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Pictorial History in Mesoamerican Religions

GoTriple's project summary

The highly developed civilisation of the Aztecs in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica used a writing system based on picto- and ideograms, being declassified by colonialists and scientist as evolutionary primitive, preliminary stages of writing so far. In the last few years, however, some US-American scholars discovered Aztec writing art as being a highly efficient system of visual communication transporting complex models of world, the human being and history. Aztec writing and reading was furthermore a multi-sensual event embedded in ritual performances.The project focuses on visual forms of Aztec religious historiography and their social text practice in the context of Mesoamerican religions. To that end, primary and secondary sources are analysed with a combination of methods from several cultural studies disciplines. Outgoing host is the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, USA, (Prof. D. Carrasco), the internationally leading research institution in Mesoamerican studies. Return host is the Institute for the Study of Religions, Heidelberg University Heidelberg, Germany, (Prof. G. Ahn), being internationally leading in ritual and religious studies.In regard to theories, the objectives of the project stem from innovatively combined research fields: religious historiography, invention of tradition, aesthetics of religions, material religion, agency theories, ritual studies and anthropology of texts. Special attention is drawn to the reflection whether and how specifically European concepts of ‘(sacred) books’, having lead to a clash of representations in the time of colonialisation, are still influencing academic theories. As a result, a fresh view on religious concepts of history in Mesoamerican religions – having been largely unexplored in German (and European) academic discourse – is developed. Furthermore, the implementation of the newest approaches in the study of religions to the field of Mesoamerican religions promises fascinating theoretical changes of perspective on the use of media in religions.The project offers the fellow unique opportunities to acquire new specialised and general scientific competences, fundamental for her discipline, the academic study of religions. Thus, the training and its output in form of planned publications, lecturing and teaching will be a vital contribution to the development of her international academic career. It will make important contributions to European excellence and competitiveness through 1) enabling the researcher to reach a position of professional maturity, 2) transfer of knowledge from the USA to Europe and the establishment of the research field in Europe, 3) engagement with Europe’s colonial past, 4) reflection of pictorial communication systems which become increasingly important in a globalised world, and 5) reflection on the dependence of identity formulations on religious historiography in the context of general discussions on language politics in the European Union.

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