comparison of video data on celebrations (cf. Knoblauch et al., 2014). After arranging video data of the observed events and the different sub-events (e.g., different services), we coded the data. In a further step, I have selected the most relevant data for the purposes of this chapter for an in-depth analysis.
Emotions, affects, and (religious) feelings Following a social relational understanding of emotion, my analysis aims at carefully distinguishing emotions, affects, and feelings. My u nderstanding of what emotions are and how they become visible results from a previous research documented more extensively elsewhere (Knoblauch, Wetzels, & Haken, 2019). The perspective taken here conceives of emotions not primarily as biological or psychological processes5 but rather as manifold bodily expressions that are essentially relational and communicative. Emotions can thus be considered as communicative actions that manifest in coordinated emotional expressions within situated interactions. Communicative action encompasses the overall interplay of verbal, paralinguistic, and bodily forms of communication: gestures, facial expressions, the use of symbolic objectifications, etc. Emotions are an institutionalized interplay of situational-relational expressions and behaviors, rooted in affect and grounded in culturally anchored knowledge. Emotion is based on affectivity, which “enters the communicative action in the form of (more or less conventionalized) emotions” (Knoblauch, 2017b, p. 134, author’s translation). Affectivity is to be understood as the relation of an event’s participants to each other and to the common focus of attention that emotions refer to (see Knoblauch et al., forthcoming). However, affect in this regard is not considered a diffuse or arbitrary “in-betweenness”.6 Rather, in referring to our concept of affective order (Knoblauch et al., forthcoming), I mean to evoke the particular affective order of (in our case: Christian) events. This affective order consists, on the one hand, of the temporal unfolding of the event – termed the affective dramaturgy. At the same time, it also consists of the socio-spatial circumstances of the event – what we have called the affective arrangement.7 Event participants need to have knowledge of the affective order so as to be able to “translate” it and in order to perform communicative actions that may include specific emotional expressions. What we can observe and describe as emotions are forms of bodily expression in relation to an intentional object. Emotions only become meaningful in the spatio-temporal context (the orientation to the affective order and the wider context) of the physical forms of expression. Bodily expressions and communicative actions are always related to something else, and this relatedness is reflected in affectivity. The perception of this relatedness is not always experienced as a subjective feeling. For this reason, I am focusing on emotions communicated to others in public and observable to both the participants and the videographing observers.
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Religious feelings, emotions, and, more recently affects (Schaefer, 2015) are central topics in the exploration of religious phenomena. Friedrich Schleiermacher (2016 ) proposed his conception of a feeling of absolute dependence (“schlechthinniger Abhängigkeit”), Rudolf Otto (2014 ) proposed the concept of the repelling mystery (“mysterium tremendum”), while William James (2008 ) discussed a broad variety of religious experiences. Common to these approaches is the assumption that religious feelings and emotions are always considered as “internal” phenomena, so that researchers are typically left with an “inward relatedness” to investigate. Ole Riis and Linda Woodhead (2010), in contrast, prefer the notion of emotions over religion8 and argue that religious emotions are not substantial, but social, relational, and outwardly directed. Riis and Woodhead start from an interactional perspective on religious emotions produced with reference to specific symbols. However, their approach does not clearly distinguish between religious and non-religious emotions. They propose the concept of emotional regimes, which they subdivide into emotional ordering, emotional transcendence-transition, and inspiration-orientation. In so doing, they inadvertently reintroduce substantialist criteria for the definition of the religious into their interactional perspective on emotions. Furthermore, their approach fails to account for the spatio-temporal relation between actors and symbols and overlooks the role of discourses and emotional knowledge as guiding actors in performing emotions (c.f. Knoblauch & Herbrik, 2014). In a less substantialist way, Döring and Berninger (2013) propose to use religious emotions as a collective term for the relationship between religion and emotion. Although they take into account the inner direction of emotions, they do not consider any aspect of what we call affective dramaturgy. Nor do they consider that the actors themselves display the emotions performatively and thus make themselves visible as such. However, there is merit in Döring’s and Berninger’s idea of bringing together religion and emotion, as I shall note later in this chapter. The problem with a purely abstract theoretical understanding of religious emotions is that it fails to capture the sheer variety of emotional expressions. One and the same form of bodily expression may mean something similar or something entirely different in different contexts or on the basis of a given form of cultural knowledge. Their meaning is therefore relatively open. Likewise, we can observe different emotional expressions in similar – or even the same – contexts. The heterogeneity of emotional forms is particularly noticeable in the area of religion, where we find a high degree of individualization. This reference of emotional communicative forms is not inwardly directed (see subjective feelings). Rather, this reference or affective relation is inscribed in the affective order. I claim that the meaning of religious emotions depends on an affective order, which is partly pre-structured (A) and partly situationally (B) constructed. The affective order of religious emotion is (1) institutionally structured, for example, by the denomination, the community, etc. On the other hand, it is (2) temporally structured by
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such processes as the formation of the liturgy. Finally, they are (3) structured spatially, for example, by a church hall. Yet, religious emotions can also be defined situationally without requiring the context of affective orders. The specificity of these religious emotions lies in the fact that they are directed to something absent. The relation to the absent is the underlying dynamic of the communicative construction of the experience of transcendence because it has to be communicated. This is what the communicative concept of religion is about: the communicative construction of transcendence. To illustrate these abstract thoughts, let us turn to an empirical example.
Religious emotions and the affective relation to the absent The affective order underlying emotions is, as mentioned above, pre-structured trans-situationally (A) as well as produced situationally (B). There are numerous formal and structural frames for referring to the absent, such as the liturgy of a service which represents a basic temporal structure or affective dramaturgy: “In addition, however, the ritualized recurring processes (ecclesiastical year, liturgy) are elements of emotional regimes, as they offer emotional dramaturgies, whose parts are connected with specific emotions such as joy, sadness or penance” (Herbrik & Haken, 2016, p. 10, author’s translation).9 The Ars Celebrandi, the art of celebration, should not be underestimated in its influence. This is mentioned, for example, in a corresponding website that appeals to a German pastor’s suggestions for celebrating the Mass. The author indicates that the aim of designing a Mass is to relieve people of the strains of everyday life by turning to the invisible (Terlinden, 2016, p. 8). Furthermore, he assumes that the celebration of the Mass in its temporal affective dramaturgy promotes an action that corresponds to the affective order: “Since man is dealing with the Blessed Sacrament in the Mass, he will endeavor, when he becomes aware of it, to behave accordingly” (Terlinden, 2016, author’s translation). In the mentioned paper, the author also stresses that clothing, spatiality, and gestures should be designed in order to encourage praying (which means, in our sense, to perform the affective relation to the absent). Prayer as a religious communicative form10 thus is a suitable example for analyzing religious emotion since it: – references something absent11 and the need for the absent to being communicated very clearly; – indicates “differences in unity” (since, even though we can observe prayer as a common communicative form, numerous idiosyncrasies become evident in how this form is actually performed); – shows that one and the same affective order can lead to different emotional expressions; – reflects existing structures of knowledge that facilitate and guide actors’ interpretations of the situations in which different forms of prayer may occur.
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If we assume that emotions are embodied communicative actions that take typical forms in order to be interpreted and understood by actors, prayer is not just a communicative form than rather a communicative genre12 of an emotion that can be labeled veneration. This ascription is based on our shared cultural knowledge about conventionalized emotions or emotion terms, respectively. In our case, veneration is connected to a communicative form in the field of religion. However, as shown in Figure 7.1, the bodily expressions of this emotion are very different. The first part of the following analysis focus on the pre-structured elements (A) of the affective order, namely the institutional elements (1) and the temporal (2) and spatial (3) structure of the observed event. The still shown in Figure 7.1 is taken from a video recording of the WYD 2016 in Cracow. It shows a Mass of the Halleluya Festival, which is part of the Youth Festival, an integral component of the WYD. It took place for three days in several places in the city center. The Halleluya Festival in Szczepański Square is considered an artist festival and has its roots in the evangelization efforts of the Catholic Community Shalom in Brazil. Here, the mercy of God should be proclaimed in an artful (music, dance, etc.) manner. Therefore, at the Halleluya Festivals, the proclamation of the Word of God takes place on stage, while a tent, called the “mercy area”, was used as a chapel. Since this video recording was made spontaneously during our ethnographic explorations, it was not possible to record the events on stage, so that I can only address the participants’ activities and the acoustic (musical) activities on stage. In the broader temporal context, the small fair of the Halleluya Festival was dramaturgically and liturgically embedded after the Pope’s arrival day and before his meeting with political and religious dignitaries and the Way
Figure 7.1 F orms of veneration at the Halleluya Festival, World Youth Day in Cracow in 2016, author’s record
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of the Cross at Blonia (Cracow). Thus, the Halleluya Festival (and the whole Youth Festival) stood liturgically between arrival and purification through the reconstructed path of Christ’s suffering (the core of the Way of the Cross). At the same time, this event was embedded in the fixed liturgy,13 starting the following day with the Welcome Mass, the Way of the Cross the next day, the Vigil on Saturday (which leads to the great event on Sunday), and ending with the Mass on the last official day. However, the Youth Festival ends before the great ritual festivity of the Vigil and the final Holy Mass. Regarding the emotional expressions, it is significant that the Halleluya Mass lies in between the affectivity of the political act of the Pope’s visit and that of the ritual of the Way of the Cross, which is decisively determined by the liturgical emotional dramaturgy of the pain and suffering of Jesus. It is also important to stress that this event was not designed by the Catholic Church, but by the Catholic Community “Shalom”. Another temporal aspect influencing the affective dramaturgy, which is structural and therefore also trans-situational, is the simultaneity of events of the Youth Festival itself. Very different events have taken place in different locations at the same time. Participants of the Halleluya Festival therefore most likely knew where and when the festival would take place, and that there was a concert of a wellknown French Christ-Pop band after the Mass. The presence of numerous pilgrims in the first rows, who sang along with all the lyrics at the concert, supports this assumption. This suggests that participants are well-aware of the different requirements that come with each of these events, both in terms of specific actions and performances of religious emotions: the bodily expressions of emotion at this event do not correspond to those used in Sunday church or to the ritual events (Figure 7.2) of the WYD, as we find, for example, at the Vigil.
Figure 7.2 ‘Traditional’ forms of emotional expressions at the Vigil, World Youth Day in Cracow in 2016, author’s record
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One can therefore infer that the participants knew that this event could neither be seen in the political context of the WYD nor in the following ritual-ecclesiastical dramaturgy. At the same time, the “difference in unity” (different performances of the same communicative form, see above) suggests that participants knew exactly about the specific underlying affective order and the ways in which they perform these orders in their communicative actions. The “receiving” lifted-up hands and upward gaze are well known from congregations that are more charismatic.14 Given that the Community “Shalom” is a cooperative member of the Catholic Association of Charismatic Federal Associations, it is obvious that the specific charismatic religious emotion communicated this way by participants depends on the theological message, which is connected to the affiliation of the participants to specific religious groups and thus to the institutional structure of the event. The socio-spatial structure (3) and the specific affective arrangement of this event do not initially differ from those of a popular music concert. The slogan of the Halleluya Festival – “A celebration that never ends” – does not hint at a religious event either. Unlike the liturgical events of the WYD, the Halleluya Festival took place on a square in the city center. Participants’ bodies are clearly aligned to the stage, on which two hosts give instructions for praise in Spanish and English. Lights, sound, and the mostly young audience all reinforce this impression of non-religiosity. Only the Sacrament tent of Mercy in the background and the scriptures “Halleluya” on the canvas indicate that it is a religious event. However, this is only the case if one has knowledge of what the Halleluya Festival actually is. Other symbols that one can interpret from the context of religion or the church, based on culturally anchored common sense, are not recognizable in the setting of the festival. The material representation of the religious is occasionally found in the clothing style of the participants (see Figure 7.3), such as orange T-shirts of the organizer Shalom, with Christian motifs or cassocks/soutanes. Although the motto of the WYD “Blessed are the merciful” is taken up by placing a tente and calling it “mercy area”, the spatial structure of the Halleluya Festival rather resembles the socio-spatial affective setting of a concert. The previous analytical steps have shown that, apart from the institutional aspects, we cannot easily identify an event or emotion as religious just by considering the pre-structured elements of affective order. However, there are good reasons to assume that the participants have knowledge of the affective dramaturgy as well as the affective arrangement of the different events of the WYD. In addition to its relevance for the pre-structured elements of the affective order, this stock of emotional knowledge provides the basis for the situational construction of the affective order (B).
