Key Terms in Material Religion 9781474280709, 9781472595454

Material religion is a rapidly growing field, and this volume offers an accessible, critical entry into these new areas

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Notes on Contributors

Anderson Blanton is a research scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Germany. His most recent ethnography, Hittin’ the Prayer Bones: Materiality of Spirit in the Pentecostal South (UNC Press, 2015), explores the miraculous manifestation of the Holy Ghost through the media technologies and material objects in the space of Pentecostal worship. David Chidester is a professor of religious studies and a director of the Institute for Comparative Religion in Southern Africa at the University of Cape Town. His recent books are Authentic Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture (2005); Wild Religion: Tracking the Sacred in South Africa (2012); and Empire of Religion: Imperialism and Comparative Religion (2014). Marleen de Witte is a cultural anthropologist at the University of Amsterdam. Her main research interests are Pentecostalism, African traditional religion, media, the senses and the body, cultural heritage, funerals, popular culture, urban Africa (in particular Ghana) and Afro-Europe (in particular the Netherlands). Her work has appeared in Material Religion, Journal of Religion Africa, Ethnos, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Australian Religion Studies Review, Etnofoor, and a number of edited volumes. Francis Dodsworth is a senior lecturer in criminology at Kingston University, London. He has published on various aspects of English urban history including religion, crime, policing, and architecture in both refereed journals and edited collections. His current work explores attempts to shape moral conduct in the modern city. Rich Freeman is a professor of history at Duke University. He was trained in cultural anthropology and classical Indology and has conducted his field projects and historical and literary studies in Kerala, on the southwest coast of India. He works at the intersection of high-caste literary and religious history with folk-culture, ritual, and spirit possession, and his interest in regional identities


Notes on Contributors

and religion in India will come together in a work-in-progress on the long development of Hinduism in Kerala. Anna M. Gade is an Islamicist and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of books on the Qur’an, Perfection Makes Practice: Learning, Emotion and the Recited Qur’an in Indonesia (2004) and The Qur’an: An Introduction (2010). She specializes in Southeast Asian religious and social change, emphasizing the study of the environment from a humanistic perspective. Ivan Gaskell is a professor of cultural history and museum studies at the Bard Graduate Center, New York City. Using material culture, he addresses intersections among history, art history, anthropology, and philosophy. He has contributed to numerous journals and edited volumes in these fields, and is the author, editor, or co-editor of twelve books, including (with Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Sara Schechner, and Sarah Anne Carter) Tangible Things: Making History through Objects (2015). Gregory Price Grieve is an associate professor in the Religious Studies Department of the University of North Carolina Greensboro. He researches at the intersection of Buddhism, popular culture, and digital media. Grieve has recently co-edited two volumes, Playing with Religion in Digital Games (2014), and Buddhism, the Internet, and Digital Media: The Pixel in the Lotus (2015). His monograph Awake Online: Contemplating Zen Buddhism, Cybernetic Entanglement, and The Virtual World is soon to be released. Ronald L. Grimes is the author of several books on ritual, most recently The Craft of Ritual Studies (2014). He resides in Waterloo, Ontario, where he is a director of Ritual Studies International and Professor Emeritus of Religion and Culture at Wilfrid Laurier University. David Howes is a professor of anthropology and the director of the Centre for Sensory Studies at Concordia University, Montreal. He holds three degrees in anthropology and two degrees in law. His main fields of research include sensory anthropology, multisensory aesthetics, culture and consumption, constitutional studies, and the anthropology of law. His latest publications include Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society (with Constance Classen) and A Cultural History of the Senses in the Modern Age, 1920–2000. Bruno Latour is a university professor at Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po). His recent books include On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods (2010). In 2002, he co-organized the exhibition Iconoclash: Beyond the ImageWars in Science, Religion and Art.

Notes on Contributors xi

Wei-Cheng Lin is an associate professor of art history at the University of Chicago. His work focuses on medieval Chinese architecture and he is the author of Building a Sacred Mountain at Mount Wutai: Buddhist Monastic Architecture in Medieval China (2014). Roberto Lint Sagarena is an associate professor of American studies at Middlebury College and a director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity. He is the author of Aztlan and Arcadia: Religion, Ethnicity, and Creation of Place (2014). His research and teaching interests center on the role of religion and religious rhetoric in the formation of racial, ethnic, and regional identities in the Americas with particular attention to relations resulting from social inequality. Kathryn Lofton is a professor of religious studies, American studies, history and divinity at Yale University, where she is also Chair of the Department of Religious Studies. Her most recent article offered a religious history of parental authority, and her current book project, Religion Around Bob Dylan, offers an analysis of the singer-songwriter as a particular case in the study of religion. James McHugh is an associate professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He is the author of Sandalwood and Carrion: Smell in Indian Religion and Culture (2013), and he is currently working on a second book to be entitled “An Unholy Brew: Alcohol in Indian Religion and History.” Robert Maniura is a senior lecturer in the history of art at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of Pilgrimage to Images in the Fifteenth Century: The Origins of the Cult of Our Lady of Cze˛stochowa and co-editor of Presence: the inherence of the prototype within images and other objects. Birgit Meyer is a professor of religious studies at Utrecht University. She has conducted research on and published about colonial missions and local appropriations of Christianity, modernity and conversion, the rise of Pentecostalism in the context of neoliberal capitalism, popular culture and video-films in Ghana, and the relation between religion, media, and identity, as well as on material religion and the place and role of religion in the twenty-first century. She is an editor of Material Religion. Annelies Moors holds the chair of contemporary Muslim societies at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. She has published widely on Muslim family law, wearing gold, the visual media (postcards of Palestine), migrant domestic labor, Islamic fashion, and wearing face-veils. She is the PI of the ERC advanced grant “Muslim Marriages.” Her latest book (edited


Notes on Contributors

with Emma Tarlo) is Islamic fashion and anti-fashion: New perspectives from Europe and North-America (2013). David Morgan is a professor of religion and chair of the Department of Religion at Duke University. His major publications include Visual Piety (1998), Protestants and Pictures (1999), The Lure of Images (2007), The Sacred Gaze (2005), and The Embodied Eye (2012). A new book, The Forge of Vision: A Visual History of Modern Christianity, will appear in 2015. His current project is Images at Work: The Material Culture of Enchantment. Robert S. Nelson, the Robert Lehman Professor of the History of Art at Yale University, teaches medieval art. His recent essays include “‘And so, with the help of God’: The Byzantine Art of War in the Tenth Century,” for Dumbarton Oaks Papers 65–6 (2011–12); and “When the Violent Light of August Dives into the Cage of the Piazza,” and for an exhibition catalog, The Sabbath of History: William Congdon (New Haven, 2012), about the modern Catholic painter. Robert A. Orsi is a professor of religious studies and history and Grace Craddock Nagle Chair in Catholic Studies at Northwestern University. His book History and Presence will be published by Harvard University Press in 2016. Crispin Paine is a retired curator and heritage consultant, and an editor of the journal Material Religion. In 2013 he published Religious Objects in Museums: Private Lives and Public Duties, and he is now exploring religion in theme parks. Crispin is an Honorary Lecturer at UCL’s Institute of Archaeology. Anita Patil-Deshmukh is an executive director of Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action, and Research, based in Mumbai. Ann Pellegrini is a professor of performance studies and social and cultural analysis at New York University, where she also directs the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. Her books include Performance Anxieties: Staging Psychoanalysis, Staging Race and Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance (co-authored with Janet Jakobsen). Her most recent book, “You Can Tell Just By Looking” and 20 Other Myths About LGBT Life and People (co-authored with Michael Bronski and Michael Amico), was a finalist for the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBT Non-Fiction. Peter Pels has been teaching anthropology, especially of Sub-Saharan Africa, at the University of Leiden since 2003. Before and after editing Social Anthropology (2002–7) and running Leiden Anthropology (2009–12), he researched (post-) colonial contacts and their cultural trappings worldwide. He is currently finishing

Notes on Contributors xiii

a book on the power of objects (provisionally entitled The Spirit of Matter) and a project on the anthropology of the future (see “Modern Times,” to appear in Current Anthropology in 2015). S. Brent Plate is a writer and currently a visiting associate professor at Hamilton College, NY. He has authored and edited twelve books, most recently A History of Religion in 5 ½ Objects (2014). In 2015 he produced the documentary film In God’s House: The Religious Landscape of Utica, NY. He is co-founder and managing editor of Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief. Inken Prohl is a professor of religious studies at Heidelberg University, Germany. Her current areas of research include material religion, recent history of religions in Japan, and modern Buddhism. She has published several papers on new religions and Buddhist practices in contemporary Japan. She is the author of Zen für Dummies and Religiöse Innovationen: Die Shintô-Organisation World Mate in Japan. With John Nelson she is editor of the Handbook of Contemporary Japanese Religions. Allen F. Roberts is a professor of world arts and cultures/dance at UCLA and a socio-cultural anthropologist whose latest monograph is A Dance of Assassins: Performing Early Colonial Hegemony in the Congo (2013). He and his spouse Mary Nooter Roberts (also a professor at UCLA) conduct research, write, and curate museum exhibitions together, including A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal (2003) and Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History (1996). Nora L. Rubel is an associate professor of religion at the University of Rochester in New York, where she teaches a course on Religion and American Foodways, as well as other courses in American Religion. She is the author of Doubting the Devout: The Ultra-Orthodox in the Jewish American Imagination (2009) and the co-editor of Religion, Food and Eating in North America (2014). She is currently completing a book on The Settlement Cook Book. Oren Baruch Stier is a director of the Judaic Studies Program and an associate professor and a graduate program director in the Department of Religious Studies in the School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University. His current book project is titled Holocaust Symbols: The Icons of Memory. Ann Taves is a professor of religious studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She is currently working on a book titled Revelatory Events: Experiences and Appraisals in the Emergence of New Spiritual Paths and supervising the interdisciplinary Religion, Experience, and Mind Lab Group at UCSB.


Notes on Contributors

Thomas A. Tweed is Harold and Martha Welch Professor of American Studies and a professor of history at the University of Notre Dame. He has written about visual culture and space and place, in Crossing and Dwelling: A Theory of Religion and in two award-winning books about shrines: Our Lady of the Exile: Diasporic Religion at a Cuban Catholic Shrine in Miami and “America’s Church”: The National Shrine and Catholic Presence in the Nation’s Capital, 1917-1997. In 2015, Tweed served as president of the American Academy of Religion. Elena Vacchelli has a background in political science and is currently a research fellow at the Middlesex University’s Social Policy Research Centre where she works on a range of European projects and teaches undergraduate modules in Politics. She obtained a PhD in Urban Studies from The Open University (UK) in 2009, with a dissertation on the appropriation of urban space by the women’s movement in Milan between the 1970s and today. Peter van der Veer is a director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen and Distinguished University Professor at Utrecht University. He has published extensively about religion and nationalism in India and has pioneered comparative work on India and Britain in Imperial Encounters (2001) and on India and China in The Modern Spirit of Asia (2014), both published by Princeton University Press. Forthcoming works are his Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures, entitled The Value of Comparison, with Duke University Press. Sophie Watson is a professor of sociology, Open University, and co-director of the ESRC Centre for Socio-Cultural Research. She is the author of numerous books and articles, including The New Blackwell Companion to the City (2011; co-edited with Gary Bridge) and City Publics: The (Dis)enchantments of Urban Encounters (2006). Isaac Weiner is an assistant professor of religious studies in the Department of Comparative Studies at the Ohio State University. He is the author of Religion Out Loud: Religious Sound, Public Space, and American Pluralism (2014). Deborah Whitehead is an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Senior Faculty Research Affiliate with the Center for Media, Religion, and Culture at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Dr. Whitehead is author of William James, Pragmatism, and American Culture (2015) and several articles on religion and American culture, gender, media, and popular culture. She is currently writing a second book, Christian Evangelicals and Digital Media, with Routledge.

Notes on Contributors xv

Angela Zito teaches in the Department of Anthropology and Religious Studies program at NYU, and co-directs its Center for Religion and Media. Her film Writing in Water (2012) captures calligraphy work in a Beijing public park. Scenes of sociability interweave with the slow materialization of writing, from water, through ink on paper, to permanent forms of art mounted on silk. Where does the joy of the body end, and the material of the calligraphy begin? Find her work online at

Preface and Acknowledgments

This volume began as a discussion with my fellow editors of Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief ( At a meeting at Duke University several years ago, Birgit Meyer, David Morgan, Crispin Paine, and I developed the outline for a special issue of the journal that was published in 2011. In that issue we included nineteen entries on “Key Words,” all of which appear here in similar form. The special issue proved quite popular and useful for courses in religious studies, and hence there grew a desire to expand that issue and make the entries accessible in a single book format. The result is what you see here. There are many ways to approach a field like material religion. Many of these have already been achieved, several of which are noted in the references after the Introduction. The aim of this volume is to create a working lexicon of terms that enables readers to discuss the field of material religion. There is, indeed, an arbitrary dimension to the number of entries and the choices, but it could not be any other way. There is no number that would be “complete,” and this is not an exhaustive encyclopedia. Rather, it seeks to represent the breadth of inroads to the interdisciplinary field. The format—thirty-seven key terms discussed in short essays—is designed to be modular and usable along with other texts and case studies. I have attempted to write and edit for an undergraduate audience, though it is not a textbook for material religion as much as a useful text for teaching a course on the topic, and I hope that many people beyond students will gain something from this collection. The format assumes a creative teacher and investigator who is not seeking to have a textbook define a course of study for them; parts of it can be used and others ignored depending on the individual strengths and interests of the teacher. And for the student, the multiple terms and crossreferences allow the ability to see the many interconnections possible through the study of material religion.

Preface and Acknowledgments xvii

Because the authors of the entries, as well as the assumed readers, come from academic fields of anthropology, art history, philosophy, museum studies, and religious studies, the alphabetical arrangement of the entries seeks to level the playing field. I toyed with putting the terms into various clusters, but every time I lighted on one structure, another idea forced me to take it all apart again. In the end, I felt that too much organizing and rearranging of terms would inevitably privilege one mode of organization over another. Alphabetizing allows an index, while ideally showing a cross-pollination of ideas and approaches. Why these terms? Why not others? The simple answer is that, of course, no matter what terms were chosen, it could always have been otherwise. Essentially, the list comes from having spent over a decade editing the journal Material Religion and seeing what topics and approaches have risen to the surface. These key words are the result. However, this is not merely a reflection on past studies; these terms also mean to chart a course for the future. So, while many studies have looked at the importance of the body in religion, fewer have examined the role of the senses, and still fewer have examined the role of smell. By including an entry on smell, for instance, I also intend to indicate this as an important field for further study. The same could be said for entries on race and gender, to which I think too little attention is being paid in material religion studies. Finally, these short essays on key words are generally presented through stories and case studies, with the intention of showing the embedded nature of these key words in religious life. There is a good dose of theoretical and sometimes abstract language herein, but through the use of specific examples, and the inclusion of one image with each entry, we have sought to show the tangible, tactile nature of religious tradition itself.                 

This volume is most indebted to all the authors, editors, and guest editors of the journal Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief. As a co-founder (beginning in 2004, with our first publication in 2005) and as managing editor, I have had the great experience of working with hundreds of people around the world. I think it’s fair to say that I have learned as much in my editorial role with the journal as I did in all of my graduate studies. As always, interlocutors such as Timothy Beal, Simon Halliday, Tod Linafelt, Darren Middleton, Luis Vivanco, and Tel Mac have been foundational. My children, Sabina and Camila, and my partner, Edna Melisa, provided a massive amount of the material realities on which the energy for this volume was created.


Material religion: An introduction S. Brent Plate

Figure 1 (Top)  Fans outside Moses Mabhida stadium, Durban, South Africa, watching broadcast of World Cup 2010. Photo by Marcello Casal Jr/ABr [CC BY 3.0 br (http://creativecommons. org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons. (Bottom) Devotees at Kumbh Mela, Allahabad, India, 2013 ©

Every four years, almost one billion people around the world gather in their homes, restaurants, pubs, and community centers to watch World Cup matches on television. Those gathered are dressed appropriately in red or green or yellow or other colored scarves and jerseys, and they bring along noisemakers and high spirits. Many have their faces painted. The color of their clothes and the sounds they make coordinate with the colors and sounds of the crowds inside the stadium who are seen and heard through the television screens. Ultimately, these global collectives correspond with the colors and activities of the players on the field. The playing field becomes, for those ninety minutes, for ten percent of the entire world’s population, the center of everything. Every twelve years, over 100 million people leave their homes and local temples to gather at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers near Allahabad, India, for the Kumbh Mela, the largest gathering of humans in one place in the history of the world.1 Those gathered come dressed appropriately, bringing banners, processional images, and attitudes of reverence and celebration. Many have their faces painted. They camp and live in a massive makeshift tent city for several days, speaking and celebrating with others, giving offerings, and finally taking part in the ritual bathing in the river waters. For these days, for this mass of people, this is the center of everything. Whether rituals are performed for seemingly sacred or seemingly secular reasons, we find striking similarities across these events. Many more examples could be given (the Super Bowl, a Papal mass). In fact, I’m sure many readers must be thinking of their own examples right now. If we merely observe the activities taking place, then pilgrimages and sporting events, as well as music festivals, baptisms, dance, theater, and weddings begin to look and sound similar. This is not to say they are identical, or have the same intents and purposes, but when we dig down to some of the basic elements, we might do well to stop and query the commonalities and ask why this is so. Why do secular events look similar to sacred ones? Why do sports fans believe colors (red and white, yellow and green, silver and blue) make a difference? Why do people go to music festivals (Glastonbury, Coachcella, Summerfest)

Material religion: An introduction 3

when they can hear the music by themselves at home for a fraction of the cost? Why are some places (the Ganges river, Old Trafford, the Empire State Building, Mount Meru, Uluru, the Pont Neuf) more important than others? What do body modifications (paints, piercings, tattoos) and other bodily experiences (dancing, chanting, holding hands) do for the lives of adherents and fans? What are the dramas, ancient and new, that people seek to become a part of in and through these events? The answers to these questions begin to show us the importance of the material world in the making and practicing of religion, in the broad sense of that term. In each case there is an emphasis on the style and colors of clothes and banners, the sounds of voices and instruments, bodies moving in unison, the significance of special places, the precise times to meet in those places, particular foods and drinks ingested for particular occasions, an orientation toward iconic figures whether in the flesh or in pictures, some moments of formal performance, and a whole lot of spontaneous, unscripted activity. To get to the heart of religious activities, we have to begin beyond what we usually think about when we think about religion. Popular cultural events like sporting events and concerts help us approach religious life, belief, and experience in fresh ways because they show us the significance of materiality. Religious traditions themselves originate and survive through bodily engage­ ments with the material elements of the world. Religious people look at and touch symbolic objects, listen to the recitation of sacred texts, eat special foods at special times around tables and altars, while buildings and sculpted landscapes impact the spatial orientation of people’s environment and draw people together for celebration or mourning. Religions, for whatever else we can say about them, are lived out through the bodies of people. To be students of religious life means we sometimes need to get back to the basics, back to the physical substrate upon which all religious traditions, beliefs, and practices originate.

Material religion and religious studies There was a time when the study of religion was commonly perceived to be a companion to that of philosophy. To understand religion meant you had to understand metaphysical speculations about God, the nature of humanity, the meaning of life, and other “ultimate” thoughts, along with readings of sacred texts and lists of beliefs. It was very much a thing of the mind. Eventually, scholars began paying attention to the body, to the arts, and to ritual performances, suggesting that we can’t understand religion until we understand these physical


Key Terms in Material Religion

elements of life as well. As a result, interest in material religion has steadily increased over the last three decades. Even when the methods and theories do not explicitly use the phrase “material religion,” there has been a noticeable shift in foci for academic studies, with greater attention being paid to lived religion, the pivotal place of bodies, performance, the senses, and new orientations grounded in spatial theories, histories of the book, corporeal philosophy, and even some cognitive science approaches indicating a strong move toward the material. At the same time there is an important caveat that pushes us further into the material foundations of religious life and practice. Some scholarship that at first appears to attend to physical matters uses language about “embodiment,” a frequently used critical term. However, in many cases, what is meant is that the theoretical ideas and doctrines are all worked out, and then they find their “expression” in the material world. Even though physical things may be taken seriously, in this framework the ideas are primary and the things are secondary manifestations of the primary thoughts. This sense of embodiment is not what material religion is about. Indeed, current studies are suggesting that the opposite is taking place, that it is the material realm that gives rise to thinking, and that beliefs are predicated on practices, spaces, objects, and bodies. It is not about a preexisting category of essence that then takes on material form, that is, becomes em-bodied, or, put “into a body.” Nor is it about a body that is only useful as it produces some further meaning. Instead, ideas, beliefs, and doctrines begin in material reality. With that said, I begin with a working definition: material religion refers to (1) an investigation of the interactions between human bodies and physical objects, both natural and human-made; (2) with much of the interaction taking place through sense perception; (3) in special and specified spaces and times; (4) in order to orient, and sometimes disorient, communities and individuals; (5) toward the formal strictures and structures of religious traditions. The entries found in this volume flesh out the details of these phrases: some essays focus on the senses, some on space and time, others on the objects, the bodies, and so forth. But first, I expand on some of these terms to set the stage for the key terms. (1) Bodies meet objects. Just as sports fans need their accouterments— their flags, autographed baseballs, or posters of their favorite players—so do religious people need their objects that bring a sense of value, meaning, and order into their lives. Religious rituals are structured on such things: vestments for leaders indicate authority, images of saints and deities channel our vision, flowers provide color, and musical instruments maintain tempos for liturgies or call people to gather together. The objects may be natural, such as a mountain

Material religion: An introduction 5

in view or a stone in the hand, a river to bathe in or water in a font. Or they may be human-made technologies such as clothing, staffs, chalices, radios, television monitors, the Internet, and a great variety of foods. Visual symbols like circles and crosses are generally made by humans, but become so ubiquitous as to seem natural. Such objects are important not only at the institutional and liturgical level, but also in personal ways: a family bible that sits on a table in a home, a poster of a Qur’anic verse mounted on the wall of a family room, or a seashell on the shelf that reminds one of a particular family vacation when all seemed right with the world. (2) The senses. As already implied, objects are only engaged through the senses. People see icons and the clothing of the clergy, they touch stones and water, and they hear music from instruments. Food is smelled and tasted. Religious traditions are multi-sensual, and much of their staying power comes directly through the appeal to the senses and their impact on the emotions. While the sensorium (the overarching range and ratio of the senses utilized within a group or by an individual) of religious cultures varies from place to place and from time to time—some emphasizing vision and others hearing, for example— all traditions create and promote particular objects to be seen, smelled, touched, tasted, or heard. Even when a tradition attempts austerity, such as with the Quakers or forms of Zen Buddhism, the austerity is itself highly designed; since there are no invisible clothes, immaterial buildings, or imperceptible bodies, sensual decisions are still made as to what is worn, what the spaces look like, and how one presents one’s body. All this is part of why intellectual arguments against theism and the “unbelievable” elements of religious mythology never quite have much effect on religious adherents. The social importance of religion carries on into the modern age because of its sensual and emotional qualities, not necessarily because of its intellectual elements. (3) Time and space. A shofar is blown in a synagogue to announce the new year (Rosh Hashanah); church bells are rung to call people to the sanctuary for worship services; the muezzin recites the call to prayer (adhan) as it is amplified and broadcast through speakers on a minaret. Sensual activities and physical objects punctuate hours, days, and years, and serve to gather bodies together in spaces. Memories are also rooted in time, even as they are evoked through particular sensual encounters: communion wafers and matzah are both ingested as sensual, memorializing activities, while the bodily pilgrimage of the Hajj recalls the Prophet Muhammad’s rededication of the ancient shrine of the Kaba. Space and time can also be restructured. So when Christian churches are no longer used (as in parts of the eastern United States and western Europe), they are sometimes transformed into Muslim mosques; the four walls still stand


Key Terms in Material Religion

but the orientation is slightly shifted to account for the direction toward Mecca. Meanwhile, museums are spaces dedicated to the gathering and displaying of objects; as such, curators create classification schema that influence viewers’ understanding of cultures and religions through the objects on display. And due to zoning laws, local customs, and/or the goodwill of neighbors, the observance of religious practice may be helped or hindered in urban spaces. (4) Orientation and disorientation of communities and individuals. In and through sensual engagements with objects in spaces and times, our bodies engage with groups of people. Communities are formed, supplying support, comfort, and identity through the sharing of food, song, and resources. As communities are extended over time, tradition becomes embedded in the lives and minds of the people who help create the special times and places. Buildings are situated in space, but we can also think of tradition as a building in time, made up of material events and objects, and memories in the bodies of people. Crucially, there are also times of disorientation. Some disorienting events are prescribed, such as the often painful bodily markings of rites of passage, the sometimes disturbing immersion in water during baptism, the bitter taste of maror during Passover, or the dislocation that can accompany pilgrimage. At other times, disorientation is not prescribed, and comes when natural disasters, doubt, or disease ravish a family, and the old structures no longer seem to operate in the same ways. In these cases, new materials are sought, and new rituals and ways to cope are developed in and through objects. (5) Strictures and structures of tradition. Religious traditions have organically grasped the sensual appeal of objects and put them to use as devotees are sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly trained to behave and believe. Authorities may tell people about tradition, and why it is important to act in certain ways and be devoted to this institution (and not that one), but the real affective power of religious institutions comes in training of the body. Such spiritual-body training is achieved through performances such as dramas, recitations, and even sermons. It is achieved through sensations such as the smelling of varieties of incense in particular places so as to prepare one’s body for prayer or meditation, or the display of images of deities with enhanced eyes so they appear to be looking back at the devotee. The senses bind us to each other, to the past and future, as several senses might operate simultaneously for increased affect. People recite creeds and prayers in unison as they simultaneously hear others reciting them in the same space, and later go on to discuss the week’s events at the church potluck, while our ancestors’ cookbooks become visual, tangible, and practical reminders of our place among the generations. Ultimately, our gendered, racial, ethnic, sexual, linguistic, and

Material religion: An introduction 7

socio-economic identities become solidified through material display and performance. The five-part definition given here is not intended as a checklist, that if only one were to cover them all would one be doing “material religion.” Instead, we find pieces of this approach embedded in a number of other theories and methods. When looked at through this framework, we begin to see that material religion is not merely a “theory” of religion, but that the subject and modes of its investigations are found across the academic approach to religion itself. In fact, it is arguable that any thorough investigation into religious life and history must engage material religion. Finally, material approaches to religion stir us to rethink the relations between the secular and the religious. By finding material similarities between sporting events and religious ceremonies, we also come to a body-centered understanding of religion. We sense objects, connect with other bodies, and create identity through popular culture and religions alike. From this vantage point, the differences between so-called atheism and theism, and between church and state, are a lot more intertwined than we might at first be led to believe. Which doesn’t collapse everything into the same, but resituates our conversations in the political, social, economic, and cultural spheres. The contributors to this volume find material religion at the heart of discussions on race and gender, science and art, the body and the world, and the spiritual and material. What follows are short, creative, and ideally evocative essays that offer overviews, reflections, and stimulants for the reader. Ultimately it is hoped that these entries will provoke and enable ongoing discussions about what material religion is, and how it might be worked out further in the academic understandings of religious life, experience, belief, and tradition.

Note 1. The Kumbh Mela is held every three years, rotating between Haridwar, Nashik, Ujjain, and Allahabad. It is therefore held at Allahabad every twelve years.

Bibliography Chidester, David. 2000. “Material Terms for the Study of Religion.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 68(2): 367–79. Engelke, Matthew. 2012. “Material Religion.” In The Cambridge Companion to Religious Studies, edited by Robert Orsi, 209–29. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Key Terms in Material Religion

Houtman, Dick, and Birgit Meyer. 2012. “Introduction: Material Religion—How Things Matter.” In Things: Religion and the Question of Materiality, edited by Houtman and Meyer, 1–23. New York: Fordham University Press. Meyer, Birgit, David Morgan, Crispin Paine, and S. Brent Plate. 2011. “Introduction: Key Words in Material Religion.” Material Religion 7(1): 4–9. Morgan, David. 2010. “Introduction: The Matter of Belief.” In Religion and Material Culture: The Matter of Belief, edited by Morgan, 1–17. London and New York: Routledge. Plate, S. Brent. 2014. A History of Religion in 5½ Objects: Bringing the Spiritual to Its Senses. Boston: Beacon Press. Vásquez, Manuel. 2011. More Than Belief: A Materialist Theory of Religion. Oxford: University Press, Oxford.


Aesthetics Inken Prohl

Figure 2  Path to the kitchen and living quarters at Shokokuji, a Zen temple of the Rinzai school, Kyoto, Japan. Photo by the author.

Among the myriad religious traditions of the world, Zen Buddhism is one of the most suitable for illustrating the term aesthetics. According to D. T. Suzuki, “the idea that the ultimate truth of life and of things generally is to be intuitively and not conceptually grasped, and that this intuitive prehension is the foundation not only of the philosophy but of all other cultural activities, is what the Zen form of Buddhism has contributed to the cultivation of artistic appreciation among the Japanese people” (Suzuki 2010: 219). Suzuki’s views on Zen Buddhism and art gave rise to the idea that the beauty of the so-called “Zen Arts” is an expression of, and a path to, the ultimate truth. Confronted with the idealistic notion of aesthetics by Suzuki, some readers might be inclined to stop reading and pass over to the next article, but please bear with me. The modern discourse on “Zen art” underlies a very limited sense of the term aesthetics—understanding aesthetics as an expression of beauty and a search for the ultimate truth. Those who study religious practice and material culture use the term aesthetics from a broader perspective. In the case of Zen Buddhism, for example, they want to find out what practitioners of Zen Buddhism see, hear, smell, or feel when they enter a temple and dwell there, perform rituals in front of a Buddhist Statue, or buy a lucky charm. The understanding of aesthetics among those who study the materialities of religion begins with an awareness of the senses of the perceiving religious actors (Cancik and Mohr 1988: 132). Religions are considered to be venues where cognitive and sensuous perception is taking place. Studying the aesthetics of religions translates into looking into the way religious actors perceive religious venues and practice with their senses, and examining how sensuous and cognitive perceptions are mutually engaged and how they constitute religious mind-sets. For the analysis of the sensuous perception of the materializations of religion, an extended definition of aesthetics is needed. Aesthetics is conceived not only as a science of the beautiful, but is also enhanced when we shift our focus toward an exploration of sensory cognition (Münster 2001: 30). It is this sense of the term that has come to be used by

Aesthetics 11

a number of scholars of religion in German-speaking regions. Scholars have begun discussing “material religion” as a potent theoretical approach by using the German term, “Religionsästhetik,” or “aesthetics of religion.” Rather than using the term aesthetics, in the English-speaking world, scholars who study the materialities of religion tend to talk about “religious sensations” (Meyer 2008) or “sensational religion” (Promey 2014) when referring to the sensuous perception and knowledge of the world. As a result of the various turns in cultural studies over the last decades, symbolic orders, structures of knowledge, and all forms of discourse came to be seen as only existent and effective if they were embodied in social practice through materializations—be it in artifacts, design, metaphors, performances, or environmental settings. As such, the aesthetics of these materializations might be seen as the key to an understanding of how cultures and, for that matter, religions work. However, using the term aesthetics comes with a price since it has to bear quite a heavy burden due to the coinage of the word in the eighteenth century. The term aesthetics was introduced by Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten (1714–62) in his opus Aesthetica (1750/Volume 2, 58) to describe the scientific endeavor of dealing with sensual perception, the human memory, beauty, and the arts. Baumgarten took up core ideas of Antiquity and saw his term as a continuation and reinterpretation of aisthesis, the science of the senses, sensual perception, and sensible recognition. Baumgarten’s term was taken up by other philosophers, artists, and writers and continually reinterpreted. In his famous Lectures on Aesthetics, G. W. F. Hegel, for example, defined aesthetics as a philosophy of the beautiful arts. The status of “art” was thus immensely enhanced by the German philosopher who considered art’s faculties as powerful and far-reaching as those of philosophy and religion. In and through art, according to Hegel, humans could get in touch with “the absolute” (Cancik and Mohr 1988: 127), and with the sublime. Scientific reflections on aesthetics therefore turned almost exclusively into a theology of beauty. Aisthesis, “referring to our total sensoric experience of the world and to our sensuous understanding of it,” was reduced to aesthetica as a category of the sublime and the beautiful (Meyer and Verrips 2008: 21). It was with this reduced understanding of aesthetics that Suzuki and his many followers presented the “art of Zen” as a path to the ultimate truth. Suzuki and other intellectuals spread the limited concept of aesthetics in Japan and thus strongly influenced the perception of Buddhism, which was from then on mostly interpreted as scripture or art and not as a daily practice (Graham 2007). Aesthetics became a globalized category with immense discursive influence.


Key Terms in Material Religion

In non-Christian countries, it made possible the denomination of individual objects, which were taken from a set of religious artifacts, as part of a fixed canon of art. This offered—and still does offer—the chance to present one’s own tradition and cultural identity as equal to “Western standards.” In many areas and especially in the field of religious studies, the definition of aesthetics as a theory of beauty and the sublime has often hindered efforts to research the effectiveness of icons, the efficacy of religious buildings, and/or the shaping influence of movement during rituals. To the contrary, a deliberate return to the meaning of aesthetics as sensual perception opens the way for a thorough and fruitful investigation of religious practice. In the case of Zen Buddhism, for example, the sacralization of art was so influential that the total sensory experience of a Zen temple came to be forgotten. Examining the “multivalent functionality” of objects at the Zen temple Daitokuji in Kyoto (Levine 2005) or Japanese Buddhist Icons as “living Images” (Sharf and Sharf 2001), scholars helped to shift the perspective of research toward the material dimension of Zen Buddhism. A Zen temple offers a wide range of sensory experiences. Many temple sites in Japan are surrounded by high walls and thus appear as remote and secret worlds that are hidden behind closed doors. After having passed through the central entrance of the temple, visitors take a narrow path that leads to the main temple. Before they are allowed to enter the main hall, they have to take off their shoes and thus touch the mats made of rice straw that cover the floor with their bare feet. At the same time they smell incense and glance at a marvelous altar, which offers a stark contrast to the plainness of the setting. This multi-layered aesthetic formation of the temple offers a sensory experience of a special and extra-ordinary world. Many of those interested in aesthetic formations these days consider religions to be comprised of a set of ideas and practices that offers practitioners the opportunity to grasp a “transcendent” or “holy” agent, order, or realm—whose existence and disposition is assumed by these practitioners—cognitively and sensually through religious practice. In their view, different aesthetic formations offer practitioners access to the assumed transcendent entity. Birgit Meyer, for example, describes these “sensational forms” as “relatively fixed authorized modes of invoking and organizing access to the transcendental” (Meyer 2008: 707). Let’s consider zazen (seated meditation) as a “sensational form”: The discourses and practices of zazen, sitting in the lotus position, form the foundation of Zen Buddhism. The rules governing the practice of zazen extend beyond the sitting to how the practitioners enter the do ¯ jo ¯ (training hall), how they move within the do ¯ jo ¯ and other rooms within the monastery, and how they

Aesthetics 13

move in relation to one another. Spontaneous and subconscious movements are strictly to be avoided. Beyond prescribing and proscribing certain behaviors, this matrix is interwoven throughout the monastery’s numerous ceremonies— controlled procedures dictate the recitation of the sutras, the performance of sanctification rituals, the greeting of guests, and all other activities. For those who visit the temple as lay Buddhists, the practice of zazen appears as a powerful performance. Many visitors to a Zen temple or monastery understand the monks’ behavior fashioned by the aesthetics of zazen as an indication of the monks’ complete control over their lives. One of the most striking examples of this monastic hyperregimentation is the communal meal with its synchronized motion sequences, strict cutlery arrangements, and nearly sterile cleanliness of the temple setting. Even outside the monastery, when members of the monastic community— the sangha—receive alms, they move in accordance with the teachings and regulations of the zazen-based mindful movement-control. They thus present themselves in public as masters of the form, thereby distancing themselves from the laity, distinguishing themselves as religious specialists, and surrounding themselves with an aura of superior authority and marking themselves as having access to the transcendent. Many lay people, especially older people, visit the monasteries for overnight stays and witness the monks’ synchronized motions during ceremonies of recitation and zazen. Reflecting on this greater exposure to ritual and ceremony, they frequently articulate impressions that the perfect interaction between the individual actors is the result of an invisible hand’s guidance. During my field research, attendees frequently expressed their awe at the specialists’ actions: “The monks behave in an incredible, almost eerie way.” Compounding the scene is the variety of other sensory inputs. Each physical movement is underlined by the typical Buddhist sound arrangements, scents— incense mixed with old wood—and the unique, constrained visuals produced by the designs of the spaces. This panorama of perceptions should be analyzed for the ways it contributes to the depiction and perception of the priests and monks as religious specialists. The various temple ceremonies, rituals, and practices, including zazen, offer a feast for the senses, the mind, and the body, and form a cultic ensemble that is strikingly different from other patterns of perception. As a sensational form, zazen offers cognitive as well as sensuous access to the transcendent sphere of Zen Buddhism. The different ceremonies surrounding zazen are designed to convince lay people of the priests’ religious competence and abilities to address their visitors’ most common concerns: providing access to worldly benefits and caring for the dead and for ancestors.


