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Raves, or events revolving around electronic dance music (EDM), consist of people dancing and socializing to an electronic form of music with an accompanying light show and visual effects (Jordan 1995; Martin 1999). Raves range in size from small house parties with thirty or so people in attendance up to massive music festivals attracting crowds of more than thirty thousand (Martin 1999; St John 2009a; Sylvan 2005). These events may occur in urban or rural locations, in clubs or abandoned warehouses, or in outdoor settings on public and private land (Sylvan 2005: 33). Events revolving around EDM became one of the most extensive popular youth movements at the end of the twentieth century, and continue to be popular today on a global scale (Fritz, cited in St John 2009a).
EDM is a genre loosely defined by the use of synthetic electronic instruments in its creation, often in ways that do not sound like traditional musical instruments at all (Gibson & Pagan 2006; Rietveld 2004; St John 2004a). In traditional hardware form, these instruments may include sequencers, synthesizers, drum machines and samplers, all of which are used to make the artificial sounds that comprise most EDM. However, the array of music-making technologies has increased significantly over the last twenty years due to the advent of the personal computer (Rietveld 2004). Many of these innovations consist of cheaper software versions of the previously mentioned hardware music-making tools.
When sociologists refer to the contemporary crisis of multiculturalism, they are typically talking about how modern states, especially liberal democratic states, respond to the rise of “public religions.” These religious conflicts and uncertainties about appropriate state responses to them have produced a general retreat from multiculturalism – at least in Europe (Joppke, 2004). More specifically, the contemporary problem of politics and religion has been increasingly orchestrated around the global revival of Islam and the emergence of a global Muslim community. However, the particular issues surrounding Muslim minorities in non-Muslim secular societies can be seen as simply one instance of the more general issue of state and religion relationships in modern complex societies. There is growing awareness about the limitations of the Westphalian solution to religious conflicts and hence political theory is undertaking a serious reconsideration of liberalism as the philosophical basis of political strategies to manage conflicting cultural, religious and ethnic interests. In the modern global world where state boundaries have been contested, there is a need to rethink how the competing claims of secular and religious citizens can be articulated and respected within public discourse (Habermas, 2008).
This question – how to manage the public expression of religion in multicultural and therefore multifaith societies – is not simply an issue for conventional liberal societies, because religious revivalism and community conflict raise political issues across a wide spectrum of modern societies.
The preceding chapters highlight a number of aspects of religion which depart from, fundamentally modify and recontextualize the received wisdom about religion, especially as it has been understood through the prism of classical sociology. Each of the distinct sources of the classical perspective outlines an understanding of religion that – while contrasting with other understandings – has been taken with the others to represent the various facets of religion in the modern world. And yet none of these facets of religion is today found in forms projected by the sociological luminaries.
Émile Durkheim famously characterized religion in terms of a distinction he believed inherent in all religions, namely that between the sacred and the profane. The sacred, Durkheim held, was a symbolic form of the enduring and defining values of the society itself in which the religion in question resides. But the coherence of a more or less societally wide normative consensus that Durkheim assumes in making this claim is in fact not to be found in modern societies. This is largely because the populations of modern societies are not unitary in terms of their origins and historical memory, either through geographic mobility that accompanies modern occupational careers or through international migration, which has been a major demographic factor throughout the twentieth century and promises to continue in the present. Associated with these trends, the idea of the sacred – which requires a traditional understanding of received meaning supported by ritual practices – has given way if not to a scientific to at least a mundane utilitarian and therefore market set of values.
Gramsci viewed popular religion as having the possibility of being a progressive movement against the bourgeois hegemony produced and reproduced in symbiosis with official religion and the state. In this pre—mass consumption society, there was the germ of a revolt in popular religion that could help the revolutionary push needed and guided by earlier Marxists. The goal of this chapter is to argue that with the entry of popular religion into the consumer societies of the Western world, popular religion has not moved further in terms of its opposition against the state. A case study of hyperreal religions and more specifically of Jediism will form the thread of the chapter. Following Simmel and Beck, I will argue that popular religion, like money, now individualizes and standardizes and by this process loses its oppositional strength.
In pre-consumer and pre-cyber culture, Gramsci argued that popular religion could help with counterhegemonic forces and that this could offer an opposition to the state. Could this still be the case today? Jediism is a spirituality that has been inspired by the Star Wars franchise. It is a subset of popular religion that has emerged in consumer and cyber culture and will be used as a case study for the purpose of this chapter.
Jediism has infiltrated a few censuses around the world and is actively present on the internet.
This book has sought to map some of the relationships between religion, the state and advanced capitalism in different political and social arenas across the globe. In India, accelerated and uneven modernization following the nation's economic liberalization in the early 1990s provides an interesting context to examine these relationships, specifically given the significant rise of Hindu nationalism in this period. Hindutva (loosely “Hindu-ness”), an ideology advocated by Hindu nationalist movements, exerts significant influence in parliamentary politics and arguably more insidiously, in social life in contemporary India. Although it has been argued that modernization and associated secular practices have repressed religion from public life, since the 1980s we have seen a deprivatization process of religion in many places in the world (Casanova, 2006). This chapter follows on this perspective and discusses the ways religious expression may adapt to and diffuse through public spaces and practices of modernity with regards to the political projects of Hindutva and consumer mobilization more specifically.
