Associate Professor of Religious Studies Pamela Winfield presented a paper on “The Mediated Body at Eiheiji Zen Monastery, Japan” at the annual ASIANetwork conference in St. Louis on April 11, 2015.
Her paper examines the ways in which the material and virtual cultures of food preparation and consumption mediate the bodies-and-minds of Sōtō Zen novices at Eiheiji. The word mediation carries several meanings, but the paper clearly distinguishes between two levels of mediation – namely, mediation by the material objects and ritual technologies that reshape the body-mind of the traditional Zen novice, and the second-generation “re-mediation” of this mediated body-mind via the mass media screens of TV/DVD documentaries, YouTube videos and website pages about Eiheji.
Paradoxically, according to theorists Jay David Bolter & Richard Grusin, this secondary re-presencing of one medium within another gives the audience a sense of immediacy – that is, an un-mediated sense of “being there,” even though one’s viewing experience is, in fact, hypermediated through enhanced production methods. The paper thus examines the ways in which the Zen novice’s body-mind-in-training, which is already mediated by a plethora of external-yet-integral media, becomes further mediated, fetishized and/or commodified when it is reproduced on screen for lay consumption.