Key Terms in Material Religion

The study of the aesthetics of religions in the broader sense of the term also includes looking at aesthetic formations that induce fear, anger, disgust, and other negative emotions. Good examples are depictions of “hells” in various religious traditions as well as the reenacting of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in certain Roman Catholic traditions in the Philippines. In this context, one could also mention the religious organization Aum Shinrikyo ¯, which attacked Tokyo’s subway in 1995. Aum Shinrikyo ¯’s profound denial of earthly pleasures and experiences may offer an explanation for the group’s terrorist acts, which were committed by young and well-educated Japanese citizens. Different “corpothetics”—a term with which Christopher Pinney describes the “perception by feeling” (Pinney 2004)—can be described as one of Aum Shinrikyo ¯’s strategies of a complete world-denial: strenuous chores, sleep deprivation, a strict diet, and physical stress should lead to an utter physical demoralization (Prohl 2003). In this condition many practitioners could undergo certain experiences, which they and Asahara Shoko—the leader of Aum Shinrikyo ¯—interpreted as “mystical experiences.” This assault on the senses was further intensified by the “mystical theater,” which was designed to offer an experience of transcendent entities. The intensity of the sensual stimulation and the sensory perception of transcendence should convince the practitioners of the truth and efficacy of Aum Shinrikyo ¯’s teachings. According to Asahara’s teachings that propagate a denial and surmounting of the body, the group’s members were trained to achieve an indifference toward the body, but at the same time their very bodies were used as a means to bind them to Aum Shinrikyo ¯. The ugliness of the group’s facilities stood in stark contrast to the highly stylized presentation of Asahara. Thus the group’s leader emphasized and illustrated the wickedness of the world compared to the beauty of the otherworldly sphere. The study of aesthetics, I suggest, can be understood as theorizing about the sensory experience of the world. The study of the sensuous understanding of the world taking place in religions and cultures has long been neglected in favor of looking at texts, but this does not mean that aesthetics should not examine the ways cognitive recognition is happening. Religions are rather to be seen as venues where the cognitive and sensuous perception flow together, constituting what religious practitioners consider to be the sense of religion. To return to Suzuki’s quote from the beginning of this chapter, the question may be ultimately unanswerable as to whether people are able to gain access to the ultimate through Zen Buddhism, aesthetics, or religion, for that matter. As I have tried to make clear, I suggest that through aesthetics—in the broad understanding of the term, as that related to sense perception—people do

Aesthetics 15

experience what they consider holy encounters, impacts, and transformations. The dynamics of these experiences do not derive from some static and disembodied beauty, but from the effectiveness of all forms of materiality.

Bibliography Cancik, Hubert and Hubert Mohr. 1988. “Religionsästhetik.” In Handbuch Religionswissenschaftlicher Grundbegriffe, edited by Hubert Cancik, Burkhard Gladigow, and Matthias Laubscher, 121–56. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer. Graham, Patricia J. 2007. Faith and Power in Japanese Buddhist Art, 1600-2005. Honolulu: University of Hawai´i Press. Levine, Gregory. 2005. Daitokuji: The Visual Cultures of a Zen Monastry. Seattle, London: University of Washinton Press. Meyer, Birgit. 2008. “Religious Sensations: Why Media, Aesthetics, and Power Matter in the Study of Contemporary Religion.” In Religion: Beyond a Concept, edited by Hent de Vries, 704–23. New York: Fordham University Press. Meyer, Birgit and Jojada Verrips. 2008. “Aesthetics”. In Key Words in Religion, Media and Culture, edited by David Morgan, 20–30. New York, London: Routledge. Münster, Daniel. 2001. Religionsästhetik und Anthropologie der Sinne. Vorarbeiten zu einer Religionsethnologie der Produktion und Rezeption ritueller Medien. Münchener Ethnologische Abhandlungen 23. München: Akademischer Verlag München. Pinney, Christopher. 2004. “Photos of the Gods”: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India. London: Reaktion Press. Prohl, Inken. 2003. “Zur sinnlichen Realität religiöser Praxis in der Aum Shinrikyo ¯ und ihrer Bedeutung für die Legitimation religiös begründeter Gewaltanwendungen.” Zeitschrift Für Religionswissenschaft 11(2): 259–76. Promey, Sally M. 2014. “Religion, Sensation, and Materiality. An Introduction.” In Sensational Religion: Sensory Cultures in Material Practice, edited by Sally M. Promey, 1–21. New Haven, London: Yale University Press. Sharf, Robert H. and Elizabeth Horton Sharf, eds. 2001. Living Images: Japanese Buddhist Icons in Context. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Suzuki, Daisetz T. 2010. Zen and Japanese Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.



Belief Robert A. Orsi

Figure 3  The Immaculate Conception image for novena.

On the desk where I am writing is a statue of the Virgin Mary as the Immaculate Conception, which belonged to my mother. The statue is badly chipped, its colors faded. For fifty years my mother addressed her prayers to this Madonna, which stood on her dresser surrounded by statues and images of other saints and by family photographs. By “prayers to” here I mean that for fifty years my mother confided her fears and needs to the Blessed Mother present to my mother in this statue. This image of Mary heard my mother’s anxieties for her sons; her fears when my father was late coming home from work; her terror that I would be drafted. She would have been privy to everything my mother thought, felt, and imagined for most of her seventy-nine years on earth (the statue was a gift to my mother in her early twenties). The Blessed Mother in this image looks down toward the earth at her feet with a serene and compassionate gaze. She watched over my mother as she lay in a hospice bed at home dying of cancer. The statue came to me after my mother’s death. Did my mother believe in the Blessed Mother? Like most American Catholics who were raised in the twentieth century, my mother was able to distinguish between the devotion she showed to Mary and the honor due to God. (Catholic children in the United States were taunted by Protestant playmates—Catholics worshiped Mary!—and the nuns made sure that Catholic boys and girls knew what to say to this.) My mother was familiar with the details, biblical and legendary (this distinction would have been less clear to her), of Mary’s life. When she prayed the rosary, she imagined herself taking part in the scenes of Mary’s earthly experience, picturing herself searching frantically alongside Mary for the boy Jesus lost in Jerusalem (a fear that especially resonated with my frightened urban mother), and standing with Mary at the foot of the cross. My mother also knew how to speak to Mary, what to say to her, how to frame her requests, and what to promise the Blessed Mother in return for her assistance. Her prayers, needs, and fears, moreover, arose within particular social, historical, and psychological circumstances, having to do with her being the daughter of poor immigrants, living in a tough working-class neighborhood, and watching the nightly news of the war in Vietnam and other late-twentieth-century horrors

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on television. A harder way of putting this is to say that my mother was driven to her devotion to Mary by the realities of power and powerlessness in her life. But does all this add up to her believing in Mary? Or to take an example from another part of the world: contemporary pilgrims to the Yamuna River in northern India say that they go there to have darshan (visual communion) of the goddess of the river, Yamuna-ji. They come to a place made holy by the goddess, to see her and to be seen by her. Families make the journey together to offer sweets and gifts to the goddess—saris, necklaces, combs, and mirrors, and other things—and to ask her blessing for abundant life. Does this mean they believe in Yamuna-ji? (Haberman 2006: 95–104) Believing in is an adequate descriptor for these experiences only if religion itself is understood to be primarily and fundamentally a matter of belief. The provenance of the notion religion = belief is relatively recent, dating to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A highly condensed version of this genealogy is that “belief” emerged in order to establish a boundary precisely between religion truly understood and the sorts of things my mother was doing with the Immaculate Conception and the pilgrims with Yamuna-ji. “Belief” moved to the center of Western understandings of “religion” after a long season of internecine Christian violence when philosophers and theologians sought a universal account of religion free of the danger of social conflict. What developed was not only suitable to the emerging nation state—religion-as-belief kept the new civic sphere free of religion—but was also taken as its surest guarantee. Encoded within the DNA of religion-as-belief, however, was the memory of early modern violence, in particular the mutual hatred of Protestants and Catholics, and especially, with the development of the study of religion in Protestant or post-Catholic contexts, by a fierce anti-Catholicism. “Belief” named a way of being religious that was the antithesis of Catholicism, of its hierarchy, its onerous proliferation of rules and sins, its saints, miracles, rituals, gestures, and, above all, the Catholic experience of the presence of the holy in matter, in things— first of all in the consecrated Host, and also in relics, in features of the natural environment (in grottos, rivers, stones, and trees), in statues, images, in the movements and gestures of bodies, in oils, and water. Recent scholarship has emphasized how religion-as-belief got caught up in Western colonialism, as European administrators, missionaries, travelers, and scholars discovered that “beliefs” were central to other religions too(!). This globalization of religion = belief had mixed consequences. It made possible new traditions of scholarship on the religious ideas of other peoples; the collection, preservation, translation, and publication of the ancient texts thought to contain these beliefs; and genuine possibilities of cross-cultural exchanges,


Key Terms in Material Religion

mutual education, and friendship (see, for example, Marchand 2009). But it also re-created the rest of the world’s religions in the image of Protestant-Catholic polemics. Protestant missionaries and scholars took other peoples’ embodied religious practices (such as those on the banks of the Yamuna) to be corruptions of a more authentic original faith or else as survivals of “primitive” religions. Catholics struggled to differentiate their religious practices from those of pagans and heathens that seemed too similar, often by declaring a resemblance to the work of Satan. Both constructions of other religions were available for the purposes of domination at home and in the colonies. A hierarchy of religious stages, in history and in the human mind, was established: religion-as-belief was deemed the highest form of religious life and the material “superstitious” practices of the lower classes, darker-skinned people, women, children, and Catholics as the lowest. This evaluative scale endures in contemporary developmental psychologies of religion and in the modern consciousness. How many moderns, anywhere in the world, would look without condescension or judgment, or at least bemusement, upon a person feeding a piece of candy to a river thought to be a goddess? But everything about the word “belief” as it was used in religious scholarship since early modernity has been called into question in the last several decades: its priority (to ritual, for example, to authority, or to experience); its interiority (as something the “believer” holds inside); its cognitive, volitional, and propositional grounds (I choose my beliefs, I come to them through reflection and understanding); its autonomy (my beliefs are mine alone and no one can compel me to believe what I do not choose to believe or to believe what I choose not to); and its inviolability (no one can take my beliefs away from me). Most of all, belief has lost its centrality to what it is that scholars of religion study when they study religion. As Donald Lopez wrote in an earlier review of the subject, “The problem . . . is not whether belief exists—this is difficult to determine—but whether religion must be represented as something that derives from belief, as something with external manifestations that can ultimately be traced back to an inner assent to a cognitive proposition, as a state of mind that produces practices” (Lopez 1998: 34; my emphasis). The answer to the question implied here is simply and clearly “no.” Talal Asad’s formulation of the alternative to the primacy of belief in religious studies, developed in a critique of anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s definition of religion (which Asad understood as reproducing the religion = belief equation), was especially influential. “How does (religious) power,” Asad asked, “create religious truth?” And, “it was not the mind that moved spontaneously to truth, but power that created the conditions for experiencing that truth”

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(Asad 1993: 33, 35). In place of belief, scholars of religion now talk about discipline, practice, materiality, embodiment, authority, memory, performance, and power. These are the preferred optics for thinking about the examples in my opening stories. But the irony of the deconstruction of “belief” in religious theory is that it has served to reproduce the old normative hierarchies embedded in the genealogy of modern Western religious theory. The necessary concern with the social production of religious experience and with religion’s political contexts—what people are doing with their religious idioms, to themselves and to their worlds, and what is being done to them at the same time—has brought with it the construction of religious actors as mindless practitioners whose interiorities and imaginations do not matter, or matter only as a function of the social. Religious materiality and embodiment have been recovered as subjects of theory, in other words, at the cost of emptying ordinary religious people’s minds. In this re-articulated hierarchy, religious theorizing takes the higher ground once held by belief and religious theorists the status of modern Protestant missionaries. The multivalent reality of religious experiences is thus diminished again. If this is where the critique of religion = belief has gotten us, we have merely made a long detour back to where it all started. Religion-as-belief has not disappeared. It remains common in popular usage, where it serves to establish boundaries and to protect fearful modern selves (“I have my beliefs and you have yours”); it is used to signify the wrong kind of religious consciousness, specifically among Muslims since 9/11 (as in V. S. Naipaul’s now much-used phrase, “among the believers” [Naipaul 1982]); it serves as a diagnostic for unmasking religious/political duplicity or defending oneself against such charges (as in Tariq Ramadan’s recent What I Believe); and it endures in American law courts where it is still taken as a standard for distinguishing religions that are tolerable in the civic sphere from those that are not (Sullivan 2005: 78–82, 201–2). Within the discipline of religious studies, however, the challenge now is to come up with a vocabulary for the kinds of mental and bodily processes that go on among humans in the company of each other and of their gods and other special beings. In place of belief, we need ways of thinking about religious operations of mind (conscious and unconscious) and minds (of humans in relation to each other and with their special beings), and of body (intentional and unintentional) and bodies (of humans and their special beings literally in touch with each other). The old dualisms—body/mind, matter/spirit, belief/ritual, authority/autonomy, ideas/things, self/other, imagination/reason, past/present—are no longer useful when we talk about what goes on when humans and these special beings are present to each other. Instead, we learn


Key Terms in Material Religion

to think along these multiple slashes. Moving beyond static notions of belief, we can develop dynamic and fluid understandings of the routes of understanding, imagination, memory, desire, fear, and conscious and unconscious that circulate among people and between humans and their special beings, say, on the banks of the Yamuna or in the great pool of miraculous water at Lourdes, constituting the reality of religious events. The primacy of the one—the single believing individual—is replaced by an understanding of the inevitably relational nature of these operations of mind and body in religious contexts. I participated once in a pilgrimage of severely handicapped Italian men and women from La Spezia, a city along the Tuscan coast, to a small village in Umbria, to see the exposed and uncorrupted body of Blessed Margaret of Castello, the only handicapped human considered (unsuccessfully) for Catholic sainthood. A society of young Catholic activists, the Gruppo Giovanile “Padre Alfonso,” had organized the event. We went by bus. This was in the mid-1980s, when handicapped Italian men and women remained very much hidden from Italian society. The journey was a riotous affair that involved much intimate and necessary bodily contact among all of us pilgrims and helpers alike. I assisted male pilgrims to go to the bathroom and I joined in arduous struggles to carry and push pilgrims in wheelchairs or heavy braces up the unforgiving medieval steps of the shrine church that housed Margaret’s body, all of us straining, our bodies mashed together on top of each other. Along the way to and from the shrine, a microphone was passed around the bus and pilgrims made astonishingly ribald and crude jokes about sex, body parts, shit, piss, and bedpans (which in Italian is also the word for “parrot”), each comment provoking another, until the pilgrimage bus seemed to become a collective unconscious on wheels. Blessed Margaret represents many things, but what she offered all the pilgrims in common was a heavenly figure whose body looked and presumably behaved like theirs. Margaret’s real presence— not belief in her—on the day of the pilgrimage was created and encountered by all of us together, with what we brought in our minds and bodies onto the bus, along the different routes that connected us that day, as we journeyed together toward her body.

Bibliography Asad, Talal. 1993. Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Haberman, David L. 2006. River of Love in an Age of Pollution: The Yamuna River of Northern India. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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Lopez, Donald. 1998. “Belief.” In Critical Terms for Religious Studies, edited by Mark C. Taylor, 21–35. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Marchand, Suzanne L. 2009. German Orientalism in the Age of Empire: Religion, Race, and Scholarship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Naipaul, V. S. 1982. Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey. New York: Vintage. Ramadan, Tariq. 2010. What I Believe. New York: Oxford University Press. Sullivan, Winnifred Fallers. 2005. The Impossibility of Religious Freedom. Princeton: Princeton University Press.



Body Angela Zito

Figure 4  Buddha’s Finger relic on the altar in Hong Kong. Photo by author.

On May 25, 2004, a relic, the Buddha’s finger, was flown to Hong Kong from China. It had been unearthed in 1987 at Famen Temple near Xi’an in Shaanxi Province after lying over 1,100 years underground. I was invited to attend the closing ceremony on June 4, and filmed it. The finger had been displayed for ten days at the huge Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in its miniature gold pagoda since the Buddha’s birthday on May 26 (Figure 4). Over one million devotees had prostrated before the relic and made offerings. This relic has a richly documented history. The last time it saw the light of day was in 873, when it was re-interred in the Famen Temple crypt by the Tang Emperor Yizong (who reigned from 859 to 873). Scholar Eugene Wang points out that the relic was called the True Body or Zhen Shen, which represented a shift from understanding the Buddha’s relics as metaphysical objects that glowed and produced other special effects (of the Dhammakaya) to being actual bits of Gautama’s physical body proper (Rupakaya) (Wang 2004: 79–81). It provides a perfect object for meditations upon the concept “body.” Our analytic purview in the study of religious life has been vastly expanded by the turn in the human sciences toward embodiment, by a grasping of the sensuous body itself as key in the poststructuralist critique of the Enlightenment. The turn to embodiment has helped mitigate a legacy of overreliance upon reason and intellect for forming an understanding of human life. The study of religion has seen an analogous turn from analysis based upon doctrine and belief, themselves categories linked to Protestant religion, to “practice” or “lived religion.” And central to lived religion is precisely that aspect of the human being that not only thinks but also lives and dies, feels and reacts, through the mortal body and its moral fate. Further rematerializing the study of religion after its long-term commitment to scripture means returning texts to their con-texts of objects, images, and spaces wherein texts are found and used. There we also find, animating this whole magnificent panoply of things, the actual people who produce objects and then render them dynamic in practice. I would venture to say that it is these people themselves (the faithful, the disciples, the sangha, the congregation,

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the umma, and their various clergy) who constitute the most powerful creations upon which religions lay claims of stewardship, subjects among objects. It is through the practical, ritual, and moral maintenance of embodied persons that religions thrive or fail, and this maintenance does entail an enormity of material sustenance/support/contrivance. But at its center, as its motor and goal, lie the energy and the puzzle of the embodied human self. Thus, religious worlds are full of representations and discussions about bodies while simultaneously being created by bodies. We can think of this double configuration as the “body as sign” and the “body as site.” Religious philosophers, theologians, and rule-makers have spent enormous energy representing ideas about correct conduct and discipline for both insider clerical virtuosi and common practitioners. In post-Enlightenment Europe, the habit of self-consciously conceiving of humankind as primarily rational creatures devoid of embodied necessities resulted in some very entertaining displacements of embodiment into organizing metaphors for the rest of the world—the body as sign. Indeed, the human body has functioned and continues to function as a powerful organizing metaphor for nature, society, and self in many social contexts, to the point that we have forgotten this stratum in our own language (Harrington 2009: 106–7). But when we conceive of the body as site, we draw a distinction between the activities of metaphorization from a corporeal body to another domain (society, nature, the cosmos) and the situation of the lived body itself as a location for various practices, performances, and disciplines that shape and subjectify the self. (Noting again that body metaphors are themselves powerful organizers of such practices and appreciating this can enliven our readings of texts that purvey those metaphors.) This framework implies a dynamic looseness in the relations among the various materialities in play: images, texts, objects, and bodies. One might apply it to embodiment in any number of social domains quite fruitfully. I hope to provide a short illustration of its usefulness in a religious context, while also asking, conversely: what does taking up the body religious offer that might be especially useful or interesting to the general theorization of social life? Buddhism provides an excellent case in point for several reasons. During its 2,000-year history, it has spread through several continents, doctrinally transforming, artistically elaborating, and politically ramifying itself, bending and shaping national cultures along the way. But the human body and its dispositions have remained at the core of all its many forms. The Buddha was famously clear in this regard: “I declare that it is in this fathom-long carcass, with its perceptions and thoughts/That there is the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, and the path leading to the cessation of the world” (Anguttara Nikaya Sutta of the Pali Canon, AN 4:45). Buddhism’s lack of external divinity meant emphasizing


Key Terms in Material Religion

perforce humanity’s continued incarnation into consciousness as an essential factor in the cosmos. Yet, Buddhism is equally famous for decrying the body as a source of suffering. Its soteriological contradiction—preaching impermanence of the body and harping upon it as a source of defilement (especially in the Vinaya, or monastic codes)—was accompanied by recognition of the body’s necessary role as a vehicle for making consciousness/mind available for enlightenment. If there is no physical form, then there can be no negation, no “not physical form.” The logic of early Mahayana philosopher Nagarjuna was implacably sticky, elegantly severe in this conundrum (Williams 1997)! As befits a religion with a human founder, the Buddha’s own body became an early source of doctrinal speculation. Fundamental Theravada doctrine provides him with two bodies. The first is the Dhammakaya, or Body of Truth, the body of the oral teachings, texts, images, and other representational means of transferring the dharma. The second is the Rupakaya, the Buddha’s Body of Form: the physical Gautama Siddhartha, and the relics of his incarnation among humans (Collins 1997). (The later Mahayana, in its usual Greater Vehicle fashion, expands upon these two, but within this basic classificatory binary.) Thus Buddhism also provides a salient example for understanding “body” because it enfolds into itself a notion of the corpus of representations that recognizes their living dynamic force in the production of religious selves. Judging from texts, carvings, and paraphernalia on the temple site, Wang puts the ceremonial treatment of the Famen Temple relic in 873 somewhere between the Buddhist abhiseka, the ritual process whereby a (human) bodhisattva becomes a (supra-human) Buddha, and a Chinese funeral. That is, the relic seems to bring together two very different streams of ritual activity, creating a deliberate (con) fusion between the (supra-human) Buddha and the (all-too-human) presiding emperor. There was a crisis of succession in the late ninth century, and a faction of eunuchs was bent upon putting Yizong’s twelve-year-old son on the throne. This particular bone, the very one that came to Hong Kong in 2004, was treated as though it stood in for not only the body of the Buddha, but also the body of the emperor: “The True Body was a symbolic solution in this period of crisis. . . . [It] links the past with the present and uses past authority to legitimate the present. The relic’s defiance of decay, as celebrated in relic lore, promised a reassuring stability in a time of confusion and unrest” (Wang 2004: 118). In 873, in order to do this earthly job of stabilizing connections among the faithful, between them and their cosmic order, and in linking it all to the imperial center, the relic needed to be rethought of as an actual body bit, and treated ritually as re-embodied. This historically accomplished corporealization made it completely available to modern practitioners and their bureaucratic governors

Body 29

for what seemed to be a close re-run of politics in times of crisis in Hong Kong in 2004. Overseas critics accused the People’s Republic of China (PRC) of deploying the relic for political purposes: one Australian headline read, “Buddha’s finger goes up Hong Kong’s nose.” But it was touted by newspapers in China as a powerful benevolent governmental kindness. The relic had traveled to Taiwan in 2002, performing some of the same sorts of cross-straits religious diplomacy. At the opening ceremony, after copious thanks to all bureaucracies, the monk Kok Kwang, head of Hong Kong’s Buddhist Association, said: “We must wholeheartedly and with deep feeling be thankful for the Motherland’s solicitude for the people of Hong Kong” (Jue Guang 2004). Cynics noted that the PRC had just squashed Hong Kong’s hopes for continuation of local free elections—and were literally throwing the populace a “bone.” At the Hong Kong event, there were several kinds of bodies and embodied situations. The Buddha himself was present in both his bodies: as Dhammakaya in his sutras and his images, and as Rupakaya in his relic finger bone. Thousands of faithful followers participated in a beautifully choreographed ceremony for themselves and for one another. Thus, the “site” gathered the exemplary body of the (deified) leader, the body of the self, and the bodies of others—all in a ritualized relationship. But, simultaneously, the entire ceremony was filmed from several angles for TV, projected on the jumbotron, and photographed by lay practitioners and monk participants alike. People kept whisking digital point-and-shoot cameras out of the sleeves of their robes. Part of the ritual itself was the constant production of further representations of the various bodies who were participating—bodies as signs. When faced with a swiftly moving event of this sensory magnitude, one realizes that site and sign are dialectically intertwined as mutually productive. Here I will discuss briefly how a sense of hierarchical unity was created and displayed. The hierarchy of differences among the participants was clearly displayed in clothing and position: monks wore robes of brown, yellow, or orange, their shaved heads gleaming in the golden spotlights as they proceeded up the central aisle or onstage. The laity were in the darkened audience below, yet most of them wore simple robes in gray or black over their street clothes in a style that mimicked those of the monks, both different and similar. The most intricate part of the ceremony was the passing along from hand to hand, from the monks through the lay disciples and back up to the monks, of offerings of glittering bowls of water and platters filled with food, flowers, fruit, candy, some of the piles wrapped round with mala prayer beads of pearls and


Key Terms in Material Religion

other precious stones. People knelt, prostrated, or stood at their own rhythm, while managing to be ready when the next heavy platter arrived. Chanting and music provided a continuous background. One felt immersed in a seething, moving synchrony of people seized by a momentary will to cooperate. This impression was reinforced by the overhead jumbotron’s instant reflection of the sangha and the scene. Again difference is maintained, yet encompassed by the whole of the group. A sense of hierarchical unity is, of course, just what the mainland government has attempted to impose upon Hong Kong since 1997. Over and again, in every speech by official or monk, we were reminded that we had gathered in the presence of the Buddha’s own body fragment to imagine metonymically the power of the greater whole of his dharma, a mysterious process of law, duty, pedagogy, and triumphant cooperation with our own karma. This hierarchy was repeatedly and explicitly linked to Hong Kong’s political relationship to the PRC. Indeed, our own morning was spent with the relic, but that evening with the same friends was spent commemorating Tiananmen in the park by a candlelight vigil. Kok Kwang once again: When we gaze upon the relic ourselves, it is like personally seeing the Buddha, to receive his grace with feeling, to be bathed in his compassionate light, to experience his wisdom, to deeply plant his karma which will transform the heart/minds of our people. His mercy and his treasures will support us and lead us to unity, dissolve any rebellious wind, finding people’s hearts pacified, society pacified, business prospering, the mother country thriving, the Nation safe, the people safe, the world at peace. (Jue Guang 2004: 4)

The event displayed the Chinese Humanist Buddhist commitment to the conundrum that only through our embodied physicality can we make visible our intuition of the things beyond it: be they our own capacity for transformation, the Buddha’s compassion, good luck in the future, or one’s membership in vast invisible collectives like “all sentient beings” or nation-states. The shared “fathom-long carcass, with its perceptions and thoughts” was celebrated, yet provided the site for constantly gesturing beyond its many connected selves. As Durkheim maintained long ago, the social life of human beings may be a hauntingly elusive matter to grasp, but religious life provides one place where it is most deeply felt and most obviously displayed, even as people find themselves in their own devotions and offerings. Concentration upon embodied life allows us to concretize this old Durkheimian point quite dramatically.

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Bibliography Collins, Stephen. 1997. “The Body in Theravada Buddhist Monasticism.” In Religion and the Body, edited by Sarah Coakley, 185–204. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Harrington, Laura. 2009. “The Feeling of Buddhahood, or Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Body, Belief and the Practice of Chod.” In Religion and Material Culture: The Matter of Belief, edited by David Morgan, 97–112. New York: Routledge. Jue Guang. 2004. Zai kaimu yishishang de zhici. [Speech at the gathering for the opening ceremony of the .] Fayin [Dharmaghosa] 6: 4–5. Wang, Eugene Y. 2004. “Of the True Body: The Famen Monastery Relics and Corporeal Transformation in Tang Imperial China.” In Body and Face in Chinese Visual Culture, edited by Wu Hung and Katherine R. Tsiang, 79–120. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asian Center. Williams, Paul. 1997. “Some Mahayana Buddhist Perspectives on the Body.” In Religion and the Body, edited by Sarah Coakley, 205–30. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Brain-Mind Ann Taves

Figure 5 Image from website of the Mind and Life Institute ( collaboration.html).

Considered as a material object, the brain-mind is unusual in two significant respects. First, as an object it is inherently dual, participating in two fundamentally different conceptual domains, one physical and the other mental. Second, unlike some other dual objects, it can only be accessed indirectly. Linguists sometimes refer to objects that simultaneously occupy two distinct conceptual domains as “dot-objects.” Books are dot-objects that are simultaneously physical and information bearing. Like a brick, we can move books around and stack them up. Unlike a brick, however, a book contains information that can be copied, analyzed, and interpreted. The brain-mind as we experience it and as we conceive of it in other humans is inherently dual. Like a book, it is a dot-object that is simultaneously physical (brain) and mental (mind) (Jackendoff 2007: 160–3). The compound brain-mind is a specialized way of referring to human beings as “persons,” that is as dot-objects that simultaneously occupy both the physical and mental/social domains. The dual nature of persons is widely represented across cultures as a distinction between the body, on the one hand, and the soul, spirit, and/or mind, on the other. To refer to the brain is to refer to a part of the body and thus to the physical domain. To refer to the mind, spirit, or soul is to refer to something that interacts in the mental–social domain (Jackendoff 2007: 160–3). Most scientists assume that this sense of duality is an artifact of the way that our brains are structured and does not reflect an ontological distinction between brains and minds, such that mind can exist apart from the biological brain. Many religious and cultural traditions, however, view the distinction ontologically, claiming that mind, soul, or spirit can exist independently of the physical body. Many traditions promote practices in which the practitioner’s spirit is thought to leave the body or other spirits are thought to enter the practitioner’s body; other traditions prepare the practitioner’s mind, soul, or spirit for whatever is believed to follow after bodily death. Scholars of religion analyze and compare these different religious and cultural traditions phenomenologically; some scholars of religion also draw upon scientific studies of cognitive processes to explain why such views are so common across time and cultures (Cohen and Barrett 2008).

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Although the brain-mind is a thing in the sense described by Morgan (see “Thing” in this volume), we do not have the same kind of access to it as we have to other things or even to other dual objects. Thus, if we compare a book and a brain-mind, it is clear that we cannot access the brain-mind of others or ourselves in the same way that a skilled reader accesses the contents of a book. Like virtually all bodily organs, except for the skin, the living brain-mind is not directly accessible to the senses of others except under extraordinary circumstances, such as surgery or injury. In addition, the brain-mind is protected by surrounding bone and thus cannot be palpated like muscles and some other internal organs. While observers may access the brain after death by means of autopsy as they might any other body part, the mind is no longer present. Though people differ with respect to whether the mind dies with the body or whether the mind or some component thereof leaves it for someplace else, all would agree that it is not present in the dead brain matter. Our access to our own brain-minds is limited as well. Although we access everything through our brain-mind, we have only limited access to the mental processes that constitute what we experience as our mind and even more limited access to our own brains. Thus, we can access something of how our minds work through processes of introspection, though the extent to which we do so with any degree of accuracy is disputed. Normally, however, we have little awareness of our brains as internal organs, except perhaps when they malfunction or are injured. Thus, if we feel pain, pressure, or dizziness in our heads, we might attribute this to our biological brains rather than to our minds or spirits. This, however, is a complicated diagnostic question and, even in the context of Western medicine, physicians may have difficulty determining whether such symptoms are mental or physical. In short, the fact that the brain-mind is a dual object and the means through which we access everything limits our ability to access it directly even under the most rigorous scientific conditions. Consider the picture of nine ovals presented in shades of gray with sub-regions highlighted in orange and red (Figure 5), which appeared on the website of the Mind and Life Institute. If you could hold this object, it would feel like an X-ray, though the presence of the nine ovals and the colored areas would suggest that it is not actually an X-ray, but perhaps, like an X-ray, the product of some sort of medical technology designed to represent the interior of the body. In this case, the ovals might suggest cross sections of the skull and, thus, that the technology in question was designed to represent the interior of the head, that is, the brain. Those familiar with such technologies will recognize the colored areas, which differ slightly from image to image, as areas of “activation” and, thus, areas that represent changes in the brain and,


Key Terms in Material Religion

therefore, mental activity or mind. The caption under the picture described it as depicting “examples of functional activation (orange and red) superimposed upon images of brain structure made with fMRI.” As the caption suggests, the image is not a direct representation of changes in the brain, but rather a statistical representation of differences in blood flow, as measured under experimental and control conditions, that rise above a certain threshold. The image is, thus, a statistically manipulated representation of a living object that reflects in an indirect way changes in the brain of the practitioner while meditating (experimental condition) or resting (control condition) in a scanner in a research laboratory (Schjødt 2009: 313–15). The appearance of this image on the website of the Mind and Life Institute on a page devoted to research on “training and studying the mind” through “an integration of Buddhist contemplative practices and neurosciences” further specifies the context that the image is intended to evoke and the web of practices, both religious and scientific, that it is intended to suggest. We can analyze what the image is meant to represent at a variety of levels: the scientific and technological practices involved in the design of the studies and the production and interpretation of the brain images, the Buddhist practices involved in the generation of the mental states that were studied, and the meaning attached to the creation of such objects by scientists and Buddhist practitioners. As an image, it can stand in for scientific efforts to study changes in the brains of religious practitioners when performing different activities (meditation, prayer, etc.) and, thus, efforts to understand mental processes in relation to the materiality of the brain. The particular experiments described on the website of the Mind and Life Institute were designed by a team of researchers led by Richard J. Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Davidson and other researchers associated with his lab used complex neuroimaging technologies to gather the data, which were then statistically manipulated to produce the images that appeared in articles published in mainstream scientific journals. As with any scientific study, the experimental design that produced the data and the interpretation of the data that resulted from it may be questioned by future researchers. This commonplace of scientific research points to the inherent interpretive instability surrounding scientific representations of brain activity. This group’s research design was unusual, however, in that the questions they asked and the subjects they studied emerged through a collaborative process that involved both scientists and Buddhist practitioners. This collaboration was facilitated by the Mind and Life Institute, which was founded in 1984 by businessman Adam Engle and neuroscientist Francisco Varela, with the support of the Dalai Lama. To further its mission of promoting dialogue between Western

Brain-Mind 37

science and Eastern contemplative traditions, the Institute has sponsored a series of Mind and Life dialogues on various themes. The ninth in the series, held in 2001 at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, focused on how to most effectively use neuroimaging technologies to advance research on meditation and, in particular, to study the relationship between meditation practices and neural plasticity. Dr. Matthieu Ricard, a Tibetan Buddhist monk with a doctorate in cell biology from the Pasteur Institute, was involved both as a test subject and as a collaborator in the group’s research on meditation (Harrington and Zajonc 2008: 144–8, 230–1, 249; Lutz et al. 2008). As both a test subject and an advisor, Ricard brought an embodied knowledge of Buddhist practices and traditions into the lab. Although Ricard was also trained in the sciences and Davidson had a longstanding interest in meditation, they brought different worldviews, training, and motivations to the research. Such differences in perspective were a frequent topic of discussion at the eleventh Mind and Life dialogue on “Investigating the Mind” held at MIT in 2003, in which both Davidson and Ricard participated as presenters and discussants. In sessions on attention, visualization, and emotion, Buddhist practitioners and research scientists outlined their distinct perspectives. As the discussions made clear, while all were interested in investigating the mind, Buddhist practitioners did so through intensive training in introspective practices designed to transform their own minds, while the scientists did so through experimental practices designed to minimize the effects of their biases and preconceptions with respect to the collection and interpretation of publicly accessible data. Despite these differences in training, worldview, and motivation, the effect of the Mind and Life dialogues has been to create a hybrid context in which scientists are encouraged to meditate and meditators are encouraged to collaborate with researchers. Although some Buddhist practitioners viewed the scientists’ belief “in the great god of data” with skepticism and participated simply out of a spirit of generosity, others felt that collaboration might have something to offer to both Buddhism and scientific research (Harrington and Zajonc 2008: 9). Both Davidson and Ricard, for example, shared an interest in the effects of long-term practice on the brain. Davidson stressed the importance of using scientific methods to establish whether the transformative effects of Buddhist practice were the product of the training or simply reflected the preexisting traits and dispositions that practitioners brought with them. Speaking as a Buddhist, Ricard concurred, adding: If it’s true that we are born with that skill because of our genes or environment, and that those traits are immutable, then . . . there’s not much that we can


Key Terms in Material Religion

contribute to others. But if it’s true that I wasn’t at all like this when I was at the Pasteur Institute, and that the benefit I have derived comes from a combination of skillful and wonderfully compassionate and wise teachers along with my own efforts in this training—if that is true, as I’m personally convinced—then that’s what I want to contribute to humankind. (Harrington and Zajonc 2008: 212)

Though Ricard is obviously not planning to wait for science to confirm that he has indeed learned a skill, he nonetheless believes that scientific research has an important role to play in providing empirical evidence that may or may not support his personal convictions. Access to the living brain-mind is limited to introspective investigation of the mind and, apart from surgery, indirect investigation of the physical brain. Through the use of non-invasive brain scanning technologies, researchers are able to produce material representations of the brain-mind. In collaboration with experienced religious practitioners who are willing to practice in the laboratory, researchers are using these non-invasive technologies to study the material effects of practice on the brain. Researchers and religious practitioners, however, engage in such research for different reasons and interpret the findings in light of their own training and worldviews. Scholars of religion with expertise in particular traditions, such as John Dunne, have helped the scientific researchers to distinguish between different practice traditions and to identify claims regarding the effects of practice that can be investigated scientifically (Lutz, Dunne, and Davidson 2007: 499–521). Scholars of religion can draw upon neuroimaging studies of the brain and psychological studies of mental processes to increase our understanding of how practice traditions simultaneously shape and are shaped by the brain-mind (see, for example, Lindahl 2010). Although everyone learns of such research through his or her brain-mind, differences in training and worldview can lead to different assessments of the value and meaning of attempts to acquire a scientific understanding of the living brain.