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Figure 7.3 R eligious clothing at the Halleluya Festival, World Youth Day in Cracow in 2016, author’s record
If we assume that the meaning of emotions results both from the affective order and from situated performances, we must also consider the sequence of the situated actions constituting what I call an emotion. If we assume, furthermore, that the reference to something absent is made visible by these communicative actions, the sequence in question accounts for what I consider to be affective relations. Looking at the video recording, we hear singing accompanied by instrumental music. The audio indicates that many participants are singing, and the video data (lip movements) support this impression. Yet, not all are singing, and the postures are extremely diverse at any given moment. They range from standing and kneeling to sitting cross-legged. One finds even more variation among gazes and head and arm postures (see Figure 7.1). We can recognize “classical” praying postures and gestures (lowered heads and folded hands). We can also discern prayer positions by extended body and body parts, such as outstretched arms pointing obliquely upward with open hands, similar to the priestly blessing posture, or individuals sitting cross-legged with closed or even open eyes (which are mainly recognizable as prayer in this affective order). Since facial expressions, gestures, and postures are highly diverse and changeable during the course of the event, I focus on an example of a young woman who belongs to the community Shalom (indicated by her wearing an orange T-shirt with the corresponding slogan). This case may help us to illustrate how visible the affection of the praise becomes in bodily performances.
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Figure 7.4 P rayer of a young woman at the Halleluya Festival, World Youth Day in Cracow in 2016, author’s record
Unlike some other participants, the young believer (see Figure 7.4) does not join the repetitive melodic “Jesus” song, but moves her lips with her eyes closed, her arms stretched forward at right angles, and palms facing upward; the already annotated context enables us to interpret the participants’ bodily expressions as prayer. When the vocals change into a kind of responsory, she falls into the vocals of “my lord”, but in Portuguese, not in English, as it is sung on stage by the hosts and as we can hear from the speakers. Her facial expressions and heavy swallowing suggest that she is very moved and struggling with tears. At “my king” (“meu rei”) you can see a slight smile, “my owner” (“meu dono”) is accompanied by her swinging her arms in front of her, stretching them, and then lifting them. In a kind of “reaching out”, she remains in this position until the repetition of “pra sempre te adorarei”.15 Thereby, she is lowering her arms again in the angled position, but not at right angles, because she immediately puts her fingers under her glasses. This can be perceived as wiping away tears because, while obeying the following invitation of sinking into silent worship (“il profundo silencio di adorecon” followed by the English statement “let’s make a deep silence of adoration”), accompanied by easy piano music, she takes away her hands and one recognizes her face, which is painfully distorted (see Figure 7.5). The last two figures demonstrate an apparent emotional ambivalence, as suggested by the affective dramaturgy of the liturgical process. Thus, I noted that the Youth Festival begins with the joyous event of the arrival and Welcome of Francis on the WYD and ends with the day of the Way of the
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Figure 7.5 Y oung woman crying at the Halleluya Festival, World Youth Day in Cracow in 2016, author’s record
Cross, which embodies pain and suffering. Unlike the surrounding participants, this young woman does not sit down but stays on her knees, folding her hands lightly, and holding them to her mouth. The temporal-affective process of the Halleluya Festival is evident in the call to silent worship. Indeed, the event is at the center of what constitutes the sensemaking of the Halleluya Festival, since “The symbol of this meeting [...] is the silent crowd during the adoration of the Eucharist” (Pasternak, 2016, author’s translation). This shows a concrete attribution of emotionality that corresponds to the emotional regime of the Shalom Community and, in the broader context, to the one of charismatic Catholicism. Even in 2011, at the Pope’s Mass in the Berlin Olympic Stadium, there was a similar emotion attribution which Knoblauch described as a “call to silence” (Knoblauch, 2014b, p. 147ff.). However, in that former case, the call prohibited concurrent popular communicative forms of celebration (such as banners swinging, cheering, and clapping). So far, my analysis suggests that the affective arrangement of the Halleluya Festival bears similarities to those of a pop concert. However, I am dealing with an event that is clearly embedded in the affective dramaturgy of a religious event, and whose participants must have some form of knowledge in order to express themselves appropriately in their communicative actions.
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It is noticeable that in the practices of worship (i.e., the singing), the young woman in her posture shows a reference to the absent – in this case, to Jesus Christ. Thus, these different bodily formations correspond to different modes of communicative action. Thus, the sung words of praise for Jesus Christ are performed through an open bodily posture. Believers must perform a double visualization here: first, the praise posture represents an expectation of “getting in touch” with an omnipresent power (e.g., God in heaven). On the other hand, the affective relation to this absence is also performed as joy, worship, and humility, as shown by the change in bodily postures. That emotions here can be identified as specifically religious results from the fact that the relationship to the absent (here God) is constantly produced through linguistic references. Indeed, this is accounted for and confirmed by the communicative actions of the participants. Based on this reference, one can also resolve the apparent ambivalent character of the observable emotional expressions. These expressions result from the sequence of the affective dramaturgy and promote the interpretation of a specific religious emotion, namely veneration. As the believers are asked to open their eyes and look at “HIM” because “HE looks at you”, the reference to what is a bsent becomes obvious. The young woman follows this instruction and makes clear that she knows exactly who is meant and thus objectifies the affective relation to the absent in a personal relationship. In principle, she would not need to justify opening her eyes by the fact that something invisible is also looking at her. She complies with conventional forms of communication of copresence and therefore gives presence or visibility to what is actually absent. Still with folded hands, she pauses for a moment and then pushes up her glasses with her hands to wipe her eyes. Before being requested to remain silence for the third time, the believers are also encouraged to help others to maintain that silence (“kindly, help this person to be in silence”). This is followed by a silence of almost five minutes, while this silence is accompanied by background noises (e.g., passing chanting youths, the splashing of the fountain nearby). The wiping of the eyes can be interpreted as a preparation for this long-lasting silence, which presupposes that the young woman knew where the procedure was dramaturgically. At that point, however, one can already speak of a liturgy, since the hosts’ advice following the silence announces the reception of the Blessed Sacraments. Nonetheless, it is a verbal reminder that the Blessed Sacraments are received in silence.
Conclusion and outlook I have argued that religious emotions are based on a specific affective order in which the reference to something absent is contained as an affective relation. This relation to the absent is visible because it has to be communicated. I have argued that this relation, as the underlying dynamic of the communicative construction of the experience of transcendence (as a core
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of religion and religious phenomena), has to be made visible through communicative actions, which I understand here as bodily, performed religious emotions. I have also argued that neither the pre-structured parts of affective order (institutional structures, temporal structures, and socio-spatial structures) nor its situational aspects can be interpreted without considering the knowledge of the participants, which becomes relevant in the empirical example of the observed situation. By way of conclusion, I now tie together the elements of my analysis of the short sequence of the Halleluya Festival in this chapter. One can identify the affective order of the Halleluya Festival as a religious event on which religious emotions are based. First, one is led to the moment of silence in which an affective tension is produced. This moment of silence finds its expression in the performance of veneration, in which the affective relation to the absent is, so to speak, reified. This part of the Mass contains the emotional communicative forms that express spirituality. Before a sequence of silence prepares the part of the ritual characterized by the specific affective dramaturgy of the Eucharist’s liturgy, the hosts’ words (see above) already depict a path toward the construction of a ritual community. Although this part of the dramaturgy still contains idiosyncratic emotional expressions, it is essentially the part of the event representing its communal nature. The individual and idiosyncratic references to the absent successively give way to a ritualized and common reference. This common reference then facilitates a form of collective and orchestrated action, which in turn is substituted by the symbolism of the ritual. At the same time, the affective relation to the other participants in the community of Christians is reified and expressed through the shared ritual. Thus far, I have neglected the affective arrangement. However, its significance for the specific affective order underlying the religious emotion of veneration becomes evident at this point of the video sequence. The body alignment of the participants is directed toward the stage from the beginning, regardless of the location. Although the acoustic “stimuli” are set for worship from the stage, this does not necessarily mean that everyone turns to the stage with their bodies. Only the anticipation of the Eucharist, which takes place on stage and sets the visual “stimuli”, gives meaning to these bodily formations. That is, the participants know about the affective order of the event and “translate” it into the bodily formations as part of the affective arrangement. Participants know about the personal affective relation to the absent, which needs to be represented. They know this precisely because they are not tightly embedded in a crowd (like in a pop-concert), thus keeping their individuality with their body postures. At the same time, they also know about the immanent representation of the community, which includes a variety of affective relations (communal and individual reference to the absent, the participants among each other, and to the dramaturgy). Even if the affective order remains the same, the emotional expressions can be quite different.
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I have shown that the designation of emotions as religious cannot be a universal statement. Rather, it always requires a detailed analysis of institutional aspects, affective dramaturgy, and affective arrangements as pre-structured elements of an affective order and of actors’ situational constructions. In summary, religious emotions, as shown here by the example of veneration, presuppose knowledge of the affective order of the focused event. In religion, this affective order can be called “communal”, and significantly differs from the one of “alea” and “agonality”, to give an example from the field of football (Knoblauch et al., 2019). Taking-up Döring’s and Berningers’ (2013) thoughts again, I argue that religious emotions can be understood as the collective term for the emotional bodily expressions of an affective relationship to the absent within an affective order of communality. At the outset of this chapter, I described the theoretical and empirical “division into two” that characterizes the study of religious phenomena. Proposing an alternative way in this chapter, I have suggested that the affective order of communality combines community with spirituality – which I have defined here as the individual representation of the affective relation to the absent. Whether and to what extent other religious emotions than those of veneration can be revealed in religious events is a question that requires further empirical research.
Notes 1 Many thanks to Hubert Knoblauch and Christian von Scheve. Without their great support, the contribution would not have come about in this way. 2 Pollack and colleagues (2018) offer in their handbook of sociology of religion a well-systematized overview of theoretical and empirical approaches. 3 Data were collected by means of video-based focused ethnography (see Tuma, Schnettler, & Knoblauch (2013), for details on this method). Specifically, the following religious events were investigated between 2015 and 2017 as part of the project: “Audience Emotions in Sports and Religion” at Technical University of Berlin as part of the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Center 1171 Affective Societies at Freie Universität Berlin: several German-speaking mega churches (the GOSPEL FORUM in Stuttgart, the “Gemeinde auf dem Weg” in Berlin, the ICF in Zurich), the centenary of the Catholic Church Congress in Leipzig, the World Youth Day in Krakow, and the visit of pope Benedict XVI in 2011 in Berlin. 4 The second generation of Durkheim students. 5 I refer to the classification of emotion theories by Senge (2013): physiological (e.g., James, 1884), behavioristic (e.g., Ekmann, 1972), and neuroscientific (e.g., Damasio, 1994). 6 For alternative understandings of these concepts, see Gregg and Seigworth (2010). 7 Both terms are discussed elsewhere (Knoblauch et al., 2019). For a philosophical elaboration of affective arrangements, see Slaby, Mühlhoff, and Wüschner (2017). 8 The term feeling refers to the subjective perception of sensibility, whereas emotion refers to the term motion/being moved (in relation).
