Department of Art and Art History Calendar

Art History Lecture Series presents Dr. Benoit Vermander

Dr. Benoit Vermander
Academic Director, The Xu-Ricci Dialogue Center
Faculty of Philosophy, Fudan University, Shanghai

Sacredness and Desecration in Contemporary China: Representing and Managing Territories

There are many pitfalls involved in the use of the word  “sacredness” when speaking of a culture wherethe categories of “sacred” and “profane” have not been well defined.  Taking into account the variability of the Western aesthetic and spiritual perceptions, I suggest that the realm associated with “sacredness” has to do, in the Chinese world, with the way to relate to territories, with body as the main metaphor in China’s perception of the world.   However, when the land is the object of veneration, it is also desecrated through social and ecological exploitation. The sacredness of the “Chinese garden” (a leading metaphor for any sacred territory) contrasts with the desecration of the “waste land.” How does the Chinese collective psyche cope with the cultural nostalgia for the ancestral land on the one hand and the actual depletion of its resources on the other?  This presentation will try to make sense of contemporary relationships to “sacredness” in China such as fostered by this double reality—continuity of the “sacred territory” world-view and experience of the “desecration” of the soil. It will then try to sketch the trajectories through which “sacredness” is embodied, denied and reshaped in everyday life and practices.