How are global relations and planetary flows experienced, interpreted, and managed from places set aside from everyday use, as “sacred” in that sense? Sanctuary Lab, a transdisciplinary initiative at UVA, investigates how religious processes interact with planetary stresses. Provisionally adopting a keyword in religious studies, the sacred, opens a post-disciplinary angle of inquiry into Anthropocene processes of cultural and environmental change. Focusing on dynamics of change in places regarded as sanctuaries affords unique perspective on how rapid planetary changes interact with particular inherited streams of normativity and imagination. This essay integrates field note illustrations from Yellowstone and Bhutan with critical reflection on the lab’s approach in order to share initial hypotheses, collaborative research practices, and potential significance. It suggests that sacralization is part of the process through which cultures make sense of rapid changes; that nonhumans participate in sacralization; that sanctuaries offer unique laboratories of coupled change; and that arts-based exercises can help drive critical reflection on experience and method.
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