Bibliography Cohen, Emma and Justin Barrett. 2008. “When Minds Migrate: Conceptualizing Spirit Possession.” Journal of Cognition and Culture 8(1–2): 23–48. Harrington, Anne and Arthur Zajonc, eds. 2008. The Dalai Lama at MIT. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Jackendoff, Ray. 2007. Language, Consciousness, Culture: Essays on Mental Structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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Lindahl, Jared. 2010. “Paths to Luminosity: A Comparative Study of Ascetic and Contemplative Practices in Select Tibetan Buddhist and Greek Christian Traditions.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of California at Santa Barbara. Lutz, Antoine, J. Brefczynski-Lewis, T. Johnstone, and Richard J. Davidson. 2008. “Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise.” PLoS One 3(3): 1–10. Lutz, Antoine, John D. Dunne, and Richard J. Davidson. 2007. “Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness: An Introduction.” In The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness, edited by Philip David Zelazo, Morris Moscovitch, and Evan Thompson, 499–551. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mind and Life Institute. No date. Training and Studying the Mind: Toward an integration of Buddhist contemplative practices and neurosciences. Available on-line at http:// Schjødt, Uffe. 2009. “The Religious Brain: A General Introduction to the Experimental Neuroscience of Religion.” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 21: 310–39.



City Francis Dodsworth, Elena Vacchelli, and Sophie Watson

Figure 6  East London Mosque. Photo: Sophie Watson.

The city is a space of flows, interconnections, networks, and mobilities, and always has been to some extent even though the salience and speed of mobilities is more apparent in the contemporary period.1 These mobilities and interconnections are central to the formation of religious life and its architectures in cities. At the same time, religious practice and participation in religious communities is important for new migrants to the city as they seek spaces of belonging in a sometimes strange and alien world. Yet, there is no one story to be told. Different groups of people, different migrants, different religious affiliations settle and become attached to religious sites in different ways across time and space, making up multiple publics in the city and creating new urban cultures and practices. There are political and planning implications in the locations of religious sites; some communities, particularly at the moment of urban settlement, choose to place themselves out of sight and away from the regulating eyes of the mainstream community, while others, the more dominant and confident communities, build large religious buildings in the heart of the city, displaying their prominence and confidence in no uncertain ways. At the same time, these religious interventions and settlements provoke contestation and resistance, which in the absence of other forums for resolution become issues to be resolved in the planning arena. The materialities and cultures of religious sites and buildings and practices should be of central concern to urbanists. Recent sociologies of religious communities have variously explored the relationship between religious worship and race, class, cultural identity, and diversity, often with a view to analyzing the link between these categories and various forms of participation and openness. Much of the focus of these works is on identity and attachment to particular religious movements; however, other studies also draw out a relationship between religious practice and the more material dimensions of urban life ranging from differential urban locations of diasporic communities to the gendered re-writing of private and public space.

City 43

It is the assumption of Pinxten and Diktomis’s (2009) book When God Comes to Town that the patterns of association and attachment that held together the communities of worshipers in what they call the “traditional” religions— Christianity, Islam, and Judaism—will have been radically destabilized by the unprecedented growth and diversity of the modern giant city. Their assumption is that these religions offered an explanation for the meaning of life, that they provided social organization to their groups of believers, and that they were able to do so effectively because they did so in a social context that was small (tribes, clans) and predominantly rural (Pinxten and Diktomis 2009: ix–x). Given this assumption, they assume that these monotheistic religions must undoubtedly be experiencing significant transformation under what they call the modern urban predicament, which lead us to various questions: Do these traditions still offer convincing accounts of the meaning of life or cultural practice? How do they survive the encounter with radical religious diversity, or the disintegration of the relationship between church and state? Does religious practice provide a specific social location where cultural specificity is preserved in an increasingly globalizing city? Is religious practice used to survive the encounter with super-diversity in contemporary London? How does religion cope with increasing secularization across the different religions? These were the questions that informed our research in the East End of London, which is a particularly fascinating place to consider these questions, since religious diversity is nothing new here. Clearly, Pinxten and Diktomis’s argument that the “traditional religions” operated in a context that was small, rural, and based around a link between church and state is fundamentally problematic: it is difficult to comprehend the history of Islam and Christianity, which spread themselves across an entire globe of different cultures, nations, and states, including cities large and small, persisting over many hundreds of years, on these terms. However, setting this aside, we think that the studies in their volume do raise an interesting question about the impact of urban expansion and transformation on traditional religious communities in the contemporary city. How do religious communities form and stabilize attachments to their worshipers in the context of significant demographic, economic, and social flux? How do believers develop their religious attachments in the urban context and how do these attachments provide a sense of religious identification able to represent cultural specificities as well as ethnic origin and gender? This has been widely understudied. In order to assess the relationship between recent urban transformation in London and the western monotheistic religions, we chose to focus on the East End, which juxtaposes the City of London on the Eastern side, and the eastern part of central London, which juxtaposes the City on its western side (essentially


Key Terms in Material Religion

the E1 and EC1 postcode areas). These areas have been particularly affected by economic and demographic change. It is not that these areas face challenges or opportunities that are unique to them, but here the recent transformation of London is cast in its most stark and obvious form, with the de-population of large parts of central London, and the transformation of the East End under the impact of significant immigration, particularly from Bangladesh. These changes are well enough known to need no further elaboration here, so instead we will proceed to outline the more substantive methodological and theoretical assumptions that underpin our study. For anyone familiar with the recent history of London, it is immediately obvious that the challenge faced by each of the so-called traditional religions in East London is quite different. Christianity and Judaism—both with considerable internal diversity—were well established in East London long before the Second World War, religion having been a central factor in the migration experience for more than three centuries, providing a focus for welfare, connection, and community. In early-twentieth-century East London, the main challenges Christian and Jewish communities faced were generally to respond to the social transformation of the area, in the face of the departure of large parts of the population from which they drew their congregations. Islam, on the other hand, was not a significant presence in the area before the 1970s, and, as such, the challenge for Islamic communities was in building from scratch and gaining the acceptance of an often skeptical wider public. More generally, however, our research suggests that in many ways the challenge faced by all these communities was fundamentally the same: to build a religious community, or at least minister to the public, in a context where religious attendance and affiliation was in no way determined, and could not be taken for granted. Even in areas that appeared to have a ready-made demographic to draw on, there was no guarantee that those people would either continue or begin to attend any kind of religious service, nor was the particular location or kind of service they attended straightforwardly determined by geography, class, or ethnicity. This observation is particularly important in the context of contemporary policy, which often treats communities as given, stable entities possessing attributes that are simply “there.” Our work on religious communities emphasized to us the extent to which taking communities and their affiliations for granted is a mistake. Simply because the inhabitants of Bethnal Green are predominantly of Bangladeshi origin, and might even self-identify as Muslim, does not mean they will necessarily attend a mosque on a regular basis, and even if they do, it does not determine which mosque they actually go to and how they use religious practices to negotiate their presence in the area. In the

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modern, globalized, multicultural city, there is simply too much diverse, easily accessible religion available for any religious group to take their worshipers for granted, or for there to be a straightforward map between location, identity, and religious expression. This is not to say that we see these different religious communities engaged in some kind of market-like competition for worshipers, or as necessarily engaged in a process analogous to marketing themselves; it is simply to acknowledge that if these communities are to fulfill what they regard as their religious mission, they need to make an effort to construct an environment in which not only are the articles of the faith they practice appropriately enacted, but their ability to maintain and spread this faith to others and to provide for the spiritual needs of their worshipers is also ensured. This generally involves generating a sense of attachment between individuals and the communities of which they are intended to form and feel a part. Accordingly, given that we see the construction of religious communities as an essentially active and ongoing process of work, we turned our attention to the sets of practices employed by the principal actors in two of these communities—Christian and, more briefly, Islamic, since we suggest that they operate in a way similar to Christian churches from a material/sociological point of view: creating and maintaining attachment among their worshipers in the face of the transformations they perceived going on around them. In order to assess the nature of the changes taking place, and the response of religious groups to them, we interviewed approximately twenty-five people representing the Christian and, in smaller numbers, the Islamic traditions. Due to constraints of time and access, our prime research sites with a very diverse religious community were the East London Mosque and Ishatul mosques—the former a very established, well-funded mosque, and the latter barely visible and located in an old warehouse. We also chose to focus on the Christian community since there has been little research on this group specifically. The Jewish community has virtually disappeared from the area, with its migration to London suburbs further north and east. Within these broad categories, we interviewed people from a variety of different confessions, including Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, and Baptists. We asked them about the communities they ministered to, what they sought to do in their ministry, what they saw as their mission, and how they felt their worshipers formed attachments to their communities. From our interviews, from attendance at the various sites, and from collecting printed material related to them, we identified three particular forms of practice used by these groups to establish a stable community. The first, and most obvious, is what we might term the practices of worship: the precise nature and ethos of


Key Terms in Material Religion

the religious service being enacted in the site in question. This fundamentally religious question is of importance to many, if not all, religious traditions, and yet below the level of the broadest religious distinctions between faiths, at the level of the denomination it does not seem to have been universally determining in terms of the rationale for membership of a particular community. The second set of practices we identified were the basic material and organizational practices: the nature of the buildings themselves, timings of the services, accessibility, and so on. The third was the social dimension: outreach activity and community interaction including communal meals, accommodation, home visits, and social activities. Different churches approached these elements in different, more or less distinctive ways. Ultimately, we found that the mechanisms devised to practice faith, spread the word, and form attachment between worshipers and their community extended far beyond matters of identity or even religious belief. Those religious groups that were able to assemble durable communities did so by forming an assemblage that was at once liturgical, material, organizational, and social. It is evident from the homology between the different practices for building communities and generating attachment to them across the different denominations and faiths that although there are considerable contextual differences, the different religious organizations deploy similar practices of community shaping within the city. This research suggests that contrary to what might be expected, below the level of the particular faith espoused, attachment to a religious community is not simply determined by any one factor, such as ethnicity, nationality, worship practices, liturgical preference, or locality. Rather, attachments are generated and sustained by a variety of interlocking factors, religious, social, material, geographic, economic, which coalesce to generate a feeling of belonging or involvement, or simply provide convenience and conviviality for particular individuals. There seems little reason to privilege any one of these factors over others, although it is clear that there are some that render the generation of communities difficult. Clearly, material and organizational practices are key to recruiting worshipers and creating a sense of community around religious traditions. Communities in areas with very little in the way of a local residential community to draw on inevitably have smaller and more transient congregations, drawing principally on the highly mobile, frequently changing population of workers for their worshipers. However, even these churches manage to find a way to carry out their work and to generate communities of one kind or another, by shaping their environments, social and material, and deploying an array of creative practices to encourage participation in and attachment to their ministry.

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It was clear overall that loyalty was constructed across a range of dimensions including social practices that were often complementary to religious aspects and represented a strategy of ensuring the cohesiveness of the congregation. To summarize from our cases, it emerged that social practices maintain a vibrant religious community in a number of the sites and can give the church/ mosque a profile in the local community, and that religious function increasingly converges with service provision and community cohesion. An increasing “professionalization” of faith was also observed, such as training with intern programs, as were links with local businesses. There are a plethora of strategies, but what is clear, from this chapter at least, is that building and maintaining attachment to religious sites appears to involve a complex and differentiated set of processes.

Note 1. A longer version of this essay appeared in Material Religion 9(1) (March 2013): 86–112.

Bibliography Beaumont, Justin, and Christopher Baker. 2011. Postsecular Cities: Space, Theory and Practices. London: Continuum International. Bridge, Gary, and Sophie Watson, eds. 2013. The New Blackwell Companion to the City. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Christerson, Brad, Michael O. Emerson, and Korie L. Edwards. 2005. Against All Odds: The Struggle for Racial Integration in Religious Organisations. New York: New York University Press. Eade, John and David Garbin. 2006. “Competing Visions of Identity and Space: Bangladeshi Muslims in Britain.” Contemporary South Asia 15(2): 181–93. McLeod, Hugh, ed. 1995. European Religion in the Age of Great Cities 1830-1930. London: Routledge, 1995. Orsi, Robert. 2005. Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Pinxten, Rix and Lisa Diktomis. 2009. When God Comes to Town: Religious Traditions in an Urban Context. Oxford: Berghahn.



Collection Crispin Paine

Figure 7 Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight, UK. Photo by Mark Hogan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Carisbrooke Castle is one of the biggest attractions for holidaymakers on the Isle of Wight, off southern England’s coast. The romantic medieval castle also houses a small local history museum, whose trustees are planning to open a bigger and better branch in nearby Newport, the island’s capital. Their first step is a survey of the entire museum collection. They are beginning by asking questions similar to those many museum administrations are now asking about their collections: What are its strengths? What better care does it need? What opportunities does it offer for new exhibits and public programs? A survey like this involves both discovering exceptional objects that will attract and interest visitors, and finding out what groups of objects might be used to tell new stories. It involves identifying subsidiary collections—that is, groups of objects that share characteristics. These characteristics may be the material from which they are made, the place from which they came, how they were made and by whom, how they were used, their beauty, their intended function, who originally assembled them together, and who owned and/or donated them—indeed, almost anything that helps define the substance and parameters of a “collection.” But let’s stand back for a second and ponder the question of why people collect things. One often-suggested incentive—the basis of art collections in Europe, America, and Asia alike—is a desire to assemble beautiful things, so that their virtue may somehow pass on to the owner and visitor. But there are a great many other motives. Orhan Pamuk’s novel The Museum of Innocence suggests interesting and contrasting motives: “in pursuit of an answer, a consolation, even a palliative for a pain, a resolution of difficulty, or simply out of a dark compulsion” (Pamuk 2009: 691). Collecting seems to be a very basic human instinct; it is found in many, if not most, societies, and seemingly it has always been so. It remains very prevalent today; one-third of British adults are said to keep some sort of a collection. Even so, critical studies on collecting are relatively new. The past generation has seen a good deal of attention paid to collecting and collections; a useful brief summary of the debate is given by Sharon Macdonald

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in her 2006 Companion to Museum Studies. The modern study of collecting was largely started by Susan Pearce in her 1992 and 1995 books, and much of the attention given by scholars to collections has been devoted to (as one course prospectus puts it) “the relationship between objects, knowledge and power.” The Journal of the History of Collections has created an archive of many of the approaches to collections; however, Russell Belk (1995) has argued that far from being a mere byway of scholarship, let alone being always benign, collections— even, or perhaps especially, museum collections—can play a baleful role in our society: they teach materialism and reinforce consumerism. Others have pointed out how collections can support an ideology, a ruling class, a political regime, a colonial power, or a religion. When it comes to definitions, Pearce, for instance, suggests it is simply “the gathering together and setting aside of selected objects,” but then she goes on to problematize this definition. Macdonald gives an expansive take, saying that collecting can be seen as a practice in which the intention is to create a collection; and a collection in turn is a set of objects that forms some kind of meaningful though not necessarily (yet) complete “whole” . . . it is analytically useful to distinguish “collecting” as a self-aware process of creating a set of objects conceived to be meaningful as a group. (Macdonald 2006: 82)

It is we who not only do the collecting, but also do the identifying of assemblages of objects as collections. For instance, all the things in my house don’t amount to a collection, but they could become a collection if after my death someone regards them as one and keeps them together. (Much more likely they will be quickly dispersed.) It is this recognition that creates the collection, and that recognition always has a purpose and/or intention, whether it is acknowledged or unconscious. Thus a political party may create a collection of items illustrating labor history, and may not be shy at all of advertising it as a means of reinforcing class-consciousness and promoting socialism. By contrast, an art collector may assemble a personal collection of beautiful objects, quite unaware that to others it may appear not as an inspirational assemblage of the lovely and uplifting, but rather as a bid for power, in business perhaps, or politics, or simply in “High Society.” Public museums therefore have a particular duty to recognize what their collections are doing—the effect they may be having on different groups of visitors, and how different groups may understand them. Both the recognition of a group of objects as a collection and the understanding the viewer has of them are influenced by a whole range of things from the cultural


Key Terms in Material Religion

background and personal interests and experiences of the viewer, to the ways in which the museum classifies, juxtaposes, exhibits, and interprets them. If the collection and its powerful effect is in large part in the eye of the beholder, it is also created by its owner, whether an individual or museum or other institution. Religious institutions frequently utilize collections in order to condense power—for example, the Vatican’s deployment of a vast collection of art. Meanwhile, “secular” museums house objects that are traditionally thought of as “religious,” and in so doing they remake the meanings of objects, as beautiful works of art, perhaps, or as illustrations of historical change. Carisbrooke Castle Museum has lots of objects that can be seen as religious: chinaware from Chapel teas, a vicar’s surplice, paintings of churches, hymn and prayer books, Orders of Service for state and municipal occasions, and so on. But these were never seen as one collection until I was asked to help with the museum’s Collections Review, and to look at the “ecclesiastical” items. By looking with a particular frame of reference, I identified a whole series of sub-collections. Some were already seen as individual collections: they came from the same church; they were gathered together by one person; they were all used on the altar, etc. But many were at first only collections in my mind: items illustrating Roman Catholicism on the Isle of Wight; items illustrating the relationship between nonconformity and the class structure of the Island in the nineteenth century; items demonstrating the close relationship between the Church of England and the Island’s civil authorities; a large collection of paintings, drawings, and photographs of Island churches; a surprising quantity of things associated with funerals and tombs. The Collections Review also spotted some of the things that were missing, and which might still be collected if the trustees want to tell that side of the Island’s story—most notably, more modern things that could illustrate the decline of formal religious practice and the rise of syncretic individual spirituality. Although much of the “religious” material in Carisbrooke Castle Museum is typical of what may be found in any local history museum, quite exceptional is a collection of items belonging to or related to King Charles I, executed by order of Parliament after the English Civil War. To his supporters he was and is a martyr who died for his faith and for the Church of England. To some of those supporters, these are not just souvenirs, but real relics, in the sense of objects imbued with the spiritual power of their referent, the royal saint and martyr (Guthrie 2013). Collections of relics are found in many faiths, most strongly in Buddhism, and in Catholic and Orthodox Christianity. A typical example is the relic collection at the Oxford Oratory, built up in recent years to replace the collection dispersed in the 1960s. As its curator Fr. Jerome Bertram put it (2013: 511): “Through the

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respectful veneration of a relic we come in contact with holiness, the prayers and example of one who is now known to be fully incorporated into Christ in glory.” Not every church and temple treasury, of course, can be seen as a powerful collection like this; many are simply treasured, held as if in a bank vault. Collecting relics is not limited simply to museums or to temples. Guiseppe di Lampedusa’s great novel The Leopard describes the collection enthusiastically assembled by three aristocratic old Sicilian ladies, which sadly ends condemned by the church authorities. The Cardinal had heard “the most disturbing rumours about the authenticity of these, and it was desired their genuineness be proved” (di Lampedusa 1996: 175). Even here the collection was at the heart of a struggle over objects, knowledge, and power. All these are collections of the sort that archivists call “artificial,” but Carisbrooke Castle Museum holds other collections that grew organically. One is a collection of embroidered vestments, made by Sister Margaret Compton at her convent in Brussels and worn for the first time at her profession in 1717. They were hidden in 1794 when the nuns fled to England, but eventually found their way to the Dominican convent not far from the castle. Another, contrasting, organic collection is that of Albert Mildmay, a local ironmonger who started as a Methodist, became a Baptist, and ended up running his own chapel. His collection of personal papers, books, and items, is—as every collection must be—greater than the sum of its parts, for its very variety throws light not just on chapel society, but also on the wider Island society and class structure that gave Albert his niche. An ironmonger like Albert might be expected to be a Methodist, for they were socially a cut above the older Dissenters, while more prosperous tradespeople would very probably be churchgoers, like their social superiors in the gentry. But Albert was clearly something of a maverick. In this way, too, collections tell us about social life and power, and the objects in them point to debates and exceptions to social rules. There are few museums without objects that can be considered in some way religious, but hitherto, few have considered them so. In the past, they might have been classified as Chola bronzes, village history, Raphael paintings, Nigerian folk-art, and so on. But things are changing; increasingly, museums are recognizing the religious meaning inherent in some of their objects, and thus realizing that the museums, secular as they may be, hold religious collections. More and more they are allowing their objects to speak (Paine 2013). A few museums, of course, have always recognized their religious collections. Often, these are run by religious organizations, for whom their collection is a tool


Key Terms in Material Religion

of mission. Occasionally, the distinction between museum and shrine almost vanishes; examples include the Relics of the Prophet in Topkapi Museum, Istanbul; the relics of Fr. Michael McGivney in the Knights of Columbus Museum, New Haven, CT; or the art collections of the Miho Museum in Koka, Japan. One of the strengths of Carisbrooke Castle Museum is its collection of toys. Among them is a Noah’s Ark, made in eastern Germany around 1870. John Elsner and Roger Cardinal, in the delightful introduction to their 1994 book The Cultures of Collecting, point out that “Noah was the first collector. Adam had given names to the animals, but it fell to Noah to collect them.” They point out, too, the close links between collecting and classifying: “If classification is the mirror of collective humanity’s thoughts and perceptions, then collecting is its material embodiment. Thus collections become an important part of the way we construct our world” (Elsner and Cardinal 1994: 1, 2). Our understanding of the world is to a large extent determined by things, and by our subconscious classification of things. For all sorts of different purposes we create collections—sometimes actually, sometimes more or less consciously in our minds—that are always greater than the sum of their parts. In doing so we create structures of thought, and thus we help construct our world.

Bibliography Belk, Russell. 1995. Collecting in a Consumer Society. Abingdon: Routledge. Bertram, Fr. Jerome. 2013. “Relics at St Aloysius Church, Oxford (the Oxford Oratory).” Material Religion 9: 4. di Lampedusa, Giussepe Tomasi, and Archibald Colquhoun, trans. 1996 [1958]. The Leopard. London: The Harvill Press. Elsner, John and Roger Cardinal, eds. 1994. The Cultures of Collecting. London: Reaktion Books. Guthrie, Neil. 2013. The Material Culture of the Jacobites. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Macdonald, Sharon. 2006. “Collecting Practices.” In A companion to museum studies, edited by Sharon Macdonald, 81–97. Oxford: Blackwell. Paine, Crispin. 2013. Religious Objects in Museums: Private Lives and Public Duties. London: Bloomsbury. Pamuk, Orhan, and Maureen Freely, trans. 2010. The Museum of Innocence. London: Faber and Faber. Pearce, Susan. 1992. Museums, Objects and Collections: A Cultural Study. Leicester: Leicester University Press. Pearce, Susan. 1995. On Collecting. London: Routledge.


Digital Gregory Price Grieve

Figure 8  iRosary. Photo by author.

Scholars of religion often operate as if people engage the divine primarily through printed scripture. Lived religion, however, cannot be contained within the covers of a book. For most people, religion consists of the embodied messy everyday actions of hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching that immerse them in material networks composed of individuals, groups, and the sacred. Take, for example, the practice of the Rosary, a form of prayer performed using a string of beads to count a sequence of component prayers. In “Street Tactics: Catholic Ritual and the Senses of the Past in Central Sardinia,” the anthropologist Tracey Heatherington describes how small groups of older women gather in the evening to practice the Rosary in a public square, raising their voices and performing actions that carve out a privileged and unique social place (1999). “The echoes of the rosary mixed with the exhortative singsong cries of bereaved women are punctuated by the sounds of footsteps and whispers of muted greeting” (Heatherington 1999: 318). There was a time when the material webs of practice that constituted religious practices appeared solid and, if not eternal, at least tethered to tradition. For example, Heatherington reports that practitioners believe the Sardinian performance of the Rosary as having begun after the martyr of two local saints in early medieval times. In contemporary neoliberal societies, however, all that was solid seems to have melted into a cloud of pixels. As the iTunes page for the application “iRosary (Catholic Rosary)” asks: “You are connected to the world around you with e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Instant Messaging, and more,” but “are you connected to God?” (Brown 2013) (Figure 8). While not all that is sacred has become profane, digital media have transformed the conditions of religious practice and peoples’ relationships to each other and to the divine. Compare, for instance, the flesh and blood use of the Rosary to the application “iRosary (Catholic Rosary)” offered for $2.99 in the Apple iTunes store. This app promises “no easier way to learn this perfect prayer which engages the body, mind, and soul, while meditating on the life of Jesus Christ” (Brown 2013). How odd is it to find a digitized Rosary? Prayer beads are common to many religious traditions, are often used in popular practice, and tend to mix sacred

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practices with everyday life. As the iTune page reads: “If you are like most Catholics, it’s difficult to find time to pray during your busy day. If you would like to change that, we made iRosary for you. Got a few minutes waiting in line? iRosary turns this into time with God” (Brown 2013). The Rosary, used mainly in the Catholic Church, is a devotional practice that employs a string of beads broken down into groups of ten, also referred to as “decades.” Feeling each bead, the practitioner thumbs through each decade and recites a sequence of prayers that depend on the day of the week and the time of the year. Such practices can have deep spiritual meaning for practitioners. Paul Boer writes, in the preface to Enchiridion Sanctissimi Rosarii A Manual of the Most Holy Rosary, “As I grew into young adulthood, I prayed the Rosary only infrequently. Even though I wandered far from the faith during these years, I always had a Rosary in my desk drawer. Because of my neglect, I soon forgot the rubrics of praying it, but I still reached for it in times of crisis” (2013, Kindle Locations 157–61). The “iRosary (Catholic Rosary)” is designed for both the iPhone and the iPad and is optimized for the iPhone 5. To use this app, the practitioner opens a device and clicks the app icon on the device’s screen. After a brief image of the Madonna with Child, the iRosary opens a home page that is divided into an upper red section, “Rosary Mysteries,” and a lower blue section, “Other Prayers.” A small strip of images along the bottom of the screen reads “Joyful Mysteries.” Clicking a button in the center of the screen, “Today’s Mysteries,” illuminates the proper Mystery for each day of the week. Clicking on the correct mystery button opens a screen on the left, which displays a prayer overlaid on an image of a scroll. On the right of the screen is the Rosary itself, which is made up of an image of beads from which you can “Create your own PERFECT DESIGN from 243 cross, chain, and bead combinations” (Brown 2013, capitalization in the original). In a motion similar to thumbing through physical beads, the practitioner can press and swipe down on the beads on the screen. As the practitioner thumbs through the Rosary, the beads move down the screen, making a clicking noise and vibrating the device. At each point, the proper text for each bead is displayed on the scroll to the left so that the practitioner can read and recite it. For instance, when the rosary screen first opens, the Apostles’ Creed is displayed. In addition, in the top left corner of the screen, a rose is displayed. Clicking on the rose brings up images from “two sets of FAMOUS ARTWORK” (Brown 2013, capitalization in the original). When I purchased the iRosary app on January 12, 2015, it was not the only digital representation of the prayer beads. A Google search using the filter “Rosary” produced 26,400,000 results including such things as a Wikipedia website, Rosary podcasts, YouTube videos, social media sites, and online


Key Terms in Material Religion

games from, as well as many millions of actual Rosaries for purchase. As opposed to analog media such as newspapers, film, and vinyl discs, what these digital media have in common is that they can be categorized together as those electronic media that are handled by computers as a series of numeric data. All digital media technologies are composed of programmable bits that can be used for symbol manipulation, and thus share common affordances. “Bit,” a portmanteau of binary digit, is the basic unit of computerassisted communication. Unlike analog media, which use a physical property of the medium to convey the signal’s information, bits, such as a row of on/off switches, can have only one of two values, most commonly represented as “0” and “1.” Are the iRosary app and other digital media really new, or are they just the same old practices wrapped in a new package? As the app’s website reads: “Those who pray the Rosary regularly will appreciate how closely iRosary resembles a traditional Catholic Rosary” (Brown 2013). Conversely, a standard Rosary could easily be called a pre-digital Catholic app if by that one means a simple technological device that encapsulates some key data and helps one to achieve certain tasks throughout the day. Rosaries encode an enormous amount of information that helps the faithful negotiate the spiritual realm and serves to remind the aspirant about key features of the Catholic cosmos and the message of the church. The resemblance of digital media to the actual world is not limited to apps. Such semblances can be found even in what might be the most surprising form of online practice, the religious groups found in virtual worlds. This is a wholly new social space in which users practice religion. It is remarkable that although the medium is completely new and not restricted by physical limitations, many of the practices that occur within the virtual world itself look rather like those that occur in the actual flesh-and-blood world. Take, for example, the virtual object “Keep it Simple Rosary Beads with Prayer Animation” sold by the resident Anastasia Fairywren in the virtual world of Second Life’s Market Place. When the virtual Rosary is attached to an avatar, it kneels and holds out its hand in prayer, mimicking actual world practice. While bearing a family resemblance to earlier forms of media technology, contemporary digital artifacts such as “iRosary (Catholic Rosary)” differ because of their four affordances: procedural, participatory, encyclopedic, and spatial. Affordance refers to the properties that shape how an object can be used. For instance, a doorknob affords the opening of a door and the handle on a mug of coffee affords the consumption of the drink. One could force a door by kicking, but using the knob affords its smooth release, and one could drink the coffee

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without using the handle, but the handle affords its consumption without the risk of scalding one’s hands. The first digital media affordance is the “procedural,” which refers to the execution of conditioned responses. As can be seen in the iRosary’s clicking, vibrating beads, digital media can mimic the linear unisequential design of legacy media. Digital media’s uniqueness, however, lies in their ability to execute abstract sets of instructions and rules. For instance, when one taps and slides the iRosary’s beads, the program offers images and text that correspond to one’s location on the strand. “Built for your busy lifestyle, iRosary works like a traditional Rosary, but tells you the prayers, remembers your place, and is always with you when you need it” (Brown 2013). The classic example of the procedural affordance is Joe Weizenbaum’s program Eliza, which applies formulated responses to the user’s statements in order to simulate a nondirective conversation with a psychotherapist (Eliza, Computer Therapist 1999–2006). The procedural affordance is clearest, however, in the physics of virtual worlds such as Second Life. Physics here refers to the underlying code that simulates the laws of nature by enabling or limiting a user’s choices. The second is the “participatory” affordance, which defines the ability of users to intervene, respond, and see the effects of their intervention in real time. The iRosary has “Beads which MOVE to the touch” (Brown 2013, capitalization in the original). The participatory affordance calls for a coded dialogue with digital media, and users have an expectation that things will happen according to their actions. In other words, the app is “A DYNAMIC interface which moves, slides, and rotates to your gestures” (Brown 2013, capitalization in the original). Such dialogues follow a coded script. Often, this script is rigid, such as in phone-based automated customer service systems. Sometimes the script is transparent and overlooked, as exemplified by the blinking cursor of a wordprocessing program. Participation increasingly calls for social interaction with other people, human–machine interaction, and also, in the case of iRosary, “to connect with God” (Brown 2103). The third affordance is the “encyclopedic,” which refers to digital media’s unequaled potential to store and transmit information. Digital media technology’s unequaled encyclopedic capabilities respond to the human need to collect, preserve, and transmit knowledge. As Gordon Moore noted in 1965, new computer chips seem to be released about every two years that have double the processing power of the preceding generation. “Moore’s Law” has held true for over half a century. The readable tape drives of the 1960s held up to two million characters (two megabytes) and were the size of a household refrigerator. By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, personal computer


Key Terms in Material Religion

storage was measured in terabytes, and users carried keychain-sized storage devices equal to dozens of the 1960 tape readers. The iRosary’s encyclopedic affordance is apparent because it “Uses the same set of prayers listed on the VATICAN website” (Brown 2013). The app stores prayers, such as “The Sign of the Cross,” “Apostles’ Creed,” “Our Father,” “Hail Mary,” “Glory Be,” “Fatima,” and “Hail Holy Queen.” It is also visible in its listing of the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous Mysteries. The final affordance is the “spatial,” which refers to how digital media are perceived as spaces through which users navigate. The spatial affordance is clearest in virtual worlds and video games in which users perceive themselves to be moving through different environments. The spatial affordance can also be seen in the graphical user interface (GUI), in which users operate a mouse to “move” Windows, Icons, Menu, and Pointing devices (WIMP) around on a computer’s screen. It is also evidenced in how digital media are spoken about. Users “logon,” “go to” Webpages, and also “open” files on their computer screens. The spatial affordance is evident in how the iRosary’s beads are a remarkable simulation of actual rosary beads. “Just like a classic Rosary,” practitioners “simply recite the prayer and pull the beads down to advance to the next prayer. It’s that easy!” (Brown 2013). Just as film helped illuminate religion in the twentieth century, digital media expose the religion of the twenty-first century. The iTunes website reads: “For those new to the Rosary, there is no easier way to learn this perfect prayer which engages the body, mind, and soul, while meditating on the life of Jesus Christ” (Brown 2013). As the media theorist Walter Ong argues, different media afford different religiosities (1967). Indeed, as Ong writes in The Presence of the Word: Some Prolegomena for Cultural and Religious History, media technology “asserts its effects simultaneously on quite diverse sensoria, from the highly visualist sensorium of technological cultures veering toward new organizations in sound, to the sensoria of primitive cultures which have not yet crossed the threshold of literacy” (1967: 11). Ong suggests that religion began in an era of orality, was transmitted into visual form through the writing of manuscripts as well as the printing of books, and is now taking shape in the world in a new way via electronic media. The iRosary is both a product of and a response to contemporary consumerism in neoliberal existence. Digital religion has had a strong popular appeal and an economic relevance even if it has tended to be overshadowed by a focus on written scripture. Because of its flexibility and relative inexpensiveness, digital media will continue to play a key role in allowing people to actively explore and create novel, temporary, and flexible forms of religious practice. Moreover, if we

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have not already reached the tipping point, digital media will soon be at the center of information and content distribution, having absorbed newspapers, printed books, movies, and even television. This may lead to quite a change in the scholarly approach to religion and material culture. Because the discipline of religious studies has often assumed that “religion” can be reduced to printed scripture, new and popular practices that are based in these new media have tended to be marginalized. By understanding emerging media technologies, however, we can get a glimpse of the near future of religious practice, especially as religious practice is a response to contemporary life as lived by those in the developed world.

Bibliography Boer, Paul A. 2013. Enchiridion Sanctissimi Rosarii: A Manual of the Most Holy Rosary. Veritatis Splendor Publications. Kindle Edition. Brown, Dave. 2013. “iRosary (Catholic Rosary),” Opicury Software 2013. https://itunes. (accessed January 15, 2015). Eliza, Computer Therapist. 1999–2006. (accessed January 15, 2015.). Heatherington, Tracy. 1999. “Street Tactics: Catholic Ritual and the Senses of the Past in Central Sardinia.” Ethnology 38: 315–34. Ong, Walter. 1967. The Presence of the Word: Some Prolegomena for the Cultural and Religious History. New York: SUNY Press.



Display Ivan Gaskell

Figure 9  Rath Yatra (Chariot Festival) in Trafalgar Square, London. Photo by author.

The display of religious objects takes many forms. While sculpture on the exterior of religious buildings is visible for the long term, relics, cult images, and masquerades are shown only occasionally. One way of emphasizing the potency of an object is to reveal it infrequently. In many religious systems, display is restricted, for some things are dangerous to inappropriate viewers, while others are too powerful to be seen by anyone. When access is possible, viewers value intimate encounter, usually drawing as close as possible to sacred objects. Some are small enough to be worn as amulets close to the body. On ceremonial occasions, such as processions or masquerades, devotees may compete for the privilege of carrying sacred objects. Access is usually hierarchically privileged or controlled. Those with hieratic functions—priests, elders, shamans, vow-makers, museum curators—usually enjoy the most intimate access to sacred materials, whether displayed or concealed. Priests often have exclusive access to parts of a sacred structure containing numinous materials, and museum donors pay for the privilege of exhibition tours with curators during closed hours. Intimacy of access signals status, and display reinforces social distinctions and hierarchies. However, to reduce the display of sacred material to this function alone would be misleading. The three case studies that follow—all set in Trafalgar Square, London—illustrate the variety of associations that sacred objects can have, even when displayed within yards of each other. Founded in 1824, the National Gallery opened in its current building on Trafalgar Square in 1838. Its collection has always included devotional paintings made for European Catholic churches. Such works lose their originally intended sacred status when removed from places of worship. Among them is a painting by the Netherlandish artist Gerard David (ca. 1460–1523) acquired in 1878. Canon Bernardijn Salviati and Three Saints is a rectangular panel (40 ¾ × 37 inches) cut down at the top. Lorne Campbell has shown that this panel and a Crucifixion in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin, by the same artist (which retains its semicircular upper part) together originally formed a hinged diptych, the London panel on the left, and the Berlin panel on the right (Campbell 1998, 122–33 [NG 1045]). When open, the landscape and figures would have formed a unified field in which the canon’s upward gaze met that of the crucified Christ.