Religious emotions in Christian events 129 9 Herbrik (2012, 2014) worked on the aspect of emotional regimes and styles. 10 In the sense of communicative constructivism, communicative forms designate the “how” of communicative action, in which experiences are reconstructed; communicative forms thus produce social order and make it visible (K noblauch, 2017a, pp. 10f., 2017b). Knoblauch also refers to the various degrees of stabilization or institutionalization of communicative forms, which make the difference to the communicative genres (cf. Knoblauch, 2017b, p. 232). Since this is not an institutionalized general prayer like the Lord’s Prayer or something similar, I treat prayer here as a communicative form and not as a genre. 11 The “absent” does not necessarily mean God but rather refers to “great transcendencies”. 12 For the difference between communicative form and genre, see Knoblauch (2017b). 13 In its structure since 1997, the WYD contains the encounters of the dioceses, the Welcome on Tuesday, the Way of the Cross on Friday, and the mission Mass on Sunday. 14 “Charismatic” is not meant here in Weber’s sociological sense but in the theological sense. Charismatic religious groups are not denominational. They are distinguished by a strong reference to the reception of so-called charisms (such as tongues and prophecy) received by the Holy Spirit (see also Haken, 2017). 15 The transcription of the short praise was more than difficult due to the crossing languages of the people singing. It is about the worship song “meu tudo” of the Shalom community. For this point, many thanks to Johannes Finger.
References Damasio, A. (1994). Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. New York: Putnam. Döring, S., & Berninger, A. (2013). Was sind religiöse Gefühle? Versuch einer Begriffsklärung. In L. Charbonnier, M. Mader, & B. Weyel (Eds.), Religion und Gefühl: Praktisch-theologische Perspektiven einer Theorie der Emotionen (pp. 49–65). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Ekman, P. (1972). Emotion in the Human Face: Guidelines for Research and Integration of Findings. New York: Pergamon. Forschungskonsortium WJT. (2007). Megaparty Glaubensfest: Weltjugendtag: Erlebnis – Medien – Organisation. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Gebhardt, W. (2000). Feste, Feiern und Events: Zur Soziologie des Außergewöhnlichen. In W. Gebhardt, R. Hitzler, & M. Pfadenhauer (Eds.), Events: Soziologie des Außergewöhnlichen (pp. 17–33). Opladen: Leske + Budrich. Gregg, M., & Seigworth, G. J. (2010). The Affect Theory Reader. Durham, NC/ London: Duke University Press. Haken, M. (2017). Religiöse Kommunikation in der Konstruktion christlicher Großveranstaltungen. In J. Reichertz & R. Tuma (Eds.), Der kommunikative Konstruktivismus bei der Arbeit (pp. 160–187). Weinheim: Beltz Juventa Hepp, A., & Krönert, V. (2009). Medien-Event-Religion: Die Mediatisierung des Religiösen. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Herbrik, R. (2012). Analyzing Emotional Styles in the Field of Christian Religion and the Relevance of New Types of Visualization. Qualitative Sociology Review, 8(2), 112–128.
130 Meike Haken Herbrik, R. (2014). Metaphorik des unbeschreiblichen Gefühls in christlichen Kontexten heute. In M. Junge (Ed.), Methoden der Metaphernforschung und –analyse (pp. 155–179). Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Herbrik, R., & Haken, M. (2016). Religion aus kultursoziologischer Perspektive. In S. Moebius, F. Nungesser, & K. Scherke (Eds.), Handbuch Kultursoziologie Band 2: Theorien – Methoden – Felder. Retrieved from http://dx.doi. org/10.1007/978-3-658-08001-3_42-1 Hitzler, R. (2011). Eventisierung: Drei Fallstudien zum marketingstrategischen Massenspaß. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Hitzler, R., & Pfadenhauer, M. (2007). Erlebnisreligion: Religiosität als Privatsache und Glauben als Event: Der Weltjugendtag 2005 in Köln. In Nollmann, G., & Strasser, H. (Eds.), Woran glauben? (pp. 46–60). Essen: Klartext. James, W. (1884). What is an Emotion? Mind, 9(34), 188–205. James, W. (2008 ). The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature. Auckland: The Floating Press. Keller, R., Knoblauch, H., & Reichertz, J. (2013). Kommunikativer Konstruktivismus: Theoretische und empirische Arbeiten zu einem neuen wissenssoziologischen Ansatz. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Knoblauch, H. (1999). Religionssoziologie. Berlin: De Gruyter. Knoblauch, H. (2009). Populäre Religion. Auf dem Weg in eine spirituelle Gesellschaft. Frankfurt: Campus. Knoblauch, H. (2014a). The Communicative Construction of Transcendence: A New Approach to Popular Religion. In J. Schlehe & E. Sandkühler (Eds.), Religion, Tradition and the Popular: Transcultural Views from Asia and Europe (pp. 29–50). Bielefeld, Germany: transcript. Knoblauch, H. (2014b). Benedict in Berlin: The Mediatization of Religion. In A. Hepp, & F. Krotz (Eds.), Mediatized Worlds: Culture and Society in a Media Age (pp. 143–158). Houndmills: Palgrave MacMillan. Knoblauch, H. (2017a). Die kommunikative Konstruktion der Transzendenz und die populäre Religion. In H. Winkel, & K. Sammert (Eds.), Religion soziologisch denken (pp. 221–241). Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Knoblauch, H. (2017b). Die Kommunikative Konstruktion der Wirklichkeit. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Knoblauch, H., & Herbrik, R. (2014). Emotional Knowledge, Emotional Styles and Knowledge. In M. Salmela (Ed.), Collective Emotions (pp. 356–371). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Knoblauch, H., Tuma, R., & Schnettler, B. (2014). Videography: Introduction to Interpretive Video Analysis of Social Situations. Frankfurt a.M.: Springer VS. Knoblauch, H., Wetzels, M., & Haken, M. (2019). Videography of Emotions and Affectivity in Social Situations. In A. Kahl (Ed.), Analyzing Affective Societies. London: Routledge. Otto, R. (2014 ). Das Heilige: Über das Irrationale in der Idee des Göttlichen und sein Verhältnis zum Rationalen. München: C.H. Beck. Pasternak, J. (2016). Halleluja-Festival auf dem WJT in Krakau. Retrieved from http://archive.krakow2016.com/de/halleluja-festival-auf-dem-wjt-in-krakau.html Pollack, D., Krech, V., Müller, O. & Hero, M. (Eds) (2018). Handbuch Religionssoziologie. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
Religious emotions in Christian events 131 Riis, O., & Woodhead, L. (2010). A Sociology of Religious Emotions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Schaefer, D. (2015). Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution, and Power. Durham, NC/London: Duke University Press. Schleiermacher, F. (2016 ). Über die Religion: Reden an die Gebildeten unter ihren Verächtern. Berlin: Holzinger. Schütz, A., & Luckmann, T. (2003). Strukturen der Lebenswelt. Konstanz: UVK. Senge, K. (2013). Die Wiederentdeckung der Gefühle: Einleitung. In K. Senge, & R. Schützeichel (Eds.), Hauptwerke der Emotionssoziologie (pp. 11–33). Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Slaby, J., Mühlhoff, R., & Wüschner, P. (2017). Affective Arrangements. Emotion Review. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073917722214 Terlinden, U. (2016). Celebratio: Hinweise für Priester zur Feier der Messe. Retrieved from http://ars-celebrandi.blogspot.com/2010/01/grundsatze.html Tuma, R., Schnettler B., & Knoblauch, H. (2013). Videographie: Einführung in die interpretative Videoanalyse sozialer Situationen. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
On conversion Affecting secular bodies Veronika Zink
It was December 28th 2002. And I realized that God wants me to reflect about certain things in my life, to come clean with some things, and I actually struggled with myself for quite a while, and, yes, I made my decision, after a long struggle I have taken it upon myself. I was completely distraught, I couldn’t stop crying, just because I was so deeply moved. Well, a very important thing is that I’m a choleric by nature. This is nothing bad, no, but before-my conversion it had some bad e ffects, really bad stuff, I gave free rein to my fury. And I noticed that a fter my conversion Jesus helped me to relieve myself from that, to control my feelings […]. That really made a huge change. (Interview JF/SK) Conversions signify a symbolic transformation of the self. The conversional experience revokes the logic of processual renewal and accentuates the meaningfulness of discontinuity. The idea of a rupturing experience bears witness of an immediate becoming different. The significance of a conversion rests upon the belief in this very moment of change that procreates the distinction between past and present. Conversional stories, thus, annunciate and preserve the belief in the instantaneous experience of metamorphosis by communicatively producing the notion of an utter reversal of identity. In terms of a specific genre of narrating change, conversional stories follow a particular structure and criteria of portraying the transformation of the self (cf. Knoblauch, Krech, & Wohlrab-Sahr, 1998; Luckmann, 1987; Scherer, 2013; Stromberg, 1993; Ulmer, 1988; Van der Veer, 1996). By referring to the transcending experience of one’s conversion, people communicatively construct the idea of a clear-cut boundary between a secular past and the value of the newly found religion. Conversions represent an “extreme case, in which there is a near-total transformation; that is, in which the individual ‘switches worlds’” (Berger & Luckmann, 1991, p. 176). The condemnation of one’s origin generates the identity-establishing narrative of conversion. When studying conversions, one is dealing with reports
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by which people aim to apprehend an alteration in the significance of their lives; an existential modification of values, ideals, beliefs, habits, convictions, perceptions, and feelings. By means of conversional reports, people do not only proclaim a profound change in subjectivity but they do so by communicatively constructing a palpable disruption of identity dissecting two temporarily distinct modes of being: a post-conversional self that is depicted as having an existential, ethical, and emotional surplus in comparison to one’s former, unconverted identity. “Conversions are a matter of a life-changing decision”, as Jan Assmann (2005) states, “and a decision requires differentiation” (p. 35, own translation). Therefore, conversions need to demarcate an incisive breaking point consolidating a cultural barrier that enables the differentiation between secular and religious identities. The motif of conversion functions as a cultural technique reproducing the belief in a difference of identities and as such in the exclusive division between ‘the secular’ and ‘religious’. The belief in the distinctness of disparate worlds implies the generation of a symbolic threshold irreconcilably separating both worlds by demarcating the identity barriers transgressed. And in conversion reports, this threshold culminates in a highly arousing experience of transcendence. The symbolic barrier isolating the religious identity from its secular predecessor is experienced, as the quote above exemplifies, as a (felt) boundary that affectingly materializes through corporeal impressions: “I was completely distraught, I couldn’t stop crying, just because I was so deeply moved” (Interview JF/SK). Studying conversional reports, hence, allows to analyze the construction of the affective barrier delimiting identities and evoking the belief that the religious and the secular are in fact separate worlds of meaning. In as much as one’s conversion is depicted as an immersive event, affects serve as signifiers for the factuality of this experience. By referring to the potency of the affectio and, therewith, to the embodied experience of being affected, the symbolic difference between ‘the secular’ and ‘the religious’ substantiates as a sensory threshold. On this account, affects denote the transition from secular identity to religious subjectivity and function as vital elements in producing the idea of a substantial difference of identity. Studying the language of embodied affectivity used in conversional reports, accordingly, facilitates an understanding for the formation of the ‘religious/secular divide’. Conversions announce the excommunication of one’s former cultural identity and the communicative integration into another canonic world of meaning imagined as the promising advent of a new self. In telling one’s life story as the story of a convert one does so by creating the illusion of two sealed compartments of identity that differ by value. The past self – that is an unreligious, secular being – serves as the inferior object (of the report) against which the present, superior self of a post-conversional, religious identity is created. The conversional process takes the narrative shape of a symbolic passage, by which one says farewell to a former self, to the “sick
