Between Dancing and Writing: The Practice of Religious Studies

Between Dancing and Writing: The Practice of Religious Studies

Kimerer L. LaMothe
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Between Dancing and Writing: The Practice of Religious Studies
    Book Description:

    This book provides philosophical grounds for an emerging area of scholarship: the study of religion and dance. In the first part, LaMothe investigates why scholars in religious studies have tended to overlook dance, or rhythmic bodily movement, in favor of textual expressions of religious life. In close readings of Descartes, Kant, Schleiermacher, Hegel, and Kierkegaard, LaMothe traces this attitude to formative moments of the field in which philosophers relied upon the practice of writing to mediate between the study of religion,on the one hand, and theology,on the other.In the second part, LaMothe revives the work of theologian, phenomenologist, and historian of religion Gerardus van der Leeuw for help in interpreting how dancing can serve as a medium of religious experience and expression. In so doing, LaMothe opens new perspectives on the role of bodily being in religious life, and on the place of theology in the study of religion.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4750-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface: Moving Between
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. Introduction: A Disconcerting Miracle
    (pp. 1-18)

    This book sets an agenda for an emerging area of scholarship in the field of religious studies: the philosophy of religion and dance. It provides scholars in the field, whether historians, humanists, social scientists, or theologians, with the theoretical resources they need to recognize why and how a given instance of “dance” is significant for what they perceive as “religion.”

    Religion and dance? The incredulous responses to such a pairing are by now familiar. Are the two even related? As the reaction is common among scholars and dancers, family and friends, regardless of profession or religious commitment, I marvel at...

  6. Part One:: Writing Against Theology

    • [Part One: Introduction]
      (pp. 19-20)

      An analysis of Christian philosophers and theologians writing on the eve of the so-called emergence of religious studies from theological contexts reveals a dynamic not predicted by emergence narratives of the field. Early modern Christian philosophers and theologians introduce “religion” as a category in generative tension with “theology” as competitors in a project of Christian reform.¹ Emergence narratives to the contrary, it is difficult to find a moment in the modern era when a project of theorizing “religion” exists in cooperative, congenial intimacy with “theology,” even when the thinker in question is a professed theologian.

      Part 1 revisits the work...

    • CHAPTER 1 The Rift in Religion: René Descartes and Immanuel Kant
      (pp. 21-45)

      René Descartes (1596-1650) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), often considered as representing the respective ends of the European Enlightenment, each drew upon the methods of “science” in an attempt to clarify the nature and value of “religion.”¹ They each were concerned with various excesses they observed among Christians in their time. Though most often remembered as ushering in distinctively modern uses of reason, Descartes and Kant were both equally concerned, as this chapter illustrates, with defending religion from what they perceived as reason’s abuses. In hindsight, it is possible to see how choices these men make in negotiating this tension between...

    • CHAPTER 2 Recovering Experience: Friedrich Schleiermacher
      (pp. 46-64)

      In his address to the “cultured despisers” of religion, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1769-1834) was speaking, among others, to admirers of Kant. First published in 1799, six years after Kant’sReligion within the Limits of Reason Alone, Schleiermacher’sOn Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisersopenly rejects Kant’s attempt to negotiate a critical affirmation of religion. Schleiermacher’s response is most often remembered as defining a pole diametrically opposed to Kant’s rational defense: Schleiermacher elevates a particular kind of inner experience over and against rational belief as the locus of religion.¹ Nevertheless, as the following close reading ofOn Religionsuggests, his difference...

    • CHAPTER 3 Doing the Work of Spirit: G. W. F. Hegel
      (pp. 65-84)

      The discussions in Chapters 1 and 2 map two conceptual axes that continue to define the terms of contemporary debates over “religion”: one stretching between a core of religion and its phenomenal forms and a second, within that definition of core, stretching between rational belief and inner experience. Chapters 3 and 4 engage this terrain in ways that open a third dimension: that between “religion” (so defined by these two axes) and the scientific study of it. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) articulates this distinction as a way to accomplish what he perceives Kant and Schleiermacher do not: to offer...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Poet and the Dancer: Søren Kierkegaard
      (pp. 85-102)

      In several of his pseudonymous works, Søren Kierkegaard introduces dance as a figure for representing that aspect of religion that a Hegelian philosopher cannot comprehend: faith.¹ In these appearances, the metaphoric weight of the image does not depend on an opposition of the bodily to the intellectual, the outer to the inner, or the emotional to the rational. Dancing appears as religion. It appears as a way of inhabiting religion; it engages thinking, feeling, and enacting. Rather, in Kierkegaard’s work, “dancing” has meaning as a kind of doing that eludes the grasp of philosophical writing. As this chapter reveals, by...

