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The Spiritual Gaze

The Spiritual Gaze

(p.79) 4 The Spiritual Gaze
Landscapes of the Secular
Nicolas Howe
University of Chicago Press

This chapter turns from iconic church-state battles among the monotheistic “world religions” to the long-running and largely unsuccessful campaign by Native peoples to protect their sacred sites using the law of religious freedom. It explains how developers and government agencies have drawn on this ideology to reduce place-based religious practices to an aestheticized “spiritual” pursuit akin to wilderness preservation. Focusing on a recent battle over the use of reclaimed sewage to make artificial snow on an Arizona mountain sacred to several tribes, it shows how many of the same language games used to portray secular activists as overly emotional, uncivil malcontents have been used to marginalize Native claimants. The result, I claim, is a form of secular discourse in which vital forms of embodied spiritual practice are rendered legally illegible.

Keywords:   spirituality, Native American religion, sacred space, San Francisco Peaks, public lands

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