Divining the Message, Mediating the Divine is a conference hosted by the Columbia University Religion Graduate Students Association, 1-3 April 2010 at Columbia University in New York City.
Whether sacred symbols or sanctioned authorities, intermediaries have been both conduits for and barriers to access to the divine. Mediating objects, forms, rituals, and people have long been central to religious practice and belief. They are conditions of both possibility and impossibility, at one and the same time providing glimpses of the heavens and anchoring us to the earth.
New media technologies have transformed not only how people commune with one another, but also how they communicate with the divine. With the printing press and telephone wires, and with television and the internet, we can now consider whether our message to the divine is best delivered by letter, email, voicemail, or text message. While many still attend brick and mortar churches, build a sukkah in their backyard, or chant at a Shinto shrine, the current moment of technological acceleration has changed the ways in which many people practice religion. Some study Buddhism in the virtual gaming world of Second Life, others visit a satellite campus of Saddleback Church to see Rick Warren's Sunday sermon streamed in from the other side of Orange County, and still others sit on the beach while reading the New International Version of the Bible on their Amazon Kindles. As intermediaries proliferate, and as our relationship to old mediations changes, so do the ways in which we practice religion, imagine the divine, and imagine ourselves.
The 2010 Columbia University Religion Graduate Students' Conference seeks to bring together papers from a wide range of disciplinary, theoretical, historical, and geographical perspectives that examine varying conceptions of mediation, including:
1. The media of mediation (print, TV, internet, cinema, icons, translation, etc.)
2. The institutions of mediation (Church, state, theology, tradition, economy, culture)
3. The people who mediate (the Pope, gurus, pastors, priests, seance mediums, other spiritual leaders, and the spirit possessed)
4. Temporal mediations (prophecy, mourning, melancholy, and trauma, as mediating the past, present, and future)
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