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Aesthetic values and cultural patterning of religious experience among the Hare Krishnas / Hrvoje Čargonja.

By: Čargonja, Hrvoje.
Material type: ArticleArticle In: Body and awareness - The Discourse between Anthropology, Literature and the Arts, MAy 25-27 2012, Zadar, CroatiaSummary: In my presentation I will argue for the concept of aesthetic value as a useful tool for understanding cultural patterning of experience. In this way, aesthetic values, imbued in the ways of being-in-the-world, present conceptual interface between discursive forces and habitualities in perception and action. I understand the notion of aesthetics to mean, as philosopher Alexander Baumgarten succinctly puts it, not only a perception of perfection but also perfection of perception (Gregor 1983). In other words, aesthetics is not just the art as we understand it, but also the art of being-in-the world, where there is a “continuity of aesthetic experience with normal processes of living” (Dewey 1980). Therefore, aesthetic values are “culturally appropriate ways” (Throop 2008) of and for experience. They are regularities in “habits of attention” (James 1984 ; Throop 2008), principles guiding cultural patterning of experience. There are many anthropologists who, when faced with the problem of representation of experience, resorted to notions similar to what I understand to be aesthetic value (e.g. Csordas 1997 ; Desjarlais 1994 ; Geurts 2002 ; Jackson 2005 ; Throop 2008, 2010). Following Desjarlais’ (1994) thoughts, I understand aesthetic values as “tacit cultural forms, values, and sensibilities-local ways of being and doing-that lend specific styles, configurations, and felt qualities to local experiences“. On the example of my own research on the International Society for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness (ISKCON), a Western “religious transplant” (Bryant & Ekstrand 2004) of Bengal Vaiṣṇavism with theology based on ancient Indian theory of aesthetic experience known as rasa theory, I intend to show how “embodied aesthetics” (Holdrege 2011) of religious experiences as resonances in “entanglement” (Ingold 2008) of sense and place, can be conveyed through aesthetic values of control, intimacy and play. In this way I hope to demonstrate how aesthetic values are useful hermeneutical tools for understanding congruent patterns across objective and preobjective aspects of experience ; between the lived experience and the “technologies of the self” (Foucault et al. 1988) that govern it, i.e. between phenomenology and discourse.
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In my presentation I will argue for the concept of aesthetic value as a useful tool for understanding cultural patterning of experience. In this way, aesthetic values, imbued in the ways of being-in-the-world, present conceptual interface between discursive forces and habitualities in perception and action. I understand the notion of aesthetics to mean, as philosopher Alexander Baumgarten succinctly puts it, not only a perception of perfection but also perfection of perception (Gregor 1983). In other words, aesthetics is not just the art as we understand it, but also the art of being-in-the world, where there is a “continuity of aesthetic experience with normal processes of living” (Dewey 1980). Therefore, aesthetic values are “culturally appropriate ways” (Throop 2008) of and for experience. They are regularities in “habits of attention” (James 1984 ; Throop 2008), principles guiding cultural patterning of experience. There are many anthropologists who, when faced with the problem of representation of experience, resorted to notions similar to what I understand to be aesthetic value (e.g. Csordas 1997 ; Desjarlais 1994 ; Geurts 2002 ; Jackson 2005 ; Throop 2008, 2010). Following Desjarlais’ (1994) thoughts, I understand aesthetic values as “tacit cultural forms, values, and sensibilities-local ways of being and doing-that lend specific styles, configurations, and felt qualities to local experiences“. On the example of my own research on the International Society for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness (ISKCON), a Western “religious transplant” (Bryant & Ekstrand 2004) of Bengal Vaiṣṇavism with theology based on ancient Indian theory of aesthetic experience known as rasa theory, I intend to show how “embodied aesthetics” (Holdrege 2011) of religious experiences as resonances in “entanglement” (Ingold 2008) of sense and place, can be conveyed through aesthetic values of control, intimacy and play. In this way I hope to demonstrate how aesthetic values are useful hermeneutical tools for understanding congruent patterns across objective and preobjective aspects of experience ; between the lived experience and the “technologies of the self” (Foucault et al. 1988) that govern it, i.e. between phenomenology and discourse.

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