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The London panel is in Room 5, devoted to Netherlandish paintings made between about 1480 and 1525, including works by Quinten Massys, Hieronymus Bosch, and others by Gerard David. All but one are of religious subjects. Their presentation, as befits an art museum, is secular, emphasizing their aesthetic qualities and their place in art history. Salviati hangs on the wall as an independent work, like any other painting. Its current use is quite different from what it was when it was first made. In 1501, Salviati, a canon of the collegiate church of St. Donatian, Bruges, obtained permission to repair its altar of St. John the Baptist, which was squeezed into a corner of the nave against the choir screen. His mother had been buried beside this altar in 1494, and Salviati arranged for his own interment there (he died in 1519). As Hugo van de Velden has demonstrated, Gerard David’s diptych altarpiece was designed to fit into this constricted space.1 Its right wing (Berlin) was affixed to the northern end of the choir screen. Its left wing (London) would have opened to not much more than a right angle, constrained by the wall on the left perpendicular to the choir screen. The diptych would usually have been closed, presenting the reverse of the London panel. This is now severely damaged, but fragments remain of a painted window with shutters open toward the viewer revealing the Resurrected Christ. Not surprisingly, the ruined reverse of the painting is not displayed in the National Gallery. Once, however, it would have been the most visible part of the entire painting. The display of the panel in the National Gallery cannot convey the extraordinary sophistication of the original display of the diptych in the church. There, it would have activated the viewer’s space in two modes successively. The first, when closed, would have been a trompe l’oeil illusion of real shutters open toward the viewer to reveal the Resurrected Christ, as though in a vision. The second, when open, would have implied an elastic spatial envelopment of the viewer, uniting the likeness of Salviati not only with the crucified Christ through their exchange of gazes, but also with the celebrant at the altar over whose shoulder Salviati seems to be peering. Represented space on two adjoining planes would have combined with liturgical celebration to secure the abridgment of Salviati’s time in Purgatory. The display in the National Gallery, however, presents viewers with a secularized object to be understood aesthetically and art historically by comparison with other examples of Netherlandish painting. Given that only part of the original object is available, the National Gallery could scarcely display what remains in such a way as to evoke its original visual and theological complexity. Yet, acknowledging that the dominant ideal of the institution is one of secular aesthetic worth, its display serves this function perfectly well.


Key Terms in Material Religion

Those exiting the National Gallery into Trafalgar Square on the afternoon of Sunday, June 28, 2009, encountered a quite different display of religious artifacts: a temporary public ritual. Three huge, brightly painted wooden carriages, each surmounted by a tall fabric canopy, were parked in a row in front of the National Gallery. The many people gathered around them were exchanging Indian sweetmeats, and receiving fruit from those high up on the carriage platforms. This was the London manifestation of Rath Yatra, the Chariot Festival, celebrating the journey by Sri Jagannatha, a form of Krishna (one of the avatars of Vishnu), and his two siblings, Sri Balarama, and Srimati Subhadra Devi, from the temple at Puri on the Bay of Bengal to their summer temple. Various stories are associated with the festival, all asserting the powers of Krishna. Today the festival takes place not only in India, but also in an ever-increasing number of Western cities. It is the biggest annual occasion organized by branches of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON, also known as the Hare Krishna Movement), founded in 1966. The festival is the major annual outreach effort by ISKCON. Its Bengali founder, Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896–1977), taught the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism, and was conspicuously successful in proselytizing in the West during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The adherence of his teachings to Hindu tradition has helped to ensure the continuing success and acceptance of his movement in the larger Hindu world and beyond. Gaudiya Vaishnavism is based primarily on the scriptures of the Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavata Purana. Since the fifteenth century, its teachers have stressed devotion to Vishnu and his incarnations (including Krishna) as the supreme manifestations of a single deity. The instructions on the ISKCON website to those attending make explicit the centrality to the festival of the display of the images of the three deities: Please try and get to the start of the procession before the Deities of Sri Jagannatha, Srimati Subhadra, and Sri Balarama arrive. The Deities are the centre piece of the event and by making sure you are there to welcome Them when They arrive in Their limousines, accompanied by Srila Prabhupada and Their pujaris, you will surely please Their merciful Lordships. The Deities come out of the temple to freely distribute Their loving glances to anyone and everyone. Wherever the Lord appears He is accompanied by His beloved devotees and friends. If you are also there then you will surely benefit.2

Devotees hauled the heavy chariots, each containing its designated image, from their starting point near Hyde Park Corner, along Piccadilly and Haymarket to Trafalgar Square, followed by many others singing, chanting, and playing

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instruments. Once there, the chariots were arranged in front of the National Gallery for further display of the images, while devotional performances by dancers and musicians took place on a temporary stage before the chariots, directly beneath Nelson’s Column, the monument that dominates the square. To one side of the stage, an aged holy man in pale saffron robes was seated beneath a parasol, cross-legged and immobile. His display of impassivity seemed to render him the living counterpart of the images in the chariots. While many attended for devotional reasons, others were surely no more than curious, or attracted by the conviviality of the event. William Railton, who was responsible for the monument to Britain’s great naval hero in the early 1840s, is unlikely to have foreseen a Hindu rite occurring in its shadow. It would also likely have surprised Sir Frederick Burton, who, as director, acquired many religious paintings for the National Gallery, including, in 1878, Gerard David’s Canon Bernardijn Salviati and Three Saints. However, secular display did not entirely dominate Trafalgar Square in Railton and Burton’s days. The neighbor of the National Gallery on the north-east side of Trafalgar Square was then, and remains now, the Anglican church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The present church, consecrated in 1726, is the most influential building designed by James Gibbs (1682–1754). An expansion and radical refurbishment to remove nineteenth-century accretions took place between 2006 and 2008. The most prominent new internal feature furnishes a third example of the contemporary display of religious artifacts in Trafalgar Square: the new east window. The Victorian glass in this Palladian window was destroyed during an air raid in 1940, and was replaced temporarily. Twenty-five artists were invited to submit proposals, the brief stating that their solutions should “embody light . . . and above all encourage reflection and contemplation.” A panel, which included the vicar and the director of the National Gallery, shortlisted five proposals. These were displayed at the church in the spring of 2006. The panel chose the proposal by Shirazeh Houshiary, who was working in collaboration with her architect husband Pip Horne. The Iranian-born Houshiary, who has lived in London since 1974, works in a variety of media, and is known for the asceticism of her art. Although inspired by her study of Sufism, Houshiary purposefully refuses to orient her work in either an obviously Western or an obviously Islamic idiom. She is quoted as saying, “I set out to capture my breath, to find the essence of my own experience, transcending name, nationality, cultures.” Her window for St. Martin-in-theFields was unveiled in April, 2008. It is a field of irregularly spaced, vertical and horizontal steel cames supporting subtly etched plain glass panes. At its center is an oval pane set diagonally, like a crystal lens caught in a net causing


Key Terms in Material Religion

the filaments to dilate to form a rippling cross. While the cross has obvious connotations, the oblique central pane focuses the viewer’s attention on light itself. The confessional association of the cross gives way to a culturally far less specific emphasis on the numinous quality of light. The window prompts viewers whose terms of reference and symbolic needs vary to find their own particular concerns represented, whether overtly Christian, more generally spiritual, or purely aesthetic. Houshiary has succeeded in that most difficult of tasks in a multicultural society: the display of a religious work in a religious context that can engage a wide range of interests uncompromisingly and unequivocally. In one place on earth, within a few yards of each other, I found displays of religious artifacts presented in a wide variety of ways: secular, aesthetic, long-term, occasional, performative, ritual, participatory, mystical. Gerard David’s painting, the chariots of the Hindu deities, and Shirazeh Houshiary’s window, all have complex religious connotations and uses, past or current. All function through display. These displays may contribute to the generation and reinforcement of social distinctions and hierarchies, yet they do much more. Those who contrive displays do so with a purpose, yet such displays do not shape merely passive viewers; rather, they elicit response. Response can range from devotion to iconoclasm— never forgetting indifference—and is neither uniform nor predictable. In Trafalgar Square, like elsewhere in the world, viewers make decisions whether to embrace, acquiesce in, ignore, or subvert what is displayed to them. The choice is theirs.

Notes 1. Van de Velden, 133–9. First noted in the sacristy of the cathedral church of St. Donatian in Bruges in or shortly after 1777, the painting was taken to England in 1792. The church was demolished in 1799–1800. 2. (accessed December 15, 2009).

Bibliography Campbell, Lorne. 1998. National Gallery Catalogues: The Fifteenth Century Netherlandish Schools. London: National Gallery Publications. Carrier, David. 2006. Museum Skepticism: A History of the Display of Art in Public Galleries. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press. Gaskell, Ivan. 2000. Vermeer’s Wager: Speculations on Art History, Theory, and Art Museums. London: Reaktion Books. Geary, Patrick. 1990. Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages, revised edn. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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Karp, Ivan, and Steven D. Lavine, eds. 1991. Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. Washington, DC and London: Smithsonian Institution Press. Van de Velden, Hugo. 2006. “Diptych Altarpieces and the Principle of Dextrality.” In Essays in Context: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych, edited by John Oliver Hand and Ron Spronk, 124–55. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Art Museums; New Haven and London: Yale University Press.



Dress Annelies Moors

Figure 10  From “Real Dutch” poster campaign by Al-Nisa (translation: “I eat them raw”).

Does dress matter to religion? For those who employ a modernist notion of religion and consider religion first and foremost to be about interiority, about belief, faith, and conviction, dress has little or no relation to religion. Others, who recognize the relevance of outward appearances for religion, would disagree. To them, sartorial practices may very well be, simultaneously, religious acts. In other words, if we consider the study of religion to be about how believers themselves speak about and live their religion, then we need to take dress seriously. This then raises the question of how people “do” religion through dress. Dress matters in many religious traditions. Here I will focus on one major tradition, namely Islam, not only because this is the tradition I am most familiar with, but also because sartorial practices of Muslims, especially of Muslim women, have been at the center of much public and political debate. This is the case in both Muslim majority countries in the global South and settings where Muslims are a religious minority, as in Europe. Turning from public debates to everyday life, one is struck by the strong contrasts between the public discourse that highlights Muslim women’s subordination, and their actual sartorial presence in public space, where they appear far more often as self-confident women wearing increasingly diverse, often highly fashionable, recognizably Muslim outfits. But let us first briefly turn to the image that I have selected. In material terms, this is a poster that presents a woman wearing a headscarf, an artifact that marks her immediately as Muslim. It is part of a poster campaign (called Real Dutch) that Al-Nisa, a Muslim women’s organization in the Netherlands, started in May 2010 in response to the growing popularity of Geert Wilders and his antiIslam movement among the Dutch electorate. Using humor as a tactic, Al-Nisa takes up Wilders’ earlier statement about headscarf-wearing Muslim women, that he would “like to eat them raw,” a rude expression of “not being afraid of” or “wanting to fight.”1 Reproducing this statement (in Dutch) below an image of a headscarf-wearing woman engaged in the “typically Dutch” style of eating a raw herring holding it by its tail, Al-Nisa brings home the message that being Muslim and Dutch can very well go together. This message is further supported by the

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inclusion of a plethora of national symbols, including the Delft Blue underscarf with a red overscarf and the many red, white, and blue Dutch flags. Moreover, while the headscarf marks the woman depicted as Muslim, her style of dress, her appearance, and her body language present her as modern, attractive, and self-confident, without a clear marker of an ethnic background. Both in public debate and among scholars, questions abound about how to interpret the act of wearing recognizably Muslim dress. To start with, it would be a mistake to read a person’s religious conviction simply from the styles of dress she wears. Some practicing Muslims do not wear visibly Muslim styles of covered dress, because they do not consider covering as a religious duty, while others may be convinced of the religious value of wearing covered dress, yet feel that they are not yet able to do so. Neither does wearing covered dress necessarily point to a greater religious commitment. As women who cover also point out, wearing covered dress gives religious rewards only if it is done with the right intention, as a form of worship, not if it is done under pressure from family or friends, or simply as a fashion. Many women who wear covered styles of dress point to motivations that are intrinsically linked to religion. They consider wearing covered dress in itself as a form of devotion, a religious virtue, and a God-pleasing act, while also explaining how such sartorial practices have an effect on their inner sense of self as well as on the wider public. To many, wearing covered dress works as a means to shape a virtuous, modest self, while it may also function to present one’s inner convictions to the world at large. This fits well with recent anthropological work that emphasizes the performative power of dress. Much debate about headscarves centers on the question whether Muslim women wear covered dress “by force or by choice.” Yet, such a dichotomous framing works neither for religion nor for dress. A notion of agency that starts from the autonomous individual with an inert desire to be free from restraints does not fit well with how religiously motivated women consider their sartorial practices as a freely chosen form of worship and submission to God. Turning from religion to dress, many theorists of dress and fashion have argued that when people adopt particular styles of dress they may strive for individualization and distinction, yet they simultaneously want to “fit in” and opt for styles of dress that are deemed acceptable in their own social circle. Defining the act of covering as a religious practice or, for that matter, refusing to recognize it as such, also has social effects for the women concerned. Depending on the particular regime of secularity, considering wearing a headscarf as a religious practice, rather than as, for instance, a cultural habit, may enable or disable the presence of headscarf-wearing women in public


Key Terms in Material Religion

schools or their employment as civil servants. In France, for instance, girls are not allowed to wear a headscarf in public schools because veils are considered as an ostentatious religious sign. In the Netherlands, in contrast, girls are allowed to wear a headscarf in public schools, as it is recognized that if they do so, it is because they consider this a religious duty. The emergence of recognizably Islamic styles of dress and fashion is closely linked to the growth of the Islamic revival movement. In the course of the twentieth century, in many Muslim majority countries, women had started to opt for secular styles of dress, especially among the modernizing middle classes. From the 1970s on, the growing popularity of the Islamic revival movement changed this. Women who had previously turned to secular dress, such as, for instance, students, started to adopt covered dress. Opting for loosely fitting, full-length overcoats in subdued colors combined with large headscarves tied in such a way that no hair was visible, this generation chose to wear rather uniform, austere outfits that were quite different from those of earlier generations, while they also differed from the styles of dress that rural and lower-class women were wearing. By the 1990s, however, with the growing presence of more reformist trends in the Islamic revival movement and its greater engagement with culture, more fashionable styles of Islamic dress began to emerge. Now catering to a wealthier middle-class constituency as well, new styles began to be adopted that were more form-fitting, with cuts that were more sophisticated, materials that were more colorful, and headscarves that were smaller and more expensive. In the course of the next decade, “Islamic fashion” became increasingly visible on the streets of major cities, in design shop windows, on catwalks, and on the Internet. As a concept and as a sartorial practice, Islamic fashion first emerged in the global South, where a thriving “Islamic fashion” production and consumption sector developed.2 Some of the pioneers were part of the new Islamic economic sector, such as the Turkish firm Tekbir, that now has a large number of subsidiaries in Asia and Europe. Elsewhere, upscale Islamic fashion houses developed, such as the highly fashionable and exclusive abaya producers in the Gulf States, or the Islamic fashion designers in South-East Asia, both of whom were also very active in organizing much publicized international Islamic fashion shows, that drew large audiences online and off-line. As part of a global trend, it did not take long for “Islamic fashion” to also become popular among Muslims in Europe, where young post-migrants developed street styles that blur the boundaries between production and consumption. If some would shop at Islamic stores, far more young women would frequent the same chains, such as H & M and Zara, as their non-Muslim

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peers did. Buying similar items of dress, they produce an Islamically approved (halal) outfit through processes of layering and adding a headscarf. Through such creative acts, they are not merely consumers but co-producers of Islamic fashion. The turn to more fashionable styles invokes the question whether Islam and fashion can go together. It is true that some see strong tensions between, on the one hand, Islam as faith, conviction, and eternal truth, and, on the other hand, fashion as mundane, ever-changing, and superficial. Should we then consider the shift from the more simple styles of Islamic dress to the more elaborate and fashionable ones as a move from ethics to aesthetics? That would be far too simple. In everyday life, women do not only combine religion and fashion in the sartorial styles they adopt, but they also use religious arguments to opt for more attractive, pleasant-looking, and up-to-date styles of covered dress. They point out that presenting themselves as such is in itself an act that pleases God, as God loves beauty; that wearing more fashionable styles can make it easier for women to start to wear covered dress; and that wearing attractive styles that are in some ways similar to non-religious styles of dress may help to produce a more positive image of Islam, especially in settings that have become increasingly Islam-unfriendly. Whereas many have adopted these fashionable styles of Islamic dress, a smaller group of women has developed a critical stance toward Islamic fashion, which they consider as threatening to undermine modesty and piety. Linking fashion to wastefulness and vanity and considering popular styles as strongly sexualized and demeaning to women, their arguments intersect with secular antifashion discourses that also criticize consumerism and the sexualization of women’s bodies. In many settings, highly fashionable Islamic styles have become celebrated as a sign of modernity and integration, functioning as a non-verbal critique of longstanding stereotypes of Muslim women’s lack of agency. This has, however, simultaneously turned those wearing distinctively non-fashionable styles into a more negatively marked category. When discussing the everyday dress practices of Muslim women, the concept “Islamic fashion” needs revisiting with respect to both the terms “fashion” and “Islam.” The “wardrobe turn” in dress studies has shown how fashion trends only partially determine what can be found in women’s wardrobes and what kinds of dress they select to wear. Individual items of dress may, for instance, evoke memories about how they have been acquired—as gifts or as souvenirs—and of the occasions at which they have been worn. In other words, in some cases the “biographies” of particular items of dress may be more important for how people relate to dress than their aesthetic qualities.


Key Terms in Material Religion

Turning from fashion to Islam, whereas for many women wearing covered dress is a religiously motivated act, the particular styles they adopt are only partially influenced by religious convictions. Getting dressed is an everyday corporeal practice that relates to the multiple subject positions a person inhabits. Adopting a particular style is not simply the effect of religious conviction, but also relates to other forms of identification and senses of belonging, such as nationality and ethnicity, generation and class, and age and professionalism, as well as to individual preferences for particular styles, such as a sporty, urban, elegant, or feminine look. Turkish-Dutch women, for instance, may opt for a style that is recognizably Muslim and Turkish, but they may also adopt a style that conceals rather than reveals their ethnic background and, instead, wear an outfit that presents them as modern Muslim professionals. The poster image does not only depict a woman wearing a headscarf, highlighting Dutchness through a plethora of Dutch national symbols, but it is also an image without a strongly ethnic marker. Not only the colors of the headscarf, but also the ways in which it is tied is more based on fantasy than representative of mainstream, often ethnically marked, styles prevalent in the Netherlands, while the simple long-sleeved vest can pass as Muslim, but is also a very common item of dress among all sections of the Dutch population. Visualizing dress in such a manner, the poster successfully fuses being Muslim and being Dutch.

Notes 1. Wilders made this statement in an interview in the Dutch weekly HP/De Tijd, February 6, 2004. It got a second life when, as a member of parliament, he proposed in 2009 the imposition of a “headrag” tax. Not only did he use a highly derogatory term, “kopvod,” for headscarves, but he also labeled the public presence of headscarfwearing women as a form of pollution. 2. “Islamic fashion” is not only a term used by researchers, but also one commonly used by those producing, distributing, and wearing such styles. Using “Islamic fashion” as a search term online, one can immediately evidence both its popularity and its tremendous variety.

Bibliography Korteweg, A. and G. Yurdakul. 2014. The Headscarf Debates: Conflicts of National Belonging. Standford: Stanford University Press. Lewis, R. 2013. Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies: Mediating Faith. London: I.B. Tauris.

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Moors, A. 2009. “‘Islamic Fashion’ in Europe: Religious conviction, aesthetic style, and creative consumption.” Encounters 1(1): 175–201. Moors, A and E. Tarlo. 2013. “Introduction: Islamic fashion and anti-fashion. New perspectives form Europe and North America.” In Islamic Fashion and Anti-Fashion: New Perspectives form Europe and North America, edited by E. Tarlo and A. Moors, 1–30. London, New Delhi, New York, Sydney: Bloomington. Tarlo, Emma. 2010. Visibly Muslim: Integrating Fashion, Politics and Faith. London: Berg Publishers. Tarlo, Emma and Annelies Moors. 2007. “Muslim Fashions.” Special double issue of Fashion Theory 11: 2/3. Tarlo, Emma and Annelies Moors, eds. 2013. Islamic Fashion and Anti-Fashion: New Perspectives form Europe and North America. London, New Delhi, New York, Sydney: Bloomington.



Emotion Anna M. Gade

Figure 11  Prayer room in a Muslim home in the United States. Framed posters of chapters of the Qur’an are at worshipers’ eye level when they are seated. Photo by the author.

The framed posters in this image are displayed in a basement room that is empty most of the time. When Muslims enter to pray, they make no special acknowledgment of the decorations that line the walls. With some ornamental embellishment, some in black-and-white and some in color, the posters depict surahs (chapters) of the Qur’an numbering in the nineties, many of which invoke emotional states. The American-born Muslims who pray in this space may not know the meanings of the written Arabic text—even as they recite it from memory in prayer. Nevertheless, these religious objects convey feelings, like the comfort of Surat Al-Sharh (number 94, “Consolation”). When the words on a poster, like the 94th chapter of the Qur’an, are recited during salat (worship) by the imam (prayer-leader), he or she could be said to be “reading” it (even if the worshiper does not need to glance at a text to remember it). In the study of material artifacts in an active religious space like this, students and teachers of religion would draw a connection between the poster on the wall and a ritual experience that embodies the object in that same space. However, maybe the imam or the supplicant does not recite surah number 94 in a given prayer-cycle (rak’ah), but perhaps she selects surah 93, Al-Duha (“The Dawn”). We would still say that is an embodied and affective experience of the words of the Qur’an, and relates to all the posters in the room that depict its verses. To appreciate these continuities and extensions requires adopting a theory of emotion that allows for enduring sentiment in addition to immediate, observable, or heightened responses. Clifford Geertz, an anthropologist who studied Muslims and their religion, once defined religion in terms of “moods and motivations,” or types of feelings. He wrote in his article “Religion as a Cultural System,” that symbols—“somehow,” he qualified—“establish moods and motivations” while making them seem realistic at the same time. Like many important theorists of religion who placed emotion at the root of their theories, like Émile Durkheim and William James, Geertz does not identify a single feeling-type as definitional of religion. He just writes that sentiment is the foundation for a “system” of religion. Such feelings are, he says, “long-lasting, powerful and pervasive.”

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According to Geertz, it is in ritual that the moods and motivations do their religious work, rendering the world as “imagined” and the world as “experienced” to be one and the same. If we approach the poster of Surat Al-Sharh as a Geertzian “symbol,” and thus also as “moods and motivations,” the material object is embodied through sentiment as the Qur’anic text is remembered, read, or recited. By implication, other objects of material religion may be “read” emotionally as well through processes of enactment, circulation, signification, and presence and absence, although not always as “literally” as in the case of the poster of Surat Al-Sharh. How do we connect a religious object to sentiment in our analysis, especially if we do not or cannot directly witness people expressing an emotion around the artifact? Some theorists of religion, like Durkheim, claimed that even when people do act out observable emotion in ritual (such as in rites of mourning), they do not necessarily sincerely feel what they perform. Instead, they are just going along with the group. Others, like James, focused on “varieties” of the affective and religious states of individuals, making it difficult to generalize about what could be said to be “experienced” in any one case. Information about emotion and materiality needs to come from evidence that we can study with respect to a real context. We can’t just imagine what something would “mean” to a generic subject or make up what an anonymous believer would or wouldn’t “feel.” Nevertheless, we should also recognize patterns of emotion, public and/or private, that are not always on display. (For circumstances of the historical past, there may be no alternative to this.) This is not so different a challenge than the one scholars of religion face in the study of material culture with respect to thoughts, memories, attitudes, and other perceptions that are never really seen, but which we still feel confident we can describe and explain. These pictures were first placed in a house in the American Midwest for the sake of religious practice, not “just” for decoration (or, put another way, they embellish the room with a practical aesthetics of study). Of course, the Qur’an in written form could always be said to be a performance, a “reading” or “recitation.” “Reading” is what the word “Qur’an,” actually means, and throughout the text the Qur’an describes itself self-reflexively as a “reading.” Historically, any written passage of the Qur’an is secondary in authority to its original and generative form: sound. The text is experienced, transmitted, and practiced through oral and aural modes. To see a passage of the written Qur’an, as in the posters, and to ignore these dimensions of experience would be to miss the Qur’an’s very own point, which it makes multiple times in its own terms. The “moods and motivations” connected to the poster of Surat Al-Sharh come from modes of


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teaching and learning, performance and practice, narrative and memory, and semantics and symbol that are all part of this system. People also interact with this particular object in context, giving it a human story. It was mass-produced by a company in Chicago, Illinois, the Iqra’ Foundation, as evidenced by the small logo at the bottom of the image. The posters were originally obtained as a set, and later they were framed. Iqra’ sells instructional materials for English-speaking Muslims in North America and globally. The name of the company, Iqra’, comes from the beginning of the 96th surah of the Qur’an, which starts with the word, “Read!” or “Recite!” More than other visual artifacts of the Qur’an in people’s homes (like a wall hanging of 2:255, the Qur’an’s “Throne Verse,” for example—which is also displayed in this house), this poster was made for teaching and learning. The mother who lives in this house teaches the Qur’an, and has been close to the family who founded Iqra’ Foundation ever since she herself was a student. When she looks at the posters, she feels a comforting sense of belonging, a connection to her old friends in Chicago as well as to Muslims all over the world, wherever children first learn and study the short chapters of the Qur’an. She knows Qur’an teachers everywhere often use visual aids similar to this one to teach the Qur’an in a communal prayer space. To her, the posters symbolize the very moods and motivations of “learning.” To the mother, the commitment to education invokes emotion all by itself, reinforced by the many authoritative statements Muslims transmit about loving and seeking “knowledge,” and especially knowledge of the Qur’an. Beyond a sentimental personal story, we can generalize about emotion and this artifact through another way of looking at processes of transmission, teaching, and learning. The Qur’an fluidly blends written words, human sounds, and the ontological presence of Allah through His speech (kalam) in pious theory and practice. This makes Qur’anic visual culture, like the poster of Surat Al-Sharh, an especially good case for a student of religion to recognize affective connections between materiality and experience. Affect is a part of the practice of reading the Qur’an. Sentiment features prominently in teaching the Arabic letters, especially for non-native Arabic speakers (who are about four-fifths of the world’s Muslims). Typically, it involves practices that involve emotion, like rendering the sounds of the Arabic language in fun or familiar ways to young learners through songs and games. For those whose reading is more technically proficient, Arabic sound production can be an affective practice in itself, as with vocalizations that indicate embodied emotion, like qalqalah letters that can sound like the reader is “choking up” (and she or he may even recite as if on the verge of tears at times). And, for advanced reciters

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who are adept in improvisatory melodic structures, the maqams (modes) should match textual meaning in terms of moods established in musical theory and practice long ago. The sound shape of Arabic conveys experience, as discussed by Michael Sells in his book, Approaching the Qur’an. You can see and listen to Surat Al-Sharh on the Internet by accessing a site such as The first half of it transliterates into the Romanized alphabet as: Alam nashrah laka sadrak Wa wada’na ‘anka wizrak Alladhi anqada dhahrak Wa rafa’na laka dhikrak

Try saying the first four lines of the text above out loud (as you go along, you are also reading the object framed in the prayer room). They carry a poetic meter (3–4 beats), and they all rhyme, ending in “-rak.” When contrasted with the other, similar rhymes found in the same part of the Qur’an, this repeated sound shape creates a distinctive mood that people who repeat the surah come to feel and anticipate, and also connect to material representation over time. Heightened and self-conscious sentiment also attaches to this material religion. The Qur’an is a highly self-referential text (Sura 97 describes its own revelation, for example). And it constantly depicts the emotional effect that its reading has on its listeners and readers even as it is read, such as their “hearts softening,” or weeping in the recognition of the revealed truth. The Qur’an is full of explicit description of affective states; these are feelings in the past, the present and in the future, and especially at the moment of Judgment. An emotion commonly mentioned in the Qur’an with respect to itself is weeping, expressed in Muslim theory and practice by the idea of huzn or sadness. Crying also relates to other Qur’anically prescribed emotions in this world and the next like remorse or repentance, and also thankfulness. Recitation that sounds like the reader is crying is an actual technique, as ethnomusicologist Kristina Nelson documents in her book The Art of Reciting the Qur’an. The great scholar Al-Ghazali (d.1111) described the technique in his treatise on the recitation of the Qur’an, in the eighth book of the Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din (“Revivification of the Religious Sciences”). Experts amplify the effect of this performance technique with the moods of the melodic modes they choose. It is also common for Muslims to cry when they hear the beauty of the Qur’an. Non-expert performers build up emotion through sentimental connections such as the comforting tradition related on the authority of the Prophet that angels will come to a house in which the Qur’an is recited.


Key Terms in Material Religion

Surah 94 conveys affective threads that cut across time and space semantically. All of the Qur’an is understood by Muslims to be the speech of God (kalam Allah), rehearsed by the Prophet Muhammad, and “followed,” in meaning and in practice by all Muslims after him. The very first surah, for example, is said to be Surah 96, revealed in about 610, when the Angel Jibril (Gabriel) first told the Prophet to “read” or “recite” (Iqra’). The chapter, Al-Sharh, is also found toward the end of the Qur’an, where material that is said to have been the first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad appears. Both the surahs, 93 and 94, are believed by Muslim scholars to have been revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in a phase of his life when he needed comfort and consolation. This was especially because of opposition to him in Makkah among members of the Prophet’s own tribe, the Quraysh. According to the story of the life of the Prophet, in the years following, up to and including the year 622, the year which marks the hijrah (emigration from Makkah to Medina) and the beginning of the Muslim calendar, the Prophet lost much personal and political support. The surah is said to have been revealed around the time that public preaching of the Qur’an’s message began, and it was also around this period that revelation stopped coming to him for a time, deeply grieving him, according to reports. The meanings of Surat Al-Sharh would probably be known to most schooled Muslims in a loose way, whether or not those persons had ever studied Arabic vocabulary or grammar formally. First and foremost, Al-Sharh depicts emotion. It is safe to say that Muslims with an elementary religious education would recognize this as a feeling conveyed by the text, just by glancing at the poster. Tradition teaches that the chapter addressed the Prophet Muhammad directly at the time of its revelation, and by extension also any believer who reads it. The meanings of this chapter of the Qur’an may be rendered in English as follows: Did We [Allah] not expand for you your breast? And We removed from you your burden Which had weighed upon your back And raised you high in esteem? For truly, with hardship comes ease And truly, with hardship comes ease So when you have finished, stand up And direct your longing toward your Lord

“Expansion” (“al-inshirah”) is the central emotion described here, which is both physical, as in a “weight off the chest,” and subtle, as in the dialectic of states of qabd and bast (“expansion” and “constriction”) in Sufi theory and practice. In contrast, the direct challenge of the opening rhetorical question, a common

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rhetorical feature of the Qur’an, draws in the listener in a personal way. Other emotions expressed in the surah are prescriptive (“stand up” with resolve and “direct your longing”), which also represents a typical feature of the Qur’an’s rhetoric. Repetition (as in the second half of the chapter, seen in lines such as “With hardship comes ease”) is also found in some of the early, shorter surahs; here it enhances a mood of soothing consolation. The child who spends time in the prayer room to study the surah for a memorization contest, as in the documentary film Koran By Heart, brings a feeling to the poster that differs from what he or she experiences when his or her eyes wander along the wall, waiting to begin a long afternoon or evening prayer. He or she perceives this artifact, the framed Surat Al-Sharh that the mother has displayed, differently again than a Muslim who is not pious, and differently than a new religious convert who prays “religiously,” but does not have this surah memorized yet. To expect there to be a normative and unfiltered emotional response to material religion, whether universal (“everyone finds calligraphy beautiful”) or essentialist (as in to make “believers feel”) is to propagate the shaky folk theory that “religious emotion” has both a uniformity and an unmediated directness. Material religion shows how patterns of “moods and motivations” build up over time, in variable ways, and are taught and learned through repetition and example. And when we “read” such patterns closely and in context in the academic study of religion, we can access and analyze many of them in significant depth. The enduring “moods and motivations” of religious material culture, like the poster of Surat Al-Sharh, have a continuity of presence, as we would also say about the thoughts, values, and ideas that relate to religious objects. This means that we scholars and students can understand the diverse and changing feelings of the religious past and the present with respect to artifacts, even if we do not always observe them being communicated directly. Even late at night when this house is quiet, the family is asleep, and the room downstairs is empty, there is still a Qur’anic presence in the framed calligraphy along the walls of its foundation. They make a child feel safe, just like some say the word “Islam” means peaceful “safety” itself, and comforted in a sound sleep.

Bibliography Al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid. Book 8, “The Revivification of the Religious Sciences” (Ihya’ ‘Ulum Al-Din). Durkheim, Émile. 1915. Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. Translated by Joseph Ward Swain. London: George Allen & Unwin.


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Gade, Anna M. 2004. Perfection Makes Practice: Learning, Emotion and the Recited Qur’an in Indonesia. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Gade, Anna M. 2010. The Qur’an: An Introduction. Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications. Geertz, Clifford. 2000 [1966]. “Religion as a Cultural System.” In The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books. Koran by Heart. [film] 2013. Director, Greg Barker. Nelson, Kristina. 2001. The Art of Reciting the Qur’an. Cairo and New York: American University in Cairo Press. Sells, Michael. 1999. Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations. Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press.


