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  • 060101 anthropology
  • Religions

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  • Open Access English
    Authors: 
    Sara Black Brown;
    Publisher: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute

    Kirtan is a musical worship practice from India that involves the congregational performance of sacred chants and mantras in call-and-response format. The style of kirtan performed within Gaudiya Vaishnava Hinduism is an expression of Bhakti Yoga, “the yoga of love and devotion”, and focuses on creating a personal, playful, and emotionally intense connection between the worshipper and their god—specifically, through words and sounds whose vibration is believed to carry the literal presence of Krishna. Kirtan is one of many Indian genres that uses musical techniques to move participants through a progression of spiritual states from meditation to ecstasy. Kirtan-singing has become internationally popular in recent decades, largely thanks to the efforts of the Hare Krishna movement, which has led to extensive hybridization of musical styles and cultural approaches to kirtan adapted to the needs of a diasporic, globalized community of worshippers. This essay explores the practice of kirtan in the United States through interviews, fieldwork, and analysis of recordings made at several Krishna temples and festivals that demonstrate the musical techniques that can be spontaneously deployed in acts of collective worship in order to create intense feelings of deep, focused meditation and uninhibited, expressive bliss.

  • Open Access
    Authors: 
    Feng Qu;
    Publisher: MDPI AG

    The case study in this paper is on the Daur (as well as the Evenki, Buriat, and Bargu Mongols) in Hulun Buir, Northeast China. The aim of this research is to examine how shamanic rituals function as a conduit to actualize communications between the clan members and their shaman ancestors. Through examinations and observations of Daur and other Indigenous shamanic rituals in Northeast China, this paper argues that the human construction of the shamanic landscape brings humans, other-than-humans, and things together into social relations in shamanic ontologies. Inter-human metamorphosis is crucial to Indigenous self-conceptualization and identity. Through rituals, ancestor spirits are active actors involved in almost every aspect of modern human social life among these Indigenous peoples.

  • Open Access English
    Authors: 
    Bianca J. Smith;
    Publisher: MDPI AG

    This article is a feminist ethnographic exploration of how ‘indigenous’ notions of a ‘sacred feminine’ shape Sufi praxis on the island of Lombok in the eastern part of Indonesia in Southeast Asia. I demonstrate through long-term immersive anthropological fieldwork how in her indigenous form as Dewi Anjani ‘Spirit Queen of Jinn’ and as ‘Holy Saint of Allah’ who rules Lombok from Mount Rinjani, together with a living female saint and Murshida with whom she shares sacred kinship, these feminine beings shape the kind of Sufi praxis that has formed in the largest local Islamic organization in Lombok, Nahdlatul Wathan, and its Sufi order, Hizib Nahdlatul Wathan. Arguments are situated in a Sufi feminist standpoint, revealing how an active integration of indigeneity into understandings of mystical experience gives meaning to the sacred feminine in aspects of Sufi praxis in both complementary and hierarchical ways without challenging Islamic gender constructs that reproduce patriarchal expressions of Sufism and Islam.

  • Open Access
    Authors: 
    Julius Bautista;
    Publisher: MDPI AG

    This paper is an analysis of the Santo Niño de Cebu, a statue of the child Jesus that is the object of widespread popular devotion among Roman Catholics in the Philippines. The central hypothesis is that a continuing challenge of Roman Catholicism in the Philippines, at least from the perspective of the institutional Church, lies not in the extra liturgical performance of its rituals, but rather in the popular belief that sacred objects possess agency and personhood. The discussion of this theme unfolds over three analytical movements. The focus of the initial section is on the historical context in which the Santo Niño became established as the preeminent religious and cultural icon of the Philippines, going as far back as the sixteenth century. The discussion shifts to the topic of the agency of material objects, as cultivated in the performance of three embodied rituals conducted by thousands of Santo Niño devotees. A third analytical movement is the examination of how popular belief in the Santo Niño’s agency intersects with the institutional reforms of the Second Vatican Council, particularly as locally contextualized and enacted in the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II) in 1991.

  • Open Access English
    Authors: 
    Eleanor Harrison-Buck; David A. Freidel;
    Publisher: MDPI AG

    Shamanism and animism have proven to be useful cross-cultural analytical tools for anthropology, particularly in religious studies. However, both concepts root in reductionist, social evolutionary theory and have been criticized for their vague and homogenizing rubric, an overly romanticized idealism, and the tendency to ‘other’ nonwestern peoples as ahistorical, apolitical, and irrational. The alternative has been a largely secular view of religion, favoring materialist processes of rationalization and “disenchantment.” Like any cross-cultural frame of reference, such terms are only informative when explicitly defined in local contexts using specific case studies. Here, we consider shamanism and animism in terms of ethnographic and archaeological evidence from Mesoamerica. We trace the intellectual history of these concepts and reassess shamanism and animism from a relational or ontological perspective, concluding that these terms are best understood as distinct ways of knowing the world and acquiring knowledge. We examine specific archaeological examples of masked spirit impersonations, as well as mirrors and other reflective materials used in divination. We consider not only the productive and affective energies of these enchanted materials, but also the potentially dangerous, negative, or contested aspects of vital matter wielded in divinatory practices.