We consider the ways Hindu assertion diffuses through the consumption of information, images, sounds and goods. The saturation of popular media and consumer practices with Hindu cultural markers has in many ways constructed forms of “Hinduness” as “Indianess,” particularly among the urban middle classes. Through the construction of a Hindu normalcy, the operation of power with nonhegemonic and non-Hindu groups is made less visible and thus unchallenged.
In the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the Catholic priest who conducted a failed exorcism on Emily is brought to a tribunal. He is accused of not having given her proper care which led to her death. Strong debates happen during the court case between medical doctors who claim that the victim needed a medical treatment to survive and Emily's family and friends who witnessed what they believed was a bona fide possession. The debate reaches an impasse because no dialogue exists between these two forms of discourses. One is strongly secular and does not take into account religious/superstitious beliefs. The other is religious and puts faith above science. However, the defence lawyer manages to move the debate further by inviting an anthropologist of religion as an expert witness. This anthropologist has witnessed many cases of exorcism in her fieldwork and is able to give an account that stands between these two opposite discourses. She does not claim that the devil exists and that religious actions should be performed to stop him (or her). She explains that some people believe strongly in him (or her) and that religious rituals are put into place for those who have this religious conviction to free the possessed from such an evil spirit. These rituals can also be interpreted as a form of therapy that allows the person who thinks he or she is possessed to be cured from what could be seen as a form of mental illness. This expert witness provides a key account in the debate by underlining that rituals are a valid form of therapy and that the use of medical drugs is not always necessary to provide treatment.
The Seventh Seal (1957) by Ingmar Bergman is one of the must-see movies. It is the story of a knight who comes back to Europe after 10 years on the Crusades. After surviving many battles, the ship that brought him back sank and the movie starts by showing him and his companion dead on the beach. The embodiment of death, wearing a long black coat and hood, and with a face so white that one would believe that there is no blood left in his body, comes to take them to his realm.
In a moment of magical realism, the knight speaks from beyond death and manages to bargain some extra life time; the time of a chess game that will last the whole movie. During this game, which they play bit by bit at night, the knight wanders in his homeland that is ravaged by bubonic plague and wonders about life, death, and God. In a very important scene, the knight who has lost faith in God after having fought in his name during the Crusades, enters a church and starts speaking to a person whom he thinks is a priest. The dialogue is here transcribed verbatim:
Knight: I want to confess as honestly as I can, but my heart is empty. And emptiness is a mirror turned to my own face. I see myself… and am seized by disgust and fear. Through my indifference for people, I've been placed outside of their society. Now I live in a ghost world, enclosed in my dreams and imaginings.
The novels and movies of Harry Potter have been so successful that they do not need any introduction in this book. However, what is of interest for this chapter is the graphic novel called Hairy Polarity and the Sinister Sorcery Satire published by The Truth for Youth which is a Christian evangelical group against pornography, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, secular rock music, drugs, drunkenness, sorcery and witchcraft. The second page of this book, available on the Internet, is quite telling. A young boy is having an argument with his parents at his home. The boy is aggressive and angry whereas his parents are calm and quote the Bible:
Young Boy: WHAT!?! You're forbidding me from going out today with Minnie? She's my best friend!! All we do together is read Hairy Polarity books! You ought to be glad I'm finally reading something!!!
Mother: Ari, you've been turning God out of your life lately (Corinthians 11:3)… you don't see your Christian friends anymore…
Father: These books… And Minnie… seem to be a big part of the problem!
Mother: Look, Ari, we've discussed this endlessly! Hairy Polarity is evil! If you Can't stop reading those books with Minnie, we don't want you seeing her anymore!
Young Boy: Unbelievable! It's just a fictional story! Nobody actually believes in this stuff… It's just for fun!
Father: Witchcraft isn't fantasy, Ari… It's real. And you don't want to get involved in it (Deut. 18:10-11). Like your mom and I were once! A demon was exorcised from us that…
At the same time that the third episode of Lord of the Rings was winning a series of Oscars as if they were given on an assembly line, a low production movie from Quebec, The Barbarian Invasion, received the prize for the best foreign movie. In this Canadian movie a young woman working for Sothebys visiting Quebec is contacted by a Catholic priest. The priest mentions that his church has a collection of old works of art that he is hoping to sell to international art collectors. The young woman is interested by this possible deal and pays a visit to a sort of Catholic store room. In this place reminiscent of an old and forgotten attic, an old priest shows her around the various art pieces covered with dust and cobwebs. Not only does this setting portray Catholicism in the western world as a decaying institution, but when the young woman tells the priest that these antiques are worth nothing, the metaphor about the decline of the relevance of the Church is reenforced.
As we have seen in Chapter 4, fewer people attend churches, and the political and cultural influences of mainstream Christian religions are no longer what they were in yesteryears. This movie is not only retelling what sociologists of religion have been analysing for years in terms of membership dropouts, it also emphasises that the Catholic Church has less power in a consumer world as its works of art are not of much value.