Today I’m plugging the work of a colleague: Religion Out Loud, a new book by Isaac Weiner, who was in my doctoral program at UNC Chapel Hill. This book is an outgrowth of his dissertation, which examined a controversy around a mosque in Michigan being allowed by the city to broadcast the call to prayer. For those not in the academic loop: Weiner’s work is part of a recent trend to think theoretically about religion and the senses. Most of that work thus far has paid attention to religion and sight, or religion and visual culture–i.e., the use of imagery in religion. Weiner is interested in sound as a feature of religions. More specifically, he’s interested in sound as a feature of religions that becomes the occasion for interreligious conflict and negotiation.
I hope I’m not embarrassing him by saying this, but I remember talking with Isaac some years back about an early version of his dissertation project, which at that point was going to be a study of legal controversies around religion in the U.S., chosen to represent all five senses. In retrospect that sounds gimmicky–which no doubt has a lot to do with why the project evolved in a more narrowly defined direction–but I thought then, and still think, that such a study would have been an interesting way to help make students more conscious of religion as an embodied reality, not just a question of “what X group believes.” It would make for an interesting class discussion anyway: What does religion, or a given religion, sound like? Smell like? Taste like? What are its textures?
Isaac’s book is potentially useful for multiple classes I teach related to the experience of religious minorities in America, so I’ve ordered away for an exam copy–which I am eagerly awaiting, NYU Press.