A new book on this topic by Isabella Schwaderer and Katharina Waldner has just been published by Transcript Verlag under the title "Annäherungen an das Unaussprechliche" (Approaches to the Unspeakable), in which the two religious scholars from the University of Erfurt deal with aesthetic experiences in collective religious practices. The volume is aimed at those interested in religious and cultural studies, but also in dance studies and media history.
The two editors initially pursued the question of whether and to what extent dance can be understood as a religious practice. "This led us to the much broader question of ritual aspects and finally also to the aesthetic, sensually experiencable dimension of religion in collective practices," Dr. Isabella Schwaderer explains the idea behind her investigation. The result: "Religious experience encompasses more than individual, spiritual transcendental experience. It also extends to the sensual level of the body and acts in social processes". The interdisciplinary contributions of the now published volume are dedicated to these experiences and their representations in various media such as dance, music and film, and ask especially for transcultural dimensions. A central example is the interface between Germany and South Asia, with a focus on modern-critical debates at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Patterns are emerging here that anticipate current discussions about emotions and embodiment in religions as well as the question of the sensuality of religion. This is currently being discussed in religious studies under the keywords material religion and aesthetics of religion. One group of contributions also deals with the transcultural connections between Germany and South Asia in the interwar period and thus with a postcolonial history of interdependence that is only being dealt with today.
Dr. Isabella Schwaderer answers the question of what new perspectives her book opens up: "Access to religion as a sensual phenomenon highlights aspects that are still neglected in the still prevailing concentration on written tradition and individual experience of God or transcendence. In the present volume, religion becomes visible in its material, eventful, physical and pluralized dimension".