Berkeley Art and Interreligious Pilgrimage Project

Emily Pothast

Emily Pothast is a multimedia artist, musician, writer, and historian whose research-based practice considers the intertwined dynamics of embodied experience, material culture, politics, and belief. She holds an MFA with an emphasis in printmaking from the University of Washington and is currently a PhD student and Presidential Scholar in Art and Religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Her doctoral research examines the history of apocalypticism through a lens informed by art and media theory. Formerly the Director of the Antique and Modern Print Department at Davidson Galleries, Emily is a scholar of early print culture, with a particular interest in the social, political, and religious transformations spurred by the development of the printing press in the mid fifteenth century. Through graduate coursework in the film and media department at the University of California at Berkeley, she has also cultivated a research interest in early film and other pivotal moments in the history of technological media. As the cofounder of the musical projects Midday Veil and Hair and Space Museum, Emily has released multiple albums and toured extensively. She is a regular contributor to experimental music magazine The Wire; her writing has appeared in many other publications including Art In America, Hyperallergic, and Berkeley Journal of Religion and Theology.

Emily’s work on pilgrimage is informed by her positionality as both a scholar and a practicing artist. Like her PhD advisor, Dr. Kathryn Barush, she is interested in how objects, images, films, and pieces of music can function as sites of devotion and cross-temporal community—one of several topics explored in her self-designed course at the GTU, Sound As Sacred Presence. While the concept of pilgrimage often has a positive connotation, Emily has also researched the historical use of pilgrimage to cultivate in-group identity at the expense of marginalized out-groups. She has contributed a chapter on Simon of Trent—a pilgrimage cult based on a fifteenth century blood libel—for the upcoming edited volume The Religious Dimensions of Conspiracy Theories.