24/05/2017 GTD & AMC Colloquium by Prof. Birgit Meyer

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Date(s) - 24/05/17
3:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Grote Gracht 80-82, Spiegelzaal (Soiron Building) Maastricht


Joint Globalization, Transnationalism & Development (GTD) & Arts, Media and Culture (AMC) Colloquium

When: May 24, 2017, from 15.30 to 17.30

Where: Spiegelzaal Soiron building – Grote Gracht 80-82, Maastricht University

The topic of this lecture is:

Image Wars in Past and Present: Religious Matters in Pluralist Settings

By Prof. Birgit Meyer

Utrecht University 


The point of departure of this presentation is that human relations to images are culturally constituted and are central to the politics and aesthetics of world making. Images, and human attitudes towards them, are formidable entry points for cultural analysis devoted to understanding the constitution of worlds of shared life experiences and clashes between such worlds. Evolving around particular figurations of the unseen, religions play a central role in shaping human-image relations, and that has longstanding repercussions for the secular sphere. In this presentation I will 1) address the repercussions of the rejection of images as suitable harbingers of the divine in favor of the biblical text on the part of Calvinists for the concepts and approaches developed in the study of religion (and society), 2) point at the implications of the export of an iconoclastic stance by Protestant missions to West Africa, where they kicked off an image war against the indigenous gods, which were dismissed as pagan, and 3) by way of conclusion, speak to the current struggles over images in a global, culturally, and religiously diverse setting.



Prof. Dr. Meyer is a Professor of Religious Studies at Utrecht University. She is trained as a cultural anthropologist and working on lived religion in Ghana for more than 20 years. She studies religion from a global and post-secular perspective. Her research is driven by an urge to make sense of the shifting place and role of religion in our time, and to show that scholarly work in the field of religion is of eminent concern to understanding the shape of our world in the early 21st century. In so doing, she seeks to synthesize grounded fieldwork and theoretical reflection in a broad multidisciplinary setting. Her main research foci are the rise and popularity of global Pentecostalism; religion, popular culture and heritage; religion and media; religion and the public sphere; religious visual culture, the senses and aesthetics. Her book publications include Aesthetic Formations. Media, Religion and the Senses (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), Things. Religion and the Question of Materiality (edited with Dick Houtman, Fordham 2012) and Sensational Movies. Video, Vision and Christianity in Ghana (Berkeley: The University of California Press). She is the vice-chair of the International African Institute (London), a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and one of the editors of Material Religion. In 2011 she was awarded the Anneliese Maier Forschungspreis (Alexander von Humboldt Foundation). In 2015 she received the Academy professor prize of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and the NWO Spinoza award from the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research.