“Objects and Affect in Religious Studies”: Experiencing Incense in Shanghai’s Buddhist Temples
Traditionally religious studies scholars have relied on texts to inform them of the beliefs and teachings of a religion. While important, this way of studying religion fails to address the nuances and multiplicities of experiences that comprise lived traditions. Religion is made up of fluid, sensual experiences that can not be confined to a set of dogma. “Objects and Affect in Religious Studies: Experiencing Incense in Shanghai’s Buddhist Temples” will use affect theory and new materialism to argue that the study of religion must include the investigation of material culture and embodied experiences as well as textual analysis in order to better understand the complexities of religious practice. To examine the role of affect and objects in religion, I will refer to my observations of incense in contemporary Buddhist practice in Shanghai. During the Fall of 2017 I completed my fieldwork in Shanghai where I had the opportunity to explore how incense, and the spaces and places that we find incense in, is shaping the development of contemporary Chinese Buddhism by interacting within socio-political networks. Using incense as a case study allows for a greater understanding of the importance of studying religion through the lens of affect and material culture.
Emma Bass is a second year Cultural Studies Master of Arts student at Queen’s University. She completed her undergraduate degree in Religious Studies and International Relations at Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB. She recently completed a semester of research at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. Her primary research interests include Chinese Buddhist material culture, affect theory and new materialism. More specifically, her thesis focuses on the contemporary uses of incense in Chinese Buddhist temples to examine the complex relationships between praxis and embodiment that create and mediate religious experiences.
Sonia (Jakji) Hill
Haudenosaunee Relations to the Land
Indigenous knowledge transcends the boundaries of Indigenous studies programs consistently pushing various disciplines within academia to think from ontologies beyond those historically studied by Eurowestern institutions. This presentation will discuss the study of environmental sociology from a Haudeonsaunee ontology which acknowledges the differences in what Indigenous and colonial worldviews hold as reality. Environmental sociology from a Haudenosaunee worldview requires the researcher to engage with the natural world from within, relating to the nonhuman world, as opposed to observing from the outside as the all knowing. The nonhuman world is part of human society as each aspect holds agency. Studying from Haudenosaunee ontologies require Indigenous epistemologies such as land based research, oral knowledge translation, and various methods of ceremony, pushing the boundaries of social science research beyond it’s qualitative, quantitative epistemological borders. Indigenous nations have studied society from time immemorial, even building complex systems of government from observations of the non-human world. This paper will examine sociological studies of nonhuman societies by the Haudenosaunee confederacy as a case study of the various applications of Indigenous knowledge beyond the confines of classes devoted to the study of Indigenous people.
Sonia Hill is a Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk) woman of the Haudenosaunee confederacy from Six Nations of the Grand River territory, born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. Sonia completed her undergraduate degree in sociology and Indigenous studies at McMaster University in 2017, andis currently working towards a Master of Arts degree in sociology at the University of Victoria in the territory of the Lekwungen speaking peoples. While attending McMaster University Sonia co-created the Indigenous Students and Studies Welcome Week team, while facilitating a peer mentorship program through Indigenous student services at the university. Sonia’s current research focusses on Haudenosaunee relations to the land, critiquing the reconciliation movement as empty so long as it excludes nonhuman relations.
Ecopsychology and its Role in Modern Universities
Ecopsychology investigates the interrelationship between the human psyche and the natural world, demonstrating through quantitative methods that the effect of spending time in nature is increased human mental wellbeing. This aspect of the field has it resting comfortably within the discipline of psychology. However, ecopsycholgy is also a field on the fringe, as it moves into deeper realms of the human soul, discusses the emotional distress caused by western human disconnect from the environment, delves into concepts of place, the senses, and the psycho-spiritual dimensions of what it means to be in the world. These less tangible place-based aspects of ecopsychology may have much to add to disciplines such as human (emotional, psychoterratic, cultural, Indigenous) geography as well as Cultural Studies. Ecopsychology looks to transcend the silos of disciplines in favour of the recognition that we are all cut from the fabric of the natural world, something we rarely discuss or acknowledge, but that, in a very real sense, is fundamental to the survival of our species. This discussion will be to open up the dialogue about ecopsychology and how it fits within the modern university setting.
Robin is a second year PhD student in the Department of Geography and Planning at Queen’s. Her professional background spans the environmental fields, geology, and Indigenous-Mining engagement. The driving focus of her research is concern for how western culture approaches the natural world, and she frames this concern through the lens of ecopsychology. She grounds the theoretical aspects of her research in discussions around Mining and Indigenous community engagement. She is interested in the emotional geographies of the extractive sector, the tensions around mining, and the often unspoken nature-connection factor around the topic of development.