Religion as Creativity

Detail of a modern abstract painting

An Interdisciplinary Symposium
Miami University, Oxford, OH
October 2-4, 2015

Creativity and innovation are pivotal in late modern life. Increasingly populated, interdependent, and resource-dwindling societies have a pressing need to create new, and adapt existing, institutions and practices. Religion as a social field holds significant promise for understanding creativity's production and practice. While many expressions of public religion in the modern world have been interpreted as forces of traditionalism and conservatism, there is abundant evidence that religion is an institutional engine for invention, experimentation, artistry, virtuosity, and other modes of creative production. What can religious innovation teach us about human creativity?

Two faculty from the Department of Comparative Religion--Nathan French and Rory Johnson--teamed up with two of the department's affiliate faculty--James Bielo and John Cinnamon, both from the anthropology department--to organize this three-day symposium on religion and creativity. Nine scholars from  institutions in the U.S., Canada, and Europe were invited to Miami to explore together how innovation, virtuosity, imagination, and artistry play an organizing role in local religious communities and transnational religious networks.

The symposium was sponsored by the Miami University Humanities Center, the Department of Anthropology, and the Department of Comparative Religion.

Friday, Oct. 2

11:30 a.m. / Keynote address

Tulasi Srinivas (Emerson College)
"The Cow in the Elevator: Religious Creativity, Wonder, and Ethical Life"

2:00 p.m. / Session 1

Bin Song (Boston University)
"Shengsheng: A Key Phrase to Understand the Religiosity of Confucianism"

Ann Shafer (State University of New York--FIT)
"Contemporary Moroccan zillij Tile Craft and 'Meaning' in Islamic Ornament and Architecture"

Rory Johnson (Miami University)
"Conjuring Self: Religion, Identity, and Race in Post-Obama America"

Saturday, Oct. 3

9:30 a.m. / Session 2

Jason Bruner (Arizona State University)
"Dissent and Creativity in the East African Revival in Uganda"

Brooke Brassard (University of Waterloo)
"The Spiritual Gifts of Faith Healing and Midwifery: Understanding the Medical and Religious Practices of the Latter-day Saints in Southern Alberta, 1887-1947"

Saliha Chatoo and Helen Mo (University of Toronto)
"Sanctified Simulacra: How American Evangelicals Are Representing Their Religious and Secular Worlds through Film"

2:30 p.m. / Session 3

James S. Bielo (Miami University)
"Creative Creationists: Making a Biblical Theme Park"

Petra Kuppinger (Monmouth College)
"Islam and Urban Creativity in Germany"

Katrien Pype (University of Leuven)
"Moral Capital Accumulated, Broken Down, and Restored: An Ethnographic Analysis of the Reputation Management of Congolese Pentecostal Musicians"

John Cinammon (Miami University)
"The Siren of the Upper Ivindo: Creativity, Bricolage, and Deliverance in Northeastern Gabon"

Sunday, Oct. 4

9:30 a.m. / Closing keynote reflection

Tulasi Srinivas (Emerson College)