Seminar für Religionswissenschaft

Mimetic Synesthesia and the Aesthetics of Interrituality: Saint Veneration Rituals at Shared Sacred Sites among Arab Alawites and Orthodox Christians in Hatay

4. Jul 2023, 6.00 pm - 8.00 pm
IBZ & online
Department of Religious Studies
Professor Dr. Jens Kreinath (Wichita State University)
Event type
Event Language(s)

This lecture aims to capture the dynamics of interreligious relations among Christians and Muslims in the southernmost Turkish province of Hatay through the lens of ritual as aesthetics. By focusing on the aesthetic features of saint veneration rituals at shared sacred sites, the key element consists in an analysis of interconnected rituals and the role they play in the configuration of social relationships among the Arab Alawite and Orthodox Christian communities.

In paying particular attention to the intersections of aesthetic undercurrents that emerge during ritual interactions of human agents with their saints and sites of veneration, this lecture demonstrates how ritual gestures and movements in such forms of saint worship configure complex networks of social relationships between the interacting human and non-human agents. It argues that those relationships come into focus when the different realms of human reality and perception blend with one another in the moment of virtual encounters with the saint in the form of a mimetic synesthesia. Sensorily embedded within the religious cosmologies, derived from the tactile coordination of individual movements and gestures, and mediated through the shared sacred sites as interfaces between the saint and their venerators, the intent is to show how rituals of saint veneration of Arab Alawites and Orthodox Christians culminate into sequences of synchronized acts and utterances through which they amplify their similarities up to the point when reaching a unitary state in virtual encounters with a saint. To elucidate such ethnographic instances, this lecture introduces the analytical concepts of mimesis, synesthesia, atmosphere, and resonance to evince how members of the Christian and Muslim communities assemble and dissolve their ritual differences into complex webs of relationships through which their veneration rituals become virtually indistinguishable. By deciphering the mimetic implications adjacent to the inversion of the position of the saints and their venerators as moments of mimetic synesthesia, this approach apprehends the intricate dynamics and fluidity of the complex configurations of the social that emerge through transient transpositions of agency. Coined that way, the aesthetics of interrituality accounts for how members of different Christian and Muslim communities navigate their social relationships with human and non-human agents through tactile means of ritual gestures and movements and the forms of sensory perception that ritual interactions with the saints at their sites facilitate.