Special Issue "Religion and Postcolonial Literature, Art, and Music"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787). This special issue belongs to the section "Literature in the Humanities".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2020) | Viewed by 9742

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. John Hawley
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of English, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95053, USA
Interests: victorian and postcolonial literatures; gender studies; intersection between religion and literature

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue seeks to update the study of religion from a postcolonial theoretical approach to include not only Christianity but also the other major world religions, and to explore the uses to which religion has been put—both in the further imposition of varieties of colonization, and also in resistance to powerful economic and military forces in various cultures and colonizing (and decolonizing) projects.

On the one hand, there is stultifying and mechanistic formalism, institutional self-preservation, pacification of the masses, and patriarchal intransigence; on the other hand, theology from below, renegade priests and nuns, local artistic and musical expression that speaks truth to power—heretical, blasphemous, and ecstatic disruption. Sometimes a comfort, sometimes a spur to rebellion. Essays on literature’s responses to these countervailing winds will be included, as will those that treat either popular and high art or music. 

How is cultural representation manipulated by religion? In what ways should Karl Marx’s usually truncated observation be interpreted today: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” How does this two-edged sword find expression in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, African traditional religions, and others? What postcolonial role do Atheism and Gnosticism play, if any?

Prof. Dr. John Hawley
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • religion
  • postcolonial theoretical approach
  • colonization
  • postcolonial literature

