Deus in Machina: Religion, Technology, and the Things in Between, ed. Jeremy Stolow (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012)
The essays in this volume explore how two domains of human experience and action – religion and technology – are implicated in one another. Contrary to common sense understandings of both religion (as an “otherworldly” orientation) and technology (as the name for tools, techniques, and expert knowledges oriented to “this” world), the contributors to this volume challenge the grounds on which this division has been erected in the first place.
What sorts of things come to light when one allows religion and technology to mingle freely? In an effort to answer that question, Deus in Machina embarks upon an interdisciplinary voyage across diverse traditions and contexts where religion and technology meet: from the design of clocks in medieval Christian Europe, to the healing power of prayer in pre-modern Buddhist Japan, to nineteenth-century Spiritualist devices for communicating with the dead, to Islamic debates about kidney dialysis in contemporary Egypt, to the work of disability activists using documentary film to reimagine Jewish kinship, to the representation of Haitian Vodou on the Internet, among other case studies.
Combining rich historical and ethnographic detail with extended theoretical reflection, Deus in Machina outlines new directions for the study of religion and/as technology that will resonate across the human sciences, including religious studies, science and technology studies, communication studies, history, anthropology, and philosophy.
Taking in an impressive historical and geographical sweep, the book contains fascinating chapters on thinking about machines, thinking through machines, and thinking machines, enabling readers to see religion and technology anew.
—David Chidester, author of Authentic Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture
The modern categories ‘religion’ and ‘technology’ would have us sever all connections between them and the entities that pertain to them and set them on mutually exclusive planes. Enter Deus in Machina, not as a plot device, but as a subtle and complex restaging of this modern drama. Clocks and calendars join heavenly and earthly realms. The Hebrew God works through documentary films. Vodou gods and goddesses colonize cyberspace. Dark spirits haunt techno-modern men and women. Together, the essays evocatively theorize the ways in which the religious and the technical are always linked, overlapping, and entangled. In the process, Deus in Machina reconfigures both categories and enables us to re-script the drama of modernity.
—Susan Harding, University of California, Santa Cruz