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Humans have been described as “meaning-making animals.” At the threshold of the Anthropocene, how might humans artistically envision their place in the world? Do humans possess cultural tools, which will allow us to imagine new possibilities and relationships with the natural environment at a time when our material surroundings are under siege?
Exploring Nature’s Texture looks at the imaginative possibilities of using the visual arts to address the breakdown of the human relationship with the environment. Bringing together contributions from artists, theologians, anthropologists and philosophers, it investigates the arts as a bridge between culture and nature, as well as between the human and more-than-human world.

Contributors: Whitney A. Bauman, Sigurd Bergmann, Forrest Clingerman, Timothy M. Collins, J. Sage Elwell, Reiko Goto, Arto Haapala, Tim Ingold, Karolina Sobecka, George Steinmann

Author: Ira Livingston
Magic Science Religion explores surprising intersections among the three meaning-making and world-making practices named in the title. Through colorful examples, the book reveals circuitous ways that social, cultural and natural systems connect, enabling real kinds of magic to operate. Among the many case studies are accounts of how an eighteenth-century actor gave his audience goosebumps; how painters, poets, and pool sharks use nonlinearity in working their magics; how the first vertebrates gained consciousness; how plants fine-tuned human color vision; and the necessarily magical element of activism that builds on the conviction that "another future is possible" while working to push self-fulfilling prophecy into political action.
Seen and Unseen teases out and explores how visual mediums construct visual cultures that often create limited perspectives of certain issues and groups. This volume focuses in particular on the representation of Islam and Muslims. It deals with fixed and stereotypical visual representations and explores alternative and challenging visual representations that reconstruct and dismantle existing belief systems. It approaches the topic from a vantage point of diverse multiple perspectives. Covering issues from Brunei, Iran, Egypt, and England and cyberspace, the essays in this volume examine the visual cultures of how Islam and Muslims are understood, misunderstood, misrepresented, or even embraced visually. Scholars in this volume draw on historical paintings, books and their covers, photography, and news to demonstrate the diversity and sometimes contradictory visual cultures that construct and adhere meaning to how Islam and Muslim people are seen.

Contributors: Hoda Afshar, Jared Ahmed, Syed Farid Alatas, Sanaz Fotouhi, Christiane Gruber, Layla Hendow, Raihana M.M., Bruno Starrs and Esmaeil Zeiny.
David Jones: A Christian Modernist? is a major reassessment of the work of the poet, artist and essayist David Jones (1895-1974) in light of the complex, ambiguous idea of a ‘Christian modernism’. His richly experimental and palimpsestic poetry, art and thought drew extensively on Christian tradition and symbolism as a key to the future: rejecting a technocratic and utilitarian modernity in favour of a revitalised culture of sign and sacrament. This volume examines historical influences on Jones’s development, his impassioned engagement with the idea of modernity and with modernist literature and art, the theological sources and resonances of his work, and contemporary or late-modern perspectives on his achievement.
In The Medieval Presence in the Modernist Aesthetic: Unattended Moments, editors Simone Celine Marshall and Carole M. Cusack have brought together essays on literary Modernism that uncover medieval themes and tropes that have previously been “unattended”, that is, neglected or ignored. A historical span of a century is covered, from musical modernist Richard Wagner’s final opera Parsifal (1882) to Russell Hoban’s speculative fiction Riddley Walker (1980), and themes of Arthurian literature, scholastic philosophy, Irish legends, classical philology, dream theory, Orthodox theology and textual exegesis are brought into conversation with key Modernist writers, including T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Samuel Beckett, Marcel Proust, W. B. Yeats, Evelyn Waugh and Eugene Ionesco. These scholarly investigations are original, illuminating, and often delightful.

Abstract

Nineteenth century European production in the visual arts included the depiction of the Arab East and West as well as the Ottoman lands and Iran. As is typical of Orientalist art, Arabs and other Muslims were generally depicted as not only exotic but also erotic. Well-known Orientalist painters include Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824); Antoine-Jean Gros (1771–1835); Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867); Eugene Delacroix (1798–1863); John Frederick Lewis (1804-76) and William Holman Hunt (1827–1910). While much of the attention to Orientalist paintings is directed to the Middle East and North Africa, this chapter brings focus to another part of the so-called Orient, Indonesia during Dutch colonial rule. It discusses a specific case of Orientalist paintings from the Dutch East Indies of the nineteenth century, that of the Dutch painter, Nicolaas Pienaman’s (1809-1860) depiction of the arrest of the Indonesian hero, Pangeran Diponegoro (1785-1855). This painting is compared to the work of the Indonesian painter, Raden Salleh (1811-1880), whose painting of the same event suggests a counter-Orientalist view.