Fetish–factish Bruno Latour

Figure 12  Nail fetish, West Africa. ©

Belief is not a state of mind but a result of relationships among peoples; we have known this since Montaigne.1 The visitor knows, the person visited believes; or, conversely, the visitor knew, the person visited makes him understand that he only thought he knew. Let us apply this principle to the case of the Moderns. Wherever they drop anchor, they soon set up fetishes; that is, they see all the peoples they encounter as worshipers of meaningless objects. Since the Moderns naturally have to come up with an explanation for the strangeness of a form of worship that cannot be justified objectively, they attribute to the savages a mental state that has internal rather than external references. As the wave of colonization advances, the world fills up with believers. A Modern is someone who believes that others believe. An agnostic, conversely, does not wonder whether it is necessary to believe or not, but rather why the Moderns so badly need belief in order to strike up a relationship with others. It all started on the west coast of Africa, somewhere in Guinea, with the Portuguese. Covered with amulets of the saints and the Virgin themselves, they accused the Gold Coast Blacks of worshiping fetishes. When the Portuguese demanded an answer to their first question, “Have you made these stone, clay, and wood idols you honor with your own hands?” the Guineans replied at once that, indeed, they had. Ordered to answer the second question, “Are these stone, clay, and wood idols true divinities?” the Blacks answered “Yes!” with utmost innocence: yes, of course, otherwise they would not have made them with their own hands! The Portuguese, shocked but scrupulous, not wanting to condemn without proof, gave the Africans one last chance: “You can’t say both that you’ve made your own fetishes and that they are true divinities, you have to choose: it’s either one or the other. Unless,” they went on indignantly, “you really have no brains, and you’re as oblivious to the principle of contradiction as you are to the sin of idolatry.” Stunned silence from the Blacks, who failed to see any contradiction, and thus proved by their own confusion how many rungs separated them from full and complete humanity. Bombarded with questions, they persisted in repeating that they had made their own idols, and therefore

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these were, indeed, true divinities. Confronted with such blatant bad faith, the Portuguese could only respond with jeers, derision, and disgust. To designate the aberration of the coastal Guinea Blacks, and to cover up their own misunderstanding, the Portuguese (very Catholic, explorers, conquerors, and, to a certain extent, slave traders as well) are thought to have used the adjective feitiço, from feito, the past participle of the Portuguese verb “to do, to make”; form, figure, configuration, but also artificial, fabricated, factitious; and finally, enchanted.2 Right from the start, the word’s etymology refused, like the Blacks, to choose between what is shaped by work and what is artificial; this refusal, this hesitation, induced fascination and brought on spells. Even though all etymological dictionaries agree on the origins of the term, Charles de Brosses, who invented the word “fetishism” (French fétichisme) in 1760, linked its origins with fatum, or destiny, the source of the French noun fée, “fairy,” and of the adjective form in the noun phrase objet-fée, “fairy-object” (also of the English adjective “fey”). The Blacks from the west coast of Africa, and even those from the interior, all the way up to Nubia, along the Egyptian border, worship certain divinities that the Europeans call fetishes, a term devised by our traders from Senegal based on the Portuguese word Fetisso [sic], that is to say, a fairy-object, an enchanted, divine, or oracular object, from the Latin root Fatum, Fanum, Fari. (de Brosses 1988 [1760]: 15)3

Whatever root we may prefer, the either-or choice remains the one the Portuguese insisted on and the Blacks rejected: “Who is speaking in the oracle? Is it the human being, or the fairy-object itself? Is the divinity real or artificial?” “Both,” the defendants reply at once, since they are unable to grasp the difference. “You have to choose,” say the conquerors, without further hesitation. The two roots of the word indicate rather well the ambiguity surrounding an object that talks, that is fabricated, or, to blend both meanings into a single expression, an object that provokes talk. Yes, the fetish is a “talk-maker.” Too bad the Africans did not return the compliment. It would have been nice to see them ask the Portuguese dealers if their own amulets of the Virgin had been made by hand or had fallen directly out of the sky. “Carefully crafted and engraved by our goldsmiths,” they would have answered proudly. “So are they really sacred?” the Blacks would have asked. “Of course they are; they were solemnly blessed by the archbishop in Nossa Senhora dos Remédios church, in the presence of the king.” “So if you recognize both the working of gold and silver in the smith’s crucible and the sacred character of your icons, why are you


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accusing us of contradiction, when we’re saying the same thing? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” “Sacrilege! No one can confuse idols to be smashed with icons to be prayed to,” the Portuguese would have answered, indignant all over again in the face of such impudence. Still, we can bet that they would have called upon a theologian to get them out of the predicament into which they had been thrown by the merest hint of symmetrical anthropology. But they would have needed a subtle scholar to teach them how to distinguish between latria (excessive adoration, reserved for God) and dulia (moderate adoration as, for example, of the Virgin Mary). “Pious images,” the theologian would have intoned, “are nothing in and of themselves; they simply serve to remind us of the model that is the only legitimate object of worship. Your monstrous idols, on the other hand, are supposed to be the divinities themselves, from what you say, and yet you impudently admit that you’ve made them yourselves from scratch.” Why should he jeopardize his reputation in a theological discussion with mere natives, anyway? Ashamed of equivocating, in the grip of a holy zeal, the theologian would have toppled the idols, burned the fetishes, and then consecrated the True Image of the suffering Christ and his Holy Mother inside the disinfected huts. Even without the help of this imaginary dialogue, we can see perfectly well that what we have here is not a contrast between idolatrous Gold Coast Blacks and image-free Portuguese visitors. We see one group of people covered with amulets scoffing at another group of people covered with amulets. We do not have iconophiles on one side and iconoclasts on the other, but iconodules on both sides (one side being made of selective iconoclasts). Yet the misunderstanding persisted, because each side, acting on its own terms, refused to choose. The Portuguese refused to hesitate between true objects of piety and sinister masks covered with sacrificial blood and grease. On the Gold Coast, every Portuguese suddenly displayed the fervent indignation Moses expressed against the Golden Calf. “Idols have mouths, but never speak, eyes, but never see, ears, but never hear.” The Guineans, on their side, could not see any obvious difference between the idol that had been brought down and the icon erected in its place. Relativists before the term was invented, they thought what the Portuguese were doing was the same thing they did. And it was precisely this failure to distinguish, this lack of comprehension, that condemned them in the eyes of the Portuguese. These savages could not even tell the difference between latria and dulia, between their own fetishes and the holy icons of the invaders; they refused to grasp the extent of the gulf that separated human construction of an artifact from the definitive reality of what no human has ever constructed. Even the difference between immanence and

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transcendence seemed to be beyond them. How could the Portuguese fail to see them as primitives, and fetishism as a primitive religion?4 All the more so since the savages have been diabolically persistent in their error. Three centuries later, in contemporary Rio de Janeiro, Black and Portuguese mestizos stubbornly maintain in the same breath both that their divinities are made, fabricated, “seated,” and that, as a result, they are real. The anthropologist Patricia de Aquino has collected and translated accounts by Candomblé initiates: Eu fui raspado para Osala em Salvador mas precisei assentar Yewa e mãe Aninha me mandou para o Rio de Janeiro porque já na época Yewa era por assim dizer um Orisa em via de extinção. Muitos já não conheciam mais os oro de Yewa. [I was shaved (initiated) in Salvador for Osala, but I had to seat Yewa (who asked, through divination, to be seated, installed, made, fabricated), and Mother Aninha (his initiator) sent me to Rio because at the time Yewa was already an endangered Orisa, so to speak. There were many who no longer knew the oro (Yoruba term for “the words and rites”) of Yewa.] Eu sou de Oba, Oba quase que já morreu porque ninguém sabe assentar ela, ninguém sabe fazer, então eu vim para cá porque aqui eu fui raspada e a gente não vai esquecer os awo para fazer ela. [I am from Oba, Oba is almost dead already because no one knows how to seat her, no one knows the craft, so I came here (to this candomblé) because I was shaved here, and they are not going to forget the awo (Yoruba term for “secrets”) for making her.]5

The anti-fetishist always slumbering in us cannot stand the brazenness of such statements. Hide the construction process, the craft, the fazer that we cannot see! How can you so sanctimoniously admit that you have to make, fabricate, seat, situate, construct these divinities that grip you and yet remain out of reach? Are you so unaware of the difference between making what comes from you yourselves and receiving what comes from elsewhere? No matter where they landed, the Portuguese, struck by the same sort of impudence, had to understand fetishism by likening it either to naiveté or to cynicism. If you admit that you fabricate your own fetishes yourselves, you must then acknowledge that you pull their strings as a puppeteer would. You engineer the whole thing on the sly to impress others. Manipulators of popular beliefs, you then join the whole crowd of priests and falsifiers who—according to the anti-clericals—make up the long history of religions. Or else, if you let your own


Key Terms in Material Religion

marionettes take you by surprise and you start believing in the airs they (or, rather, you) put on, this proves such a degree of naiveté that you are condemned to join the eternally credulous and hoodwinked masses who make up—again according to lucid observers—the gullible rabble of the history of religions.6 From the mouths of the Fontenelles, the Voltaires, and the Feuerbachs of the world, the same either–or alternative keeps spewing forth: “Either you are cynically pulling the strings, or else you are being had.” Or, even more naively: “Either you built it, or else it’s real.”7 And the shaven adepts of the Candomblé persist gently: “Eu sou de Dada mas como não se sabe fazer Dada, a gente entrega a Sango ou Osala par eles pegarem a cabeça da pessoa [I am from Dada, but since no one knows how to fabricate Dada, we give to Sango or Osala so that they will take over the person’s head].” Whereas the initiates are designating something that is neither completely autonomous nor completely constructed, the notion of belief splits apart their delicate operation, the fragile bridge connecting fetish and fact, and allows the Moderns to see all other peoples as naive believers, skillful manipulators, or self-deluding cynics. Yes, the Moderns refuse to listen to the idols; they split them apart like coconuts and from each half they take two forms of dupery: you can deceive others, and you can deceive yourself. Moderns believe in belief in order to understand others; initiates do not believe in belief either to understand others or to understand themselves. Can we recover their way of thinking for our own use?

Notes 1. This chapter is excerpted from Bruno Latour, On the Cult of the Factish Gods, translated by Heather MacLean and Cathy Porter, followed by Iconoclash, with an introduction, Duke University Press. 2. The Portuguese dictionary Aurélio provides the following definitions (NB the Portuguese feitiço itself comes from the French, through President de Brosses): — feitiço [from feito + iço] 1. adj. artificial, factício; 2. postiço, falso; 3. Malefício de feticaros; 4. see bruxaria [sorcery, witchcraft]; 5. see fétiche; 6. encanto, fascinação, fascínio. Proverb: “virar o feitiço contra o feiticeiro”; — feitio [from feito + io] forma, figura, configuração, faição; — fétiche 1. objeto animado ou inanimado, feito pelo homem ou produzido pela natureza, aqual se atribui poder sobrenatural e se presta culto, ídolo, manipanso. Note the marvelous Italian term that gives the same verb, fatturare, the meaning of (1) to falsify, adulterate; (2) to bill; and (3) to bewitch! 3. De Brosses’ etymology has not been repeated anywhere else. Could there be some contamination between fairy and fetish words?

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4. In “Fetishism and Materialism: The Limits of Theory in Marx,” William Pietz offers an excellent summary of de Brosses’ invention: Fetishism was a radically novel category: it offered an atheological explanation of the origin of religion, one that accounted equally well for theistic beliefs and nontheistic superstitions; it identified religious superstition with false causal reasoning about physical nature, making people’s relation to material objects rather than to God the key question for historians of religion and mythology; and it reclassified the entire field of ancient and contemporary religious phenomena. . . . In short, the discourse about fetishism displaced the great object of Enlightenment criticism— religion—into a causative problematic suited to its own secular cosmology, whose “reality principle” was the absolute split between the mechanistic—material realm of physical nature (the blind determinisms of whose events excluded any principle of teleological causality, that is, Providence) and the end-oriented human realm of purposes and desires (whose free intentionality distinguished its events as moral action, properly determined by rational ideals rather than by the material contingency of merely natural being). Fetishism was the definitive mistake of the pre-enlightened mind: it superstitiously attributed intentional purpose and desire to material entities of the natural world, while allowing social action to be determined by the (clerically interpreted) wills of contingently personified things, which were, in truth, merely the externalized material sites fixing people’s own capricious libidinal imaginings (“fancy” in the language of that day). (Pietz 1993: 138–9) 5. Patricia de Aquino (personal communication). I thank her for allowing me to use this information, which is from her dissertation (Aquino 1995). See also de Aquino and Pessoa de Barros 1994). “Um Orisa em via de extinção” is an ecological expression for endangered species. 6. While rejecting naive belief in naive belief, Paul Veyne could escape this alternative only by seeing all cultures as demiurgic creators of incommensurable worlds that are unrelated to one another and to objects themselves. “It is enough to give this divine constitutive power, this power to create without the need for a preexisting model, to man’s constitutive imagination” (Veyne 1988: 127). The difference between knowledge and belief, between myth and reason, is indeed eradicated, but at a price: an overall shift into creative imagination, which is unambiguously tied to the Nietzschean will to power. “They arise from the same organizing capability as the works of nature. A tree is neither true nor false; it is complicated” (Veyne 1988: 123). 7. The “bad faith” of the Sartrean salaud allows us to pass from one to the other, nevertheless.

Bibliography De Aquino, Patrícia. 1995. La construction de la personne dans le Candomblé. Rio de Janeiro: National Museum.


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De Aquino, Patrícia and José Flavio Pessoa de Barros. 1994. “Leurs noms d’Afrique en terre d’Amérique.” Nouvelle revue d’ethnopsychiatrie 24: 111–25. De Brosses, Charles. 1988 [1760]. Du culte des dieux fétiches, 2nd edn. Corpus des oeuvres de philosophie de langue française. Paris: Fayard. Pietz, William. 1993. “Fetishism and Materialism: The Limits of Theory in Marx.” In Fetishism as Cultural Discourse, edited by Emily Apter and William Pietz, 119–51. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Veyne, Paul. 1988. Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths? An Essay on the Constitutive Imagination. Translated by Paula Wissing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Food Nora L. Rubel

Figure 13  Shelf of Jewish cookbooks. Photo by the author.

Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are. —Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

It should come as little surprise that food is a useful lens through which to examine religion. Food appears throughout religious art, poetry, and liturgy. After all, as Caroline Walker Bynum demonstrates, “sin had entered the world when Eve ate the forbidden fruit and . . . Salvation comes when Christians eat their God in the ritual of the communion table” (Counihan 1997). Leonardo’s image of Jesus dining with his disciples in the Last Supper is one of the most famous paintings in history and many Christians continue to reenact that graceful meal weekly, some with wafers and wine, some with Wonder Bread and Welch’s Grape Juice. The study of food, therefore, is not just about the food itself, but about foodways. Folklorist Lucy Long describes these foodways as referring to “the network of behaviors, traditions, and beliefs concerning food, and involves all the activities surrounding a food item and its consumption, including the procurement, preservation, preparation, presentation, and performance of that food” (Long 2004). Foodways, simply put, is the study of what people eat and how and why they eat it. Anthropologists and sociologists have long been interested in foodways, and religious studies scholars have recently begun to give such matters attention outside of merely examining dietary laws and food taboos. And foodways encompass far more than those restrictions, because what people choose to eat (when they have choices) says much about a group and thus allows us to analyze issues of religious practice, political affiliation, and identity formation. The study of foodways is inherently interdisciplinary and thus lends itself to a variety of approaches. Within anthropology, scholars have examined the grammar of food codes; Mary Douglas deciphers a meal and Levi Strauss examines its lexicon. Other social scientists examine cuisine, etiquette, taboo, and symbolism in order to analyze foodways. Religion scholars examining utopian societies have analyzed their distinctive foodways symbolically and

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spiritually. Sometimes food is neither a metaphor nor a symbol. In addition to being central at congregational potlucks, food frequently functions practically within religious groups as fundraisers, such as the spaghetti dinners of Italian American Catholic parishes and the Nation of Islam’s famous bean pies. Another entry point into these food matters is through the study of cookbooks. I cheat here, as my “case study” is clearly a shelf of multiple Jewish cookbooks and I beg your patience as I examine just two in proximity. Both the twentiethcentury cookbooks briefly examined in this chapter emerged from Jewish American communities as regional fundraising cookbooks, and both went on to find wider success through mass marketing, particularly as bridal shower gifts. Both include traditional Jewish recipes such as challah, kugel, and gefilte fish, and plentiful kosher-for-Passover specialties. Both were spearheaded by Jewish women, demonstrating their religious and societal commitments. And yet, the stories these books tell about both food and Judaism are markedly different. Examining these texts reveals different stories about kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), acculturation, and gender. The first of these volumes is The Way to a Man’s Heart: The “Settlement” Cook Book. The text emerged in Milwaukee as a 1901 fundraising pamphlet in support of a Jewish settlement house that catered primarily to Eastern European Jewish immigrants. The brainchild of the Reform Jewish daughter of Central European immigrants Lizzie Black Kander (always credited as Mrs. Simon Kander), this collection of recipes gathered from her cooking classes and her friends was a runaway hit from the start. The Settlement Cookbook (as it later became known) went through forty printings, selling well over two million copies and earning itself entrance to the James Beard Hall of Fame. Famous in the Midwest (yet published internationally), one historian claimed: “It is no exaggeration to maintain that this book rivals beer as Milwaukee’s most notable product” (Marcus 1981). While originally published by Milwaukee’s own Settlement Cook Book Publishing Company, Simon & Schuster began publishing the book in 1954, its thirty-first edition. The second cookbook, From Manna to Mousse, is a spiral-bound book produced by the sisterhood of Conservative synagogue Beth El in New London, Connecticut. According to its editor Shilly Darin (likewise credited as Mrs. Donald Darin), what began as a fundraising project “rapidly became a fun raising project.” Working with a large committee from Beth El, she collected favorite recipes from the community, tested them, selected the favorites, and printed them. Originally published in 1969, Dell Publishing picked up the cookbook and released it as a pocketbook edition. While it would be unfair to compare the distribution of From Manna to Mousse and The Settlement Cook Book (two printings and forty are not


Key Terms in Material Religion

exactly comparable), both enjoyed success outside of their birthplace, unusual for such charitable cookbooks. But here the similarities end. The Settlement Cook Book, despite its origins in a kosher cooking class, is filled with recipes that transgress all manner of Jewish dietary laws (e.g. “Shrimp a la Creole,” “Oysters Rockefeller,” and “Frog Legs a la Newburg”). And, as you might imagine, the biblically titled From Manna to Mousse only showcases recipes that adhere to kosher principles. Several recipes are marked to indicate their “dairy” status, such as “Lasagna, Dairy” and “Dairy Kreplach.” Additionally, Congregation Beth El’s cookbook offers a recipe for “Kosher Chicken a la King” (The Settlement Cook Book includes a recipe for Chicken a la King as well, but that recipe contains the traditional milk and butter, rendering the dish nonkosher). From Manna to Mousse also divides recipes according to Jewish holidays in the index. While later editions of The Settlement Cook Book offered a Passover cookery section in the index, no further acknowledgments of Jewish holidays were relayed. Mrs. Kander’s opus contained eighteen pages of “Household Rules” at the onset, while Beth El’s creation offered several pages of “Kashruth Rules” followed by poetry devoted to various Jewish holidays. Mrs. Darin particularly sought out those heirloom recipes prepared by New London’s praised balabustas (homemakers), taking care to measure out dishes traditionally cooked by memory and instinct. Where The Settlement Cook Book’s initial purpose was to introduce New World recipes and American ways of eating to Jewish immigrants, the much later Manna to Mousse hoped to preserve these very immigrants’ Old World recipes. The women of Beth El sought to capture these recipes, recognizing that if no one wrote them down, they would be lost to history. This preservation was not the intent of The Settlement Cook Book, at least not at first. While Kander soon saw that the market for her cookbook was broader, the initial emphasis—demonstrated by the efficiency of her test kitchen—was less about documenting lost recipes and much more about getting the recipe right. While The Settlement Cook Book sought to demonstrate Jewish ethnicity as just one of America’s many types, later Jewish cookbooks went on to demonstrate Jewish distinction. From Manna to Mousse’s Foreword asserts, “The Jewish people take for granted that Jewish cookery possesses characteristics of its own which differentiate it from ordinary cooking.” These sorts of cookbooks, which emerged closer to the mid-twentieth century, emphasized Jewish particularism— that which makes its cooking distinctive. Frequently, the Beth El Sisterhood had to change some of the submitted recipes so as to adhere to kashrut. The most common switch was from butter to margarine in fleishig (meat) dishes. Even

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though the majority of the congregation did not actually keep kosher, they would not dream of publishing a Jewish cookbook that violated the dietary laws. As we can see, a cookbook can be many things. Charitable community cookbooks such as the aforementioned texts became popular in the latter half of the nineteenth century and religious women immediately seized upon them as a vehicle for both public expression and fundraising. Barbara Haber, curator of books for the Schlesinger Library of Women’s Studies at Radcliffe, explains that the earlier reluctance among women’s studies specialists to engage cookbooks as serious documents of cultural history is because such scholars “were more intent on bringing visibility to the public activities of women and downplaying their kitchen duties, which seemed to symbolize women’s subordination and oppression by the patriarchy.” (Haber 2002). However, reading cookbooks written by women, in particular community cookbooks that typically reflect consensus and frequently a shared vision, is a window into women’s lives at a time when there are few other written records. In Recipes for Reading, literary scholar Anne Bower suggests that these community cookbooks are “part collective autobiography, part history, part fiction” (Bower 1997). However, these texts—to borrow a phrase from the Nation of Islam’s Elijah Muhammad—also teach us “how to eat to live.” And these books are not just relics gathering dust; like sacred texts in any religious tradition, they are read, passed down, and provide comfort, direction, and sustenance—both physical and spiritual. Ann Romines (another literary scholar) writes of her mother’s Methodist community cookbooks that, while “shabby, spotted, and worn . . . on occasions of ceremony and necessity . . . they were consulted like oracles” (Bower 1997). Cookbooks may be subtler than the directives of Elijah Muhammad or the commandments of Leviticus, but they offer rules for living, regardless. Cookbooks are an ideal access point for the analysis of domestic and social life, as artifacts of homespun meaning, and thus a way to examine day-to-day domestic religion. Janet Floyd and Laurel Forster, co-editors of The Recipe Reader, have noted, “Recipe books, as they structure meals, have participated in the formalization of social rules” (Floyd and Forster 2010). The recipes and household instruction included in these texts offer advice for both Jewish cooking and Jewish life. But while such instructions may seem absolute, these commandments can be subverted on the home altar. The intertextuality of these handed-down cookbooks is significant. Notes and adjustments appear in the margins like Talmudic commentary, suggesting the desire to perpetuate the recipe. Rather than discarding a recipe that doesn’t work, the cook may alter ingredients to adhere to dietary requirements or to adjust to the availability


Key Terms in Material Religion

of products. Perhaps your oven is not hot enough, and you may have to adjust the temperature. So that the recipe turns out correctly the next time, the cook may make her own edits. Floyd and Forster go on to suggest that “through the discovery, reading and even putting into practice of other women’s recipes an imagined community is built” (Floyd and Forster 2010). Sharing recipes from a common text can bind a group even more than the dietary laws that produced the necessity for the recipes. The Settlement Cook Book united not merely the women of Milwaukee, but women (and men) throughout the Midwest. Barbara Haber (a native of Milwaukee) remarked, “I never heard of Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking until I was grown. . . . Go into most homes in [Wisconsin] and you will find [the] Settlement Cookbook” (Gdula 2008). Likewise, the eloquent Michigan-born food writer M. F. K. Fisher was raised upon The Settlement Cook Book, calling it an “oil-covered masterpiece.” A traditional bridal shower gift, this cookbook became almost ubiquitous in mid-twentieth century American kitchens. One Milwaukee magazine writer declared: “There are two things no bride should be without. One, of course, is a bridegroom; the other . . . is a copy of The Settlement Cook Book” (Fowle 1965). And this community spans both place and time. One young non-Jewish woman, newly married to a Jew, writes in a review of the 1991 edition that the volume is like having “a Jewish mother-in-law” to lead her through the steps of making Matzo Balls. For years, From Manna to Mousse was a traditional wedding shower gift. And like the US mail, it traveled. The text even made it to the exotic location of Fayetteville, North Carolina (to my mother’s kitchen). My Israeli nonkosher mother—who had never heard of The Settlement Cook Book—seems to have acquired a copy. She tells me that she used the Passover section, particularly the Passover rolls, in the earlier days of her marriage. Having lost her mother at a young age, she occasionally needed to substitute a cookbook for a bubbe’s advice. In the 1970s, married to a military officer and living in the south alienated from any sizable Jewish community, my mother used this Jewish cookbook from Connecticut in her early attempts at baking (and at joining the American Jewish community). Just as Mrs. Darin’s collection of recipes helped my mother adjust to her new American circumstances, Mrs. Kander’s book had assisted women generations before. Religious foodways, therefore, both reflect and inform religious practice and thus provide material evidence for scholars of religion. MFK Fisher once stated, “There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk” (Fisher 1989). When we examine the production, preparation, and consumption of food by religious peoples, we have an access point in

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understanding ways of meaning and construction of identity. And depending on the entrance of our study, we may also be privy to the religious lives of women in a new way.

Bibliography Bower, Anne, ed. 1997. Recipes For Reading: Community Cookbooks, Stories, Histories. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. Counihan, Carole M. 1999. The Anthropology of Food and Body: Gender, Meaning, and Power. New York: Routledge. Counihan, Carole M. and Penny Van Esterik. 1997. Food and Culture: A Reader. New York: Routledge. Finch, Marth L. 2010. “Food, Taste, and American Religions.” Religion Compass 4(1): 39–50. Fisher, M. F. K. 1989. The Gastronomical Me. San Francisco: North Point Press. Floyd, Janet and Laural Forster, eds. 2010. The Recipe Reader: Narratives, Contexts, Traditions. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Fowle, M. 1965. “Lizzie Kander’s Legacy: Milwaukee’s (and America’s) Settlement Cook Book.” Milwaukee 10: 41–6. Haber, Barbara. 2002. From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals. New York: Free Press. Kander, Lizzie Black. 1943. The Way to a Man’s Heart: The Settlement Cookbook. Milwaukee: Settlement Cook Book Co. Long, Lucy M. 2004. Culinary Tourism. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. Madden, Etta M. and Martha L. Finch. 2006. Eating in Eden: Food and American Utopias. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Marcus, Jacob R. 1981. The American Jewish Woman: A Documentary History. New York: Ktav Pub. House; American Jewish Archives. New London Conn. Beth El Congregation. Sisterhood. 1969. From Manna to Mousse. New London, Conn.



Gender Deborah Whitehead

Figure 14  The medium Eva C. with a materialization on her head and a luminous apparition between her hands. May 17, 1912; Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene, Freiburg im Breisgau.

This photo, taken in 1912, depicts the medium Eva Carrière, or “Eva C.” as she was also known, conducting a séance. She is seated in a large chair in the center background, between a set of heavy drapes, with her head down, an intense expression of concentration on her face; her arms are held apart parallel to the armrests, and her hands appear to be in motion. In the foreground are two figures, part of the group assembled for the séance, all seated in a circle facing Carrière. The man on the left is leaning forward eagerly to watch, his hands on his knees. In the photograph, two substances are seen materializing from the medium’s body: a strangely shaped object emerges from the crown of her head, while a thin ribbon of light, resembling an electrical current, forms between her outstretched hands. In the Spiritualist tradition, both of these material phenomena served as manifestations of the medium’s abilities and of the genuineness of her powers. This photo is featured in an exhibition catalog, The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult, a collection of spirit photography extending from the 1860s to the 1960s. During this time period, the new technology of photography coincided with increasing interest in occult phenomena, producing hundreds of experimental photographic images. The collection illustrates how for many spiritualists, the medium of photography provided the hope that the medium of photography provided the hope that the camera could reveal what was not visible to the human eye. The materialization of light between Carrière’s hands, visible only in the developed image, revealed the presence of the spirits. A photograph like this one served as a medium of truth, a revelatory text: the darkroom revealed what those in the darkened séance room did not see. The Spiritualist tradition originated in 1848 in upstate New York and quickly attracted attention for the scientific proof it claimed to offer for the existence of life after death. The proof came in communicative form: messages from beyond the physical world, delivered by and through mediums. Spiritualism promised a religion that did not depend on blind faith, but instead provided evidence of things unseen via rappings, table tipping, ghostly apparitions, messages from

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deceased loved ones, and a number of other physical materializations, including Carrière’s specialty, the substance known as ectoplasm. French physiologist Charles Richet, who spent many years investigating parapsychological phenomena and was convinced of Carrière’s abilities, coined the term from the Greek ektos, “outside,” and plasma, “something formed or molded,” to mean the “‘exteriorized substance’ produced out of the bodies of some physical mediums and from which materializations are sometimes formed” (Glossary, his emphasis). Spiritualism depended on the belief that the immaterial could produce material effects, and the source of the process of materialization was the body of the medium. The scientific meaning of the word “medium”—a material in which something propagates or through which something is transmitted—when applied to the bodies of mediums, revealed their ability to serve as passive conduits for spirit transmissions. The Spiritualist tradition took shape in the nineteenth century in the context of rapidly changing scientific understandings and the development of new communicative technologies such as the telegraph. The medium, as a kind of “spiritual telegraph,” as Jeremy Stolow has argued, enabled “the immaterial and the material to communicate properly” (Stolow 2008: 679). When properly attuned, the medium served as a clear and effective transmitter of messages between the living and the dead. Recent work in religion and media studies conceptualizes religion as media, or religion as “a practice of mediation,” as Birgit Meyer puts it, “religion as both positing, and attempting to bridge, a distance between human beings and a transcendental or spiritual force that cannot be known as such” (Meyer 2009: 11). In this sense, as John Durham Peters has argued, communication can be understood as a religious activity in its effort to bridge the divides between humans and others, including unseen others. Such an understanding of communication as religious practice in the Spiritualist tradition bestowed authority on mediums as its ritual experts, most of whom were women, even if this went against cultural norms and social hierarchies. As historian Ann Braude says, “Spirit communication carried its own authority. If one accepted the message, one had little choice but to accept the medium” (Braude 1989: 84). The category of gender—which refers to a range of gendered subjectivities, their conditions of production, and their discursive representations—is intertwined with analyses of the body and materiality. Caroline Walker Bynum has argued that for medieval women, the significance of the Western theological and scientific notion that “male is to female as soul is to matter” was found in their


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ability to conceive of imitatio Christi in terms of a shared physicality; materiality was a more central category for medieval women mystics and theologians than that of gender (Bynum 1992: 149). It was also the imbrication of the male/female and spirit/matter binaries that was the target of second wave feminist theory in its development of a “sex/gender system” as a central analytic category. Gayle Rubin defined the “sex/gender system” as “the set of arrangements by which a society transforms biological sexuality into products of human activity, and in which these transformed sexual needs are satisfied” (Rubin 1975: 159). Rubin and other second wave feminists argued for a model of sex as based on biology and gender as the product of social relations, differentially constituted yet universally present in every human society. In so doing they sought to provide a space for feminist social and political critique and transformation. Poststructuralist feminist and queer theoretical approaches have pushed beyond the sex/gender framework in a number of ways, calling into question the distinction between sex as natural and gender as a social construction. Historians of sexuality, drawing on Foucault, have not simply historicized the emergence of particular conceptions of gender and sexuality but also analyzed them as cultural, political, and rhetorical constructions entailing claims about knowledge and power. As Thomas Laqueur has argued, sex is not a biological given but, instead, is “situational” and always already entails claims about gender; it is “explicable only within the context of battles over gender and power” (Laqueur 1990: 11). More than this, the question of power arises in the fact that it is particularly women’s bodies that have been marked as gendered: “Woman alone seems to have ‘gender’ since the category itself is defined as that aspect of social relations based on difference between sexes in which the standard has always been man,” he argues (22). Laqueur shows how a “one-sex model” of sexuality, in which male and female were regarded as, respectively, more and less perfect versions of a single sex, was prevalent in modern western science and medicine through the seventeenth century. This model, influenced by Aristotelian biology, posited an isomorphic relationship between male and female, whose differences vary in degree not in kind, which together revealed a single, hierarchically structured cosmic order. Sex, in other words, was a marker of status and social difference, not biological difference. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the one-sex model was replaced by a binary sex/gender system in which claims about essential differences between men and women were naturalized and normativized, while at the same time, expressions of non-normative sexuality and gender came under increasing control and surveillance by the disciplinary institutions of medicine and law. This binary model relied on notions of “womanhood”

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that not only presumed certain essentialist views about gender and sexuality, but were also tied to constructions of class, race, colonialism, nation, and religion. Historians Ann Braude and Alex Owen have shown how the Spiritualist tradition relied on the Victorian cult of true womanhood and its understandings of women’s nature as entailing innate passivity, purity, weaker intellect, greater virtue and piety, and propensity for self-sacrifice, all of which made them more susceptible to the control of spirits. As Braude puts it, “The very qualities that rendered women incompetent when judged against norms for masculine behavior rendered them capable of mediumship” and hence able to claim a form of religious authority (Braude 1989: 83). The entire enterprise of female mediumship, in other words, depended on the reinforcement of nineteenthcentury gender stereotypes. At the same time, Owen argues, women in the Spiritualist tradition also “subverted” Victorian gender norms by claiming authority as mediums and healers, earning independent incomes through their work, and performing gender in the séance room in unexpected, even “transgressive” ways. This might include embodying male spirits by performing “masculine” behavior, or engaging in erotic play with one’s mostly male audience. Eva Carrière rather notoriously conducted séances in various stages of undress, as depicted in the series of photos taken in 1912–13 by German psychic researcher Baron von Schrenck Notzing. In a broader sense, female mediumship may be analyzed as performative as this photo suggests: the medium sits as if on a stage, between curtains that she opens and closes at any time, to dramatize, to reveal, and to conceal. Theorizing gender in terms of performativity does not mean, simplistically, that gender can be thought of as free and subjective “performance,” but rather, as Judith Butler argues, both sex and gender are effects of power; embodiment and materiality are always produced, regulated, and constrained by cultural norms and discursive iteration. In fact, performance was a central element of Carrière’s mediumship; she had abandoned her given name, Marthe Béraud, after being exposed as a fraud in several 1905 séances in which she claimed to materialize the spirit of a 300-year-old Hindu Brahmin named Bien Boa. “Boa” was subsequently revealed to be at times a cardboard cutout and at other times a hired coachman in costume. Reinventing herself as Eva Carrière in 1909, she continued working as a medium but abandoned the cutouts and costumes in favor of the materialization of ectoplasm, a thin, papery substance containing the faces of spirits that she produced during séances. Arthur Conan Doyle was absolutely convinced of her abilities; Harry Houdini was not. In 1920, the London-based


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Society for Psychical Research investigated Carrière and found that her ectoplasm consisted of faces from the French magazine Le Miroir, which she had cut out, chewed, and, in some cases, altered to prevent audience members from recognizing them. Physical manifestations like these were central to nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Spiritualist performance, regarded as either evidence of genuine mediumistic abilities or evidence of fraud. Female mediumship was caught between the demand for materialization as proof and the corresponding inevitable constant scrutiny for fraud. Mia Lövheim argues that “gender as a dimension of media representations and media practice can no longer be ignored” in the study of religion, media, and culture, because it “highlights the complexities of bodies, social relations, cultural conventions and individual agency in mediations of religion” (Lövheim 2013: 2–3). But more than gender as a dimension of media, the case of female mediumship in the Spiritualist tradition as it was produced, constrained, imaged, and performed reveals one way that we might understand mediation as a gendered religious practice. In that sense, this photo may indeed depict Eva Carrière as the “perfect medium,” as the title of Chéroux’s book suggests: head down, in trance, she receives and conducts the spirits through her body to the men in her audience, while the mysterious materializations of the unseen are captured and recorded through the medium of photography. Today, these images seem to us quaint, even grotesque. Spirit photography and the female medium’s body are no longer understood as definitive sites for the production of truth: the curtain has fallen on the “perfect medium.” But in particular forms of media—the novel, photography, the stage, advertisements, film—we can trace the iterative production of sexed and gendered bodies at the same time as they are continually (re)presented, contested, and subverted. As Carrière’s case suggests, it is perhaps the inherently unstable performance of gender, materiality, and embodiment that holds the promise of its own undoing.

Bibliography Braude, Ann. 1989. Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women’s Rights in NineteenthCentury America. Boston: Beacon Press. Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge. Butler, Judith. 1993. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”. New York: Routledge. Bynum, Caroline. 1992. Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion. New York: Zone Books.

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Chéroux, Clément, Andreas Fischer, Pierre Apraxine, Denis Canguilhem, and Sophie Schmit. 2005. The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult. New Haven: Yale University Press. Foucault, Michel. 1990. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. New York: Vintage. Laqueur, Thomas. 1990. Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Lövheim, Mia, ed. 2013. Media, Religion and Gender: Key Issues and New Challenges. New York: Routledge. Meyer, Birgit. 2009. “Introduction: From Imagined Communities to Aesthetic Formations: Religious Mediations, Sensational Forms, and Styles of Binding.” In Aesthetic Formations: Media, Religion, and the Senses, edited by Meyer, 1–29. New York: Fordham. Owen, Alex. 2004. The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Rubin, Gayle. 1975. “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex.” In Toward an Anthropology of Women, edited by Rayna Reiter, 157–210. New York: Monthly Review Press. Stolow, Jeremy. 2008. “Salvation by Electricity.” In Religion: Beyond a Concept, edited by Hent de Vries, 668–86. New York: Fordham. Von Schrenck Notzing, Baron. 1923. Phenomena of Materialisation: A Contribution to the Investigation of Mediumistic Teleplastics. Translated by E. E. Fournier d’Albe. New York: E. P. Dutton and Co.



Icon (image) Robert Maniura

Figure 15  Icon of Christ from the Sancta Sanctorum, Lateran Palace, Rome. Photo: antmoose, Flickr.

