Projects

Text and Experience Working Group:

The doctoral students in the text group are working on the integration of historical, ethnographic, and cognitive methods is particularly challenging due to the difficulties involved in reconstructing how subjects experienced past events as they unfolded. The central aim of the team is to work out "best practices" for historians who want to reconstruct such events in order (1) to set up comparisons across cultures and traditions and (2) to explore the extent to which underlying capacities or cognitive mechanisms are affected by cultural and learning processes. Our specific focus is on texts (e.g., “channeled” scriptures, ritual manuals, narrative accounts, and ethnographic data) that describe experiences in which the self-body nexus is "disrupted," such that the self is thought to leave the body (e.g. out of body experiences, past life regression, astral journeys, visions) or a second self (e.g., deity, spirit, alter personality, demon) is thought to enter into or speak through the body. If, given rich enough sources, we can responsibly reconstruct the way events unfolded for subjects, we plan to use these reconstructions to analyze the way that culturally laden mind-body schemas, appraisal processes, and social interactions have led to the elaboration or disparagement of certain types of experiences within and across cultures and traditions.

 

Ethnography and Experience Working Group:

The doctoral students who are involved in ethnographic work are confronting a number of issues related to self-presentation and the unintended effects of their presence on the social movements they are studying. This Working Group focuses on the difficulties that arise from studying experience ethnographically and seek to identify “best practices” for conducting such research.

Pedagogy Working Group:

The working group discusses methods of integration of research into teaching as well as general pedagogical issues associated with creating and running a course. The Working Group, made up of Crossroads Fellows, plus faculty and other interested members of the Lab Group will meet once a month during the academic year to discuss their syllabi and related pedagogical concerns.  We will devote at least one Lab Meeting in the Fall and Winter Quarters to a group discussion of their syllabi and the kinds of translation issues they have encountered, the solutions they are proposing, etc. for critique and feedback.

Religious Statues Project:

Across cultures people interact with religious statues as if they were living persons, ritually bringing them to life, interacting with them devotionally, and perceiving them as responsive. This project seeks to understand the role that cognitive mechanisms designed to categorize entities ontologically play in shaping the way people interact with statues in Catholic, Hindu/Buddhist, the Ancient Mediterranean, and esoteric traditions.