In: Seen and Unseen: Visual Cultures of Imperialism
Author: D. Bruno Starrs

Abstract

Many Asian cinemas have de-territorialized, obsequiously promoting the secular, democratic norms of mainstream Hollywood, but the Sultanate of Brunei, with its national philosophy of Melayu Islam Beraja (Malay Islamic Monarchy) and its recent implementation of Sharia Law, would, some western critics apparently expect, push Islamic ideologies for its state-sanctioned media, including traditionally repressive, misogynistic expectations of the “authentic” Muslima (Ahmed, 2003). As with several Middle Eastern countries, such Western critics might suggest, Bruneian women will be forced to cover themselves demurely; abstain from driving, education or other means of self-empowerment; and submit to harsh, court-imposed punishments for sexual promiscuity; with the media duly promoting such norms. At the very least, Brunei’s entertainment media might soon resemble Islamic Turkey’s “Milli cinema,” which “brought Islam back into the movies and showed respect for Islam [and in which a] ‘common theme […] was to show characters that had adopted western values but who became unhappy and unsatisfied by those values” (Yorulmaz and Blizek, 2014, p. 8). What then of Yasmine (dir. Siti Kamaluddin, 2014), a Brunei government-funded film from a female director about a martial arts-obsessed Bruneian schoolgirl who gleefully defies her father, rarely wears a veil, enthusiastically chases boys and drives a racy, eye-catching car? I ask how this national cultural artefact sits within the theocracy’s attempts to maintain its citizenry’s adherence to the tenets of Islam, given its foregrounding of a narrative promoting female self-empowerment? Furthermore, this paper asks why Brunei has failed to ride the digital film-making revolution, to the extent Lacaba states “Brunei has no film industry to speak of” (2000). In conclusion, I propose this recent advance stems from a benevolent monarch’s commendable efforts to modernize, rather than historicize, Islam in Brunei generally and Melayu Islam Beraja, including Sharia Law, specifically.

In: Seen and Unseen: Visual Cultures of Imperialism
Author: Sanaz Fotouhi

Abstract

This chapter offers a sweeping examination of the shifting nature of selected book covers by Iranian writers in English over the last several decades. It highlights how politics, reader and market interests have historically affected book covers. It begins by examining how certain historical perspectives constructed a stereotypical vision which led to a recurring series of covers on books by Iranian and other Middle Eastern writers: namely, that of half-veiled faces of women. Then, pivoting on the controversial 2009 Iranian presidential elections, it highlights how social media introduced a new kind of image about the Middle East leading to changes in book covers. When people on social media began presenting new images of Iran where men and women fight alongside on the streets, women’s visible public presence began to challenge the illusive Western belief of Iranian/Muslim women as passive and private. Iranian women’s public presence, viewed globally, shifted how Iran was seen. Iran was no longer a strictly gender dichotomous society as imagined. Consequently, the lens gazing into Iran became less focused on close up encounters of veiled women. There was now an interest in more overall, current and sweeping narratives of men and women that contextualized contemporary Iranian life. With this new interest, came a new wave of book covers. Almost gone were the half-veiled faces of women, as the new narratives reflected the larger mystery that Western readers were trying to decipher: the Iranian nation as a whole. Consequently, covers began to shift from close ups to overall depiction of the Iranian nation and cities. In some, mysterious cityscapes replaced women’s faces. This paper, traces the socio-political history which led to the shifting nature of book covers by Iranian writers in English from that of half-veiled women to one replaced by the city as a site of desire.

In: Seen and Unseen: Visual Cultures of Imperialism

Abstract

This short contribution explores the history of depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in Islamic traditions at the same time as it tackles responses to the 2015 ISIS attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. It aims to show that devotional images of the Prophet have not been historically prohibited in Islamic lands through an analysis of pre-modern jurisprudential texts. The explicit “ban” is instead a distinctly contemporary phenomenon particular to conservative, in particular Saudi-Salafi, spheres. Moreover, a long and rich tradition of prophetic iconography has thrived in Turkish and Persian lands. Such figural representations are examined in order to demonstrate how Muhammad has fulfilled a range of religious, cultural, and social needs over the centuries. After the Danish cartoon controversy of 2005-6, images of Muhammad blossomed once again in Iran, where the government supported a range of artistic efforts to retrieve his legacy and praise his status as the Messenger of God. Thus, while a number of Muslim and non-Muslim discourses promoting an ostensible “ban” of images of the Prophet were loudly present during the 2005-6 and 2015 cartoon controversies, such discourses should be considered essentially a contemporary innovation begotten by ideological and political contestations unfolding on the international stage today.

In: Seen and Unseen: Visual Cultures of Imperialism
In: Seen and Unseen: Visual Cultures of Imperialism