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soul” as William James (2002, p. 99) once put it, and affirmatively enters another, more auspicious epistemic universe. Within conversional reports, the communicative conjuration of the exorcised identity serves as a technique of producing the value of the proselytized self. Just as conversional stories are stories of arrival, they are stories of origin: Amnesia is prohibited, to paraphrase Thomas Luckmann (1987). The promise of one’s new cultural identity, thus, rests upon the disenchanting depreciation of the old. The difference of value enunciated by means of conversional reports finds its tangible expression in a more fulfilling way of feeling, for example, in a more self-controlled mode of emotionally approaching the world as the interview passage above indicates. On the level of experience, the idea of an emotional transformation of the self reflects the notion of disparate cultural identities. For the converted subject, this division of identity can be sensed: One’s becoming different manifests in one’s feeling different. In this respect, conversional reports are practices of affective excommunication and emotional recreation. Accordingly, the reference to an affective barrier does not only engender the dissociation of secular and religious life, but displays a difference of emotional subjectivity contouring the belief in the ethical value of the religious identity in contrast to the secular world of feelings. Analyzing the way converts attribute emotionality in general or certain emotions in particular to the secular self in comparison to the religious self pursues the objective of scrutinizing the cultural logic that drives the belief in these distinct identities. Which emotions signify one’s being secular and how do people construe the emotionality of the religious subject? Yet, conversional stories are not just stories of difference, but engender the belief in an ethical difference of value. This reading bears the question of whether this value hierarchy of identities is reflected in a hierarchy of feelings distinguishing between an inferior, secular emotionality and a more valuable, religious mode of feeling? In order to study prevailing cultural notions of ‘the secular’ and ‘the religious’, I focus on the way religious converts seal the division between their past, unfaithful, secular being and their newly revealed, inspired, religious self. Based on a case study on an evangelical youth movement, the article aims at analyzing patterns of producing the belief in differential identities and at reconstructing the renounced notion of secularity in relation to the presented value of religiosity. As has often been proclaimed by sociologists and anthropologists of religion, neither ‘the religious’ nor ‘the secular’ are culturally fixed notions, but are to be understood as the product of the continuous work of constructing classifications (cf. Asad, 2003; Casanova, 1994; Gauchet, 1999; Scherer, 2013). Yet, ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular’ do not depict mere discursive objects, but are to be understood as practical principles forming ideals about subjectivity and affecting the way people experience the world and make sense of their sensations. In line with Talal Asad, I perceive ‘the religious’ as well as ‘the secular’ as “concept[s] that bring[...] together certain behaviors, knowledges, and sensibilities in modern life” (Asad, 2003, p. 25). So, how does it feel to become religious as
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opposed to living a secular life? On this account, the article aims to study the affective grammar of the ‘religious/secular divide’ and to analyze the cultural taxonomy of ‘the religious’ and the ‘the secular’ as an arrangement of feelings. Investigating the way members of an evangelical movement communally endorse a sense of plausibility for this division sheds light on prevailing i maginaries about secular and religious subjectivity. By asking how people delineate the revelatory experience of conversion, how they affectively create a sensory threshold separating ‘the religious’ from ‘the secular’, and how they interpret the emotional transformation of the self, the present study analyzes popular religious technologies of reforming these cultural identities. Nonetheless, to study evangelical conversion reports means to analyze this divide from the perspective of religiosity. Instead of analyzing ‘the secular’ and ‘the religious’ as mere products of secular discourses and institutions, this article calls for an understanding of both concepts being also the object of religious interpretation, and as such the result of transformations in the religious field and of changes in the religious practice as they unfold in light of a secularized age. What is secular and how does it feel to be secular from a religious point of view? Analyzing the religious notion of secularity allows me to study changes in religion’s identity as a response to developments in modern societies. As I show, the communication of conversion reproduces the belief in an affectively immersive experience of corporal purification engendering a classificatory dissociation between secular and religious subjectivity. Put in straight contrast to the religiously ensouled, conscious, and re-subjectivized self, the secular body is depicted as a weak-willed vessel, as the expression of a suffering, alienated life emptied from reason and consciousness and enslaved by the passions. This notion of one’s former secular being is projected on secular modernity in general being interpreted as an other-controlled, seduceable form of life characterized by vulnerability, delusional obsessions, and hollowness. In contrast, autonomous subjectivity is presented as a unique characteristic of religious identities. In the name of religion, consciousness, agency, and the control over one’s feelings reappear, as I argue, as politicized objects in the symbolic fight over the ‘religious/secular divide’. By drawing on the ideal of a deliberative and autonomous subject, the conversional reports confront us with a peculiar notion of religion’s identity integrating modern imaginaries of subjectivity that are commonly associated with a secular way of being. This said, the conversion stories do not only distinguish between secular past and religious present, but deconstruct the modern differential divide between ‘the secular’ and ‘the religious’.
Ritualizing ruptures: the conversion of religion The interview passage above as well as the following descriptions of conversional experiences derive from a field research I conducted at the socalled Freakstock – Jesus Freaks Festival in 20101; a yearly five-day religious
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festival organized by the Jesus Freaks Germany and well-attended by members of diverse Protestant Free Churches mainly charismatic youth movements. Founded in 1991, the juvenile religious movement of the Jesus Freaks Germany proposes – following their self-description – an ‘update’ of religion and, thus, a conversion of religion itself.2 Undressing the liturgically and dogmatically dusted garment of Christianity and conjuring the belief in the vitality of a de-institutionalized, more this-worldly experience of religiosity, the Jesus Freaks proclaim to reform and to actualize religious life. Seen from this perspective, the Jesus Freaks Movement serves as prototype for an overall transformation and conversion of religion’s identity into present age. The arrangement of the Freakstock Festival reflects this very endeavor: During the time of the festival one encounters workshop-like sit-ins on diverse topics such as “Christian Anarchism”, “God & Gender”, or “How to make cloth diapers?”; during a “Sermon Slam” one can act out one’s talent as a preacher in front of an audience, “Love, Faith, and Curried Sausage” are in store for those in need of supply, and in accordance with one’s own musical taste one can celebrate praise and worship optionally at a death metal concert or accompanied by trap beats. In short: On first sight, the religious festival does not differ from ‘secular’3 pop cultural festivals. The festival serves as a paradigm for contemporary modes of reviving religious beliefs in face of a secularized age. The festival setting as well as the Jesus Freaks movement reflect a reformation of traditional imaginaries of religiosity characterized by the mainline churches and by the (perceived) inanimate strictures of these authorizing institutions. The intended change of religion’s identity is underlined by a transformation of the symbolic economy of religious communication appreciably employing insignia of popular culture. Thus, the festival can be understood as a prototypical expression of “popular religion”; a mode of religiosity that, according to Hubert Knoblauch (2009), can be characterized by a process of symbolically dissolving the boundaries between pop culture and organized religions by means of adapting pop cultural modes of communicating religiosity. Simultaneously, the festival setting emphasizes the idea of a joyfully enthusiastic and expressively ecstatic way of practicing religiosity contouring the belief in religion’s experiential immediacy (cf. Whitehouse, 2004). Set against the allegedly abstract, inanimate nature and the formalized structure of the official Church, celebrating the spontaneous liveliness of religion accentuates the belief in the anti-structure of the religious communitas (cf. Turner, 1996). This religious renovation movement exemplifies the so-often conjured ‘return of religion’ after a time of religion’s public invisibility; a process most prominently depicted by Thomas Luckmann (1967; cf. Berger, 1999; Casanova, 1994). Following this assumption, religion never fully disappeared, but rather changed its social disguise. The secularization of modern societies is thus to be understood as a process of de-monopolizing religious life: Religious life was more and more privatized leading to a de-monoplization
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of the specialized knowledge of the religious authorities destabilizing and transforming the traditional forms of religion. As a result, new realms and possibilities of religious experience were created apart from the established institutions of the Church. This said, the so-called return of religion shouldn’t be confused with a rebirth of traditional religion. Instead, religion’s return rather denotes a reformation; a conversion of religion’s identity formed in distinction to the institutionalized religion and the established orthodoxy of the mainline churches. Following this assumption, the so-called return of religion is not to be understood as a renascence of culturally established and formerly institutionalized religious ideals after a time of annihilation, but in fact the result of an inner reformation of religion in face of a secularized age. This means to understand ‘the religious’ as well as ‘the secular’ both as relational products of a reciprocal cultural process of transformation. If the symbolic boundaries between religious communication and pop-cultural secular life become noticeably blurred, it becomes a question of how people consolidate and re-enact the belief in the distinctness of religious life in comparison to secular subjectivity. And moreover, to what extend does the reformation of religious communication reflect an overall transformation of the ‘religious/secular divide’ underlined by a reformed idea of religion’s identity as opposed to secular life? In the analyzed field, conversional reports serve a pivotal function in revitalizing and communally authenticating the fundamental difference between those cultural identities. It might not come as a surprise that one encounters stories of conversion in the religious field of an evangelical revival movement, in which the idea of religious subjectivity is highly inspired by a Pauline model. Triggered by a Damascus-like, epiphanic experience, religious subjectivity is thought of as arising from a complete, revelatory conversion of the self: from being a despiser of religion to a faithful devotee to the Christian doctrine. But nonetheless, the motif of conversion gains a special importance in this religious field indicated by the qualitative vigorousness and by the frequency of these stories. In terms of quality, the reports about conversions gave less weight on articulating the revelatory experience of conversion or the soothing of one’s soul, but way more on conjuring the unreligious darkness one departed from, for example, stories of abuse, drug addiction, mental illness, and existential losses. In this respect, the conversional reports follow a specific dramaturgy of emotions: In order to contour the elevating impact of one’s conversion and the sublime character of the converted self, the emphasis is put on the malign past that is characterized by a loss of control over one’s passions and by a depressive and low-spirited undertone. Obviously, the emotional dramatics of these narratives stand in contrast to the overall atmosphere of enthusiasm and joy created during the festival. In terms of quantity, during the time at the festival, there was almost no social interaction I encountered without the other referring to the idea of conversion. Without asking for conversion experiences, conversion
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stories were used as a frame of reference in order to talk about the value of religion. Even the interviewees that had not had such an experience themselves made recourse to the motif of conversion. It seemed almost impossible to take the role of a distant observer since people would come over and tell their life stories as the story of a convert. In this religious movement, conversion stories do not act as mere practices of self-referencing, but they appear as a communicative ritual re-narrating a rite de passage (van Gennep, 2004). The omnipresence and the social significance of those reports indicate that the idea of conversion is a social necessity serving as a communal code of communication (cf. Röttger-Rössler, 2012; van Gennep, 2004). “It is only within the religious community, the ecclesia”, to follow Berger and Luckmann, “that the conversion can be effectively maintained. […] To have a conversion experience is nothing much. The real thing is to be able to keep on taking it seriously; to retain a sense of plausibility” (Berger & Luckmann, 1991, p. 177). The collective reiteration of the conversional rupture functions as a shared point of reference for the belief in the value of the newly found religion. Ritualizing the renunciation of secular identity, thus, fulfills a socially cohesive function. The members of this community assure themselves of their shared experience of transcendence and of their religious initiation by re-narrating and ritually imitating their passage from secular life to religious self. Understanding conversional stories as performative speech acts consolidating the secular and resituating the notion of religion, the use of the communal code of conversion symbolically reproduces the collective belief in the tactile divisiveness of secularity and religiosity. In terms of a communal ritual of faith, the motif of conversion gains a specific relevance in the analyzed religious field: Against the ‘becoming popular’ of religious life, the conversion stories aim at maintaining the belief in the substantial distinctness of ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular’ despite the symbolic blurring of boundaries. But, how do the members of this religious movement ritually assure each other of this very segregation and generate the belief in a factual real difference of meaning? As shown in the following, referring to the embodied affectivity and, thus, making use of a language of affects serve the function of authenticating the division as a result of lived experience.
