The International Institute at the University of Michigan is pleased to announce a collaborative virtual conference on the arts of devotion that will be held on March 4, 2021. The phrase “Arts of Devotion” typically brings to mind traditional ritual objects used as part of religious practices, or evokes items like costumes, masks, dances, songs, poetry, and literature. Arts of Devotion can tend to be conflated with only those items that are understood as “traditional,” rather than those that emerge from the contemporary moment, as if modern and contemporary art can only be associated with the purely secular world.

Yet there are numerous contemporary artists who have incorporated elements of the devotional into their works, and devotional arts have changed with the advent of modern technologies and changing socio-political contexts. We might also consider Arts of Devotion as potentially extending beyond the usual association with the religious to other “devotional” relationships, such as those for political or revolutionary leaders, or individuals’ loved ones.

This year’s conference explores both contemporary and traditional Arts of Devotion by bringing together scholars from across disciplines and temporal and regional contexts, to engage with one another and a broader audience of faculty, students, and the general public. The keynote speaker will be Duncan Ryūken Williams, professor of religion and East Asian languages & cultures, and director of the Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture at the University of Southern California.

This conference is funded in part by five Title VI National Resource Center grants from the U.S. Department of Education and is sponsored by the following U-M units: African Studies Center, Center for Armenian Studies, Center for Japanese Studies, Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, Nam Center for Korean Studies, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Center for South Asian Studies, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Program in International and Comparative Studies, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and the Department of the History of Art. The conference is free and open to the public, although Zoom registration is required at

International Institute Conference on Arts of Devotion
Thursday, March 4, 2021

For more information, please contact

The International Institute brings together distinguished and diverse faculty and scholars with deep area studies and international expertise to enrich the university’s intellectual environment and to provide the U-M community with the knowledge, tools, and experience to become informed and active global citizens. We advance this mission through education, engagement, and innovation.