Icons and images are troublesome things: they are notoriously difficult to pin down. The very terminology is vexing. The two terms have their roots in the Greek and Latin languages, respectively, and as such are embedded in European culture in general and in the cultures of Christianity in particular. They are contested terms even within this heritage, but outside of it the issues of reference and applicability become even more fraught. In practice the two terms are often used interchangeably in the context of religion to refer to depictions of sacred figures or stories. The discipline of art history understands the term icon in a narrower technical sense as a panel painting—a painting on wood—of a holy figure or figures from the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition. This somewhat minimalist definition provides a useful starting point because it highlights materiality as part of the issue: an icon so defined is emphatically a thing made out of wood and paint. A significant number of icons in this art historical sense show a single holy figure full face, confronting the viewer and meeting his or her gaze. This characteristic gives rise to the adjective “iconic” to describe a wider range of pictures that share this feature. A more widespread current use of “iconic,” though, draws on another feature of the Eastern icon—its focal cultural role and high status—to refer to culturally salient people, things, and concepts: sportspeople, musicians, commercial products, and brands, among other things, can all be “iconic” in this sense. This leads away from material religion, but that the icon should have given its name to this notion of cultural centrality is significant: icons are important. It is worth remarking that in contemporary popular culture “icon” is used almost interchangeably with “idol,” a term that implies an excessive degree of devotion. As noted below, this uncomfortable pairing, and implied conflation, has a very long history. In art history, a major part of the study of icons and images has been “iconography,” that is the study and interpretation of the subject matter of a picture. Pictures are taken to communicate meanings in systems of signs somewhat akin to language. The philosopher C. S. Peirce, drawing on one sense of the original Greek eikon as “likeness,” adopted the term icon to label a sign that

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resembles what it stands for. The issue of likeness has been taken to be central to the understanding of the image in general. The broadly semiotic approach treats images largely as disembodied and idea-like, true to some of the meanings of the original Greek and Latin terms: images can be mental phenomena as well as material objects. This conceptual register of the iconic is in tension with the materiality of the icon as object, and it is precisely when these two registers are seen to have become blurred that icons have become most troublesome. The “iconic” images noted above are particularly problematic in this respect. Icons of individual holy human figures or gods-made-men are taken in certain respects to “look like” what they depict. There has been a lingering concern that the degree of likeness can be too close for comfort. Is the icon a mere sign or something more? What is the relationship between the icon and its prototype? The issue becomes urgent when we move away from the icon in isolation and consider its involvement in patterns of human behavior. The full-face address of the “iconic” type confronts the viewer with a vivid evocation of another person with whom the viewer is invited to interact. Historically that interaction has gone beyond contemplation. Icons are not just looked at and prayed before. They can be touched, manipulated, carried around, or otherwise impelled into movement and involved in more or less elaborate rituals, rituals which may also “look like” social interactions with other human actors. The traditional kissing of the icon in Orthodox Christianity is a simple but powerful example. A kiss is appropriate to a person. But why kiss an object? To treat the icon as if it were a person has long been viewed with suspicion in a religious context. Is to do so not to turn the icon into a “fetish,” to attribute to it qualities and powers which it does not possess? Does the devotee who kisses the icon not offer his or her worship to the brute matter of the picture rather than god or the saint? The icon allegedly becomes an idol and the devotee guilty of idolatry, in the JudeoChristian tradition the ultimate sin of worshiping the wrong god. A widespread response to such perceived or alleged “abuse” of images is iconoclasm, the breaking or defacing of images. Iconoclasm asserts the materiality of the image and dismisses it as a fit focus for worship. Ironically, as Martin Luther noted, this response also acknowledges the very force and centrality of the image that the iconoclast wishes to deny. It is, though, arguably this very ambivalence of the image, its manifest status as an artifact alongside its unsettlingly vivid evocation of a sacred “presence,” that is crucial to its role in religious practice. It is important that the blurring of the material and conceptual registers is not the preserve of “simple people” as theologians and spiritual professionals have sometimes implied. The wholehearted exploitation of the materiality of the image is sometimes quite


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explicit in “official” contexts. Take the example of a surprisingly little-known image at the very heart of the Latin Christian tradition. The figure above shows the image of Christ from the so-called Sancta Sanctorum—the Holy of Holies—of the Lateran Palace in Rome. This was the private chapel, dedicated to St. Lawrence, in what during the Middle Ages was the main residence of the Pope, next to the church of St. John Lateran. The chapel is one of the few surviving fragments of the medieval palace, and the icon remains on its altar. It is a curious sight. The bulk of the main panel is covered by an ornate gilded silver revetment with an inscription stating that it was donated by Pope Innocent III (1198–1216). Above the revetment rises a strange doll-like face surrounded by a gilded nimbus. This face is painted on a piece of canvas and is the result of a repair ordered by Pope John X (914–28). The wing panels with embossed silver figures of saints date from the fifteenth century. This image emerges into documentary history in the eighth century when it was called an image not made by human hands. Later medieval tradition held that it had been begun by St. Luke and finished miraculously by divine intervention. The age of the original painting is uncertain. It may date back to about 600 CE, but little is left of it. Recent conservation revealed that the walnut panel beneath all these later additions resembles nothing so much as a piece of driftwood. It seems to have originally displayed a full-length figure of Christ enthroned. Judging by the long history of repair, it must already have been badly degraded by the tenth century. The ruinous condition of the panel is understandable in the light of its use. The very first eighth-century reference has the image carried in procession, and by the ninth century it was already recorded in an annual nocturnal procession from the Lateran to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore on the eve of the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. There the image of Christ “met” an equally ancient image of the Virgin Mary housed in the church and the two pictures were made to bow to one another. Details of the current state of the Sancta Sanctorum icon relate to further details of the ritual. A pair of small silver doors, near the base of the main panel, covers the area of the original image’s feet. A twelfth-century text notes that when the procession reached the church of Santa Maria Nova, now Santa Francesca Romana, in the forum, the doors were opened and the feet of the image were washed. In the thirteenth century, the Pope opened the same doors in order to kiss the feet during Mass on Easter Sunday. The Assumptiontide procession was no effusion of a dubiously orthodox “popular piety” but a focal civic ritual with direct papal involvement.

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The processions finally came to an end only in the pontificate of Pius V (1566– 72). Today, this icon is more a relic of Roman Catholic tradition than an active focus of devotional life, though it is, from time to time, still involved in papal ceremonial. But throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it was treated in certain respects like the embodiment of Christ himself. A Christian from the Reformed tradition might dismiss this history as a confirming instance of “popish idolatry,” but to acknowledge this ideological conflict is also to recognize the persistent centrality of the image as an issue in Christian culture. Whether affirmed or denied as valid foci of worship, images are difficult to get away from. One can remove the issue from a potentially sectarian Christian context by observing that the treatment of the Santa Sanctorum icon closely parallels the ritual treatment of images in other religions. The bathing of the feet of (the image of) Christ resembles, for example, the ritual bathing of ´iva-linga in the traditions of S ´aiva Hinduism. The image is treated in both the S cases “as if” it were the god himself. Significantly, the Hindu tradition shares with Christianity a marked ambivalence about the status of images in its theoretical writings while fully engaging with the materiality of images in practice. The charge that to treat images in this way is in error is historically important but needs to be recognized as a polemical allegation. The challenge is to acknowledge that such a response is, rather, quite understandable. The tantalizing ambiguity of the relationship between the depiction and the depicted is arguably an important part of how images “work” and what sustains their central role in the first place. Images provide such a good focus for devotion precisely because they are so enduringly provocative. ´iva-linga takes us back, though, to the issue of definitions. The example of the S ´ In Hindu cults, Siva is visualized in various anthropomorphic forms, but the linga, the most important visual manifestation of the god, is a smooth cylindrical shaft. In a fundamental sense this image is unlike the god. But so are the other visual manifestations, which cannot be taken to present him adequately. The same idea is present in Christian theology: god is uncircumscribable. In the end, the same is true of all images: there are limits to likeness. The Sancta Sanctorum image in its present state serves as a rare example of the role of the unlike in the European tradition. The original painting once offered an arresting encounter with the enthroned Christ. A number of early Marian panels survive in Rome with a good deal more of their original paint, and they reveal just how striking early Christian painting could be. But the Sancta Sanctorum icon, as it has appeared since the high Middle Ages, looks like . . . nothing on earth. This icon as likeness of the incarnate god was erased, at least in part, by its own ritual manipulation. The object remained as the focus of ritual but the most “like”


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element of this complex was the ritual itself, which mimed exchange with the divine. The Sancta Sanctorum image of Christ is an extreme, but by no means isolated, example. Such images have, until recently, found only a tenuous place in the study of the Western Christian tradition in the discipline—art history—which most privileges visual material, because they fail to engage with the aesthetic criteria that have conventionally driven the process of selection. Moreover, art history has tended to concentrate on the conceptual register of the religious images it has studied in generating largely symbolic interpretations. Their materiality has been recognized in terms of their production and not their reception. This disciplinary bias has arguably compromised the wider study of religion by obscuring an important aspect of the role of images in religious practice. The emphasis is, however, beginning to shift and the growing recognition of the importance of the physical, as well as conceptual, engagement of “viewers” with images promises to enrich the study of material religion.

Bibliography Belting, Hans. 1994. Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Davis, Richard H. 2006. “Presence and Translucence: Appar’s Guide to Devotional Receptivity.” In Presence: The Inherence of the Prototype within Images and Other Objects, edited by Robert Maniura and Rupert Shepherd, 87–104. Aldershot: Ashgate. Mitchell, W. J. T. 1986. Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Magic Peter Pels

Figure 16  Frederick A. Hudson, Alfred Russel Wallace with the spirit of his mother, 1874 (by permission of the College of Psychic Studies, London).

This spirit photograph epitomizes, in its materiality as well as its cultural meanings, the conundrum of magic in our time. To Alfred Wallace, who invented the concept of natural selection together with Charles Darwin, and who closely watched Frederick Hudson as the latter developed this particular print from a glass plate taken through the intervention of the trusted medium Mrs. Guppy in 1874, it was an “unassailable demonstration . . . of the objective reality of spiritual forms” (Wallace 1896: 188, 196–7). To his opponent, the anthropologist Edward Tylor, such spiritual phenomena spelled the fraud of “knavish sorcerers” and the hysterical gullibility of their followers; they were, like all magic, a “survival” of essentially erroneous forms of thinking in scientific modernity. Both Wallace and Tylor claimed, at times, to be “materialists,” whether in proving the objectivity of the spiritual or in unmasking it as delusion. From our present perspective, however, the photograph bears a more uncanny resemblance to the modern concept of magic: both the spirit photograph and “magic” first masqueraded as objective facts, until our subsequent knowledge of the technique of double exposure (whether on glass plates or by literary description) showed that their objectivity was illusory, and that instead of representing a “truth” out there, they intervened in and transformed modern cultural politics. Seen as a material act—an intervention in a field of truth-claims—“magic” becomes a predominantly provincial (modern, European) rather than universal concept. If it has to be defined, it should perhaps be called a classification that tries to put the “other” of modern thought in its place, but never securely enough to prevent it from haunting science, art, religion, and rationality to such an extent that we have to question our “modernity.” The controversy between Wallace and Tylor shows that magic was a political and therefore relatively arbitrary classification that could denigrate a potentially respectable practice (such as the spiritual séance) by labeling it as deviant. Not much later, however, artists and occultists—successors to the Spiritualist movement—rebelliously claimed magic as a positive category of wonder, just as alchemists had defended magia and Diderot and Goethe had defended shamanism earlier. To draw definitional boundaries around magic would threaten to obscure that arbitrariness, and

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banish its commonalities with sorcery, witchcraft, spirit possession, occultism, fetishism, and shamanism, and its spill-overs into advertising, technology, art, religion, and even science. To understand magic through this historical prism—and there is no other scholarly responsible way—one should identify at least three decisive developments that made magic into the provincially European term it still is today. First, there is the tradition of Protestant and Enlightenment denigration of magic: it contributed far more to the emergence of modern self-understanding than we have cared to acknowledge, yet the positivist self-assessment of science and secularization is incomprehensible without it. Second, there is the peculiar twinning of the rise of the idea of objectivity and the Romantic movement: if the latter provided the context for the revival of esoteric currents such as Rosicrucianism, Kabbalism, and Egyptian and Druidic magic in the first half of the nineteenth century under the name of “theosophy,” it paradoxically coincided with the former’s insistence that natural objects could and should be represented without human mediation. The radical social separation between objective scientist and romantic artist that resulted from this forms the background to both Wallace’s belief in the objectivity of the photograph and Tylor’s belief in the subjectivity of hysteria—although one should not forget that William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the inventors of photography, also used the word “magic” to describe its capacity to be an unmediated “pencil of nature.” Third, there is the essentially plural process of secularization: because the history of ideas was for a long time obsessed with the public clash between science—personified by Tylor’s colleague Thomas Huxley—and religion—personified by the Anglican establishment’s Bishop Wilberforce—it neglected subaltern processes of secularization, and especially the one that produced the third term of modern gnosis. Exemplified by the “new race” promoted by Madame Blavatsky’s global Theosophy, but better known today as the “New Age” of self-sacralization, modern gnosis secularized modern culture by incorporating evolutionism into the development of mind (an idea pioneered by, among others, Wallace himself [1864]), and thereby adopting the anthropologists’ psychologization of magic. In popular culture, modern gnosis transformed the fascination of Romantics such as Edward Bulwer Lytton with Egyptian magic, and later its Tibetan, Indian, and African forms, into core elements of modern “occultism” as well as the emerging best-seller industry. It is in this context that one needs to situate Edward Tylor’s doctrine of survivals, the first full-blown anthropological theory of magic by James Frazer, and the contribution by both to a fourth important development: the psychologization of magic. Both Tylor and Frazer defined magic as based on erroneous assumptions of the human mind, but Frazer famously and influentially defined the mental


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operations of magic in The Golden Bough as of two kinds: “homeopathic” and “contagious,” or the principles that like produces like and that things that were once in touch can contact each other at a distance. Frazer thereby adopted and transformed an idea about magic cultivated by the mesmerists and occultists that preceded and surrounded him: that an “ether” explained how magical influence could work at a distance—except that for Frazer, this was a mental error, not a force of thought. Finally, Frazer extended Tylor’s evolutionism beyond mere “survivals” by building on the idea of the magician as a leader whose capacity to defraud his audience lifted him to a higher evolutionary level: a transformation of the Protestant critique of priesthood into a form peculiarly suited to a society that was constantly in the business of unmasking spirit mediums (not least by stage magicians like Houdini). The massive global compilation of rituals and customs that Frazer’s Golden Bough became between 1905 and 1915 exemplifies the claims that “magic” is a universal category, and that its reality was mental—or, put differently, that magic’s material manifestations were of secondary importance. This is the point where magic’s double exposure comes in. The surprising thing about Frazer’s theory of magic is not that it reflects the magic of his own time; it is that, while trying to deny that magic properly belonged to modernity, Frazer caused (if indirectly) some of the more important modern forms of magic himself. At least two lines of descent of twentieth-century gnosis can be traced back to Frazer: the genealogy of High Magic, derived from a reading of The Golden Bough by practitioners such as William Butler Yeats and Alastair Crowley (first associated in the Order of the Golden Dawn); and the emergence of Wicca through Gerald Gardner’s invention of modern witchcraft in 1935, which was based on the adaptation of Frazer’s ideas about fertility cults by Margaret Murray. Together with Friedrich Max Müller’s direct and indirect involvement in Blavatsky’s Theosophy, Frazer was the most influential academic producer of modern magic—although both are the tips of an iceberg that remains insufficiently explored below water. Frazer’s double exposure of magic—unmasking it as fraud while simultaneously reinventing it for an eager modern audience—was reproduced by society at large. This bifurcated pattern, once fully matured around 1900, may be summarized as follows: On the one hand, publicly authorized discourses—science, state planning, religion, architecture—attempted to maintain their distance toward magic by a politics of time, denying the coevalness of magic by banishing it to a “traditional” epoch or a less evolved mind. On the other hand, at both extremes of the cultural spectrum—popular culture and the avant-garde—positive forms of practicing magic struggled against elitist tendencies to dismiss them as romantic illusion or plain quackery and fraud. The pattern was consistently upheld by the practice of studying typically modern forms of magic—such as “commodity fetishism” or “charisma”—under another name.

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The ambiguities of this pattern are well illustrated by the development of the best-seller industry and other forms of popular culture in Britain: much of it was predicated on the metropolitan appreciation of magic; for example, H. Rider Haggard (youthful ethnographer of Africa and dabbler in spirit seances) combined geographical and archaeological science fiction with an African witch (in King Solomon’s Mines, 1885) and an Egyptian sorceress (in She, 1887). Haggard’s magical plots migrated easily into theater and were frequently reproduced in early film—which is not surprising given the fact that early film pioneers (such as George Méliès) were often also stage magicians and many early filmmakers performed in the context of stage magic. This ambiguous complicity goes even deeper once we realize that the Davenport Brothers, trusted by Wallace for the spiritualist evidence they provided, are today acknowledged as the inventors of a new type of stage magic, while Ira Davenport claimed, on the sick-bed at which Houdini finally managed to wheedle a confession of his tricks out of him, that he had never publicly affirmed a belief in Spiritualism. Once we realize that the spirit photograph’s double exposure was perfected for the entertainment industry into the special effects of cinematic montage, it becomes obvious why early cinema theory also expresses this modernist ambivalence. It was epitomized by Walter Benjamin’s hopes for cinema’s commodified yet dreamlike revolutionary potential on the one hand, and Theodor Adorno’s denigration of commodification and occultism in a single breath on the other. For modern artists, magic and occultism promised access to a deeper psychic reality beyond the senses, and on the other side of the cultural spectrum, an account of the rise of visceral popular entertainment as experience suggests that it was saturated by Orientalist magical exemplars on the Coney Island or Disney model. Material manifestations of magic in modernity, however, are still too often ignored by scholars. Although anthropologists, in particular, have become more conscious of the magical work of “state familiars,” the social impact of scientific magic has rarely been studied, so that we can only suppose that the transfer of nineteenth-century ideas about psychic powers to our present by such people as the editors of Astounding Science Fiction and Amazing Stories was not an isolated example. After the so-called digital revolution, science-fictional techno-fetishism is rampant, and the rise to mainstream entertainment status of the special effects of Tolkien, witches and vampires, and Harry Potter suggests that neoliberal capitalism has become more magical than ever before. The question whether this changed the bifurcated pattern of high modernism urgently awaits an answer. The realization that the cultural pattern of magic is provincially Occidental, however, means neither that high modernist definitions of magic are useless nor that they provide no clues whatsoever about religious practices outside the Occident. Just as it would be imperialist to assume that magic is universal and


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fail to analyze its provincial meanings, it would be irresponsible to ignore that Frazer’s homeopathic and contagious relationships can still help us understand why certain objects and images seem more powerful than others, or that Tischlein deck dich! may be a universal childhood experience, or that the credibility of a material revelation is usually produced “at the moment of the conjuring trick”—to cite just three of the most influential definitions of magic. No single definition of magic, however, can encompass all the ambiguities into which modernism has plunged the term. Moreover, we also need to be conscious of the extent to which the double exposure of magic was exported outside the Occident—as happened most famously with “witchcraft,” which saddled both Africans and their colonial rulers with the conundrum that something recognized as an important social institution was also labeled as “imaginary” and “impossible.” But perhaps we should treat the realization of the provinciality of our thinking about magic as an invitation to a more serious investigation of the materiality of magical actions and the things they require.

Bibliography Aperture. 2000. “Specimens and Marvels: William Henry Fox Talbot and the Invention of Photography.” Special issue, Aperture 161: 3–80. Daston, Lorraine, and Peter Galison. 2007. Objectivity. New York: Zone Books. Frazer, James. 1922 [1963]. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. Abridged edition. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. Godwin, Joscelyn. 1994. The Theosophical Enlightenment. New York: SUNY Press. Hanegraaf, Wouter. 2012. Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mauss, Marcel and Henri Hubert. 1972 [1902]. A General Theory of Magic. Translated by Robert Brain. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Meyer, Birgit and Peter Pels, eds. 2003. Magic and Modernity: Interfaces of Revelation and Concealment. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Steinmeyer, Jim. 2004. Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible. London: Arrow Books. Stolow, Jeremy, ed. 2012. Deus in Machina: Religion, Technology, and the Things In Between. New York: Fordham University Press. Taussig, Michael. 1993. Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses. New York: Routledge. Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1896. Miracles and Modern Spiritualism. 2nd edn. [first published 1874]. London: George Redway.


Maps Anita Patil-Deshmukh

Figure 17 Map of Ward E, Mumbai. Charted by PUKAR. in/e.html.

To map something, as per a dictionary definition, means to describe, chart, delineate, or represent as if on a map; to sketch or plan. In the contemporary activities of data visualization, mapping also includes metaphorical extensions of conventional geographic charts and innovative ways of visualizing data not clearly related to the geographical archetype. While mapping involves spatial and infrastructural relationships, it can also help create a mental landscape of an area. This includes the places of worship associated with the religious identities of the citizens in a specific neighborhood, which is deeply connected with their feeling of religious security, or lack thereof. “The idea of mental landscape is associated with a spatial understanding of modernity that has long been central to the scholarship on cities and to urban ethnography” (Rashmi 2010: 77). In this chapter I will elaborate on how mapping is gradually becoming an important tool in relation to topics in religion, urbanization, gentrification, identity, right to the city, and land grabbing, with the help of a case study from Mumbai. Maps allow identity to be recast by revealing new structures, and new commonalities and differences in and across geographic space. Rapid urbanization in India, and across the world, has created an exceptional conglomeration of talents, wealth, and creativity. At the same time it has also given rise to unprecedented disparities and the marginalization of many. Continuous migration of the poor to urban centers, coupled with their lack of rights to the city, and gentrification as the predominant form of redevelopment has led to the dispossession of poor communities. All of this has played a significant role in poor people’s increased feelings of insecurity. As a result, they try to claim and use public spaces, especially religious spaces, for community gathering. Citing the plight of Latino migrants in Southern California, Clara Irazábal and Grace R. Dyrness have written, While the everyday living conditions of many immigrants, particularly the unauthorized Latino immigrants, force unto them an embodied disciplinarity that maintains spatialities of restricted citizenship, the public appropriations of space for and through religious practices allow for them—even if only

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momentarily—to express an embodied transgression. This practice in public space helps realize spaces of freedom and hope, however ephemerally. (Irazábal and Dyrness 2010: 356)

On a similar empowering note, we can see how mapping has been used extensively as a comprehensive tool for documentation by the undocumented (citizens of informal settlements) across the global south. These geospatial tools have helped them to avoid forced evictions, upgrade their settlements, demand basic services, and make other citizens aware of their contribution to urban environments and their “Right to the City” (Patel and Baptist 2010). Thus mapping helps to make visible the invisible and puts on the map those who have been left off the map. The 2001 Census of India revealed the astonishing statistic that there were 2.4 million places of worship in the country (exceeding the number of schools, at 2.1 million). A large number of them are unauthorized, built by encroaching on public land. In the city of Mumbai, a microcosm of India, a similar predicament has existed for the urban planners and city officials. Mumbai has been in the process of being built for over 200 years through the efforts of migrants from all parts of the country. Mumbai’s citizens have brought with them their traditions, cultures, and faiths. Therefore, it is not surprising that almost every street has a religious structure like a temple, mosque, church, etc. While some have legal sanction, others are makeshift and have little or no sanction from the authorities. With the increase in population; vehicular traffic, leading to increasingly congested roads; and the demand for improved infrastructure by those using private transport, these worship places, specifically the illegal ones, have come under greater scrutiny. In 2012, the Supreme Court of India banned the fresh encroachment of roads, pavements, and sidewalks by the construction of religious structures or installation of statues of public figures. According to a petition to the court by the government, “criminals, the land mafia and anti-social elements exploit religious sentiments of the people to grab public land through the construction of such places of worship.” Regarding existing unauthorized religious structures on the roads, the bench took a more nuanced position, recognizing that the removal of such constructions was not an easy task for either the municipal authorities or the police. Taking a cue from the Supreme Court mandate, in December 2012, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) announced a policy related to religious structures by circulating a list of structures. The first list (“List A”) comprised all those old structures that had been established before 1964,


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and the MCGM stipulated that they would be legalized and maintained, while those religious structures constructed after 1964 would be deemed illegal and demolished (“List B”). How did the MCGM decide upon that particular year? There may have been some rationale behind it, but it was never expressed in the notice sent to stakeholders, nor was it clear what criteria were used as demolition factors, other than spaces that caused traffic jams. With this background, Partners for Urban Knowledge Action and Research (PUKAR), with support from the Max Planck Institute of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Gottingen, Germany, mapped religious places in the city of Mumbai, thus exploring the public land utilization in relation to the issue of redevelopment and land grabbing. Taking the two MCGM lists as a point of departure, PUKAR’s Barefoot Researchers identified and mapped seventy-eight illegal structures that would be legalized and 193 illegal structures that would be demolished. All these have been plotted in a mapping website, along with photographic documentation and information that was sought from the stakeholders of each of the religious structures ( We believed that mapping—that is, creating visual documentation—would help people understand the politics of redevelopment initiatives. This pilot study led to larger questions and ideas for research on urban space, encroachment, land grabbing under religious pretenses, and contested spaces between the private and the public domains. The research method used included photographic documentation, GIS mapping, collection of Government Resolutions, and discussions with residents and managers of the religious spaces in question. The points for data gathering included histories of the particular temple, mosque, or other religious structure, the age and structural elements, affiliation with specific families or political parties, popularity, access or lack thereof by devotees of all faiths, and the various festivals and gatherings that have been celebrated in that space. The findings that emerged through data collection and conversations illuminated certain trends about religious places and the communities around them. Religious spaces have traditionally played a significant role in community life. This is true with traditions around the world. They are important physical spaces for communities to gather, socialize, and seek comfort. Temples, mosques, dargahs (Sufi shrines), derasars (Jain temples), agiaries (Zoroastrian fire temples), and synagogues all accommodate various acts of worship and, to a certain degree, demonstrate communal identity. Amidst a secure space, informal community gatherings, festivities, celebrations, and sharing take place. All this is particularly important in a rapidly gentrifying city like Mumbai where space is at a premium and public space is shrinking every day (there are

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1.1 square meters per capita in Mumbai as opposed to twenty-six in New York City). In many instances religious worship spaces double as prayer rooms, schools for children from the slums in the afternoon, and spaces for women to conduct their self-help group activities and for elders to connect with each other. The social significance of these spaces is manifested in the ways they create, anchor, and sustain cultural citizenship that confronts the daily living conditions of the urban poor in a rapidly shrinking world. The central part of Mumbai, which is dotted with chawls, is now undergoing rapid gentrification. Chawls, one- or two-storied single-room dwellings with a common corridor and common toilet blocks at the end of the corridor, were built in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries for the famous textile industry workers of Mumbai. Many contained worship places inside or on the outer walls of the dwellings. These chawls are currently being replaced with upscale apartment buildings and the original owners who are unable to afford these pricy residences are systematically being dispossessed of their neighborhoods, being shunted miles away. Through mapping techniques, researchers observed that many religious places around these chawls were being guarded with great gusto under the pretext of worship, but underpinning the safeguarding was the desire for preservation of a sense of place in their own neighborhoods. In many places, local owners, religious devotees, and other citizens have conducted campaigns and have been able to protect these worship spaces, and the chawls as well. Places of worship become projections of religious identities, identities that are becoming increasingly complex and threatened due to global flows and the breaking down of what has been for centuries a traditional syncretic ethos existing in India. Researchers have pointed out that “when the attributes of identity, such as religion or caste, are mapped on those of geography and language, we get a matrix of sub-cultures constituting various overlapping circles of commonalities, allowing for distinctiveness as well as assimilation; this process, in turn, provides locations for syncretism, which blurs boundaries” (Dalvi and Dalvi 2014). Since the opening up of India’s economy in 1991, the practice of syncretism has taken a beating everywhere in the country, creating discontent, and a fear of small numbers. A feeling of fear and insecurity can make people, especially poor people, vulnerable, gullible, suspicious, and/or violent. And what makes poor people gullible and vulnerable? It is their lack of security, extremely poor living conditions, deprivations of opportunities and resources leading to an unpredictable future, and constant manipulations by politics, policies, and practices. As Amartya Sen argues, “Violence is fomented by the imposition of singular and belligerent identities on gullible people championed by proficient artisans of terror” (Sen 2006: 2). This reality of life has, indeed,


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led to people redefining and asserting a non-mutable religious identity through built structures. In the current strategy of so many countries to create “smart cities and global cities,” redevelopment has manifested itself by, among many things, abolishing access of the poor to public spaces. It is here that spatial contestations relate to rights in the city, culture, religion, and livelihoods. Our research revealed that in Mumbai’s redevelopment process, a temple built by and used by the mill workers is being demolished to create space for a parking lot. The religious places and hawkers on the footpath, both serving the poor in different ways, are accused of being “illegal occupants” and hence are under threat of demolition or dispossession. On both sides of the same road, cars are parked, turning what was a four-lane road into a two-lane road and causing enormous traffic jams, but the parking of cars is not considered illegal. Finding solutions to vehicular traffic jams always seems to get the preference over solutions to the nightmares of pedestrians, and “citizenship rights” seem to be the exclusive domain of those who have voices and power. Meanwhile, the voiceless and powerless walk by silently and continue to struggle, while policy makers decide their fate. James Holston and Arjun Appadurai make an eloquent observation on these kind of citizens “who are for the most part, spectators without active participation in the business of rule, they are citizens whose citizenship is managed by an unelected bureaucracy” (Holston and Appadurai 1998: 5). Citizens’ initiatives in establishing temples, sustaining them, and fighting for them, it is speculated, could be a way for people to assert their rights to land in Mumbai’s rapidly shrinking public spaces. In addition, once a space has been appropriated, it is only a matter of time before the surrounding space is usurped as well. Politicians are more hesitant to demolish popular religious spaces for fear of offending the religious sentiments of people within their constituency who form their vote banks. On the other hand, once a space becomes “religious,” the negotiating power of the devotees, and the owners, becomes more sustainable. In a fast changing city like Mumbai, such negotiating power is valuable and visual mapping allows and enhances such a power. In the words of Appadurai, mapping and self-enumeration are “active, generative and self-defining practices that become part of the political self-consciousness of these communities, reminding their members that their communities are greater than themselves. This greatness becomes an irreversible force for stronger negotiations with those who still see the urban poor as a burden, a blight or a mere vote bank” (Appadurai 2012: 3). From our study, it appears that most of the demolitions have had two main roots: one, redevelopment and its fallout, and the other, the expanding

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infrastructure for increased vehicular traffic. A future study of how the religious spaces would be used post-redevelopment would give an interesting insight into the effect of redevelopment on the social lives of residents. On the other hand, increased vehicular traffic was not a uniform reason for the demolition of religious spaces: many religious spaces have been allowed to stand because of their popularity. This offers an interesting point of further engagement where the contestation is between the aspirations of the poor and the others. From an anthropological perspective, the use of religious spaces as tools for asserting rights over land is an important underpinning of the process. Owners of spaces with religious sanction seem to have increased negotiating power. So, in essence, they use religious spaces as urban capital they can barter. Religious spaces play a critical role in creating social spaces in urban communities, helping the urban poor in their assertion of religious identity. Mapping of such spaces can become an essential and significant tool for a collaboration of progressive religious groups, policy makers, urban planners, architects, and local residents. Such collaborative efforts could propagate a new vision of built environments in cities, cities that are equitable, inclusive, and just, thus making them Smart Cities.

Bibliography Appadurai, Arjun. 2012. “Why Enumeration Counts.” Environment and Urbanization 24(2): 1–3. Dalvi, Mustansir and Smita Dalvi. 2014. “Politicizing the Sacred: Religious Architecture in the Konkan.” Take on Art 4(1). politicizing-sacred-religious.html. Holston, James and Arjun Appadurai. 1998. “Introduction: Cities and Citizenship.” In Cities and Citizenship, edited by Holston and Appadurai, 1–18. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Irazábal, Clara and Grace R. Dyrness. 2010. “Promised Land? Immigration, Religiosity, and Space in Southern California.” Space & Culture 13(4): 356–75. Patel Sheela and Carrie Baptist, eds. 2012. “Mapping, Enumerating and Surveying Informal Settlements and Cities.” Special issue of Environment and Urbanization 24(1). Rashmi, Sadana. 2010. “On the Delhi Metro: An Ethnographic View.” Economic and Political Weekly (November 13) XLV(46): 77–83. Sen, Amartya. 2006. Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny. New York: Penguin Publications. Urban Aspirations in Global Cities.



Masks Allen F. Roberts

Figure 18  Chokwe or Luvale “lion” crossing a river to participate in a performance of Makishi masks near Chitofu, northwestern Zambia. Photo: Manuel Jordán, 1992, with permission.

Masks are donned in many circumstances, and by no means are they all strictly “religious” by definition or intent. A masked performer may take to the streets of Hong Kong in heady political protest, for example, displaying the anonymous smirk attributed to the seventeenth-century British rabble-rouser Guy Fawkes. He or she may demand Hallowe’en candy in ghoulish glee; accomplish miraculous feats as the arachnid super hero of popular culture; or launch a Facebook page with photoshopped portraits of how one would like to look rather than how one fears one does. In more overtly religious ways, a masquerade of Makishi spirits may act out the fraught dramas of gender and local-level politics in a rural Zambian village, but in ways that so befit local mores that mystery and the mundane become coterminous (Jordán 2006; see Figure 18). Uniting these very disparate uses of masking is the fact that in every case, the performer is deliberately “not him- or herself” (Cole 1985). Who one becomes at such moments, how transformations are effected and inventive illusions given lasting purpose, and what meanings may be so generated are among the factors that make masks so fascinating. The complexities of the term “mask,” and why wearing one is such “an old trick of the human race,” as the anthropologist Clark Wissler (1950) once put it, are intimated when one considers that the Latin word for mask is perso ¯na, a term of richly paradoxical application in contemporary Western notions of psychology and intersubjective social life. According to such perspectives, a “persona” is presented to others while one may know one’s interior self to be different. As the great R&B singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson put it in “The Tears of a Clown” (1967), “If there’s a smile on my face/ It’s only there to fool the public.” A mask is a material and conceptual threshold between self and others. Inside a mask, an actor consciously plays a role, while outside the same mask, an audience responds to the drama. Most African masquerades are performed by men, although a few well-known exceptions include women’s coming-ofage rituals among Mende people of Sierra Leone; even so, women provide a necessary dialectic to performance of male pretense and prerogative, often to the tune of humorous teasing.1

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The relationship between mask and viewer may be reversed, for who or what one becomes when “not oneself” may be a source of divine agency as an ancestor, spirit, or deity agrees to appear in human guise, and sometimes, masquerade is by and for the divine more than for the humans also attending. Masks may possess their own efficacies as suggested by Makishi, the collective term for them in northwestern Zambia that refers to a complex of powerproducing things, procedures, dances, and roles recognized as nkisi throughout Central Africa and on into the Black Atlantic. Masks may do their own work, in other words, sometimes realized or enhanced by the prodigious athleticism of performers, as among Dogon people of Mali when a ladder-like Sirigi mask towers four or five meters above its dancer’s head, thrusting upward toward divinity and then dipping its tip to touch the earth in blessing. Masked performance events are often accomplished through trance. During séances of a healing and problem-solving society called Bulumbu among Luba, Tabwa, and related peoples of southeastern Congo/Kinshasa, a spirit-person wears a beaded frontlet of great cosmological import, and a face whitened and enlightened with chalk understood as surrogate moonlight. Spirit possession is a “mask” in its own right, and Bulumbu sees to individual and community needs through diagnostic rituals meant to determine sources of affliction as a first step toward their resolution (Roberts and Roberts 1996: 176–209). These moments may be exceedingly fraught, for they sometimes lead to accusations and those suspected of misdeeds may disrupt a session in aggressive riposte. A performer may be especially vulnerable at such moments poised between human and spirit realms, and masks are often fitted with magical devices so that outer form is empowered by inner, protective secrets. The material object that covers the face is only an element of the persona performing, and sometimes a minor one at that. Among Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria and southeastern Republic of Bénin, for instance, Gelede is an important masquerade through which troupes of young men compete, each seeking advantage by attracting the larger, more exuberant audience. A wooden headpiece—all there is to the “mask” as most frequently displayed in museums—is carved for each performance and may be virtuosic in design, while the bearer is concealed from forehead to toe by rich costuming. A Gelede mask created by the artist Eloi Lokossou depicts a handsome young man in a bright white helmet and snappy attire rendered in vivid hues of housepaint, seated astride a brand new, bright red “Honda 100” motorcycle roaring up a short stretch of tarmac, also carved into the superstructure.2 Lokossou’s work makes complex reference to Ogun as the Yoruba deity of metals and master of “cutting edge” ideas, implements, and technologies


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manifested in the motorcycle, and to “our mothers,” whom Yoruba understand to be the source of all generative creativity. Gelede is performed by men to placate the ambiguous powers of women who nurture and are adored, yet who may redirect these same vast capacities to harm those disturbing community and family harmonies. The placid women’s faces typical of the lower registers of Gelede headpieces portray “our mothers” as men hope they will remain—calm, cool, and collected. More specifically, Lokossou’s sculpture is all about the arrogance of a young man showing off his “wheels,” as made painfully apparent in the ironic song and dance composed for the performance when the mask was revealed. The butt of such mindful mockery must have known he was the subject of the drama, as would all in attendance, yet no one pointed a finger or called out his name. Instead, it would be hoped that the fellow would save face, curb his braggadocio, and contribute to the community as a generous, self-effacing adult is expected to do. Lokossou’s Gelede mask must be understood as a synaesthetic composition of painted wooden sculpture, costuming, choreography, ironic lyrics, musical accompaniment, audience enthusiasm, keen attention to local-level politics, and a young man’s chagrin. In other instances, masking may include all sorts of props and accouterments. Teetering stilts may add to the astonishments. Body masks sometimes complement those worn over the face or on the head, as illustrated by another masterful work by Eloi Lokossou: the pendulous breasts and pregnant belly of a woman cradling twin babies whose heads are articulated so that a performer can pull strings and make them peer out at the audience or return to nursing. The complete mask, with song and dance included, emphasized local understanding that women should not engage in sex while nursing, for the arrival of next-borns can imperil infant siblings. Sound frequently contributes to masquerade as well, as when maskers use falsetto, animal calls, or arcane argot; are accompanied by leitmotif rhythms; or are announced by eerie wails of bullroarers that are “masks” unto themselves. Lighting effects are also significant, for masquerades are often held at night when flickering firelight greatly enhances dramatic tensions between what can be seen and what disappears into darkness. As Gelede suggests, religion, social processes, and entertainment meet in masquerade. Masks deployed in rituals enliven ambiguity and realize the potential for transformation (see “Ritual,” this volume). Ritual possesses a triadic structure of separation from ordinary circumstances, a transitional or liminal period, and integration of a changed being into new orders of profane life. Rites of passage assist the transformation of people throughout their lives, from one relatively fixed or stable condition to another—as boys to men, single to wedded persons,

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individuals afflicted with illness to the same souls shining with restored health (Turner 1986: 93–4). In other words, rituals move a person to, into, and across physical and ontological thresholds, and the work of ritual is accomplished through performance by specialists who may wear masks to embody symbolic associations replacing more ordinary expectations. In the deliberately ambiguous betwixt-and-between circumstances of ritual, maskers are free to experiment with the definitions and constraints of their social lives taken for granted in more common circumstances. Through “the peculiar unity of the liminal: that which is neither this nor that, and yet is both,” as Victor Turner famously had it, liminality “enfranchises speculation,” and initiands are brought into an awareness of “the ‘factors’ of their culture” in “a stage of reflection” (1986: 99, 105)—and indeed, a staging of reflection. Young people undergoing initiation rituals often learn the secrets of masking, and make and perform their own masks for their mothers and others from whom they are separated. Yet, as David Napier notes, “the special efficacy of masks in transformation results . . . not only from their ability to address the ambiguities of point of view, but also from their capacity to elaborate what is paradoxical about appearances and perceptions in the context of a changing viewpoint” for society as a whole. It is paradox, “the acceptance of what empirically is not,” that fosters formulation of hypotheses and recognition of change: in masked performance, “we are aware that something is no longer what it was” (Napier 1986: xxiii, 1, 3). No wonder, then, that African masquerade frequently comments on or calms political turmoil and resolves conflicts, as today when maskers trained through ritual perform in refugee camps or confront the alarming enigmas of HIV/AIDS. The iconography of masks contributes to the ambiguities of ritual, especially through jarring juxtapositions of motifs, forms, and symbolically significant colors that subvert expectations. Such grotesqueries exploit the paradoxical threshold of the mask itself through exaggeration, or by making material what may otherwise remain unvoiced anxieties. Central African masks sometimes possess two sets of eyes, one for this world and the second to afford a perilous glimpse into the other, or as commentary on the duplicitous gaze of community troublemakers. Fear may be given a face by masks that depict creatures no one has ever seen or experienced except well beyond the pale of community, riding the fierce horses of dream, charismatic prophesy, and trance-enhanced visions. Dread and panic can result from intense or inexorable pain, gross iniquity, the relentless suffering of loved ones, and the frightening feeling that life simply does not make sense and an absurd death awaits. Such an existential abyss


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is the human condition, and in some societies, masks are donned to act out, think through, and find answers to such harsh realities. The face of fear may be enmasked in a convulsive collage of monstrous elements—a pulsing erotic storm, always on the verge of busting loose and bursting forth to meet the demands of impossible moments with fearless resolve. Kifwebe masks created by Songye and other Luba-related peoples of southeastern Congo/Kinshasa are a case in point. Kifwebe masqueraders are anonymous agents who resolve social tensions and ensure community harmony through exercise of aggressive, arcane powers informed by the dead (Hersak 1986). The transcendent beings manifest in their unrestrained performances combine animal, human, and spiritual forces: The right side of the wooden Kifwebe face mask is the sun, the left the moon. The chin is the (symbolic) snout of a crocodile and its beard the mane of a lion. Its mouth is the beak of a ravenous bird of prey or “the flame of a witch,” its nostrils “the openings of an iron-smelting furnace,” while its eyes gleam with the “swellings of sorcery.” Striations carved into the mask surface refer to a zebra’s stripes in a pattern known as “something transformed.” Rooster plumes extend Kifwebe’s head and peculiarly pronounced sagittal crest, introducing the cock-of-dawn’s call to enlightenment. The dancer’s neck is associated with bees and his breast, stellar constellations; skins covering his hips remind cognoscenti of the leaves of a particularly potent medicinal tree, while a cord holding them in place is a “rainbow snake.” The performer’s legs are “mortar and pestle,” the leggings covering them “the feet of an elephant,” their stitching “fleas,” and the woven foot-coverings are the dancer’s “roots.” Kifwebe choreography evokes the ferocity of lions and crocodiles, “the excessive virility” of the elephant, the pricking of porcupine quills, and the stinging of insects. In the flashpoint of this bizarre collage, every power and circumstance is elicited. Woe to any who challenge the wielding of such awesome capacity that threatens to fly off in all directions at once. Yet, to redirect a Surrealist text, a Kifwebe mask, “magnificent in its shock and its irreverence,” must convey the burning fear and fervent hope that “the creation of the world is not yet finished” (Simic 1993). There is work to do, and those mounting and attending Kifwebe performances are steeled to undertake it. In short, masks are material and conceptual thresholds between self and other, this world and another, current events and what one may make of them. Masquerade dramatizes paradoxes of ontological, biological, and social differing as defined from one culture to the next, and while masked performances are often inventive, playful, and sometimes hilarious, they can be moving to the point of transcendence. The in-between of a mask can provoke reflection, promote healing, threaten revolution, and put life itself into perspective.

