Brent Plate, visiting associate professor of religious studies, presented two papers this summer. The first was at the International Media, Religion and Culture conference, a scholarly meeting held biennially in a different part of the world. This year's conference was hosted by Anadolu University in Eskisehir, Turkey.
Plate's paper was entitled "Religious Media Unplugged: Stones, Crosses, Drums" and argues for a historical view of media that is not only centered on technological developments of the past two centuries -- films, radio, television or the "news media." Throughout cultural and religious histories, objects like stones, crosses, and drums have been utilized as media, connecting people, providing means of communication, and creating identities.
While in Turkey, Plate also conducted research on Islamic calligraphy, examining its uses in Ottoman mosque architecture, as well as in the book arts collections held in several museums around Istanbul.
Plate was also invited to present a public lecture at the University of Heidelberg. The religious studies department at Heidelberg, in connection with other research programs and faculties, is engaged in a collaborative research project dealing with "Material Text Cultures." Plate's paper was titled "Looking at Words: The Iconicity of the Page," and argues for the ways sacred texts are utilized in their visual, material form. With examples ranging from Islamic calligraphy to medieval bibles to modern typography, Plate shows how people do not only read texts, they touch them, hear them and look at them.