Exhibiting Religion: Colonialism and Spectacle at International Expositions, 1851-1893 (Studies in Religion and Culture) (Hardcover)
World's fairs contributed mightily to defining a relationship between religion and the wider world of human culture. Even at the base level of popular culture found on the midways of the earliest international expositions--where Victorian ladies gawked at displays of non-Western, "primitive" life--the concept of religion as an independent field of study began to take hold in public consciousness. The World's Parliament of Religions at the Chicago exposition of 1893 did as much as any other single event to introduce the idea that religion could be viewed as simply one concern among many within the rapidly diversifying modern lifestyle.
A chronicle of the emergence and development of religion as a field of intellectual inquiry, Exhibiting Religion: Colonialism and Spectacle at International Expositions, 1851-1893 is an extensive survey of world's fairs from the inaugural Great Exhibition in London to the Chicago Columbian Exposition and World's Parliament of Religions. As the first broad gatherings of people from across the world, these events were pivotal as forums in which the central elements of a field of religion came into contact with one another.
John Burris argues that comparative religion was the focal point for early attempts at comparative culture and that both were defined more by the intercultural politics and material exchanges of colonialism than by the spirit of objective intellectual inquiry. Equally a work of American and British religious history and a cultural history of the emerging field of religion, this book offers definitive theoretical insights into the discipline of religious studies in its early formation.