The rich intertwining of art, architecture, and religion in Native North American worldviews represents an expansive field of exploration that cumulatively addresses patterns of generational continuity, a sense of place, and the continued vitality of ceremonial and oral traditions for the more than 600 recognized tribes of North America. To engage in an overview of such a broad topic, which necessarily includes ethnographic, religious, anthropological and other perspectives, requires a selective rather than comprehensive choice of material evidence. Moreover, the topic challenges perceived understandings of art and religion, such as the familiar separation between the sacred and the profane in representations of religious life. The subject of religious art and architecture in Native North America also immediately calls attention to the ways in which this field of exploration has often been overlooked in the standard canonical histories of religion and the arts. It is rare that in-depth scholarly writing outside of Native studies addresses the implications of religious building and art on tribal lands, especially since many Native building forms are more metaphorical in their manifestation of the spiritual, often blurring the distinction between landscape and building. Furthermore, the contemporary vitality of North American Native art—and one might add its religious expression—is also evidence of an extraordinary cultural resilience among Native peoples. Until recently, it was popularly assumed that Native culture was destined to disappear, yet a resurgence of both interest in and production of Native art has helped to revitalize the tradition from within. A variety of factors have contributed to this revitalization, among them greater economic stability, population recovery, and an increased interest from non-Native peoples in Indigenous artistic production. This interest has recognized that the visual arts as well as spatial concepts (understood in terms of both buildings and the landscape) have long been carriers of cultural value and meaning within Native American cultures. These material expressions remain among the most powerful articulations of contemporary understandings of identity and the continuity of patterns of belief, and as such have much to reveal and teach a wide and curious audience.
Karla Cavarra Britton
The relationship between Egypt and ancient Israel and Judah was far more complex than is often recognized. Egypt figures prominently in their national myths of origin as a way station for the patriarchs and as the “house of slaves” and starting point of the Exodus. Although no Exodus event can be confirmed from extrabiblical sources, its significance in the Bible suggests an historical kernel. The diverse existing traditions about Egypt in the texts of the Pentateuch and other early biblical writings, combined and written down at a later date, seem to reflect different experiences on the part of the groups that coalesced into Israel By the time of the monarchy, there is more direct evidence for Egyptian influence on Israelite culture, particularly in administrative affairs. It is also clear that Egyptian religion was practiced in the Levant at this time and would have been known in Israel and Judah. By the time of the divided monarchy, the historical picture comes into better focus. Relations between Egypt, Israel, and Judah were quite variable. Although Egypt’s New Kingdom empire in the Levant had ended, the region continued to be a useful trading outlet, and the pharaohs were not above raiding to assert their power. However, there are numerous examples of fugitives from the Levant finding refuge from their enemies in Egypt. In the interest of maintaining a buffer zone against the northern empires that encroached, Egypt and Kush gave military aid to Israel and Judah at times, through both direct action and supplies. The prophets had not forgotten Egypt’s role as an oppressor and frequently condemned it, as well as the tendency of Israelite and Judahite rulers to seek its help. But at times the prophets also envisioned peace with Egypt. There are a number of specific Egyptian texts that supply mutually illuminating points of comparison with biblical texts, including wisdom instructions, prayers, hymns, creation accounts, and autobiographies. These are indications of the extensive, ongoing, cultural interactions between Egypt and the cultures that produced the Old Testament.
Historians Urs App and Martino Dibeltulo Concu have argued that the European “discovery” of Buddhism as a “religion” can be dated to the 16th century rather than the 19th, and that the presentation of the Buddha as a philosopher by the likes of Eugène Burnouf is a secularized holdover from the Jesuit accounts of the 16th century. These claims have a tenuous basis, and Burnouf’s portrayal of the Buddha as a philosopher was a radical break from earlier Jesuit accounts. Unlike the Asian Buddhists who preceded him, Burnouf separated the facts from beliefs and concluded the Buddha was a human philosopher. The essay explores the 16th-century Jesuit encounter with Buddhists in Japan and the accounts that were generated therefrom, with particular attention to the notion that the Buddha taught both an inner materialist doctrine and an outer moral one; it looks to the dissemination and development of these ideas in the 17th and 18th centuries, with a focus on the “African hypothesis” as it is found in various European savants; it turns to the 19th-century “discovery” of Buddhism by the likes of Ozeray, Abel-Rémusat, Hodgson, and Burnouf. it then draws out the implications of the defense of Masuzawa and Droit’s position given in this article for the field of Buddhist studies, particularly with regard to methodological issues.