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Notes 1. See Kasfir 1998. Examples of masks and masquerade discussed here are from African ethnography as the regional focus of the author, who has conducted maskrelated research in the republics of Bénin, Chad, Congo/Kinshasa, Mali, and Zambia. Presumably, concepts and uses of masks described here resonate with practices in societies around the world and across time. 2. The author researched and collected Lokossou’s Gelede headpiece and the body mask mentioned here in 1994 in the town of Cové, Republic of Bénin, in collaboration with the Béninois art historian Dr. C. Joseph Adande. Both objects are now in the permanent collections of the UCLA Fowler Museum.

Bibliography Cole, Herbert, ed. 1985. “I Am Not Myself”: The Art of African Masquerade. Los Angeles: UCLA Museum of Cultural History. Hersak, Dunja. 1986. Songye Masks and Figure Sculpture. London: Ethnographica. Jordán, Manuel. 2006. Makishi: Mask Characters of Northwestern Zambia. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum. Kasfir, Sidney. 1998. “Elephant Women, Furious and Majestic: Women’s Masquerades in Africa and the Diaspora.” African Arts 31(2): 18–27, 92. Napier, A. David. 1986. Masks, Transformations, and Paradox. Berkeley: University of California Press. Roberts, Mary N. and Allen F. Roberts. 1996. Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History. Munich: Prestel, for The Museum for African Art, New York. Robinson, Smokey. 1967. “The Tears of a Clown,” vocal lead with the Miracles, lyrics by Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and Henry Cosby on the “Make It Happen” LP. Detroit: Tamla/Motown. Simic, Charles. 1993. “The Little Venus of Eskimos.” In The Return of the Cadavre Exquis, edited by A. Philbin, 24–31. New York: The Drawing Center. Turner, Victor. 1986. The Forest of Symbols. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Wissler, Clark. 1950. “Masks.” Science Guide 96. New York: American Museum of Natural History.



Medium Birgit Meyer

Figure 19  Selling Jesus pictures in traffic jam in Accra, Ghana. Photo by author.

What do a spirit medium, an icon, the Bible, a taped Islamic cassette sermon, and a poster depicting a Hindu god have in common? These diverse items—the list could easily be extended—are all media that have been authorized within particular religious traditions as suitable for humans to link up, in one way or another, with the divine or spiritual. The notion of the medium employed here goes much further than more narrow definitions that underpin the study of mass communication or journalism. Including both new and old mass media, as well as objects, sacred spaces and the human body, this broad notion is central to an approach to religion as mediation, which has emerged over the last decade. Media are understood here as central to practices of mediation through which religious identities are represented and the “sacred” becomes manifest in “the world.” From this perspective, modern mass media and digital information and communication technologies form a subcategory of the more encompassing notion of the medium. Such a broad view of media as embedded in practices of religious mediation has been inspired by, and informs, a broader turn to “material religion” in the multidisciplinary study of religion. Many scholars agree that the appeal of and concerns about religion today can only be fully grasped if the materiality of religion—the modes through which religious concepts and beliefs sediment and become tangible in social and political settings—is taken into account. Taking materiality seriously does not merely imply paying attention to religious stuff. Above all, it challenges conventional understandings of religion, according to which spirit is privileged above matter, and calls for a critical analysis of how and why our understanding of religion has gotten de-materialized in the first place (Pels 2008). In line with the particular concern of this volume to explore recent as well as longstanding concepts in the study of religion in the light of what one could call the “material turn,” in this chapter I would like to flesh out a number of issues that arise from a material take on media. My central point is that a focus on media is central to “rematerializing” our understanding of religion.

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Importantly, by regarding media as intrinsic to religion, the initial puzzlement about the religious use of mass media—with televangelism being a prime example—that instigated the rise of interdisciplinary research on religion and media, has been left behind (Vries 2001). Taking seriously media as part of—rather than opposed to—religion allowed scholars to raise new questions about the religion-media nexus. Instead of assuming that the recent adoption of electronic and digital media into religion would mark an extraordinary watershed, scholars realized that media, broadly understood, offer a fruitful starting point for analyzing religious change. Examples such as the Protestant Reformation and its privileging of the biblical text over the veneration of saints, Christian missions’ dismissal of spirit mediumship and the use of sacred objects in indigenous African religious traditions as “fetishism” or, to take a recent much debated case, the Taliban’s demolition of sixth-century Buddha images at Bamiyan suggest that divergent views about the use of particular media in relating to the divine underpin conflicts between religions, while the use of particular media and the rejection of others is central to defining a particular and distinctive religious identity. At the same time, the negotiation and adoption of new (or newly available) media, such as books, radio, cassettes, television or the Internet, are central to the transformation, and hence continuation, of religion. Conceptualizing media—understood as a broad array of authorized material forms that are to bring about and sustain links between humans and what, for lack of a better term, I call the “transcendental”—as an indispensable condition without which the latter would not be accessible and present in the world leads right to the question of religion and materiality. Elsewhere, I have proposed a view of media as incorporated in more or less fixed “sensational forms” that have been authorized within particular religious traditions, and that render the transcendental accessible and sense-able in a particular manner (Meyer 2006). Tangible sensational forms are at the heart of religion, rather than being second rate and alienating by definition. This approach of media as embedded in a view of religion as mediation clashes with more conventional views of religion that have long dominated research, and that are behind the initial puzzlement about religions adopting mass media. I would like to argue that this puzzlement de facto echoes Protestant views of religion, placing personal experience and immediate encounters with the divine at the core, and regarding form and (church) structure as secondary. Meaning, content, and inward belief are privileged above media, form, and outward behavior. From such a Protestant perspective, religious media tend to be dismissed as human-made and hence as unsuitable to get close to God.


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While this is an intriguing “media theory” by itself, it should not be taken at face value by scholars. Matthew Engelke (2007) has described the tension between the Protestant emphasis on an immediate encounter between believers and God who is found to resist being represented via human-made forms, on the one hand, and the actual dependency on some kind of mediation so as to get in touch with him, as “the problem of presence.” This problem of presence ensues from the concomitant denial of mediation and the striving for immediate encounters with God that demand mediation of some sort. As stated already, the suspicion of media does not only pertain to Protestantism, but it also shaped the (early) study of religion as a modern discipline. Widespread is the view of text as a medium that distorts original content and that requires appropriate modes of interpretation that lead back to the immediate origin of what has been stored imperfectly in the textual form. This view still informs an understanding of mediation as secondary to, and even as alienating from, an immediate religious encounter. It is one of the central theoretical concerns in recent research on religion and media to critique and transcend this problematic perspective, according to which media—understood as instrumental tools or vehicles of content—compromise and alienate by definition. From the perspective of mediation that has already informed much recent work on the religion and media nexus, media are understood as taking part in effecting the transcendental. Acting as “mediators” that shape the content which they transmit, rather than merely acting as tools of transmission or “intermediaries” (Latour 2005: 39–40), media produce belief. Studying the religious authorization and use of media, we face an intriguing paradox: the propensity of media to “disappear” in the process of mediation (Eisenlohr 2009). While media play a central role in bringing about a connection between humans and the divine, to participants they are usually not present “as such.” This raises the question of how it happens that the role of media in religious mediation often tends to be overlooked by religious practitioners, or at least is framed in a quite different manner than approaches of media by scholars. The point is that from a religious perspective, media are made to vest the religious mediations in which they take part with some sense of immediacy—allowing believers to experience a direct encounter with the divine—yet become more or less downplayed or even invisible in the process. For instance, as David Morgan has shown convincingly (1998), in American popular Protestantism, images of Jesus are embedded in religious “looking acts,” through which people may achieve an extraordinary encounter with Jesus as a living presence. Conversely, as I found in my own research in Ghana, pictures of Jesus are in high demand (see Figure 19), while pictures of evil powers are perceived to be prone to render

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present what they depict and are therefore regarded as dangerous. The point here is that from a religious perspective, the image does not merely represent some divine or demonic power, but actually renders it present to the observer. Similar cases exist with regard to mass-printed posters of Hindu deities that are approached as “photos of the gods” who are not simply subject to the gaze of the beholder but who also look back (Pinney 2004). In other words, the image is part and parcel of an authorized “sensational form” that vests the image with power and organizes religious practice and experience in a distinct manner, characteristic for a particular religious tradition. It is important to note here the impact that media have on beholders. Indeed, the role of media in religious mediation needs to be analyzed from a relational perspective that takes into account how they address beholders by triggering particular sensations (see also “Sensation” in this volume; Meyer 2008). In many religious settings, media are involved in bringing about a sense of being touched by a divine presence, as is, for instance, the case in many Pentecostal churches. Invoking electricity as a metaphor for the mode of operation of the Holy Spirit, Pentecostal circles authorize television and DVDs as suitable for spreading the gospel and for touching spectators via the screen. Thus, to return to the paradox sketched above, media tend to “disappear” when they are accepted as devices that, naturally as it were, merge with the substance which they mediate. On the other hand, they “appear” if this synthesis is cracked. This occurs when the appropriateness of a medium to transmit a particular content is contested—as, for instance, is the case with the dismissal of statues of African gods as human-made “idols” or “fetishes” on the part of Christian missionaries. The point here is that the “appearance” and “disappearance” of media is socially produced and depends on authorized perspectives on what media are and do, or are not supposed to do, in broader practices of mediation. In my view, scholarly analysis of the religion and media nexus is to lay bare the social practices through which media are made to effect the transcendental for religious practitioners. Paying attention to the concomitant “presence” and “disappearance” of media leads right into the heart of the mysterious process through which media make the transcendental tangible in a persuasive manner. While it is important to realize that the technological properties of media imply their own constraints and possibilities, we need to be careful not to reduce media to some kind of technological determinism through which they are vested with a power of their own, as is the case in the recently much debated framework of mediatization launched by Stig Hjarvard (2008), who argues that in our times, modern mass media impress their own logic onto cultural expressions. Taking


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seriously media as material forms far exceeds the level of mere technology, and requires having a keen eye on the social processes through which media are effectively made to partake in generating religious experience.

Bibliography Eisenlohr, Patrick. 2009. “What Is a Medium? The Anthropology of Media and the Question of Ethnic and Religious Pluralism.” Inaugural lecture. Utrecht University, May 26, 2009. oratie%20text.pdf. Engelke, Matthew. 2007. A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hjarvard, Stig. 2008. “The Mediatization of Religion: A Theory of the Media as Agents of Religious Change.” Northern Lights 6: 9–26. Latour, Bruno. 2005. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Meyer, Birgit. 2006. “Religious Sensations: Why Media, Aesthetics and Power Matter in the Study of Contemporary Religion.” Inaugural Lecture, VU University, Amsterdam, October 6, 2006. Meyer, Birgit, ed. 2008. “Media and the Senses in the Making of Religious Experience.” Special Issue of Material Religion 4(2): 124–34. Morgan, David. 1998. Visual Piety: A History and Theory of Popular Religious Images. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Pels, Peter J. 2008. “The Modern Fear of Matter: Reflections on the Protestantism of Victorian Science.” Material Religion 4(3): 264–83. Pinney, Christopher. 2004. “Photos of the Gods”: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India. London: Reaktion Press. Vries, Hent de. 2001. “In Media Res: Global Religion, Public Spheres, and the Task of Contemporary Comparative Religious Studies.” In Religion and Media, edited by Hent de Vries and Samuel Weber, 3–42. Stanford: Stanford University Press.


Memory Oren Baruch Stier

Figure 20  Matzah Box. Photo by S. Brent Plate.

Religion is a “chain of memory,” to borrow Danièle Hervieu-Léger’s phrase. All the myths, rituals, doctrines, and the rest of the stuff of religion are preserved and transmitted along this chain, through the generations. Often, religion’s memories are lodged in physical structures, from Buddhist stupas to Muslim shrines, wherein memory takes shape in relics, monuments, and other materializations, along with ritual practices designed to bring the body to bear on the religious relationship to the past in the present. Indeed, the body is a critical site for negotiating the materiality of memory, and nowhere is this more visible than in the case of the Pesach (Passover) matzah, the unleavened bread Jews consume ritually during the entire holiday in remembrance of the exodus narrative. Matzah is described as “bread of anguish” or “affliction” (Deut. 16:3) and “bread of poverty” (Glatzer 1989: 25) because it is unleavened, the opposite of enriched (and, I am tempted to add, because it tastes not unlike cardboard). We first hear about matzah in the biblical book of Exodus, in the course of the narrative leading to the Israelites’ release from Egyptian slavery, as God instructs Moses and his older brother Aaron in the laws of the paschal lamb, which the Israelites are to slaughter—using its blood to mark their doorposts as a sign of protection from the final plague—roast and then eat in haste, with matzah and bitter herbs (Ex. 12:8). God then declares that the day would be a festival and a day of remembrance for all time, beginning a week of matzah-eating and a ban on leavened products, thereby instituting the holiday commemorating the exodus before the actual departure takes place—memory trumping history, as it were. As a consequence of the tenth and final plague God sent against the recalcitrant Pharaoh, in which all of Egypt’s first-born males are killed, the Israelites do then depart in haste, with no time even for their dough to rise; they bake this dough into matzot (plural of matzah) at the first stop on their journey. Matzah is therefore integral to the story of Israelite redemption: as a vehicle for eating the roasted lamb offering, a commemoration of their sudden salvation, and as the mandated counterweight to prohibited leavened products for the duration of the festival. In this way, in mystical terms, matzah is known as the “food of faith. . . . Matzah symbolizes this trust, boundless and unqualified,

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which the Jews placed in God on that night in Egypt. Matzah represents an act of surrender and unconditional commitment to God” (Soloveitchik 2006: 63). As material memory, matzah is non-cognitive and, as such, teaches us something about how memory operates religiously. Interestingly, matzah is closely tied to another kind of physical-spiritual bread, the manna: just after the Israelites depart from Egyptian bondage, after the miraculous crossing of the Sea of Reeds, when they begin to despair of the lack of food in the wilderness, God promises to “rain down . . . food from heaven” (Ex. 16:4): each morning a dew-like substance would appear, and the redeemed slaves would gather it, each collecting exactly what he or she needed; any manna saved for the next day would rot, except for what was preserved from the sixth day. For, on Fridays, the Israelites would find double portions of manna, and these extra measures would last through the Sabbath; in order to teach them not to work on the seventh holy day, no manna would fall then. In presentday Jewish practice, this miraculous bread is recalled in a double portion of Challah: two loaves of traditional braided bread for each Sabbath meal, meant to commemorate the double portion of manna that fell for forty years during the Israelites’ wanderings. The manna was also memorialized physically: at God’s command, Aaron would preserve one measure of it in the Ark of the Covenant so that future generations would see the food that sustained their ancestors in the wilderness. When did the manna cease? Immediately after the Israelites entered the Land, according to the Book of Joshua, and the first Pesach sacrifice and observance in thirty-nine years (Josh. 5:11). While the biblical Pesach focuses more on the lamb offering as the key element and article of remembrance, since the destruction of the second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, Jewish practice has been to neither sacrifice nor eat lamb on Passover—sacrifice and the communal consumption of the sacrificed animal is no longer possible without a central Temple. Instead, it is customary to include a lamb shank-bone on the ceremonial display plate at the annual Pesach seder, the festive meal that inaugurates the holiday. At the appropriate time, the leader of the home service that provides the liturgical structure to that meal does no more than point to it while describing the sacrifice that was made once to thankfully commemorate divine deliverance from slavery. Matzah, therefore, has become the fundamental symbolic element of the meal and the entire holiday, ceremonially broken, eaten, and discussed during the seder; a piece is also traditionally hidden by the leader for the children to find and trade for a potential reward, since that piece is needed for the conclusion of the meal, to be shared among all the guests reclining, as free people are wont to do, at the table.


Key Terms in Material Religion

Crucial to the rise of the matzah as material (digestible) memorial is the postbiblical development of the seder. This occurred in the context of Rabbinic Jewish insistence on the continuity of tradition and the sustainability of the human-divine connection, despite the catastrophic rupture in that relationship represented by the destruction of the Temple. The primary mechanism for the legitimization of the seder and its home-based practices as establishing this continuity of tradition, in spite of the loss of the Temple cult and despite the necessary and obvious changes to religious ritual as a result, is the Mishnah, the vast compendium of rabbinic legal decisions compiled in 200 CE. Indeed, the entire body of the Mishnah is itself a memorial text, strategically recording and preserving the memory of long-gone Temple practices as a bulwark against oblivion and, in so doing, establishing itself—and text study in general—as the viable alternative to a public, communal sacrificial cult no longer in use. The Temple, as a physical structure, continues to exist in the Jewish memorial imagination, as a reference point for past practices that, according to the messianic hope, will be restored in the future, while in the interim, sacred literature like the Mishnah make it imaginally present; even the orientation of daily prayer—always in the direction of the religiously charged platform on which the Temple once stood—keeps it in mind. Key to the Mishnah’s transposition of the biblical Pesach sacrifice to the Seder ritual without the Temple as a cultic center is maintaining the timing of the biblically mandated sacrificial meal while raising the matzah (and accompanying bitter herbs) to a level of ritual importance equal to that of the now-absent lamb offering. This change in status is reinforced in the haggadah, the liturgical text for the seder disseminated in countless editions and variations and used as the script for the meal and its ritual discussions and actions. There, Rabban Gamaliel’s statement, taken from the Mishnah (Pesachim 10:5) and reproduced to this day, states that whoever has not spoken about three things at the seder has not fulfilled his obligation: pesach (the sacrifice), matzah, and maror (the bitter herbs). Note that speaking about these ritual-memorial objects is deemed the critical activity, establishing a pathway around the inability to actually offer the sacrifice. In this way, matzah emerges as the central memorial-material element of the meal, serving as a vehicle for discussing the mythic history of the Jewish people and, especially, for narrating and dramatizing their slavery in Egypt (eating matzah with bitter herbs, symbolizing the bitterness of hard labor) and the divine redemption from that slavery (eating matzah to recall the Israelites’ hasty departure). But the Passover seder is more than mere dramatization; it is an actualization of the past and of a fundamental cornerstone of Jewish identity. This actualization is instructive in considering the significance of memory as a general religious category, because memory is not so much about the past as it is about the

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present. Indeed, the Mishnah passage cited above, as well as the haggadah that quotes it, continue, saying that in every generation a person is obligated to see himself as if he personally departed from Egyptian bondage (Glatzer 1989: 59): this not only provides a framework and justification for the experience of the seder but also sets present-day identity in light of the salvation in the past. It does so for all present: everyone partakes of and participates in the meal, even children, for whom much of the seder is designed and whose questions have become a formal part of the Haggadah. Key components of the meal are the answers to those questions and the instruction in general, from older to younger generations; this is a sign that memory is active and real, not passive or static. This memorial engagement with the past also establishes the “Pesach paradigm”—from slavery to redemption and darkness to light—that has come to be a defining factor of Jewish memory and its focus on continuity despite rupture. Memory here also points to the future: the implication of the paradigm is that if God once redeemed the Israelites from slavery, God would do it again in the messianic age. The salvific and messianic aspects of the Pesach paradigm bring us to the Christian transformations of the matzah. It is widely believed that Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples was a seder, which at that time would still have focused on the consumption of the paschal lamb. But, as is well known, Jesus redirected his followers, then and for all time, away from the sacrificial meat on the table to his own complex persona, lifting up what could only have been the lowly matzah to say, “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matt. 26:26) and, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:25), instituting the Eucharist and offering himself as a radically new kind of Passover sacrifice. If the annual Jewish consumption of matzah makes present the experience of redemption from slavery every year anew, pointing to the ultimate redemption, the regular Christian ingestion of matzah transubstantiated into or symbolically representing Jesus’s flesh not only memorializes the past but also makes it and the notion of eternal salvation present at any and every moment to believers—those who partake of and bodily incorporate its essence. Christianity thus converts the present of the matzah and the symbol of divine salvation into the real presence of Jesus as savior. If Judaism stitches over the rupture of history in the loss of the Temple through memorial imagination and interpretation in the course of the Passover seder, Christianity upends history altogether in its revolutionary declaration, via its (flat) bread of faith, that messianic time is available here and now to those who would consume it, body and soul, conflating past, present, and future in memorialmaterial re-incorporation. Of course, there are memories that are indigestible—matters that are hard to swallow as well as material that cannot be eaten in the first place. The latter


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category would include materials—monuments and physical memorials most readily come to mind—that commemorate the past in less visceral ways, but these lie outside the scope of this chapter. For the former, one might briefly consider how the Holocaust has been incorporated into Passover ritual. As much as the Mishnah and, subsequently, the seder successfully worked through the trauma of the destruction of the second Temple—for Jews, the great catastrophe of its time—no comparable text or ritual has emerged to stitch over the monumental rupture of ours. Yosef Yerushalmi once lamented that Jewish collective memory is transmitted more through ritual than through historical chronicle, implying that religious texts and practices—in any tradition, I hasten to add—more authoritatively speak of the continuity of identity than do historiographic tomes. As Liora Gubkin has shown, many Passover haggadot (plural of haggadah) have attempted to include texts on the Holocaust, not unsurprisingly; for if we understand that the seder makes the past present, enacting the wish that though “this year we are slaves, next year may we be free” (Glatzer 1989: 25), one would think that the still-fresh national experience of degradation under the Nazis would also find a place at the table. Except that folding the fairly recent trauma of the Holocaust into the slavery-to-redemption paradigm risks assigning easy meaning to the still raw and, many would say, impossible to redeem, experience of Hitler’s assault on Jewish existence and identity. Against the temptations of redemptive readings of this recent history, Gubkin proposes, without finality, a “hermeneutic of trauma [that] preserve[s] the tension between Exodus and Auschwitz” (Gubkin 2007: 167). Here we might recall that matzah as the “food of faith” is also the “bread of poverty”; as material memory it is the bread of affliction as well as that of redemption, and in chewing on it slowly one might—some say, one must—recall suffering in addition to joy. In truth, such material memory passes through, not over, the body, or simply disappears. Matzah works memorially by being consumed, and so in the end it is really immaterial. This too is instructive. Perhaps the most successful embodiment of the twentieth century’s loss has been, paradoxically, in the absence of material: in the voids of Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum Berlin, or in an empty chair placed at the seder table, to remember those who cannot be present.

Bibliography Bokser, Baruch M. 1984. The Origins of the Seder: The Passover Rite and Early Rabbinic Judaism. Berkeley: University of California Press. Glatzer, Nahum N., ed. 1989 [1953]. The Passover Haggadah. New York: Schocken.

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Gubkin, Liora. 2007. You Shall Tell Your Children: Holocaust Memory in American Passover Ritual. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Hervieu-Léger, Danièle. 2000. Religion as a Chain of Memory. Translated by Simon Lee. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Pitre, Brant. 2011. Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper. New York: Doubleday. Soloveitchik, Rabbi Joseph B. 2006. Festival of Freedom: Essays on Pesah and the Haggadah. Edited by Joel B. Wolowelsky and Reuven Ziegler. New York: Ktav. Yerushalmi, Yosef Hayim. 1982. Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory. Seattle: University of Washington Press; reprint, New York: Schocken, 1989.



Movement Ann Pellegrini

Figure 21  Protest by Westboro Baptist Church. Photo courtesy of Stephen_D_Luke, on Flickr.

“A change of place or position; a progress, change, development, etc.” Thus begins the entry for movement in the Oxford English Dictionary. The “sense section,” to use the parlance of the OED, further parses the term into thirteen distinguishable usages, many with their own subsections. Under “1. A change in physical location,” for example, the OED unfolds subsections a through h. If we pause midway through usage 1, we discover “c. Dance. A change of position or posture; a step or figure.” Scanning further down the sense section, we come to a usage that posits “movement” as the coordinated sharing of motivated actions that mediates people and politics, transforming groups into political actors: 8. a. A course or series of actions and endeavours on the part of a group of people working towards a shared goal; an organization, coalition, or alliance of people working to advance a shared political, social, or artistic objective. Freq. with modifying word. New Age, Oxford, women’s movement, etc.: see the first element.

One of the curious things about the coupling “religious” plus “movement” is that it seems to require the addition of yet another modifying word, “new.” This, at least, is the conclusion to be drawn from a quick Google search of “religious movement.” The vast majority of entries interpolated the word “new,” transforming my request into “new religious movements,” plural. As if “religion” or “the religious” unmodified brings movement to a halt, turning change into stasis. I turn to Google and OED, neither of which offers definitive accounts of the linguistic history or semantic reach of the terms movement or religious movement. Rather, these online resources provide a handy snapshot of the ubiquity of what German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk has called “the kinetic imperative” of modernity, which connects ethics and physics, human and machine, through the command to progress, advance, get mobilized. Subjectification in modernity, Sloterdijk argues, is a being in or toward movement—and more movement. Within the kinetic ethics of modernity, “progress is movement toward movement,

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movement toward increased movement, movement toward an increased mobilization” (Sloterdijk 2006: 37). If Sloterdijk is right and the fundamental impulse of modernity is kinetic, then movement—women’s movement, civil rights movement, lesbian and gay liberation movement, social movement, etc. (supply your preferred modifying word here)—ceases to be the exalted ethico-critical term it has sometimes become in progressive political circles. Indeed, as dance theorist André Lepecki cautions in his own gloss on Sloterdijk, the question for progressive intellectuals and activists can no longer center around opposing the fixed place of the dominant. Rather, the “question is to know if and how the dominant moves. And to know when, what, and who is it that the dominant requires to be moving” (Lepecki 2006: 12). Putting yet a finer point on the matter, “there is nothing fixed in the dominant, or hegemonic, order” (Sloterdijk 2006: 37). Neither Sloterdijk nor Lepecki directly addresses religion in connection to modernity’s imperative to movement; this may be because secularism is the context for their important arguments. Their critique of modernity’s kinetic imperative, nevertheless, affords fresh vantage points from which to assess the chronopolitics of secular modernity, within whose terms religion represents a kind of stilling or stopping of time. What movement religion does entail is backward at best, a kind of atavism or regression. The designation of religion as chronologically fixed and dogmatically fixated thus becomes a kind of bait and switch; religion is made to appear as the dominant force that secular movement must overcome on its forward march to forward march. The secularization thesis, along with the moral claims buried within it and the imperial violences justified by it, has come in for searching criticism and reexamination in recent years by many scholars, both inside and outside of the field of religious studies (Asad 2003; Jakobsen and Pellegrini 2008). The dominant secularization story opposes secular modernity and the values it represents—progress, freedom, universalism, reason—to religion, which is imaged as particularistic, violent, dogmatic, atavistic, hyper-emotional, and if not static, then at least producing the wrong kinds of transformation. (Religious conversion, too, is thinkable as a kind of movement, after all.) The linkage of movement with secular modernity merits sustained critical analysis alongside the secularism/religion binary. To dare a syllogism, within the logics of secular modernity, secularism is to movement as religion is to fixity, a pairing and juxtaposition that also oppose movement to space. Critically contesting the antinomy religion/secularism simultaneously calls for a transformed conception of the relationship between movement and space. Movement presumes an inner/outer distinction; the subject mobilized by modernity has set boundaries. There is the defined space of the subject: the res


Key Terms in Material Religion

cogito, to use the Cartesian formulation; the bound ego, to use the language of psychoanalysis. From a defined space, “I” move out and operate in the world. I am subject to the causal force of the laws of motion, but I am otherwise sealed off from the world. I am corporeally and affectively self-contained. This emotionally contained individual is a “foundational fantasy,” as Teresa Brennan puts it, that denies intersubjectivity and the interdependence of bodies (and the corporeal vulnerability that comes with being embodied), as well as the transmission of affect. To speak of the transmission of affect is already to suggest that something moves between people and with material effects. The transmission of affect, the proposition that feelings “jump” individuals and might electrify whole groups in sometimes unexpected, sometimes patterned ways, also challenges the fantasy that individuals are sealed (off) rational units, in possession of their own feelings or emotions. Interestingly, the OED does admit a sense of “movement” as emotional impulse, but it says this usage is obsolete. Crucially, it also defines emotion in ways that confine it to individuals as some sort of property: “2. A mental impulse, esp. one of desire or aversion; an urge, an inclination; an act of will. Obs. of one’s proper movement: of one’s own volition.” As Brennan makes clear, however, in her own reuse of psychoanalytic concepts, this foundational fantasy is not just the stuff of dictionaries and is no less powerful for being just that: a fantasy. Social constructions produce effects in the real and also get taken up internally in ways that structure and restructure self-experience. The foundational fantasy allows “me” to assign my negative (and negating) feelings—of rage, despair, envy—to another, to a hypothesized or actual “you” or “them” as source. “My” vulnerability to and dependence on other bodies, rather than being understood as fundamental features of human creatureliness, their specific meanings and parameters varying across an individual lifetime, between persons, and also between cultures, are, instead, blamed on some other or others who have denied me my due. Whole worlds, from the details of the physical environment to the organization of the polity to the contours of the ideal citizen-subject, are constructed around this edifice: the cut between “me” and “you,” with emotionally contained individuals squaring off at their separated poles. The fantasy that individuals are or should be the origins and containers of their own feelings takes us back to the kinetic imperative discussed by Sloterdijk and Lepecki. As a demonstration of “my” autonomy and self-containment, “I” must be perpetually mobilized, whatever the costs to the object world around me (Brennan 2004: 12–15; Lepecki 2006: 58). If social relations start out from the assumption—the activated foundational fantasy—that human beings are

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autonomous, separated individuals, this has consequences for how individuals, and whole societies, negotiate conflicts. When there is nothing between people but space, giving an inch might come to feel the same as ceding the world. The linkage between emotional self-containment and the subject to be mobilized also has important implications for the place of religion or religious experience in secular modernity. As a site of dangerous hyper-emotionalism, religion threatens to break down otherwise set boundaries between subjects or/and it threatens to dissolve civic peace by reintroducing the scandal of religion and its alternative conceptions of time and e-motion into public domains. To use a psychoanalytic language against itself, a reified religion has become the dumping ground for secular modernity’s anxieties about its own interdependencies and porous boundaries. The injunction to keep moving at any and all costs is an injunction to fortify borders that are always already breached and to quarantine or, to use a somewhat loaded term, to sanctify space that was never pure to begin with. However, when movement or mobility is no longer the assumed starting point or telos of the subject, those places or spaces where bodies intermingle and lean and depend on one another might cease to be figured or felt as drags on the subject. This is a subject that is, instead, beside itself spatially and emotionally. Another possible name for this besided-ness is transitional space. The term itself brings movement—as that which transits and transmits—and space into precious proximity and contact. Far from being static, this space provides the precondition or ground for movements both external and internal, real and fantasmatic. Transitional space is a concept most clearly identified with British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, and the vocabulary he provides can help us understand the potential of religious movement to shore up our capacity to survive our own rage, hostility, and aggression. In his 1953 essay “Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena—A Study of the First Not-Me Possession,” Winnicott introduces the idea of “an intermediate area of experiencing,” a kind of state of suspension between me and not-me, internal and external. “Illusory experiences,” such as a game of make-believe in which the child serves tea to her teddy bear, offer a “restingplace for the individual engaged in the perpetual human task of keeping inner and outer reality separate yet interrelated” (Winnicott 2005: 3). This is a place of both/and: rest and motion, change and stability, inside and outside. In his body of work, Winnicott uses a series of terms somewhat inter­changeably: transitional spaces, intermediate areas, and illusion. Illusion, for Winnicott, is not the same thing as deception or delusion. Instead, the infant’s and child’s imaginative play affords a space through which he or she learns the


Key Terms in Material Religion

difference and—I would stress—the ongoing overlap or “touch” between self and the world of objects (and objects can be people, too). This touch does not always feel good, for it reminds us again and again of the existence of an other within our reach and yet beyond our ultimate grasp, a tensile point that gives the lie to destructive fantasies of control, homogeneity, and absolute autonomy. Transitional spaces have their adult counterparts in art and religion, and the illusions that flourish there are healthy, Winnicott says, as long as a person does not try to coerce or press-gang others into sharing his or her inner reality as their truths (2005: 4). We might even collect together and “form a group based on the similarity of our illusory experiences. This is,” Winnicott continues, “a natural root of grouping among human beings” (2005: 3). And here we have already traveled very far from Freud’s hostile caricature of religion as a kind of mass delusion in The Future of an Illusion, and elsewhere. Nonetheless, “natural root” mystifies what calls out for explanation, namely, exactly how and on what basis individuals come to share the same illusory realms. The transmission of affect supplies one answer. The capacity of any particular religious rhetoric to speak to someone, to reach in and grab hold, is not about cognitive matching, but about affective resonances, points of contact that can jump across theological differences and even the differences religious/secular. It is not that the pronouncements of theologians, ministers, or other religious authorities do not matter; but lived religion—religion that moves and can move people—exceeds statements of doctrine or disputes over belief. This “excess” or surplus is affect, and it touches down between people to constitute collectivities. We can see one contemporary example of this in the Tea Party movement, whose populist outrage against so-called “big government” knits together economic populism and religious nativism. The Tea Party’s rhetoric of “taking back the country” appeals across creedal ties and class positions. Clearly, not every collectivity, whether religious or secular, would qualify as a transitional space in the Winnicottian sense. His intermediate spaces are areas of experience within which individuals and groups can practice working through destructive feelings. Groups like the Tea Party, in contrast, seem to delight in and refortify feelings of rage and resentment. Nonetheless, emotional appeals to such negative feelings as hate and vengeance can also overleap intention, mobilizing individuals to unanticipated identifications and “identities.” One powerful example of this is the emotional politics engaged in by Reverend Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church, a very small Kansasbased church with an outsized media presence (see image). Westboro Baptist received national attention when its members protested at the funeral of Matthew

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Shepard, the gay college student beaten to death in Laramie, Wyoming, in October 1998. Church members held up signs emblazoned with such slogans as “Matt Shepard Rots in Hell” and “God Hates Fags.” Westboro Baptist’s website,, features a permanent “memorial” to Matthew Shepard in hell. This website also offers numerous music videos, parodies of popular songs, their lyrics rewritten in keeping with the particular theological worldview of Westboro Baptist. To take one example, the 1980s fund-raiser for Africa “We Are the World” becomes “God Hates the World.” One of the striking aspects of these online videos is the discord between the vengeful lyrics and the gleeful enthusiasm of the church members as they lean into the musical parodies. This is not a working through of destructive feelings, but their joyous acting out. The joyful vengeance of Westboro Baptist was also on view at the trial of Russell Arthur Henderson, one of the two men charged with murdering Shepard. As before, church members brandished signs depicting “Matt in Hell” and asserting that “God Hates Fags.” But this time a group of counter-protesters was ready: a group costumed as angels and led by one of Shepard’s friends, Romaine Patterson, surrounded the Westboro Baptist members, their expansive wings blocking the hateful signs from public view. The protest actions of the Westboro Baptist Church are calculated to express and (re)produce outrage. Instead, the angel action countered with a highly theatricalized emotional display that worked on multiple levels—aesthetic, political, spiritual, and affective—to create a literal space between hate and love, vengeance and forgiveness. As such, the angel action constituted a transitional arena for experiencing religionized conflict on altered terms. That is, on and out of this contestatory “between-space” emerges the possibility of a different kind of social contact: outrages of various kinds are, indeed, acted out by Phelps and his congregants, but their exterminating fantasies do not end in literal violence. When all sides can bear and survive even their most violent fantasies, rancorous meetings may yet have the potential to spark not conflagration but a something else or a something more. This “more” points us again to affect and its unanticipated (dare I say, queer?) movements. The possibility that emotion jumps between people, breaking bounds, forming, and also re-forming collective bonds, helps supply some answer to the earlier question of how it is that different people come to share experiences and life-worlds. As a creative practice we do with other people, religion is a collective doing enabled and forged by the transmission or movement of affect. Importantly, how religious movement transforms, to what effects and with what affects, is not set in advance. And this is no less true of secular political formations, which also depend on the transmission of affect for their living pulse.


