TOPIC: Novel Fields and Technological Spaces in Digital Religion Research: Digital Hinduism and Video Games
Xenia Zeiler is Professor of South Asian Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Her research and teaching are situated at the intersection of digital media, culture and society, especially as related to India and global Indian communities. Her research foci are video games and gaming in India and beyond, digital religion (especially digital Hinduism) and global Hinduism. She also researches and teaches aspects of mediatized and digital cultural heritage and popular culture, especially as related to India.
Selected latest key publications relevant to the conference theme:
Grieve, G. P., Radde-Antweiler, K. and Zeiler, X. (in press) 2022. Value Formations. In: Campbell, H. and Cheong, P. H. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Digital Religion. Oxford University Press.
Zeiler, X. and Mukherjee, S. 2022. Video Game Development in India: A Cultural and Creative Industry Embracing Regional Cultural Heritage(s). In: Games and Culture 17(4), 509-527.
Zeiler, X. and Thomas, S. (eds.) 2021. Video Games and Cultural Heritage. Special Issue, International Journal of Heritage Studies, T&F.
Zeiler, X. (ed.) 2020. Digital Hinduism. London and New York: Routledge.
Radde-Antweiler, K. and Zeiler, X. (eds.) 2020. The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Journalism. London and New York: Routledge.
Radde-Antweiler, K. and Zeiler, X. (eds.) 2019. Mediatized Religion in Asia. Studies on Digital Media and Religion. London and New York: Routledge.
Šisler, V., Radde-Antweiler, K. and Zeiler, X. (eds.) 2018. Methods for Studying Video Games and Religion. London and New York: Routledge (Routledge Studies in Religion and Digital Culture).
Digital religion, as a field of inquiry and as an academic discipline, has been around for more than twenty years now. Not surprisingly, and especially due to the growing acceptance and intensifying interest in the study of religion and digital media, the field has diversified over time. The expanding scope and shape of studies on digital religion increasingly include new research fields, technological genres and spaces, themes, questions, and adequate new approaches, methods, and theoretical frames. This keynote looks into two distinct examples for this.
It opens with presenting central themes, approaches, and perspectives in the still novel subfield of digital religion research, digital Hinduism. By today, Hindu actors (individuals, groups or institutions) vastly interact with digital spaces and as a consequence (re)negotiate and (re)construct contemporary Hindu beliefs and practices. The used technology is wide-ranging and includes but is not limited to social media such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram, online streaming such as Live Darshan, and video games. The keynote’s second part then focuses on the latter, on video games and gaming as an increasingly important media genre and space for digital religion research. Illustrated with examples from Indian video games it especially discusses the potential of applying novel approaches and lenses – such as the analytical concept of value formations and the broader lens of cultural heritage – to discover, describe and study underlying or implicit religious topics in video games.