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Article
The 1930s Horror Adventure Film on Location in Jamaica: ‘Jungle Gods’, ‘Voodoo Drums’ and ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ in the ‘Secret Places of Paradise Island’
Humanities 2021, 10(2), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10020062 - 29 Mar 2021
Viewed by 1034
Abstract
In this article, I consider the representation of African-Caribbean religions in the early horror adventure film from a postcolonial perspective. I do so by zooming in on Ouanga (1935), Obeah (1935), and Devil’s Daughter (1939), three low-budget horror productions filmed on location in [...] Read more.
In this article, I consider the representation of African-Caribbean religions in the early horror adventure film from a postcolonial perspective. I do so by zooming in on Ouanga (1935), Obeah (1935), and Devil’s Daughter (1939), three low-budget horror productions filmed on location in Jamaica during the 1930s (and the only films shot on the island throughout that decade). First, I discuss the emergence of depictions of African-Caribbean religious practices of voodoo and obeah in popular Euro-American literature, and show how the zombie figure entered Euro-American empire cinema in the 1930s as a colonial expression of tropical savagery and jungle terror. Then, combining historical newspaper research with content analyses of these films, I present my exploration into the three low-budget horror films in two parts. The first part contains a discussion of Ouanga, the first sound film ever made in Jamaica and allegedly the first zombie film ever shot on location in the Caribbean. In this early horror adventure, which was made in the final year of the U.S. occupation of Haiti, zombies were portrayed as products of evil supernatural powers to be oppressed by colonial rule. In the second part, I review Obeah and The Devil’s Daughter, two horror adventure movies that merely portrayed African-Caribbean religion as primitive superstition. While Obeah was disturbingly set on a tropical island in the South Seas infested by voodoo practices and native cannibals, The Devil’s Daughter was authorized by the British Board of Censors to show black populations in Jamaica and elsewhere in the colonial world that African-Caribbean religions were both fraudulent and dangerous. Taking into account both the production and content of these movies, I show that these 1930s horror adventure films shot on location in Jamaica were rooted in a long colonial tradition of demonizing and terrorizing African-Caribbean religions—a tradition that lasts until today. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Postcolonial Literature, Art, and Music)
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Article
Lux et Tenebris? Coloniality and Anglican Missions in Argentine Patagonia in the Nineteenth Century
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010036 - 25 Feb 2021
Viewed by 501
Abstract
Within the modern capitalist World-System, Missionary work was mostly developed through the connubiality with colonial powers. The missionary work of the Anglican Church is no exception. This article centers on the missionary enterprise carried out in Argentine Patagonia in the nineteenth century. Missionaries’ [...] Read more.
Within the modern capitalist World-System, Missionary work was mostly developed through the connubiality with colonial powers. The missionary work of the Anglican Church is no exception. This article centers on the missionary enterprise carried out in Argentine Patagonia in the nineteenth century. Missionaries’ reports carefully narrated that venture. However, the language and the notions underlying the missionary work’s narration reveal the dominion of colonial ideologies that imbued how religious agents constructed alterity. Connecting the missionaries’ worldview with the political context and expansion of the British Empire allows us to unfold the complex intersections of religious, ethnic, racial, and geopolitical discourses that traverse the lives of indigenous peoples in South America. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Postcolonial Literature, Art, and Music)
Article
Translating the Buddha: Edwin Arnold’s Light of Asia and Its Indian Publics
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 3; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010003 - 24 Dec 2020
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Abstract
In this article, I examine the popular Victorian poem The Light of Asia (1879) and its reception and adaptation in late nineteenth and early twentieth century colonial India. Authored by the popular writer, Sir Edwin Arnold, The Light of Asia is typically regarded [...] Read more.
In this article, I examine the popular Victorian poem The Light of Asia (1879) and its reception and adaptation in late nineteenth and early twentieth century colonial India. Authored by the popular writer, Sir Edwin Arnold, The Light of Asia is typically regarded as one of the foundational texts of modern Buddhism in the western world. Yet significantly less has been said about its influence in Asia and especially in India, where it has as an equally rich and varied history. While most scholarship has focused on its connections to the Sinhalese Buddhist leader Anagarika Dharmapala and his popular campaigns to ‘liberate’ the MahaBodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, the singular focus on Dharmapala has obscured the poem’s much more expansive and enduring impact on a wide array of colonial Indian publics, regardless of caste, region, religion, ethnicity or language. The article explores the early history of its numerous adaptations, dramatizations, and translations in various regional languages. In providing an analysis of the poem’s Indian publics, the article shows how regional, political, and cultural idioms formed in multilingual contexts enable different readings and how literary and performative cultures interacted with colonial conceptions of religion, nation, and caste. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Postcolonial Literature, Art, and Music)
Article
What Is Bahai Orientalism?
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 2; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010002 - 23 Dec 2020
Viewed by 1895
Abstract
Scrutinizing the literature of a modern religious movement this article argues that postcolonial theory can effectively be brought to the analysis of religions and religious writing. The case study focuses on the way in which colonialism impacted the Bahai faith in a specific [...] Read more.
Scrutinizing the literature of a modern religious movement this article argues that postcolonial theory can effectively be brought to the analysis of religions and religious writing. The case study focuses on the way in which colonialism impacted the Bahai faith in a specific and formative way, causing its leadership to present aspects of the faith’s development by employing the codes of Western Orientalism. Drawing on nineteenth and early twentieth-century European orientalist texts composed either about their own faith, or the Islamic society out of which it grew, the article demonstrates how these led Bahais “themselves [to]… adopt [..] an essentially Orientalist vision of their own community and of Iranian society”. Edward Said’s Orientalism throws light on an enduring situation in which mutual othering has crossed from culture and religion into politics, however since the late 1990s critics have demonstrated that Orientalism can function in more varied ways than Said allowed. Finally, the possibility is discussed as to whether there can be such a thing as a postcolonial Bahai scholar. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Postcolonial Literature, Art, and Music)
