Media are contested spaces which express and shape people’s lives and realities. They contribute to forming structures of oppression and of resistance, can facilitate social change, create alternative realities, or provide a venue to imagine different forms of living together. Media, the spaces they create and the spaces we create through them, are part and parcel of power dynamics in societies shaped by competing interests.
The articles in this issue of JRFM focus on how religion and media participate and complicate power dynamics between what is often perceived of and stereotyped as the “west” and the “rest”, between colonizers and colonized. The contributions shed light on how colonial and resistant agendas draw on media for various purposes, e.g. identity-formation or propaganda. Resisting exclusive readings of images and objects, the studies in this issue are examples for the multi-layered, and often contradictory, processes of power and resistance in colonial and postcolonial societies. They offer rich material as waypoints to reconsider theoretical and methodological questions in the study of media and religion in postcoloniality: from a discussion about the power and creative possibilities of graphic novels, film versions of the Rāmāyaṇa, missionary visual propaganda, Puerto Rican artwork, to social and digital media practices in the Netherlands.
Starting with the cover image by Indian graphic novel artist Amruta Patil and an interview with her as the opening contribution to this issue, we invite you to join our authors on a journey that turns ancient mythologies into lived experiences, and media into spaces of variegated practices.
Edited by Philippe Bornet, Stefanie Knauss and Alexander D. Ornella