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Welcome-Center in Bioshock Infinite © 2K Games

Religion, Ethics and Myths in Computer-, Video-, and Mobile Games (CVM-Games)

Computer-, video- and mobile games have established themselves as an omnipresent element in contemporary society. Especially with the advent of armed adolescents running amok, the game culture is confronted with recriminations and demands for a stricter censorship. But is there really a connection here?  Is it right to generally ban the use of new media and art forms or to rigorously restrict them by “Protection of Young Persons Acts” – well knowing, that such measures will not only not help, but rather will most likely increase the attraction of the forbidden?  A permissive access policy however also seems problematic. Where is the golden middle, that is acceptable for all sides?

For quite some time now, the call for a ‘didactics of media’ in which games would initially find their place has been drawing the attention of educators and multipliers in the field of child and youth work. So far, little effort has been made to systematically equip these professionals extensively and comprehensively with the methods, materials and options needed for such advanced training. As a result, educators and multipliers either more or less avoid these topics or try out their own ideas with poor means and largely on their own.

The aim of our project is to study the (limited) usability of computer-, video- and mobile games in schools and extra-school youth facilities – namely from the perspective of various game communities. In several seminars already implemented, students from those communities discussed ambivalent issues, pivotal topics and possible class models and contents. After a multiannual term, recommendations and work material in the form of a multimedia “book” will be provided for teachers, multipliers and (ideally also) to parents.

In the summer semester 2017 a preparatory lecture series on the topic "Video Games as Didactic Challenge" takes place, which is organized together with Dr. Sebastian Möring (Digital Games Research Center). See the program here (in German)

Welcome-Center in Bioshock Infinite © 2K Games
house inscription in Schötmar © Heinrich Stiewe

Material Cultures of Judaism

For several years, much research attention has been on the material cultures in different scientific disciplines, but the study of the Jewish material worlds is just beginning. Until now, the focus has been on highly valuable individual items closely related to Jewish ritual. In the context of our project, which evolved from an online documentation of Jewish cemeteries in Brandenburg, focus will be on particular groups of the rural Ashkenazi Jewry unstudied until now.

The theoretical approach of Material Culture is an analytic view on the objects of human culture. At the center of the materiality of culture approach, however, is not a strictly defined stock of objects, but rather “a specific way of cultural analysis which uses items, objects and things, as well as their symbolic sphere of meaning as primary sources” (Gudrun König). This approach uses objects as the immediate and primary basis for deciphering everyday life in the past and in the present.

Material culture inquires not only into the object and its material composition, but also into its form and function as testified by other sources as well as the deeper meaning it has for the society being examined. One important observation is that the significance of objects is subject to deep going changes which reveal an own object biography.  For example, the cloth used to swaddle a male infant at circumcision is used in different contexts and assumes different functions at the ‘Shultragen’, at the Bar Mitzvah, the wedding or in visa-vis the authorities.

Several publications have appeared within the framework of the project, which developed out of an online documentation of Jewish cementaries: (in German)

Nathanael Riemer: Einführungen in die Materiellen Kulturen des Judentums (in German). Ed. by Nathanael Riemer. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz: 2016; 261 pp.

Nathanael Riemer: Das jüdische Haus in seiner Materialität. In: Einführungen in die Materiellen Kulturen des Judentums. Ed. by Nathanael Riemer. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz: 2016, pp. 31-72.

Brauchen die Jüdischen Studien einen weiteren „turn“? – Ein Plädoyer für die Methoden der Materielle Kulturen in den Judaistik/Jüdischen Studien, in: Orchidee oder Mimose? Ein Halbjahrhundert deutscher Forschung und Lehre über das Judentum. Ed. by Andreas Lehnardt. Berlin: De Gruyter: 2016 (in print, ca. 21 pages)

Sabine Bloch; Nathanael Riemer: Parnassim zwischen Kirchhain und Halberstadt. Elchanan Henle Kirchhans Familie im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert. In: Aschkenas 25 (2015) 2, pp. 365-414.

house inscription in Schötmar © Heinrich Stiewe
…Secular Comic © Muslim Show

Religious Comics

Who would think that religion and comics could have a lot in common? The words “religion” and “comics” often elicit a shake of the head, usually followed by references to “image censorship” and the authority of traditional canons which tolerate only the written and spoken – at the utmost also the painted – word. Even if pictorial cultures should be component parts of religious expression, people seldom associate comics with religious obedience and piety: rather with the depiction of violence, horror and sexuality, as well as with mischievous humor, not least because of the odd anarchistic tendency. In fact, we can find not only Christian, but also Muslim and Jewish comics exist, created by observant artists and well received within various communities (under the label of “children’s literature”).

The religious comic culture in the Islamic world, which developed in the last decade, is manifestly informed by the terrorist attacks in the first decade of the 21st century and by social discourse. Islam is equated with fundamentalism, terror and contempt for all mankind. The popularity of comics among Ultra-Orthodox Jews that began in the middle of the 2000s can be traced to the new aplomb of a well-educated young generation that sees itself as “Modern-Ultra-Orthodoxy” or as “Haredi middle class” and is starting to feel its way to western modernity.

Several contributions within the framework of this project deal with religious comics in Muslim and Jewish societies.

Nathanael Riemer:  Past is Future. Gadi Pollack's Haredic Comics. In: European Journal Jewish Studies, 10 (2016) 1, pp. 108-147.

Nathanael Riemer: Religiös inspirierte und religiöse Comics in islamischen Kulturen, in: Graphic Novels und Comics als Medien religiöser Kulturen. Ed. by Nathanael Riemer, Jörn Ahrens and Frank T. Brinkmann. Berlin : Springer Press: 2015, pp. 165-199.

…Secular Comic © Muslim Show