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Deus in Machina:Religion, Technology, and the Things in Between

Religion, Technology, and the Things in Between

Jeremy Stolow

Publication Year: 2012

The essays in this volume explore how two domains of human experience and action--religion and technology--are implicated in each other. Contrary to commonsense understandings of both religion (as an "otherworldly" orientation) and technology (as the name for tools, techniques, and expert knowledges oriented to "this" world), the contributors to this volume challenge the grounds on which this division has been erected in the first place. What sorts of things come to light when one allows religion and technology to mingle freely? In an effort to answer that question, Deus in Machina embarks upon an interdisciplinary voyage across diverse traditions and contexts where religion and technology meet: from the design of clocks in medieval Christian Europe, to the healing power of prayer in premodern Buddhist Japan, to 19th-century Spiritualist devices for communicating with the dead, to Islamic debates about kidney dialysis in contemporary Egypt, to the work of disability activists using documentary film to reimagine Jewish kinship, to the representation of Haitian Vodou on the Internet, among other case studies. Combining rich historical and ethnographic detail with extended theoretical reflection, Deus in Machina outlines new directions for the study of religion and/as technology that will resonate across the human sciences, including religious studies, science and technology studies, communication studies, history, anthropology, and philosophy.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book was first conceived during conversations that took place while I was a visiting fellow at the Center for Religion and Media at New York University in 2003–2004. My thanks to all the members of the Center during that time, especially Faye Ginsburg, Angela Zito, Elizabeth Castelli, and Mazyar Lotfalian..

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pp. 1-22

In ancient Greek tragedy it was not uncommon to resolve a particular dramatic crisis with the sudden intervention of a god, a strategy with which the playwright Euripides had a particular affinity. At the appointed moment during the play performers would utilize a trapdoor in the floor of the stage or employ a...


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pp. 23

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Calendar, Clock, Tower

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pp. 25-42

“What is time?” asked Saint Augustine. He rightly considered this to be one of the great religious questions. His brilliant analysis did not quite solve the puzzle—but then, no one else has done better before or since. Whatever time...

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Ticking Clock, Vibrating String

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pp. 43-60

When examined from the viewpoint of media archaeology, the relation between media and religion can be seen as concerning regimes of nondiscursive technologies. Are technologies, once in operation, indifferent to whether or not there was a religious bias in their installation, especially if this bias has left...

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The Electric Touch Machine Miracle Scam

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pp. 61-82

In July 2007 a Ghanaian preacher was arrested at Entebbe airport in Uganda on the accusation of trying to import from the United States an “Electric Touch” machine to lure people into believing that he could pass on the Holy Spirit..

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The Spiritual Nervous System

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pp. 83-114

In 1853, in a decade that witnessed the precipitous rise of the modern Spiritualist movement, one of its leading intellectual fi gures, Andrew Jackson Davis, penned a set of instructions for the organization of séances. Successful communication with the spirit world, he argued, depends on the presence of a..


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pp. 115

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An Empowered World

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pp. 117-142

If you were to travel to the small town of Kotohira on the Japanese island of Shikoku, you might, after strolling past one of the country’s oldest Kabuki theaters and partaking of the region’s famous Sanuki udon noodles, find yourself at an ancient shrine, the town’s central attraction for tourists and pilgrims. There...

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Does Submission to God’s Will PrecludeBiotechnological Intervention?

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pp. 143-158

In a long hospital corridor in Tanta, Egypt, a middle-aged physician, the attending nephrologist in the dialysis ward, shook his head in exasperation. He had just been counseling Ali, a young man stricken with kidney failure who commuted from..

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The Canary in the Gemeinschaft?

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pp. 159-180

In the nineteenth century canaries were taken into British mines to detect methane gas, which is odorless but lethal to animals. The sensitivity of this small and delicate bird to an invisible, but deadly substance meant that if it died, a danger was present that humans would not have been able to detect. My title..

(Re)Locating Religion in a Technological Age

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pp. 181

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Thinking about Melville, Religion,and Machines That Think

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pp. 183-212

“What an age,” exclaimed a columnist for Advertising and Selling in 1927. “Photographs by radio. Machines that think . . . Vending Machines to replace salesmen. The list of modern marvels is practically endless.”1 The slippage—between mediation and immediacy, machines and humanity, advertising and...

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Amazing Stories

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pp. 213-238

Cyberpunk science fiction has been an important empirical base of the critique of modernist conceptions of science and technology and their relationship to magic and religion. Novelists such as William Gibson, Vernor Vinge, and Neal Stephenson have helped to create a popular imagination in...

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Virtual Vodou, Actual Practice

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pp. 239-260

Haitian Vodou has a long history as a secret religion. In the French colony of Saint Domingue—until 1804, when it became the independent nation of Haiti—Vodou was practiced covertly by slaves of African origin who hid their rituals to avoid penalty under Louis XIV’s Code Noir;, which sanctioned brutal corporal punishment...

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TV St. Claire

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pp. 261-280

“A monastery of the Poor Claires in Canção Nova?” I asked, doubting my ears. The initial procession had just entered the alley by the left rear part of the building. The priest leading the procession walked down the aisle, raising the...


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pp. 281-352


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pp. 353-354

E-ISBN-13: 9780823250240
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823249800
Print-ISBN-10: 0823249808

Page Count: 368
Illustrations: 9 b/w
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: Text