  • Open Access English
    Authors: 
    Isaak Deman;
    Publisher: MDPI AG
    Country: Belgium

    Embrace of the Serpent (2015), directed by Ciro Guerra, narrates the parallel stories of Theo and Evan whose main purpose is to find the yakruna plant in the Amazon rainforest. Both men are guided by the payé Karamakate. The first story depicts Theo’s encounter with Karamakate and their travel through the Amazon for yakruna, which can cure Theo of his disease. Along the way, one comes to witness the parallel often disturbing events in the wake of colonialism, capitalism and the Catholic missionary movement. The second story narrates Evan’s encounter with Karamakate three decennia later, but this time, the viewer is informed about Theo’s preceding story and comes to see the devastating consequences. While Theo ultimately fails to utilize yakruna, Evan manages to find and utilize the plant, which leads him towards a radical self-transformation. In this way, Evan and Karamakate succeed where Theo and Karamakate failed. While Embrace of the Serpent has been hailed for its cinematography, its representation of the ecological decay, and the effects of Western colonialism, further reflection is needed with respect to the religious elements in the film. In doing so, this article proves that the film deals not only with the socio-political and ecological realities on the ground, but also with existential questions. ispartof: Religions vol:12 issue:6 pages:1-19 status: published

  • Open Access English
    Authors: 
    Anna-Karina Hermkens;
    Publisher: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute

    In the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARoB) in Papua New Guinea, the changes of Vatican II led to significant Church reform, creating “Liklik Kristen Komuniti” (small Christian communities) that gave more responsibility to the laity. Moreover, as elsewhere in the world, Charismatic Catholicism was introduced and embraced. At the same time, private devotions, and in particular devotions to Mary, became immensely popular and powerful in Bougainville. This is partly due to the Bougainville crisis (1988–1998), which caused immense suffering, but also triggered a surge in popular devotions as people looked for spiritual guidance to deal with the hardships of the crisis. This paper shows how in the context of social and economic upheaval, charismatic popular devotions became increasingly influential with rosaries and statues becoming important mediums in facilitating healing and socio-political renewal. This shows the strength of popular devotions and the importance of material religion in particular. It also elucidates how popular devotions in Bougainville are part of global Catholic developments, as well as transnational practices that place Mary in the center of devotional practices.

  • Open Access English
    Authors: 
    Maznah Mohamad;
    Publisher: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute

    This article interprets the narratives of sex manuals produced within the Malay-Indonesian archipelago before the coming of Western colonialism and the dawn of postcolonial Islamic resurgence. In the collection of Malaysian libraries and museums, these manuscripts are largely classified as Kitab Jimak and Kitab Tib. They are all written in the Malay language with indigenous references, though the contents are likely derived from a common genre of texts transmitted from an early Arab-Islamic world and circulated within the region before the coming of European colonialism. The corpora of sexual knowledge in these texts emphasises the valorisation of sexual pleasure in conjugal relationships. Through an extensive list of prescriptions—from sexual techniques to diet, food taboos, medicine, pharmacopoeia, mantras, charms, and astrological knowledge—a near-sacral sexual experience is aspired. Couples are guided in their attainment of pleasure (nikmat) through the adherence of Islamic ethics (akhlak), rules (hukum), and etiquette (tertib). The fulfilment of women’s desire in the process is central in these observances. Nevertheless, despite placing much emphasis on mutual pleasure, these texts also contain ambiguous and paradoxical pronouncements on the position of women, wavering from veneration to misogyny. The article also highlights how intertextual studies of similar texts throughout the Islamic world can be a new focus of studies on the early history of gender and sexuality in Islam.

  • Open Access English
    Authors: 
    Najma Moosa;
    Publisher: MDPI AG

    This article approaches the position of the call to prayer (adhan or azan) in South Africa from the perspective of both legislation and case law. Although only an unamplified adhan has religious status in Islam, Muslim religious authorities (ulama) have since the twentieth century also approved of, and permitted, an amplified adhan. The adhan has been rendered in both forms from South African mosques (masjids) for some 223 years. However, the unamplified adhan has recently come under the legal and judicial spotlight when the volume of its rendering by human voice was restricted. In August 2020, after prior attempts at municipal level and mediation had been unsuccessful, a high court in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, ruled that the sound of the unamplified adhan emanating from a mosque located on the premises of an Islamic institution (madrassa) in the city of Durban should not be audible within the house situated on nearby property belonging to a Hindu neighbor. Wide media coverage reported that the ruling was publicly decried and met with criticism. The Madrassa lodged an appeal in September 2020 and the matter is ongoing. The High Court’s decision is binding in KwaZulu-Natal, a province where Hindus, as a religious minority, are concentrated. The article highlights that although the decision is not binding on similar courts in other provinces, its outcome may yet have far-reaching consequences for the adhan as a religious and cultural heritage symbol, and for religious symbols generally, because similar complaints have been lodged, albeit against amplified adhans, against several mosques located in major cities (Cape Town and Tshwane) of two other provinces where Muslims, as a religious minority, are largely concentrated. The article examines the adhan in the context of competing constitutional rights to religious freedom and property (neighbor law) in South Africa. The article proffers some recommendations for the way forward in South Africa based in some instances on the position of the adhan in several countries. It concludes that, ultimately, unamplified, unduly amplified and duly amplified adhans may all yet be found to constitute a noise nuisance in South Africa, if challenged and found to be unreasonable.

  • Open Access English
    Authors: 
    George Lau;
    Publisher: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute
    Country: United Kingdom

    Historical and archaeological records help shed light on the production, ritual practices, and personhood of cult objects characterizing the central Peruvian highlands after ca. AD 200. Colonial accounts indicate that descendant groups made and venerated stone images of esteemed forebears as part of small-scale local funerary cults. Prayers and supplications help illuminate how different artifact forms were seen as honored family members (forebears, elders, parents, siblings). Archaeology, meanwhile, shows the close associations between carved monoliths, tomb repositories, and restricted cult spaces. The converging lines of evidence are consistent with the hypothesis that production of stone images was the purview of family/lineage groups. As the cynosures of cult activity and devotion, the physical forms of ancestor effigies enabled continued physical engagements, which vitalized both the idol and descendant group.