CAS-E Lecture Series with Dr. James Michael Edmonds(Arizona State University), “Chased by Blessings: The Metaphysics of the Olfactory”

“Chased by Blessings: The Metaphysics of the Olfactory”

Dr. James Michael Edmonds(Arizona State University)

The ontological turn in socio-cultural anthropology has opened the possibly of orienting theoretical and methodological investigation into the worlds of the ‘other’ through different paradigms of existence. Critiques of this approach are equally diverse and have often focused on the underlining Western theoretical bases of those who call themselves a part of the ontological turn. Concurrently, Religious Studies and Comparative Religion scholars continue to debate, critique, and disagree about whether religion as a category is productive in making sense of the lived religion. This discussion brings together methods and theories from the ontological turn together with the fact that the Western definition of religion exists as a part of my interlocutor’s experience to present the enchanted world that continue to chase the participant-observer. My discussion is based on ethnographic research spanning Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore embedded in the performances of Habib Syech bin Abdul Qadir Assegaf. Habib Syech has performed salawat (Islamic devotional songs) 20 times a month for tens of thousands since 1998. This assemblage of socio-cultural, economic, political, and religious sensibilities with the selling of hermit crabs and the smell of agarwood is not simply a reflection of a new type of Islamic movement or religious festivalization. Rather, I will discuss how the aroma of blessings (baraka) absorbed into my skin to provide a different existence that continues to challenge Western paradigms of knowledge that are always already at play in the metaphysics of these performances of salawat.


21.11.2023 – 18:15-19:45

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