    • Conclusion to Part One Living the Legacy
      (pp. 103-106)

      In the web woven from the works of these five thinkers an alternative narrative of the study of religion appears that serves to explain the popularity of the emergence narrative, the self-perpetuating antitheology polemics of the contemporary scene, the kind of attention paid to dance in the field, and their necessary interconnection.

      The alternative narrative is one in which conflict with “theology” is a necessary and enabling condition for the definition and study of religion. The modern use of the term “religion” as a category of cross-cultural analysis arises coextensive with a strategy for stabilizing a contradiction between critique and...

  7. Part Two:: Reviving van der Leeuw

    • CHAPTER 5 A Braided Approach to the Study of Religion: Gerardus van der Leeuw
      (pp. 109-128)

      In order to appreciate the contemporary relevance of van der Leeuw’s braided methodological approach to the study of religion, this chapter introduces the influences and issues informing its development. What we find is that van der Leeuw’s strategies for addressing the issues of his day are relevant for our day based on the ways in which they engage and advance the issues rehearsed in Part 1 as defining the field of religious studies. Not only does van der Leeuw’s work provide resources for negotiating a conflicted interdependence of theory and theology, as this chapter explores, it does so, as later...

    • CHAPTER 6 A Practice of Understanding
      (pp. 129-158)

      In what, then, does the phenomenology of religion consist? What does it mean to call religion aphenomenon? Where does the phenomenologist of religion look to find “it”? What kinds of movements propel the phenomenologist back and forth across the surface of historical events, between the chaos of the given and conceptual forms? By what means does a phenomenologist mediate between the historical, scientific, and interpretive approaches to the study of religion, on the one hand, and theology on the other?

      As suggested in Chapter 5, it was van der Leeuw’s frustration with the chasm he perceived between historical and...

    • CHAPTER 7 Understanding Religion and Dance
      (pp. 159-178)

      There is evidence in van der Leeuw’s descriptions of the phenomenological method and in his accounts of dance that it was his interest in dance, at least in part, that impelled him to design a theory of religion and a phenomenological method for the study of it that would prove flexible enough to comprehend both historical appearances of dance in world religions and theological condemnations of dance as hostile to religion. Why van der Leeuw was interested in dance and religion is difficult to determine. His interest may have been stirred by his study of Egyptian and Greek religions. The...

    • CHAPTER 8 Spinning the Unity of Life: Dance as Religion
      (pp. 179-209)

      The first comprehensible association van der Leeuw discusses under each art—namely, the “unity” between a given art and religion—appears most highly developed in his chapters on dance. Conversely, most of the historical examples he gives for dance fall within the rubric of this structural relation as opposed to the four discussed in Chapter 9. This pattern of distribution foreshadows van der Leeuw’s conclusion that beautiful movement appears to him as “religion” or an expression of power, where it appears to express a “unity of life [levenseenheid]” (S 33;W 34).

      As this chapter and the next will demonstrate, a...

    • CHAPTER 9 Marking Boundaries: Dance against Religion
      (pp. 210-228)

      When van der Leeuw turns to elaborate four other phenomenological nets he has woven in his efforts to write about relationships between dance and religion appearing in human history, the significance of the first net—namely the unity of dance and religion—emerges with greater clarity. As name for a structural relation, the unity of religion and dance itself appears as one phenomenon, one moment in a fabric of structural relations comprised itself as well of these four other possibilities. “Unity of religion and dance” represents one family of features—one that van der Leeuw is able to perceive by...

    • Conclusion to Part Two Can Dance Be Religion?
      (pp. 229-240)

      For scholars interested in the study of dance and religion, van der Leeuw’s phenomenological method, his theory of religion, and his five structures characterizing appearances of religion and dance provide a rich if challenging inheritance. To sift through the value of this work and some of its implications, I revisit the question van der Leeuw poses at the beginning ofSacred and Profane Beauty. He asks: Can dance be a holy act? Is dance something for which scholars of religion should develop theoretical and methodological approaches?

      At first glance, it seems that van der Leeuw would respond with a hearty...

    • CHAPTER 10 Dancing Religion
      (pp. 241-258)

      So far my discussion of van der Leeuw has followed a traditional paradigm: a scholar devises a method which enables him to make sense of a given set of phenomena by guiding his reflections on those phenomena in ways which generate knowledge. Yet, as is hinted at the beginning of Chapter 7, the reverse of this narration may be true as well: namely, that van der Leeuw’s interest in dance as religion—however sparked initially—may have impelled and informed his efforts to define religion and devise an indirect method capable of encompassing attention to dance as religion. The imprint...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 259-282)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 283-296)
  10. Index
    (pp. 297-304)