Affective dissociation: the rhetoric of the onset I, back then, I had this experience, that made me notice that the way my life goes, it cannot go on like this. It was like a flash of inspiration or like a massive aha-experience, just like this, right away, don’t know, also at the time I didn’t know. And well, yes, I started to change things. It was like the blow with the hammer on the head. (Interview JF/SK)
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The process of transformation is depicted by a retrospective narrative that denotes a life-changing, instantaneous event. By means of conversion reports, people communicatively create the illusion of a sudden onset veiling the processual character of any transformation. The “semantic of rupture and dissociation” (Assmann, 2005, p. 35) constitutes the character of conversion constructing the belief in the transcending event of radical change. With respect to religious conversion, the event of transcendence, obviously, bears a double meaning: on the one hand, being interpreted as an elevating experience of inspiration and, on the other hand, signifying a transgressive jump into another universe of meaning (Schütz & Luckmann, 1973). The onset is thought of as a potent moment of inspiration prompting the abandonment of the past and eliciting the urge to overcome the limits of secular identity. By referring to the factuality of the experienced dissociation of these two worlds, the semantic of rupture, thus, serves the function of drawing symbolic boundaries and producing the belief in a clear-cut threshold separating the religious from its secular predecessor. Taking into account that conversion reports revitalize the categorical dissociation of ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular’, referring to a factually real difference experienceable through feelings, consequentially, calls for an understanding of how people, by employing the technique of conversion, affectively seal the symbolic division between secular and religious identities? Within the interviews, an exceptional experience of moral and emotional certainty that one needs to become different and to take care for oneself delineates the moment of demarcation. Portrayed as a glimpse of a higher consciousness, this flash of inspiration not only invades the mind, but overwhelms the whole body of the subject. The extraordinary, overawing force is not conceived as a force that unwillingly befalls the subject. The transcending event manifests in a feeling of clarity leading to the deliberate d ecision of converting oneself: “I converted myself” (Interview JF/HM). The conversion is framed as a decisive act triggered by an existential rupture. Following the descriptions, the conversion does not involuntarily seduce the consciousness of a passive subject. Quite to the opposite, the conversion enables the convert to gain back agency and self-awareness. Instead of being governed by other forces, like being enslaved by the caprice of the passions – as the introductory interview passage indicates – the moment of conversion is depicted as an experience of self-empowerment qualifying the converted self to take control over life and to direct one’s feelings into the right channels. Certainly, this mode of knowing does not hold the test of a rational examination: Seemingly out of the blue knowledge falls into place. The articulated clarity of a need for change is not understood as the product of critical consideration. Studying these moments of categorical distinction, the conversional experience of dissociation appears as a communicative black box. The description of this experience seems to throw for a
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loop: the interviewees stutter and retry to put the experience into words, but fail to pin down and signify this seemingly significant and life-changing experience of the onset. The in-between secular past and religious present is bracketed out. This very insufficiency of putting the transcending experience into words is in fact a part of the productive work of the conversion rhetoric. By means of a communicative taboo, the interviewees make use of a “sacred language” (Paulhan, 1988, p. 306; cf. Agamben, 2006; Zink, 2014). On the level of communication, the reference to the ineffable functions like a “negative cult” (Durkheim, 2008, p. 221ff.), preserving the extraordinariness of the experience and displaying the notion of a surplus that cannot be captured with words (Schneider, 2008). The communicative taboo gives utterance to the unexplainable exceptionality of the event and, concurrently, consolidates the excludability and the insurmountable disparity between ‘the secular’ and ‘the religious’. Yet, even the indescribable needs to be communicated in order to denote its vivid activity (Nancy, 2012). In the interviews, affectivity serves the function of communicating the non-communicable voicing the tremendousness and the uncanniness of this rupturing flash of knowledge. Stuttering, pausing, taking deep breaths in and out, re-verbalizing, and failing to describe the indescribable moment of conversion, thus, might be less a sign for the interviewees’ inability to make sense of their experience, but are to be understood as meta-linguistic, affective markers and as a mode of re-performing the experience of being affected. Besides, the actual narrative performance of being affected, the allusion to abrupt bodily affections serves as a frame of reference for the construction of this rupturing event. Introducing spontaneous corporal perceptions, such as a feeling of swooning, shivers, and crying, accentuates, as Monique Scheer and Pascal Eitler (2009) have shown with respect to Methodist conversions, the unquestionable reality and the sensual authenticity of this experience: All of a sudden, without any reason, it came – crying. And, it was not a sadness, but just – it all came out. And what I felt was extremely crass, really extreme. […] It was really extreme, a radical encounter. I don’t know why. I cried my eyes out. (Interview JF/AG&HL) The indescribable experience of a consolidating barrier delimits the superior religious self from its marginal other, the secular self. Affective markers display this liminal barrier by indicating a dissociative experience of bodily extracting one’s unfaithful being: “it all came out”. Associating this experience with the immediate corporality of crying not only accentuates the liminal experience (cf. Plessner, 1970), but creates the image of a cleaning ritual of bodily purification exorcising secularity. Portending to an intense state of bodily arousal, the experience appears as a potentially ambivalent
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affective disruption; a moment that retracts discursive determination and cannot be valorized by distinct emotion labels, for example, sadness. Nonetheless, the image of the all-infusing affectivity of the transcending event does not represent the notion of a pre-discursive knowledge or the idea of a pre-conscious experience. To the contrary, the embodied affectivity of this moment of dissociation is used to epitomize a hyper-conscious experience and a hyper-symbolic event that override mundane significations. The affective production of a symbolic boundary between ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular’, thus, does not undermine the consciousness of the subject. To the contrary, this highly arousing and affectively impressive incident apparently endows the secular body with a higher consciousness and is said to unleash a reasonable and self-aware being. On this account, the religious body is an affected body. But, the affected, sensing body is thought of as a warrantor or as a criterion for a clearer awareness of an agent that can take over control again, over their self as well as over their feelings. On the one hand, ‘becoming religious’ means to be highly affected engendering a sense for another world of meaning and feeling. In this respect, portraying the religious body as a sensorial aroused and emotionalized body, the analyzed reports reflect a notion of religion molded by secular discourses and as such of a religious subject that favors the visceral, sensual, and passionate dimensions of experience (cf. Connolly, 1999; Hirschkind, 2011). Yet, on the other hand, this impressive experience is not portrayed as affecting one’s judgment or deluding consciousness. To the contrary, depicting the sensuous-rational nature of the conversional experience ‘being affected’ is seen as a characteristic of consciousness. The analyzed reports sublate the categorical distinction between the emotionalized body and reasonable judgment and, thus, negate to view affectivity as a pre-rational or even irrational faculty that runs below thought and consciousness. In this respect, the language of affectivity used in the analyzed reports accentuates the embodied dimension of consciousness and the immersive potency of this enlightening experience.
Constructing abulic bodies: the purification of the secular But, how to conceive this very notion of an affected religious self in comparison to the secular body? Conversions picture a dissociative experience of affectively secluding past and present. The value of the emerging, affected religious self extrapolates by severing the new identity from its origins. Conversion, hence, is a process of counter-identification, by which the secular being is giving a distinct form. In as much as the binary opposition between emotion and consciousness is harmonized in the interviews, neither ‘being affected’ nor ‘being reasonable’ serve as a basis for producing the difference in value between the secular body and religious body. If the hierarchy between emotion and reason gets dissolved, how to differentiate the affected,
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religious body from the suffering, secular body? As shown in the following, the question of how to distinguish the religious self from its secular predecessor is decided by a different way of being emotional. I needed to do a drug withdrawal. For a year or so I was really psychotic suffering from paranoia and being haunted by visions. In part I didn’t even know who I was. When my dad prayed for me, it was ok for half a day. So, I started to learn how to pray – and it turned around the words in my mouth, so I couldn’t pray in the beginning. And then my mother pointed at me saying: ‘demon, get out of my daughter’. And since that very day everything is better. Before I saw myself from above walking around and doing stuff. But afterwards I was finally back in my body and I was able to decide what my body is doing. […] Before I was sitting in my shit hole, eating dirt. It was dark and cold. I was devastated. And today I live. Back then I was dead, an empty shell wandering around. And today everything is filled up with life. (Interview JF/BC) Making use of a metaphorical language, the life-changing event of conversion takes the shape of a purifying exorcism. By that the secular self a ppears as a mere body, a dead being, and an empty, abulic object. Less being framed as a blank space or as an emotional vacuum, the metaphor of emptiness is used to illustrate a state of oblivion, of self-abandonment and impuissance. The old secular self is situated in an emotionally dark atmosphere: be it the depressive atmosphere of vulnerability and porosity as in the interview above or the suffering from rage and anger like in the introductory example. These emotional states denote the meaninglessness of one’s secular being. Secular life seems to be hollow precisely because it is interpreted as an expression of self-loss, delusion, and alienation. In contrast to a Pauline model of conversion, for instance, the conversion report does not correspond to a story of redemption driven by a feeling of remorse. The formerly sick soul of one’s secular identity does not arise from a self-inflicted sinfulness. In contrast, we are confronted with a story of impotence and victimhood: The secular self is a body ensouled with malevolent powers that expel one’s decisive subjectivity. Looking at the interview passage above, the division between the insensate, secular body and the living, religious self becomes a question of possession. The insensate body appears as a vessel captured by impure forces that alienate one’s self, take over control, and disconnect the body from consciousness. Being obsessed and possessed by demonic spirits disables subjectivity. Not being able to act as a confident agent, the subject narratively turns into a weak-willed machine subjugating to foreign, malign powers. Although the respondent refers to the experience of a divine moment, the conversion does not seem to elevate the subject’s status as a human being.
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Instead of being confronted with a mystical experience of transcending one’s empirical, bodily conditionality, the interviewee interprets this occasion as a return of herself, her consciousness, and her agency into her body. In this context, becoming religious means affecting the other-controlled body with the consciousness of the self. The conversional rupture demarcates the return to the status of being an autonomous and mature subject after a time of alienation. Purified from irrational passions, the religiously affected body enables the experience of consciousness, self-awareness, and control. In this respect, the division between secular body and religious self reflects a hierarchy of feeling: Being overwhelmed and enslaved by the passions serves as a sign for vulnerability and weakness of one’s former, suffering secular being, while the affective experience of conversion releases a conscious subject that is in control over their feelings signaling the elevated state of being religious. In comparison to the secular body, the religious self is characterized by an ethical cultivation of emotions. If we give credit to Norbert Elias (1994) historic analysis, the process of formalizing the senses and of civilizing the passions served as a fundamental for modern imaginaries of secular subjectivity (cf. Hirschkind, 2011). By depicting feelings as objects of regulation and affirming the ideal of a restrained emotionality, the religious converts integrate modern discourses of subjectivity into the religious frame. Following the interviews, the conversion stories produce a clear-cut distinction between secular bodies and religious subjectivity. But rather than being just autobiographical records, the description of the secular body serves as a portrayal of a cultural other. Within the reports, the secular past one derives from is turned ‘inside out’ and attributed to secular society: “the non-converts? I rather conceive them as relatively empty. When I look in their eyes – they are often sad and empty” (Interview JF/BC). The affectively produced symbolic boundary between secular past and religious present, concurrently, serves as a demarcation line distinguishing the revealed, emotionally confident, rationally controlled, and conscious religious subject from its secular surrounding. Conversion appears as an act of “symbolic emigration” (Wohlrab-Sahr, 1999, p. 291) renouncing secular culture as such. In terms of identity politics, the conversional report takes the shape of a critical speech act disenchanting the belief in secularized society. The modern culture of secular society is thought of as creating abulic bodies, alienation, and powerlessness. This conception of the secular other reflects a modern narrative punctuating the “fear of emptiness” (Kracauer, 1963, p. 132), the experience of a loss of meaning, and the idea of alienation and isolation in face of the fragmented reality of modernity; a modern experience famously depicted by Siegfried Kracauer in his essay “Those Who Wait”: “Horror vacui—fear of emptiness—governs these people. And one can easily understand in which directions their yearning extends. Everything in and around them urges them toward renewed being within the religious sphere” (Kracauer, 1963, p. 132).
