Northwestern University

Thu 4:00 PM

Edmund Perry Lecture: “A Little of that Human Touch: Why Anthropomorphize?”

When: Thursday, April 19, 2018
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM  

Where: Kresge Hall, 1515 Trienen Forum, 1880 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Public

Contact: Rossitza Guenkova-Fernandez   847.491.3611

Group: Religious Studies Department

Category: Academic


by Professor David L. Haberman, Professor, Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University

Defined most simply as the attribution of human characteristics to nonhuman entities, anthropomorphism is a common feature of human experience. The concept of anthropomorphism has drawn scholarly attention for a long time, but until recently the great majority of this attention has been unreservedly negative. It has been much maligned in many biological disciplines, particularly those that study nonhuman animals; regarded with much suspicion by certain environmentalists who tend to conflate it with anthropocentrism, the notion that human beings are superior to and separate from all other entities; demeaned as childish, primitive practice by colonial anthropologists and scholars of religion; and criticized as an egregious sin or at least wrong-mindedness by certain theologians. These days, however, anthropomorphism is being reconsidered and taken more seriously within a variety of academic disciplines. In addition to reviewing some of these current developments, this lecture explores the function of anthropomorphism in the context of the worship of stones from Mount Govardhan, a sacred hill located in north-central India. Although the entire mountain is considered to be an embodied form of the supreme Hindu god Krishna, the most intimate interaction with it takes place in the devotional worship of individual stones. A key component of this worship involves the intentional anthropomorphic practice of adding a human-like face and other ornamentation to the stones. Slides will be used to illustrate the anthropomorphic adornment of the Govardhan stones.


Reception to follow.

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