Article
Postcolonial Islam in My Son the Fanatic: From Deobandi Revivalism to the Secular Transposition of the Sufi Imaginary
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010001 - 23 Dec 2020
Viewed by 2831
Abstract
Set in the early 1990s, Hanif Kureishi’s short story “My Son the Fanatic” (1997) dramatizes tensions between Parvez, a lapsed Pakistani Muslim migrant to postcolonial England, and his son Ali, who rejects the western secularity of his father and reverts to a strict [...] Read more.
Set in the early 1990s, Hanif Kureishi’s short story “My Son the Fanatic” (1997) dramatizes tensions between Parvez, a lapsed Pakistani Muslim migrant to postcolonial England, and his son Ali, who rejects the western secularity of his father and reverts to a strict form of fundamentalist Islam. If these tensions remain unresolved in the story, Kureishi’s film adaptation elaborates them. In so doing, though, My Son the Fanatic (dir. Udayan Prasad 1997) presents a very different picture. Renamed Farid, the film’s eponymous youth breaks off engagement to the daughter of the local chief of police and challenges his father: “Can you put keema [minced meat] with strawberries?” Metaphorically, this question articulates the deeper concern underlying the story: How might migrants in diaspora live an authentic Muslim life in the secular environment of the predominantly non-Muslim United Kingdom? A close reading of My Son the Fanatic reveals vying answers. Farid and Parvez both invoke the Qur’an, ultimate arbiter of value, meaning and truth in Islam, but thence their paths diverge widely. On the one hand, the film depicts the revivalist maslak of Deobandi Islam, though such missionary fervour may lead all too easily to the violent militancy of Farid and his cohort. On the other hand, My Son the Fanatic suggests conditions of possibility for a Muslim life of sacralised secularity by developing the love between Parvez and Sandra in terms of tropes and themes transposed from the Sufi imaginary to the postcolonial United Kingdom, most notably an ethos of iḥsān, that is, the cultivation of what is beautiful and good. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Postcolonial Literature, Art, and Music)
Article
Spirit Confronts the Four-Headed Monster: Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Mistik–Infused Flood-Rise in Duvalierist Haiti
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 144; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040144 - 15 Dec 2020
Viewed by 809
Abstract
To explore Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s rise from obscure rural Haiti to become the nation’s first democratically elected president—by a landslide—is to enter into a world and a swirl of events that reads like surreal fiction or magical realism. As a Catholic priest (Salesian order), [...] Read more.
To explore Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s rise from obscure rural Haiti to become the nation’s first democratically elected president—by a landslide—is to enter into a world and a swirl of events that reads like surreal fiction or magical realism. As a Catholic priest (Salesian order), Aristide was fueled by the religio-socialist principles of liberation theology, which emerged as a significant force in Latin America primarily in the 1970s and 1980s, forcefully and vocally advocating for the masses of Haitian poor mired in deeply-entrenched disenfranchisement and exploitation. As a charismatic spokesperson for the popular democratic movement in Haiti during an era of entrenched dictatorship and repressive violence, Aristide boldly confronted the “four-headed monster” of the Haitian power structure—the army, the church hierarchy, the tontons macoutes, and the wealthy elite. His seemingly impossible escape from multiple assassination attempts, together with the power of his colorful rhetoric and his close association with urban slum dwellers and rural peasants, led to a rising “flood” (or lavalas) that invested him with an aura of Spirit, or mistik, that in either/both the Haitian-embraced tradition of Christianity or vodoun (voodoo) served to energize and greatly reassure an intense mass movement arrayed against seemingly impossible odds. This article focuses on the rise of Aristide as the embodiment and voice of Spirit among the people and does not extend into his tumultuous secular years in and out of the presidency, having been twice the victim of coups (1991 and 2004); instead it focuses primarily on the years 1985–1990 and does not enter into an assessment of Aristide as president. Aristide’s own vivid narratives of this time, segments of his sermons, and later, passages of his poetry serve to bolster the literary quality or interpretation of this brief but vividly colorful historic epoch in the Haitian experience. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Postcolonial Literature, Art, and Music)
Article
A Post-Colonial Ontology? Tim Winton’s The Riders and the Challenge to White-Settler Identity
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 95; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030095 - 28 Aug 2020
Viewed by 811
Abstract
Through a reading of Australian non-Indigenous author Tim Winton and his novel The Riders, this essay seeks to shake to the very roots white-settler understandings of identity and belonging. The essay treads respectfully into the field of Australian identity, recognizing that Indigenous people’s [...] Read more.
Through a reading of Australian non-Indigenous author Tim Winton and his novel The Riders, this essay seeks to shake to the very roots white-settler understandings of identity and belonging. The essay treads respectfully into the field of Australian identity, recognizing that Indigenous people’s ancient and sacred relationship with country and the formation of treaties with the nation, are now rightfully central on national agendas. However, this essay asks the following question: what are the ontological grounds upon which respectful dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians might occur, after such violent and traumatic history? The essay explores the possible grounds for an evolving dialogue, one which will be necessarily intersectional: (post)colonial, spiritual/ontological and material. Further, the essay identifies “spirituality” and “ontology” as broad denominators for religion, speculating on a (post)colonial ontology which centers on home and (un)belonging. White-settler Australians, this essay argues, must confront deep ontological issues of brokenness if they are to take part meaningfully in future dialogues. Scully, the protagonist of The Riders, finds himself far from home and stripped of almost all the markers of his former identity: as Australian, as husband, and as a man in control of his life. The novel probes (un)belonging for this individual descendent of colonial Australia, as trauma engulfs him. Further, it will be argued that The Riders prefigures the wider, potentially positive aspects of a post-colonial ontology of (un)belonging, as white-settler Australians come to enunciate a broken history, and ontological instability. Such recognition, this essay argues, is a preliminary step towards a fuller post-colonial dialogue in Australia. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Postcolonial Literature, Art, and Music)
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