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Furthermore, the conversion reports suggest an interpretation of the ‘secular/religious divide’ that makes use of a secularized notion of the subject. Following Charles Taylors’s (2007) differentiation between pre-modern imaginaries and modern ideals of subjectivity, the topic of an alienated past reminds one of his depiction of the porous self. On the level of subjectivity, the notion of a porous self, according to Taylor, enunciates the enchanted culture of pre-modern and pre-secularized ages. Being a vulnerable subject potentially open to the ensoulment by foreign powers the porous self is put in straight contrast to modern notions of subjectivity. The modern imaginary of secularized subjectivity is carried by the belief of having had exorcized the malevolent forces and the religious illusions of pre-modern times. In comparison to the vulnerable subjectivity of the porous self, the modern, disenchanted buffered self, as Taylor coins it, is thought of as an autonomous subject conceiving its individuality in distinction to the outer world. Ensuing from this theoretical perspective, the analyzed conversion reports confront us with a shift in meaning: The idea of porous subjectivity is attributed to secular life being framed as an expression of an alienated, vulnerable, and obsessed body. Portraying the experience of conversion as an exorcizing purification of the body from foreign forces and from the irrational, possessive passions that characterize the suffering of secular life, the religious self is depicted as a buffered self that is liberated from unconsciousness and impuissance. Bodily extracting the malevolent, seductive enchantments of modern society, hence, releases the buffered self of the religious subject; an autonomous person confident about its individuality and being in control over its inner world of feelings.
Conclusion: suspicious conversions and the becoming different of the ‘religious/secular’ divide Conversion reports are not just biographical stories of an ethico-emotional reformation of the self, but reflect prevailing notions of religiosity and secularity. The narrative production of secular bodies, on the one hand, pronounces the emotional surplus of religious identity and, on the other hand, renders cultural ideas of secularity problematic. As elements of a religious renewal movement, the conversional stories inform us about recurrent notions of religious subjectivity. The symbolically produced and affectively sealed demarcation line separating one’s secular past from the religious life represents the categorical differentiation between imaginaries of ‘the secular’ and ‘the religious’. As shown, the seemingly divine force that affects the secular body does not delude or disable the subject’s mind calling for as passive surrender of a subjugating self that is losing agency. To the contrary, the conversional onset is portrayed and narratively enacted as affectively activating a deliberate self and enabling the emancipation from the other-controlled life
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by the decisive act of the subject to convert and to control one’s feelings and actions: “I made my decision, after a long struggle I have taken it upon myself” (Interview JF/SK). In opposition to the religiously conscious and re-subjectivized self, the secular body is depicted as an emotionally enslaved body and as the expression of an alienated life emptied from consciousness. By means of the conversion report: [t]he accent was placed on the relationship with the self that enabled a person to keep from being carried away by the appetites and pleasures, to maintain mastery and superiority over them, to keep his senses in a state of tranquility, to remain free from interior bondage to the passions, and to achieve a mode of being that could be defined by the full enjoyment of oneself, or the perfect supremacy of oneself over oneself. (Foucault, 1990, p. 31) Inasmuch as the notion of one’s former secular being is projected on secular modernity and contemporary culture in general, subjectivity is presented as a unique characteristic of religious identities. This said, the conversional reports at hand confront us with a quite peculiar notion of religious conversions. Certainly, the self-empowering picture the converts are drawing might not necessarily be the image one has in mind when thinking about religious converts. From an outside perspective, religious conversions appear as an irrational delusion of the mind and as an emotional dazzlement of consciousness. Within contemporary society, religious conversion is perceived to be a suspicious transformation of the self that calls for further clarification, or as Talal Asad resumes: “Religious conversion appears to need explaining in a way that secular conversion into modern ways of being does not?” (Asad, 1996, p. 263). Continuing this line of thought Asad (1996) further specifies that in comparison to conversions into secular ways of being “religious conversion is usually thought of as ‘irrational’, because it happens to people rather than being something that they choose to become after careful thought” (ibid.). Converting to religion is conceived as a precarious act of reformation because it seems to equal a backsliding renunciation of modern imaginaries of a secularized society discarding the ideal of an autonomous, rational acting subject endowed with reason. Accordingly, one of my interviewees states: “I was also very afraid of what others might think. Before, I had no Christian friends. […] It is hard to explain it to people that cannot understand” (Interview JF/TA). In a seemingly multi-religious, “secular age”, if we give credit to Charles Taylor, neither the turn to religion in general nor to Christianity in particular appear as a “default option” (Taylor, 2007, p. 12) claiming plausibility without further legitimation and explanation. Against the backdrop of the modern societal imaginary of progressive secularization, the conversion to religion seems, on first sight, to be a mere recurrence of traditional values,
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beliefs, and ideals. Religious conversions, thus, always bear the risk of signifying a cultural regress and “a naïve acknowledgment of the transcendent” (Taylor, 2007, p. 21) rather than being interpreted as a progressive transformation of a conscious agent. Instead of exorcising the past one derives from, religious conversions are thought of as a nostalgic return adoring an overcome, pre-secularized and pre-modern religious past. At least from an outside perspective, the conversion to religiosity does not seem to lead to self-empowerment and subjectivization, but appears as an expression of self-loss and subjection. Seen from this perspective, the religious convert runs the risk of renouncing the self, willingly submitting to the pastoral control of an absolute authority and rejecting any attempt of becoming a mature modern agent. Against the compromising valorization of religious conversions, the converts turn the story upside down. They do not depict the conversion as a renunciation of the self, but as the possibility of affecting the body with the self. In comparison, the secular past is conceived to disable subjectivity displayed in the lack of controlling the passions. Slightly paraphrasing Asad (1996), one may ask: But, why does it seem so important to the converted to insist that they are agents? Why are they discounting the outsider’s claim that they were made into a Christian? Why does it seem necessary to portray the act of conversion as a sovereign and autonomous decision instead of referring to a divine will that has befallen the person? Emphasizing one’s desire for self- empowerment, the conversion reports reproduce the modern ideal of a deliberative subject endowed with agency and relieved from the illusionary values of culture. In the name of religion, consciousness, agency, and self-controlled sensuality, thus, reappear as politicized objects in the symbolic fight over the ‘religious/secular divide’. These ideals serve as the central principles of classifying subjectivity. Therewith, the conversional reports re-affirm this modern secularized imaginary of the self. The so-called return of religion, thus, shouldn’t be confused with the “renaissance of non-modern vigours” (Pollack, 2012, p. 1), but gives utterance to the fact that the self-consciousness of modernity is critically turned against itself (Pollack, 2012). While the turn to religiosity, at first sight, might appear as an affirmative backslide into pre-modern times, the very idea of modern secularization was itself the product of a conversional narrative consolidating the belief in two, mutually exclusive realms of reality: the religious past and the secular present (cf. Asad, 2003; Casanova, 2009; Scherer, 2013).4 The imaginary of secular modern society presents itself by demarcating a religious society and, thus, in relation to this proclaimed religious past: “‘the religious’ and ‘the secular’ are constructed as opposed but nonetheless constitutively interrelated domains” (Scherer, 2013, p. 8). Secularization does not denote, to resume Taylor’s (2007) argument, a story of supersession dissolving religious beliefs and subtracting the world from traditional and irrational illusions. Instead, the process of secularization is to be read as a conversional
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story of modern societies vividly renouncing and, thus, conjuring the religious past. The imaginary of secular modern societies not only depends on the construction of ‘the religious’, but is itself a product of the history of religious ideas (cf. Gauchet, 1999). Understanding the so-called return of religion as the result of an inner reformation of religion in face of a secularized age (cf. Luckmann, 1967), ‘the religious’, equally, is the result of the history of secular ideas. On this account, ‘the religious’ as well as ‘the secular’ are relational products of a reciprocal cultural process of transformation. Seen from this perspective, interpreting religious conversions in a secularized age in terms of a destructive return to pre-enlightened values and beliefs does not meet the cultural and the historic logic of social classifications. The recurrent religious identity responds to ideals of modern, secularized culture. Religious conversion is not just a mere return back to traditional notions of religion’s identity, but portrayed as the advent of religion whereby the secular is thought of as the descent point of the conversional process. For ‘the secular’ being the object of the conversional report contouring the identity of the ‘religious’, a secularized notion of religion is constructed and communally canonized. Hence, conversional reports especially within popular religious movements confront us with a shift in meaning renegotiating and transforming the relation between ‘the secular’ and ‘the religious’: the narrative integration of a modern imaginary of the secular underlines the contemporary semantics of ‘the religious’. Especially against the backdrop of the so-often conjured ‘return of religion’ in the midst of our seemingly secularized modern societies, studying contemporary religious conversion reports bears a cultural diagnostic relevance inasmuch as the discursive creation of the value of the newly reformed religion includes the imaginary of modern secularity, and, thus, reacts to this very imaginary. The performative conversion and the reformation of religion conjure a twofold past: On the one hand, the conversion reports demarcate a renunciation of the institutionalized imaginary of religion and, on the other hand, these stories function as practices of excommunicating the modern story of secularity. The value of the converted religion is created by means of this dual distinction. Hence, the conversion stories told within this popular religious movement do not only consolidate the segregation of secular past and religious present, but they do so by deconstructing the modern differential divide between ‘the secular’ and ‘the religious’ communicatively bringing the binary, social classifications into play (Asad, 2003). Cultural identities, like the ‘religious’ or the ‘secular’, evolve from differences and divergences that continuously defer and move. In terms of a ritual of faith (Stromberg, 1993), conversions are to be perceived as cultural techniques following a generic structure producing and reproducing notions about what is to be religious and what is to be secular. Hence, one might wonder: how to apprehend for the significance and the ritualization of the conversional speech act within the religious renewal
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movement? Why do the members of this religious movement communally endorse a sense of plausibility for the ‘religious/secular divide’? The popular religious field presents itself in a this-worldly disguise that, on first sight, seems almost indistinguishable from its secular look-a-likes. This cultural transgression calls for boundary making to enable a distinction between ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular’ despite their formal resemblance. The communal repetition of the religious initiation performs the belief in a sensible difference between ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular’. But, de-institutionalizing practices of faith and symbolically charging the religious by means of popular culture also affects the symbolism of conversion. The pop cultural and seemingly secular disguise of the converted and ‘updated’ religion is not just a surface phenomenon of appearance. Moreover, by including modern ideals of subjectivity, the very notion of religiosity becomes transformed, modernized, and secularized. nderstood as a seculariThe conversional return of religion, hence, can be u zation of religion. The secularization of religion does, of course, not delineate a process of de-churching or de-Christianization, but aims to describe a process of revaluation, a becoming immanent of religion. This process of secularizing religion’s identity is symbolically put into effect by the becoming popular of religion and structurally carried out by the de-institutionalization of the mainline churches. But, far more, this process reveals a transformation on the level of ideas characterized by the integration of the modern belief in the autonomous subject and its care for becoming a mature self.
Notes 1 In addition to the participatory observation at the festival, I attended the Sunday services of a local Jesus Freaks parish for a period of six months. As a result of this ethnographic field research, twelve guided interviews with fourteen participants were conducted with the objective to analyze the field-specific ideas of religiosity as well as prevailing notions of religious adoration and to study contemporary rituals of faith and worship. In order to search for communally shared patterns of affectively demarcating and emotionally constructing religious identity in distinction to secular subjectivity, the interview data were analyzed from the perspective of an interpretative sociology and by means of sociological hermeneutics (cf. Soeffner, 1989). Instead of aiming to analyze the actual, lived experience of conversion, the focus lays on studying the way people make sense of their conversional experience and how they communicatively construct and reconstruct the experience of conversion. The original voice of the interviews is German. 2 Cf. the online charter of the Jesus Freaks Germany: www.jesusfreaks.de. 3 The word ‘secular’, as it is applied at this point as in the following, is due to the use of my interviewees and, thus, depicts an in-vivo code. In the analyzed field, the concept of the ‘secular’ acts as an antagonistic reference to contour the notion of the ‘religious’. 4 Moreover, the very idea of two worlds – a this-worldly, secular world of immanence and a other-worldly, religious world of transcendence – and, thus, the distinction between ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular’ is itself the product of religious beliefs (e.g., Casanova, 1994).
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150 Veronika Zink Paulhan, J. (1988). Sacred Language. In D. Hollier (Ed.), The College of Sociology (1937–39) (pp. 306–321). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Plessner, H. (1970). Laughing and Crying. A Study of Limits of Human Behavior. Evanston: Northernwestern University Press. Pollack, D. (2012). Säkularisierung – ein moderner Mythos? [Secularization – A Modern Myth?]. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Röttger-Rössler, B. (2012). The Emotional Meaning of Ritual. In A. Michaels & C. Wulf (Eds.), Emotions in Rituals and Performances (pp. 41–54). New Delhi: Routledge. Scheer, M. & Eitler, P. (2009). Emotionengeschichte als Körpergeschichte: Eine heuristische Perspektive auf religiöse Konversionen im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert [The History of Emotions as the History of the Body. A Heuristic Perspective on Religious Conversion in the 19th and 20th Century]. Geschichte und Gesellschaft, 35(2), 282–313. Scherer, M. (2013). Beyond Church and State. Democracy, Secularism, and Conversion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Schneider, C. (2008). Charisma. Sinnproduktion durch Reflexionsanästhesie [Charisma. Producing Meaning through the Anasthesia of Reflexion]. In P. Rychterová, S. Seit, & R. Veit (Eds.), Das Charisma. Funktionen und symbolische Repräsentationen. Beiträge zu den Historischen Kulturwissenschaften (pp. 129–153). Berlin: Akademie Verlag. Schütz, A. & Luckmann, T. (1973). The Structures of the Life-World. Evanston: Northernwestern University Press. Soeffner, H.-G. (1989). Die Auslegung des Alltags – Alltag der Auslegung [The Interpretation of Everyday – The Everyday as Interpretation]. Konstanz: UVK. Stromberg, P. (1993). Language and Self-Transformation. A Study of the Christian Conversion Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Taylor, C. (2007). A Secular Age. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Turner, V. W. (1996). The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Abingdonon-Thames: Routledge. Ulmer, B. (1988). Konversionserzählungen als rekonstruktive Gattung. Erzählerische Mittel und Strategien bei der Rekonstruktion eines Bekehrungserlebnisses [Conversion Stories as a Reconstructive Genre. Narrative Means and Strategies to Reconstruct Conversions]. Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 17(1), 19–33. Van Gennep, A. (2004). Rites of Passage. London: Routledge. Van der Veer, P. (1996). Conversion to Modernities. The Globalization of Christianity. London: Routledge. Whitehouse, H. (2004). Modes of Religiosity. A Cognitive Theory of Religious Transmission. Oxford: AltaMitra Press. Wohlrab-Sahr, M. (1999). Konversion zum Islam in Deutschland und den USA [Conversion to Islam in Germany and the U.S.]. Frankfurt a.M.: Campus. Zink, V. (2014). Von der Verehrung. Eine kultursoziologische Untersuchung [On Adoration. A Cultural Sociological Study]. Frankfurt a. M.: Campus.
The metaphorics of indescribable feelings in contemporary Christian contexts1 Regine Herbrik
It should not be surprising that the topic of this volume also includes a contribution from the field of sociology of religion. After all, the discussion of communication about the “remarkable and the overwhelming”, which cannot actually be described but is still communicated metaphorically and symbolically, has long been a thematic concern of theology, religious studies, and also the sociology of religion. The concept of “mysterium tremendum” was already part of Rudolf Otto’s (2004, p. 13) conception of religion, which vividly describes the shudder before the numinous as well as its “majestas”. Metaphors and symbols have a special meaning in the Judeo-Christian tradition against the backdrop of the prohibition of images, among other things. It is well-known that the attitude of the Christian churches to visualizations, especially to the pictorial, sculptural depiction of entities of this world and the next, has always been problematic (cf. Bachmann, 2005). By inscription on a stone tablet, the second of the Ten Commandments forbids the people of God, who are amassing around a golden calf in the desert, from making graven images of God – at least in sculptural form, depending on the translation. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4). From the standpoint of the Jewish, but also the Christian tradition, this is the beginning of a varied, centuries-long dispute over whether and to what extent images of God and his creatures can be reconciled with the divine commandments. As Bachmann (2005, p. 15ff.) shows, this problem has even emerged quite recently in Barth and Bultmann’s theological reflections. Regarding depictions of God, it is difficult to resolve the thorny issue of creating an idol which is not only worshipped by the faithful on behalf, but also in place, of God. Other interpretations also see the prohibition of images as a way of protecting man from the unbearable sight of God (cf. Bachmann, 2005, p. 8) or as reflecting the basic impossibility of at once capturing Yahweh’s “freedom” from magical incantation in a visualization while also preserving it. (Brumlik, 1994, p. 28)
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The Old Testament God evades man’s gaze. He only becomes accessible to man through his works in the world, his creation, and his word. Figurative elements of language are not affected by this ban. On the contrary, some even ask themselves whether “theological rhetoric as a whole has a metaphorical character and whether it can be understood as dealing and disputing with metaphors” (Hailer, 1999, p. 43). This chapter, however, does not focus on the question of assessing religious communication as a whole. Rather, I use several examples from a research project2 on the metaphorical dimension of speech to reflect on emotions in religion. The design of the project is based on the observation that the process of secularization usually ascribed to modernization has not led to the expulsion of the religious from the lives of the people in late or postmodern societies. On the contrary, some authors even speak of a religious renaissance or a resacralization (cf. Bell, 1977; Berger, 1999). In this context, it is usually pointed out that the large Christian churches are losing their importance socially and in terms of their absolute numbers of members. They have also forfeited their dominant position to a diverse range of old and new spiritual and religious groups and practices. In Central Europe, too, this diversity increasingly includes congregations with a charismatic, (new) Pentecostal and/or Evangelical orientation (cf. Kern, 1998) as well as congregations which can be characterized above all by the fact that the majority of their faithful have an (often shared) migration background (cf. Hüwelmeier & Krause, 2009). The new formations of the last few decades have given rise to a diverse spectrum of religious communities. This, in turn, has raised the question as to which emotional styles are characteristics of Christian congregations today and to what extent the emotional styles of individual congregations differ from one another. Emotional styles are the situational condensations of communicative codes of the emotional that are accessible for observation and analysis. With regard to the inside-out distinction of the present volume, these styles can also be described as ordering principles modulating the patterns of how subjectively experienced feelings are to be performed to become noticeable on the outside. They are not feeling rules telling actors what to feel, but rather guidelines, provided by a certain parish, that demonstrate how one could express, deal with or articulate subjective feelings. Due to this boundary position at the margins of subjective feelings and outwardly performed emotions, emotional styles are a concept specifically linking the individual subject to its social contexts (groups, societies, and communities). Within one of the levels of analysis investigated in the course of the project, the focus was particularly on the meanings attributed to the emotions of the actors. The data collected for this purpose mainly stem from detailed semi-structured interviews in which believers were encouraged to reflect and narrate their faith biography. In addition to the description of each person’s
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own emotions, within these data we also encounter reflections of the faithful on the emotionality of their religion. In addition, text and audiovisual data taken from the websites of individual communities were evaluated. As it has already been described in more detail elsewhere (cf. K noblauch & Herbrik, 2014, p. 358), the frequent secularist juxtaposition of “irrational emotional religion” and “rational scientific modernity” is not examined here. Finally, Max Weber, who in his foundation of sociology declares the fate of modernity to lie in the rationalization of action (and its economization), does not assign emotionality to behavior, but regards it as an independent ideal type of action, namely as “emotional action” (Weber, 1980, p. 12). This type – like all ideal types of action – is characterized by meaningfulness. Thus the emotional in Weber is already represented as a dimension of meaningful action. Just as the spirit of capitalism is derived from Protestant ethics, the meaning of emotions is also influenced by society and, in turn, influences social action with others. Like any other communication, communication based on emotions can now be examined in terms of its rhetorical construction. For years, its high proportion of figurative language has been regarded as particularly a characteristic in scientific discourse (cf. Fainsilber & Ortony, 1987, p. 241). Strictly speaking, this is a correlation inasmuch as rhetoric has always provided techniques of emotionalization. At the same time, in many places speaking about religion or within religion (“religious language”) is especially metaphorical3: In the following example, one interviewee (Mr. R.) assesses individual religions in terms of their ability to inspire hope: R:
… So I’m someone who goes into it actually rather factually with less emotion and I’ve just dealt with the different religions also with=m Buddhism with=m Hinduism and that are for me all…religions…that have no sense of joy. Hinduism is a very sad religion, you are reborn so often until you come to nirvana sometime, that it actually a sad religion. Buddhism is also a sad religion […] because in Buddhism there is not even a soul, so that very few believe at all (in a) soul (because) one just goes up to nirvana. I: Yes R: For me Christianity is actually a religion that gives hope and that there is something else…that there is a life after my death, I: Yes R: that is what appeals to me so much. In this context, it makes sense to pay particular attention to tropes such as metaphors, metonyms, and synecdoche when evaluating data that were examined from a sociology of religion and sociology of emotion perspective
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and collected for this purpose. It is important, however, that communication is not reduced to its figurative dimension, but continues to be thought of in its multi-modal complexity, orchestrated in several voices and designed with different rhetorical means. “Metaphors are indeed a powerful component of the linguistic-communicative production of meaning. But this cannot and must not be reduced to metaphors alone” (Kruse, Biesel, & Schmieder 2012, p. 9). In the following, it is therefore not a question of establishing such a broad metaphor concept in the sense of Lakoff and Johnson (1998), wherein every form of sense-making can ultimately be explained by metaphors. Rather, metaphor analysis should function as a component, as a specific focus, of a more comprehensive evaluation and thus not be understood as the only means of data interpretation.4
Indescribable and unspeakable As a reason for the accumulation of figurative language in the area of communication concerned with emotions and religion, reference is repeatedly made to the difficulty of finding suitable descriptions using non-metaphoric and generally non-figurative language. This is to be expected given that both the emotional and the religious have been viewed culturally and historically as diametrically opposed to the rational and the enlightened. Soeffner also points out that both areas play an important role in the history of the unspeakability topos. While in the area of religion the numinous, that is, an “it” (Soeffner, 2000, p. 119), is conceived as ineffable, with regard to the description of emotions it is an “ego” (Ibid.), which finds nothing in the repertoire of the specifically available historically, socially, and culturally linguistic forms that is suitable. When speaking about emotions in the area of religion, two models of piety thus collide: the “next-world religion” that transcends everyday life in reference to a world beyond and the “this-world religion” to be addressed to the subject and especially his “interiority” – like his emotions (Soeffner, 2000, p. 112). It becomes apparent, however, that the latter does not completely replace the former. Rather, new forms of religion (cf. also the “popular religion” in Knoblauch ) emerge from both. The subject, accordingly, understands them in a very personal, bodily, cognitive, and emotional kind of experience that points to an entirely otherworldly world. The separation between the here and the hereafter becomes smaller and blurs in some places. For now, the question of whether and, if so, for whom it may actually be empirically difficult or almost impossible to talk about emotions and religious experience remains unanswered. What finally matters is that for both areas there is a problematization of the difficulties of mediation and communication which is also common in everyday life. In fact, our data material shows a repeated thematization of communication problems, which is often presented in a stumbling, almost stuttering
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manner that reinforces the impression of a struggling to find the right words. For instance, when asked in an interview what he particularly liked about Taizé (a place where young Christians from all over Europe meet), one interviewee, Mr. Müller, replied: R:
It is something very special…something where I now have no other examples…I’m doing other things now, I’m also going to other events, and if say (laughs easily) you want to compare this now somehow with that… but it already has a very special quality. Right now, I could not compare it with anything.
Ms. Reinhardt describes her baptism as an adult with her first communion and confirmation immediately thereafter: R:
That was something (---) I think it would be hard to describe.
The City Kirche Berlin, whose pastor Volkhard Spitzer can often be seen on TV and in video podcasts on the Internet, publishes viewer reactions on its website that refer to his performances. One commentator writes: I don’t know how to start. I’ve been watching your sermons on the Internet for a few days now and I’m moved to tears every time. Your words have really touched my heart. I’ve never heard such sermons in my life. I don’t have the words to describe my feelings. Actually, I just wanted to thank you. Thank you so much. The few examples shown here make it clear that the characterization of an experience or feeling as indescribable often does not replace or break off the description of the event or feeling. The sequences are of course followed by description attempts. One can interpret this to mean that we are dealing with a rhetorical figure, the unspeakability topos, which assumes an important communicative function. According to Curtius, it describes the “emphasis on the inability to do justice to the material” (Curtius, 1961, p. 168). This topos plays an important role in ancient rhetoric for the eulogy genre, for example, in a solemn speech honoring a monarch. The aim is “to surpass and eclipse existing superlatives” (Soeffner, 2000, p. 119). As Gülich (2005) has already shown with the example of description attempts of epileptic auras, dreams, near-death experiences, and visions, the unspeakability topos, if it is used in everyday language (and not in a celebratory speech), is often not only used, but its content is performatively enacted in the manner of speaking and thus staged twice. This is reflected in – sometimes lengthy – interruptions, discontinuations, paraphrases, self-corrections, and repetitions. Gülich also shows how, with
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the help of the “unspeakability topos”, experiences such as pain are characterized as “purely subjective” (Gülich, 2005, p. 230), that is, not intersubjectively accessible. She finally describes the three perspectives on speaking about indescribability, namely a rhetorical topos, genre characteristic (cf. Luckmann, 1986), and a resource for articulation. Nevertheless, I would like to add another perspective here, which can only be seen if the expression of unspeakability is not removed from its context and is not regarded exclusively as a rhetorical topos. It becomes apparent when one examines which communicative problem it solves or which communicative function it assumes with regard to the sequentiality of the problematization of communication and then the actually occurring description attempts. It often appears as a framework in Goffman’s (1980) sense for communication of that which is at once characterized as indescribable. This framework functions as a meta-communicative interpretative reference (Soeffner, 2004), which denies any description attempts the ability to provide an adequate and conclusive description. In the end, however, this seems to be precisely the prerequisite for any description being dared at all. That is: The description attempt only becomes possible because of the previous and often also conclusive framing with the reference to the quality of indescribability. It relieves the description attempt of a demand for perfection, which, however, befitting it may be in view of the special quality of what is to be described (exceptionality, extraordinariness) can, by definition, never be fulfilled. At the same time, and especially with regard to the overall theme of this volume, these description attempts should attain a key role. They reflect the challenges related to the various processes of transfer and translation between subjective feelings and the social construction and sharing of emotions. This renders them ideal analytical candidates for addressing the question of how actors cope with the challenges and pitfalls of communicating subjective feelings, that is, of making them accessible to the “outside”.
Metaphor, religious rhetoric, and religion In the corpus of data we are investigating, the occurrence of the descriptions of the indescribable – also and especially with the help of figurative language – is not extraordinary. In fact, it is to be expected insofar as the metaphor – in Ricoeur (1996) especially the “living” metaphor – is ascribed the communicative function of creating a “way out”. Here, the invocation of indescribability denies such an escape, but also simultaneously lays the groundwork for it. In much of the relevant scientific discourse, the metaphor (see e.g., Winko, 2003, p. 105) is said to have the ability to open up new or possibly even initial description approaches that would otherwise remain closed to non-figurative, literal language. For this reason, metaphors are an
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important part of religious language, something which has been discussed and written about extensively (cf. Hartl, 2008; Stoellger, 2000) from a theological perspective. From a sociological standpoint, the question arises to what extent religion creates a need for living metaphors (in Ricoeur’s sense) that promote “new” forms of description, that is, new ways of “speaking about” at a certain historical point in time? Or conversely: Where are non-ostensive references needed? This does not first happen when speech becomes text, as Ricoeur assumes, but when an imaginary is up for negotiation. The nature of this imaginary can now be superbly disputed. What is meant here is not so much a prior potential that has been conceived as a basic anthropological constant (in the sense of the Enlightenment) qua imagination. Rather, with Durkheim (1998), it can be placed in close connection with the emergence of religion from social life and action. In the process, along with the participation of a specific collective feeling, an idealization emerges with which the community contrasts the “real world” with another, ideal world, with the former ultimately inventing, producing, and reforming the latter. With this in mind, the topic discussed here turns out to be located at a central and sensitive focal point of sociological theory, where society, religion, the imaginary, and emotion are interrelated and where the emergence and use of new metaphors almost seems to be elicited. Junge (2011) and numerous other social-science authors have recently proposed strengthening the role of metaphor analysis in the (also qualitative) analysis of data. We want to take up this invitation especially with regard to a data corpus that indicates the presence of figurative speech. The methodology we use to approach metaphors, metonyms, and synecdoche follows less a cognitive-theoretical approach than a reconstructive approach. We therefore look at the metaphor within their sequential context and, in the sense of the hermeneutic circle, try to interpret them by interpreting the entire speech. We interpret the entire speech, moreover, by interpreting its metaphors in their meaningfulness. For reasons of clarity, individual verbal images are bundled together below and in some cases also mentioned without their respective contextual embeddedness. “Emotion” as a placeholder for everything that cannot be assigned to rationality or cognition The question of what meaning in the area of religion is to be attributed to the mind, reason, cognition, on the one hand, and experience, feeling, emotion, on the other, has been part of the theological discourse, but also the daily confrontation with faith, for some time (cf. Machon, 2005). In our data, we accordingly find not only figurative descriptions of certain emotional experiences, but also the use of the term “emotion” as a proxy (in the
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sense of a metonymy) for a kind of confrontation with realities, which are characterized by their contradiction to scientific axioms and scientific laws. One of the believers we interviewed thus explains: R:
Of course, all belief is one hundred percent emotion (--) yes because it is… (2.0) I am told that one plus one is two, and if I tip the table, the ball will roll. This is a natural law. (-) But, yes, belief without emotion is hardly feasible (--) this means in fact that, first of all, I BELIEVE that there is someone there and so on…that there is higher power, fate or however you want to formulate it, or god, and so on. That is already an emotion.
“Emotion” invokes not only a physical, psychological, social phenomenon of human life that is already complex in itself, but also a facet of human existence that has been described since the Enlightenment, mainly in juxtaposition with and distinction to the levels of understanding, reason, and cognition. The “something very different” as ex-negativo description of religious experience When it comes specifically to the matter of speaking in the area of religion and emotion, one of the difficulties lies in the description of religious experience, which is often associated with strong emotions. The fact that this turns out to be difficult is performatively enacted – as described above (interruptions, paraphrases, and pauses) – but then also rhetorically emphasized by the use of comparisons and figurative language. Literal meanings of everyday language are deemed insufficient to convey the “very different” (das ganz Andere) that needs to be communicated. The following example shows the performative framing by means of the way people speak and the comparison with a “dream” as a rhetorical form. R:
…was kind of like (---) almost like a DREAM; (--) it (-) is probably also a little: (1.5) sliding…at least I’ve slid from time to time so to speak into my thoughts (“geDANKen”), somehow totally sunk (“verSUNken”) into myself and so…
Using the terminology of Schütz and Luckmann (2003), it can be said that through this comparison (“like a DREAM”) the experience to be described and the related emotions are assigned to a “province of meaning” other than that of everyday life, which could be described by means of everyday communication. It is important, however, that it is not the “dream” province of meaning that is meant, but one that has a similarity relation to it that is not particularly pronounced (“just a little”). The comparison points in the direction of a dream and at the same time makes a clear distinction. This gives an indication of the nature of the experience to be described and establishes
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an empty space, resulting from the unanswered question about the nature and extent of the similarity between a dream and this experience. In this respect, a comparison here takes over the “primary function of metaphor” (Lakoff & Johnson, 1998, p. 177), according to Lakoff and Johnson, “to enable us to partially understand one kind of experience from a different kind of experience” (ibid.). However, the understanding must remain partial due to the revealed empty space. What is also interesting with regard to this sequence is that descriptions that are usually used for movement in space – “slid from time to time so to speak into my thoughts, somehow totally sunk (“verSUNken”) into myself” – are used to describe the shift between provinces of meaning. In these cases, the distinction between the provinces of meaning and the distance between them acquires spatial clarity. Here it is worth looking at how, with the help of orientation metaphors (in the sense of Lakoff and Johnson, 1998, p. 22ff.), the direction and mutual placing of one’s own consciousness or “thoughts” (“geDANKen”) and the worlds it inhabits are conceived. Lakoff and Johnson already point to the orientation metaphor “awake is up; asleep is down” (Lakoff & Johnson, 1998, p. 23). This image can be found here insofar as the states of dream and thought, which differ from the wideawake everyday consciousness, is thought of as a place to which a downward sliding movement leads. This also applies to “verSUNken”, where a second location plays a role. Here, too, not only is the direction indicated, but also the vessel within which the downward movement takes place – namely “into myself”. Krämer (2009) notes that in the history of science deep thought and deep insight has traditionally been ascribed a different, usually higher quality than anything that is described as superficial. In this context, the phrase “sunk into myself” can be read as a distance from the surface and thus the superficiality of the ego. The emerging game with clues that refer to different provinces of meaning can also be seen in descriptive approaches such as in this example: R:
it was no longer really REAL (“das war gar nicht mehr so richtig WIRKlich”)
If the sequence read “that was not real” (“das war nicht wirklich”), a clear classification would have been made with the help of the negation of reality. However, “no longer really real” (“nicht mehr so richtig wirklich”) indicates that, on the one hand, a progression (at first it was real, now it is no longer) and, on the other hand, an ambiguity (not really real). The latter can also be found in descriptions such as the following: R:
…and this again and again, this again and again saying ds is like such a way (-) and then one comes into such a kind of trance I would say so this again and again speaking the name and the (---) ds (-) yes ds then (1.5) ds always as if one then prays the rosary; for example…
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They enact a specifically namable state of consciousness (here: trance), but they always take the designation back or relativize it and characterize it as not exactly true (“a kind of trance”). As a result, the state of suspension between naming and withdrawal of the designation creates an imaginary space that can and should be shaped by all participants in communication. The “other state” of the “man without qualities” (Musil (1997 [1930–1932]) is considered to be one of the prime examples of the departure from the “natural attitude” (Schütz). The “other state” functions as a kind of internal, conscious otherworld. It is difficult to reach, the points of access are hidden but not undetectable, it has clearly mystical features, it is connected with “foreign places” and beauty, and it is filled with positive emotions that make it so appealing. At the same time, however, in Musil it also appears in the darker side, which is particularly evident in the form of pathological or pathologized variants of an aberrant construction of reality. We also find the other state in the descriptions of religious experience: R: somehow (--) in such another