Key Terms in Material Religion

Bibliography Asad, Talal. 2003. Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Brennan, Teresa. 2004. The Transmission of Affect. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Cobb, Michael. 2006. God Hates Fags: The Rhetorics of Religious Violence. New York: New York University Press. Connolly, William E. 2008. Capitalism and Christianity, American Style. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Freud, Sigmund. 1961. The Future of an Illusion. Translated by James Strachey. New York: W.W. Norton and Company. Jakobsen, Janet R. and Ann Pellegrini, eds. 2008. Secularisms. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Kintz, Linda. 1997. Between Jesus and the Market: The Emotions that Matter in RightWing America. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Lepecki, André. 2006. Exhausting Dance: Performance and the Politics of Movement. New York: Routledge. McAlister, Melani. 2008. “What Is Your Heart For? Affect and Internationalism in the Evangelical Public Sphere.” American Literary History 20(4): 870–95. Sloterdijk, Peter. 2006. “Mobilization of the Planet from the Spirit of Self-Intensification.” Translated by Heidi Ziegler. TDR: The Drama Review 50(4): 36–43. Winnicott, Donald. 2005. Playing and Reality. New York: Routledge.


Prayer Anderson Blanton

Figure 22 From top left: (a) torso of Schilling praying doll; (b) phonograph mechanism consisting of spring, record, and cardboard diaphragm; (c) patent image for phonograph mechanism; (d) contemporary advertisement for praying doll.

Citing literary references from the fourteenth century, a folklorist lecturing on the history of the Rosary provocatively stated, “the word ‘bead’ (Anglo-Saxon beade or bede) meant originally ‘a prayer’” (Blackman 1918: 276). Despite such early etymological gestures toward an inextricable relation between prayer and the material object, however, formative debates within anthropology and religious studies can be seen as precisely an attempt to isolate the practice of prayer from its material conduits. More specifically, participants in these formative debates have often described the history of prayer (and concomitantly the evolution of religion) as a progressive movement of abstraction from the mechanical efficacy of the thing itself (incantation, object, and gesture) toward an increasingly intellectual endeavor beholden to the contingent demands of “faith” (Mauss 2003: 23–4). Such a narration of prayer as a developmental history of interiorization—into the cognitive recesses of the modern subject—has had lasting consequences for the academic study of religion. Scholars have tended to describe prayer as a predominantly intellectual act oriented by the exercise of volition, generally neglecting the way these imagined inner experiences are intimately related to bodily techniques, material objects, technologies, and built environments, which subsist and circulate “outside” the cognitive interiorities of the religious subject. In short, the academic theorization of prayer itself mimics a crucial performative moment in the history of Protestant faith healing: at the very moment when the patient must make tactile contact with a material supplement to open a communicative relay between the sacred and the everyday, the proscriptions of the curative technique simultaneously renounce the object through the phrase, “Only Believe!” (Blanton 2015). Against this foundational narrative of prayer as a history of abstraction, my description of divine communication seeks to recuperate the old etymological resonances of prayer as a “bead,” as a gloss for both materiality and mechanized rhythms or repetitions. In so doing, this new direction in the study of prayer highlights the ways in which prayer is intimately intertwined with material objects that actively organize performative techniques and embodied experiences within the practice of prayer. This reanimated definition of prayer emerges from a focus on materiality. Unencumbered by a long history of scholarship that

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conceives of prayer strictly in terms of articulations of the voice and an interior circuitry of will and representation, the materiality of prayer describes prayer as a particular sensory attunement emerging at the interface between the assumed everyday capacities of the body and its technological extensions and material supplements. Articulating the shifting sensorial registers organized in different religious traditions and technological environments, this approach demonstrates that the social and experiential force of prayer often subsists within sensations that reverberate before or beneath the clearly demarcated intellectual categories of “belief.” Reoriented through this critical term, this research program concretely describes a new history of prayer: not as a retreat into the silent recesses of the religious subject, but as a progressive exteriorization through media technologies and material objects into the “apparatus of belief.” At precisely the same period of high modernity when the narratives of prayer as a history of abstraction were being formulated in the incipient disciplines of religious studies and anthropology, the landscape of popular culture was being saturated with such apparatuses of belief. Take, for instance, the new technologies of sound reproduction and the emergence of mass-produced children’s toys. Since the late nineteenth century, dolls and phonographs have shared an intimacy with prayer. One of the first commercially available cylinders from the Edison phonograph company, for example, was a component in the “Edison Talking Doll” (1888). Hidden within the sawdust-filled recesses of this “Dollphone,” one of the interchangeable cylinders played upon the automatic phonograph was the ubiquitous bedtime prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” While Edison was busy manufacturing toy prayers, Emil Berliner, the pioneer of the flat “Gramophone” disc, was inscribing the first copies of “The Lord’s Prayer” in an old German doll factory (1889). Since the early days of phonography, praying dolls have been produced on a mass-scale as a playful means to imprint pious attitudes upon the developing child (Rolfs 2005). The praying doll featured here was manufactured by the New York-based J. L. Schilling Company (Figure 22a). Although this particular Schilling Talking Doll was produced throughout the latter half of the 1940s, the phonograph that enunciates her prayers was officially patented later, in 1952 (Figure 22b/c). After ten complete turns of the windup key located to the left of her belly button (normally hidden by the lacy fabric of her dress) and a pinch of the spring release to the right, she begins to pray: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Please God teach me how to pray, And make me better every day.


Key Terms in Material Religion

If you listen closely to her prayer, a robust gasp is clearly audible after her recitation of the first stanza.1 The breath of the mechanical doll recalls the expurgated stanza from the original version of the bedtime prayer, first published in the New-England Primer in 1737: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my Soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my Soul to take.

In the revised version, a daily technique of the self (“make me better every day”) replaces a diurnal reminder of the presence of death. An examination of the verse preceding the bedtime prayer in the original Primer, however, suggests that the praying doll reinscribes the deathly logic in the selfsame moment it attempts to surmount it. In the Burying Place may see, Graves shorter there than I. From Death’s Arrest no Age is free, Young Children too may die; My God, may such an Awful sight, Awakening be to me! Oh! that by early Grace I might For Death prepared be.

Through a mimetic process wherein the child measures his or her body against the stones of the grave, an awareness of death and its temporal rhythms is somatically inscribed upon the child. In the case of the praying doll, it is not an imaginative practice of reading that enlivens a particular awareness of death and duration, but the mechanical reproduction of the praying voice. During one of my recent research interviews, a woman who grew up playing with a Schilling doll recalled that her most vivid memory of this toy was the periodic breakdown or malfunction of its mechanism. As the spring of the machine winds down, the childish voice-in-prayer undergoes a monstrous decomposition, as if the youthful voice had traversed a lifetime in a matter of seconds. At other times, the synthetic belt that converted motion to the phonograph would completely break, causing the doll’s prayer to suddenly fall silent. The doll’s mechanical recitation marks an important technological shift in the practice of teaching children to pray. The child’s private devotions are no longer founded upon a particular Colonial practice of phonetic alphabetization and the

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concomitant “hearing” of the silently read biblical passage as a divine voice within the mind. Instead, learning to pray, since the late nineteenth century, has been animated by a special effect that allows the pious child-in-training to hear the rhythms, intonations, and other poetics of the voice-in-prayer repeatedly reproduced in real time. Thus, the printed prayers within the early manuals of childhood devotion were replaced by a windup key whose spring enlivens the prayers of a machine. In addition to this transformation in pious pedagogy, the praying doll produces an apparatus of belief for the child. As suggested by the ubiquitous popular culture representations of children looking intently upon the doll as they put their little hands together in a gesture of prayer, the doll becomes the figure of displaced agency in this performance of divine communication (Figure 22d). More specifically, the child comes to experience the immediacy of prayer through the machinations of the doll. A doll’s acephalous prayers challenge us to rethink the locus of agency, efficacy, and experience within the practice of prayer. The special effect of prayer appears at that point of indeterminacy between subject and object, where in a moment of sensory disjuncture, the sacred and the everyday are collapsed upon an object that refuses to remain silent. In this moment, the object is not merely a praying doll, but a doll who prays. And as the mechanical clicks of her ventriloquist speech reach the Heavens, the stenographic hands of recording angels inscribe her prayer into a medium that never forgets. Prayer and its apparatuses of belief not only saturated the landscape of popular culture around 1900, but also provided foundational material underpinnings for rapidly expanding religious movements such as Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christian faith healing. Thus the “tongues” of Pentecostal prayer (glossolalia), that divine speech voiced through human vocal organs, were mimicked on a material level by mass circulation via postal systems and exchanges of small remnants of consecrated cloth variously known as anointed handkerchiefs, faith cloths, blest cloths, and prayer cloths. Several decades later, Charismatic Christian institutions such as the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association would establish global faith healing empires through the circulation of millions of prayer cloths through the post for the purposes of curing, divine protection, and miraculous financial accumulation. Perhaps ironically, the prayer cloth became one of the most important apparatuses of belief within a Protestant tradition that overtly claimed no mediated grace and a vehement distrust of “things of this world.” Thus the ethnologist Marcel Mauss, writing during the incipient years of Pentecostalism, presciently states in his work On Prayer, “Prayer in religions whose dogmas have become detached from all fetishism, becomes itself a fetish” (Mauss 2003: 26).


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As a concept, the apparatus of belief emphasizes how the practice of prayer in religious traditions such as Pentecostalism has been sustained and enlivened through a process of “exteriorization.” This ecstatic movement of prayer outside or beyond the taken for granted boundaries of the religious subject in these Protestant traditions was not only effected through the circulation of material objects such as the prayer cloth, but also organized through media technologies. Introducing a new aesthetic formation for the pious subject, Oral Roberts made the radio apparatus the sacred centerpiece of his immensely popular Healing Waters Broadcast. During the prayer time of the broadcast, the faith healer instructed the suffering patient out in “radioland” to “put your hand on your radio cabinet as a point of contact” to facilitate the communication of miraculous healing power. As the patient made tactile contact with the radio apparatus, the transductions of the loudspeaker allowed the sick and afflicted to experience the sound of prayer as a series of warm, percussive vibrations registered through the hand. No longer produced through an economy of circulation that actuated an apparatus of belief through physical movement, delay, and deferral (prayer cloth), the radio as point of contact signaled a new experience of prayer-gesture through a special effect that allowed the patient to sense the sound of healing prayer through the hand. As ever-proliferating systems of communication, memory storage, and computation continue to organize everyday life, it is not only that the apparatus of belief will continue to enliven the practice of prayer in many traditions, but also that the apparatus itself, as a prosthetic extension of our sensory capacities, will continue to reveal an excessive presence that persists just beyond the frames of everyday awareness.

Note 1. To see this praying doll in action, see the video recording entitled “Prayers of a Phonographic Doll” within my Materiality of Prayer Collection sponsored by the Social Science Research Council: ( prayers-of-a-phonographic-doll/).

Bibliography Blackman, Winifred S. 1918. “The Rosary in Magic and Religion.” Folklore 29(4): 255–80. Blanton, Anderson. 2015. Hittin’ the Prayer Bones: Materiality of Spirit in the Pentecostal South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Mauss, Marcel. 2003. [1909] On Prayer. New York: Durkheim Press. Rolfs, Joan and Robin. 2005. Phonograph Dolls and Toys. Los Angeles: Mulholland Press.


Race Roberto Lint Sagarena

Figure 23  Taco Truck, East Los Angeles. Photo by the author.

When we see a catering truck we can see race. Race is a socially constructed and unstable way of classifying human beings that is used to assign social status and worth and maintain relations of power, as well as to establish the boundaries of communities and cultures. It exists at the intersection of other markers of identity such as social class, gender, ability, and religion. However, categories of race themselves are “bundles” of elements that can be further broken down into constitutive parts such as region of ancestry, name, dialect, or even diet. Religious affiliations serve as markers of identity that intersect with racial ascription and complicate our understanding of identity formation. But in many instances, religious practice and belief can serve to define and delimit racial categories themselves. In spite of these complexities, the commonplace conception of categories of race as obvious, inherent, and immutable is a powerful tool in the maintenance of boundaries of difference and social control. Race is most readily thought of as a distinctive attribute assigned to bodies, but it is also legible in iconic forms that define places and objects. That is to say, racialized icons can become visual shorthand for characteristics and dispositions understood as being shared by an imagined racial community. Ultimately, the effective use of racialized iconography relies upon the strength of the association of the sets of narratives and values that are linked to a vocabulary of visual forms. In this manner, constructions of race are structured and operate similarly to many constructions of religion, through visual and other material elements. In the case of the largest urban centers in the United States, one can find a great many reproductions of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe working to redefine place in ethnic and racial terms. A list of possibilities could never be exhaustive, but the image can be found in and on churches, public murals, yard shrines, and in commercial signage. The common appearance of a sixteenthcentury Mexican Marian image in the twenty-first-century United States, as well as the multiplicity of forms through which the image is reproduced, shows how iconic emblems can travel and give symbolic form to racial identity in national and transnational settings.

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The pious legend of the Virgin of Guadalupe recounts the apparition of the Virgin Mary to a Mexica (Aztec) neophyte, Saint Juan Diego, in 1536 at Tepeyac. The narrative of this visionary event is given considerable power through the presentation of visual evidence of its occurrence—a painted image of the virgin on the saint’s cactus fiber cloak. But more than an object of religious veneration, the image has also served as a racial and national icon. From its beginnings, the phenotypic ambiguity of the image has allowed it to be linked to a wide range of racial and ethnic identities: from Indigenous to Mestizo to Iberian and, in a transnational setting, as a signifier for Chicanismo or a state of ethnic Mexican in-between-ness. The arrival of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe to the frontier territories that would become the American Southwest pre-dates independence movements in both Mexico and the United States. The connection between the image’s national identity, and constructions of racial ascription began prior to, but most dramatically during, the struggle for Mexican independence (1811–21). The movement itself began under a banner of the Image of Guadalupe with the Grito de Dolores, a proclamation of independence linking the Mexican people with their divine patroness. In time and in addition to its religious and racial/ ethnic symbolism, the image of the apparition became visual shorthand for the Mexican nation itself. A quarter century later, the US-Mexico War (1846–48) resulted in the loss of nearly half of Mexico’s territory. Significantly, the treaty formally ending the war was not signed in front of Mexican government buildings in the center of the capital, but at Tepeyac in front of the church housing the original image of Guadalupe. This event becomes a clear demonstration of the symbolic importance of this particular iteration of the Virgin to Mexican identity and claims to space and place. In the following half century, the icon became crucial to expressions of Mexican identity in both countries. The rate of Mexican out-migration to the United States rose drastically during the Mexican Revolution in the 1910s, and reached its peak in the 1920s. This post-war migration doubled the number of Mexican-born residents of the United States in a single decade, from roughly 750,000 in 1920 to 1,450,000 by 1930. Once in the United States, migrants very often articulated their expatriate sense of community and racial identity through a reliance on depictions of the Virgin of Guadalupe. However, racial self-identification does not forestall the impact of external racial ascription. In the 1930 US census, for the first and only time, “Mexican” was listed as a race (separate from “of Spanish Origin”). All persons born in Mexico, or whose parents were born in Mexico, were to identify themselves as being exclusively of the Mexican race, conflating national and racial categories. The fact that this


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census coincided with the beginning of efforts to repatriate Mexicans living in the United States shows how categories of race are deeply connected with mechanisms of social control and the biopower of the state. In a remarkable reversal less than a decade later, and as part of “Good Neighbor” efforts to respond to protests from the Mexican government about the classification of its citizens, President Roosevelt put into place policies that re-classified people of Mexican descent as White for the purposes of the work of the State Department, the Labor Department, and the 1940 Census. This would change again in the following decade, with legal decisions that would again exclude Mexicans from the legal category of Whites. In the mid-1960s, the liberalization of American immigration policy as well as the rise of the civil rights movement resulted in a revitalized boom of Guadalupan imagery in the United States. In agricultural areas, The United Farm Workers often led marches with a banner of the image of Guadalupe to foster a sense of unity with other Catholic workers, but equally importantly as a sign of racial and ethnic peoplehood. In 1965, the signing of the Hart-Celler Immigration Bill phased out the national origins quota system that favored European immigration. At the stroke of a pen, the Chicano/a Mural movement began to transform the streetscape of American cities in the early 1970s, thus beginning a new era of mass immigration in urban settings. Guadalupan imagery that serves as signposts for the racial identity of city residents can be clearly understood through the consideration of the placement of the image in public spaces. Connection to migrants’ homeland and the transformation of American space into Mexican space is often signified through emblems of Mexican-ness such as pulqueria art—interior and exterior murals depicting “typically Mexican” scenes that decorate stores, restaurants, and bars that serve ethnic Mexican communities. These “typical” scenes very often interweave depictions of the Virgin of Guadalupe to communicate a sense of community and identity. The overwhelming preponderance of images of the apparition in public are found in and on local small businesses. Again, the list of possible examples is immense; with all types of businesses sporting the image, many illuminate the manner in which the image connotes identity. But perhaps the most common and significant public use of the image of Guadalupe in explicitly signifying race and identity is in restaurants. Food is one of the most common markers of identity and the prevalence of the image of Guadalupe in restaurants clearly functions as a marker of racial and ethnic authenticity. As such, the image is often used in the interior and exterior décor by most purveyors of Mexican food—from the taco truck seen above to

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the largest chain Mexican restaurants. This particular depiction of Guadalupe conveys a multiplicity of signs: of devotional piety, of spiritual and physical protection, and as a marker of culinary identification for passing patrons defining the eatery as recognizably Mexican. One striking feature of the presence of Guadalupan imagery on commercial buildings that illustrates its power in broadcasting race to customers is that it may persist even when the racial identity of the store owner changes. This is particularly common in neighborhoods with mixed and rapidly changing demographics in which Latina/o residents remain. Non-Latina/o shopkeepers in majority Latina/o areas often keep the preexisting racialized iconography on the outside of their stores in recognition of, and inside as an inviting gesture to, the Latina/o communities around them. While the image of Guadalupe is common on commercial buildings, the range of merchandise sporting her image is staggering. She appears in devotional statuary, magnets, t-shirts, bags, pens, mouse pads, and light switches, and in the marketing of radio stations and even video games. While a devotional statue may retain a religious function in one household and be used as an ironic celebration of religious kitsch in another, it is likely to retain its racial and ethnic connotation in both settings. In these contexts, the role of the image as an ethnic marker is multivalent and may be severed from its original religious significance or it may re-define the relation of the sacred to the profane. Still, the most common public space in which the image of Guadalupe is found is a Catholic church in a Latina/o neighborhood. For example, at the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, the Virgin of Guadalupe is found prominently in front of the principal exit of the building, making the image nearly impossible to miss. Inside the church, Saint Juan Diego is popular enough to merit his own side chapel. While the Cathedral is self-consciously catholic in its celebration of the ethnic varieties of Catholicism, the large and set-apart image of Guadalupe is clearly meant to speak to the visual and devotional expectations of Latina/o parishioners. The presence and placement of the image allows the larger church to claim a connection to Guadalupe’s devotees as well as reinforce extant Latina/o expectations of appropriate iconography at the church. The public use of the image of the apparition of Guadalupe provides racialized markers with various forms and functions. These markers work to define public spaces as racialized places through the creation of a readable network of signs that foster a shared spirit of community—though in some instances the presence of the image may also be intended to promote exclusivity and discourage any claims to shared space made by members of other racial and ethnic groups.


Key Terms in Material Religion

Moreover, representations of the holy mother are often shown in contradistinction to the image of a malinche or “bad woman” creating a visual shorthand in which a Madonna/whore dichotomy serves to define the parameters of a “proper” Mexican womanhood. Thus, the work of teasing out the intersections of race, religion, and gender is crucial to understanding registers of racialized religious imagery. While popular Guadalupan imagery can perpetuate misogynist conventions, these are powerfully contested by Chicana/o Artists who are creating a whole host of new representations of Guadalupe that in turn offer new vocabularies for the representation of gender in relation to the sacred. The inherent instability of racial categories means that racial iconography itself must evolve to function meaningfully. Over time, the creative re-invention of religious iconography that signifies race and also defines gender will retain and shed iconic conventions in order to best serve its function as a central symbolic marker for identity. The significance of iconography in the representation of race is not depleted by use but, rather, it loses currency through neglect. Thus, the continuing use and invention of new Guadalupan forms and contexts for her to appear in will allow this already powerful emblem to signify emerging conceptions of identity. In doing so, new iterations of this visual iconography will allow communities to represent their racial identities in new configurations.

Bibliography Arreola, David. 1984. “Mexican American Exterior Murals.” Geographical Review 74(4): 409–24. Blauner, Robert. 1994. “Colonized and Immigrant Minorities.” In From Different Shores, edited by Ronald Takaki, 2nd edn, 149–60. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Goldman, Shifra. 1990. “The Iconography of Chicano Self-Determination: Race, Ethnicity and Class.” Art Journal 49(2): 167–73. Hayden, Dolores. 1995. The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Morgan, David. 2005. The Sacred Gaze: Religious Visual Culture in Theory and Practice. Berkeley: University of California Press. Plate, S. Brent. 2002. Religion, Art, and Visual Culture: A Cross-Cultural Reader. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Sen, Maya, and Omar Wasow. In Press, 2016. “Race as a ‘Bundle of Sticks’: Designs that Estimate Effects of Seemingly Immutable Characteristics.” Annual Review of Political Science 19.


Ritual Ronald L. Grimes

Figure 24  La Conquistadora (Our Lady of the Conquest) and a darning egg. Photo by author.

Although rituals consist of actions, it’s almost impossible to discover, or even imagine, a ritual without its attendant material culture. Ritual stuff is sometimes treasured and iconic, but sometimes it is not. Consider two objects. One I call an egg even though it really isn’t. The other is called a lady even though she really isn’t. Here, I animate them side by side (see Figure 24), even though they would complain if someone stationed them so close together. (What? You imagine things don’t talk?) The egg-shaped thing, I discovered after using it for several years, was actually designed to be a sock darner. The second object is a doll, but you would trouble believers if you referred to it that way. “Statue” maybe but “doll” never, and you would be called down if you referred to “her” as an “it.” The egg is nesting in a trunk up in the attic, which is our marital bedroom, hardly a sacristy. And the doll-like lady, even though no one calls her this, is standing, dignified, on a pedestal high in the north transept of the Santa Fe Cathedral. One thing these two instances of ritualized material culture have in common is that both are made of wood. Another is that they are animated ritually. But there, the resemblance stops. Devotees deck out the statue in regal wardrobes, and some of her jewelry is expensive, forged in gold or silver and studded with precious stones. Confraternity members dress, undress, and redress the lady devotionally. The ovoid piece of wood, on the other hand, is as poor as Cinderella, and the thing is abandoned at home about as often as Cinderella was before she crashed the ball. Occasionally, it—we never say “she,” even though the egg-shape might elicit such nomenclature—is carried into a ritual, the gestural and postural equivalent of a ball, but it is always returned to its crate-home in the attic corner. There is no comparison, I’m sure they’d instruct you in Santa Fe, between Our Lady of the Conquest and a lowly darning egg. The one is priceless in its sacredness, and the other, well, what can you say, almost worthless. You can buy one of those sock things on eBay. La Conquistadora, Our Lady of the Conquest, is the symbolic matrix of genealogical lines leading to some of the most prominent families around Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the Rio Grande valley. As symbolic mother, she is a source

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of cultural identity. Some who venerate her express great pride in their family trees and coats of arms. Contemplating the complex, heartfelt connections between this particular version of the Virgin Mary and New Mexico Hispanic culture, some Santa Feans are moved to tears. Devotion to La Conquistadora is a way of sustaining loyalty to family lines. The Virgin Mother is the keystone of a family-centered cosmos. Those who express filial devotion to her are not only implicitly her knights and daughters but also children of the conquistadores. La Conquistadora is an ancient heirloom jointly possessed by a multitude of interlocking families. Hence, when they speak of “our” mother, they are doing more than using a customary term. La Conquistadora is “ours” in two senses: she is both an heirloom statue and a material embodiment of a spiritual mother. For her papal coronation, La Conquistadora’s devotees sent out a formally printed invitation that began, Hijos mios . . . (“my children . . .”) and continued as if it were a personal note from the Lady herself. This intimate, first-person style is exemplified by Angelico Chávez’s La Conquistadora: The Autobiography of an Ancient Statue. The book is written as if La Conquistadora herself had dictated it. As queen and lady, she has champions and intermediaries, but as mother she speaks directly to her children. The dedication page of Chávez’s Autobiography reads, “To the memory of these and scores of other ‘Conquistadora’ progenitors and their consorts.” La Conquistadora devotees say that she belongs to everyone in the Southwest, but this concept applies mainly to her role as queen and patroness. As mother, she belongs to Roman Catholics generally, especially to families claiming conquistador descent. The novena-processions, during which she goes in procession from the cathedral to Rosario Cemetery, are times of family reunions and remembering the dead. So even though an outer circle of inclusivism allows La Conquistadora to reign ceremonially over the city as a kind of civic queen, there is also an inner circle of ethnofamilial particularism. Publicly, she belongs to all residents regardless of race, color, or creed, but privately, devotees jealously guard La Conquistadora as one would a revered, aged mother. As a statue, she is “family property,” although no one properly owns a mother, much less the Mother of God. Public La Conquistadora rites “familize” the civitas, the city as a cooperative entity based on goodwill. To be included in a family—whether literally, temporarily, or symbolically—is both a compliment and an obligation. The La Conquistadora cycle of rituals is a liturgical attempt to extend the Hispanic family beyond the church and distant relatives, dead as well as living. This ritualized familization of the city redefines the nature of conflict so that interethnic violence can be


Key Terms in Material Religion

transposed symbolically into sibling rivalry. The change of focus enables “the fathers,” whether city fathers or fathers in heaven, to legitimately adjudicate the squabbles between siblings. Speaking of sibling rivalry, the egg is now insisting that it, too, deserves attention. Even though for this photo it proudly mounted its pedestal, a handmade, overturned bowl, it is not all that confident. It does not command the attention of city officials, or lure tourists. Not only does it lack a proper genealogy, it also lacks a history, community, and bibliography. There are no books to quote, no defenders of its honor. So what choice is there but to mythologize, to story-tell, while awaiting another occasion on which to ritualize? Whereas the “miracles” of La Conquistadora include her being saved from the fires that Native people set in 1680 to drive out her Spanish family, along with the faith she was said to generate, the “miracle” of the egg is that it means anything at all. When I first pull it out of its bag and pass it around the circle of students attending a Ritual Studies Lab course, I do not even call it an egg, much less attribute meaning to it. I could wax eloquent about births, regular and special, the incubating of new worlds, and a yolk’s glorious way of symbolizing the sun, but I do not. When students inquire, I do not answer. Either that, or I turn the question back on them: “What does it mean to you?” Some invent answers or paraphrase things they read in books. Others admit, “Nothing.” Despite student attempts to superimpose meanings and their declarations of meaninglessness, we continue, class after class, passing the egg at the beginning or at the end of classes. I don’t label the action; participants are free to call the act whatever they wish: ritual, game, theatrics, routine, exercise. Sometimes there are variations on the basic action: a bit of ribbon that falls off, or a quick dip into a bowl of water. When we work or play outdoors, the egg in its pouch comes along for the ride. People sometimes personify it jokingly, “Mama Egg,” “Mr. Egg,” or “That Darn Thing.” A few even snitch it and make a great display of sitting on it and cackling. Inevitably, the “hen” is a guy. Near the end of the course, I “forget” to bring the egg out. Someone notices and inquires. Being testy, I reply, “What’s it matter?” Later, during the last class, when I bring it out and pass it around for the final time, someone usually asks (and if they do not, I do), “Now what? What happens to this thing?” Occasionally, someone will make one last try, “Please, please, will you tell us now what this egg-passing is about?” To which I reply as honestly and fully as I can, “It means whatever it has come to mean by the actions, feelings, and thoughts you have mobilized around it in this class.” Then I pose a question: “So, shall we burn it? Toss it? What?” Most are horrified and a little desperate to know whether I am teasing them. Usually, the outcome is something like, “Keep it here with the

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course, so next year’s students will have it too, and that will connect them to us, because we have all handled it.” I suppose if a class ever instructed me to burn it, I would have a dilemma on my hands. Having decided on the disposition of the egg, we open up the discussion for the first time: “What has this wooden object come to mean to you in this class?” The stories and free associations flow, not from all students but from most of them. In retrospect, some are surprised that they have managed to “create ritual.” The darner has not become “precious” like a diamond or “sacred” like a splinter of the True Cross, but, shall we say, “semi-precious,” perhaps like the turquoise in La Conquistadora’s crown. They know the darner is junk, but they also have grown attached and protective. One should not claim that ritualizing in the Lab equals liturgical rites in the Santa Fe Cathedral, but neither should one claim that the latter is really ritual while the former really isn’t. Practices, like objects, have a history. They emerge and decline. Just as stuff recycles, so do actions. Sometimes that cycle spirals upward, sometimes downward. The main thing is to understand that there is a cycle and that it includes meaning making as well as the drift into meaninglessness. One should be careful about easy boasts, for example, “La Conquistadora heals, the egg does not.” To make such a claim, especially without interviewing devotees in churches and students in labs, would be to ride roughshod over actual testimonies. There is no evidence that the homemade and cobbled-together is less efficacious than the ecclesiastically manufactured. There is no guarantee that La Conquistadora will always be venerated as sacred or that the darning egg will never be processed on a velvet cushion. How does one theorize the differences between the wooden “doll” venerated as Our Lady of the Conquest and the wooden no-name sock darner? How much difference does the difference make? And what kind of a difference is it? A difference in kind? Or only a difference of degree? In one respect the answer is easy. People have died and killed for La Conquistadora. However frequently clergy and devotees argue that she only conquers hearts not indigenous people, she has also inspired faith that led to interreligious imperialism and interethnic domination. She does not bear her title, La Conquistadora, for no reason. Even though she now carries a second, Our Lady of Peace, the latter has not displaced the former. So even though it is true that no one, including me, would die to rescue a lowly sock darner from an attic fire, it is also true that no one would conquer under its inspiration. Obviously, there is a big power difference, along with a sizable difference in purview. But if pseudo-fragments of the True Cross can become reasons for raiding Jerusalem, it is not beyond possibility


Key Terms in Material Religion

that a fragment of the True Egg could do likewise. The difference, I am arguing, is one of degree, not kind. In one sense both the statue of La Conquistadora and the sock-darnerbecome-egg are beyond the ken of twenty-first-century folks for whom people are people, and things are things; things are disposable, whereas people are not. Even though I am no animist, I play animateur by declaring, “Stuff has a mind of its own” and “Things are people too.” Wouldn’t we be better off imagining pieces of wood as minded, spirited, willful? If we did, might we be less prone to trash the environment? So what if we know, or think we know, that things don’t really have souls and wills. Do we have to be believers? My students were not believers, only practitioners. They didn’t “believe in” the egg. They merely passed it around until meanings began to arise “magically,” like sparks from flint striking steel. If we practiced treating wooden things as if they could speak, talk, inspire peace, and start wars, in other words, as humanoid, would we ourselves become more humane? Our Lady is lofty, in stature far above the egg, which is not yet graced with a capital letter or worthy of being a “who” rather than a “which.” Despite the status differences, perhaps the egg knows something that Our Lady of the Conquest has forgotten: regardless of how declarative ritual authorities sound or how imperative their actions appear, all ritual is performed in the subjunctive.

Bibliography Chávez, Angelico. 1954. La Conquistadora: The Autobiography of an Ancient Statue. Paterson, NJ: St. Anthony Guild. Grimes, Ronald L. 2006. The Craft of Ritual Studies. New York: Oxford University Press. Grimes, Ronald L. 2013. Fictive Ritual: Reading, Writing, and Ritualizing. Waterloo, Canada: Ritual Studies International. Schechner, Richard. 1993. The Future of Ritual: Writings on Culture and Performance. New York: Routledge. Stephenson, Barry. 2010. Performing the Reformation: Public Ritual in the City of Luther, Oxford Ritual Studies Series. New York: Oxford University Press.


Sacred David Chidester

Figure 25  Frame capture of comedian Chris Rock trying to sell “black hair.” From the film Good Hair, 2009.

In the study of religion, the sacred has been defined as both supremely transcendental and essentially social, as an otherness transcending the ordinary world—Rudolph Otto’s “holy,” Gerardus van der Leeuw’s “power,” or Mircea Eliade’s “real”—or as an otherness making the social world, following Emile Durkheim’s understanding of the sacred as that which is set apart from the ordinary, everyday rhythms of life, but set apart in such a way that it stands at the center of community formation (Chidester 2005: 119–20). In between the radical transcendence of the sacred and the social dynamics of the sacred, we find ongoing mediations, at the intersections of personal subjectivity and social collectivities, in which anything can be sacralized through the religious work of intensive interpretation, regular ritualization, and inevitable contestation over ownership of the means, modes, and forces for producing the sacred. Take hair. Ordinary hair on people’s heads has been rendered sacred, not only by people with hair, but also by social scientists who have linked “magical hair” with “social hair,” exploring the religious, social, and psychological dynamics of what Anthony Synnott called “the four modes of hair change (length, style, colour and additions)” (Synnott 1987: 284). Then the American comedian Chris Rock makes a documentary, Good Hair, raising all of these issues in the study of the sacred. While focusing on African American hairstyling, the film provides ample evidence of the intensive interpretation of all the modes of hair change. We enter a thorough discussion of the multiple meanings of natural hair, styling hair, coloring hair, and, perhaps most importantly, the additions to hair, the weaves, which dominate hairstyling, as a $9 billion business, but also evoke the sacred, in Durkheimian terms, because these hair additions are set apart from ordinary contact, forbidden and tabooed, because they cannot be touched, not even in the intimacy of sexual relations, as a number of male informants complain. With the development of “interlinked wigs, woven into the hair,” as Synnott observed, “body contact sports are out” (Synnott 1987: 390). The sacred, therefore, is not merely meaningful; it is powerful in ritualized practices of avoidance, contact, and exchange.

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All of the modes of hair change are on display at the annual Bronner Bros. International Hair Show in Atlanta, where we see hairstylists competing in a ritual drama where four finalists demonstrate their skills. One of the finalists, Tanya Crumel, represents a hairstyling crew headed by a former winner, Kevin Kirk, who brings a specifically Christian interpretation to this ritual. Calling his hairstylists together before the event into a circle of prayer, Kirk urges them to pray, fast, and sacrifice. In this evangelical Christian ritual before the hairstyling ritual, we see a charismatic invocation of the sacred in which receiving supremely transcendental rewards depends upon making personal sacrifices. “We’re going to make some sacrifices,” Kirk announces, calling upon his hairstyling team not only to pray for victory but also to undertake a fast that would purify them to be worthy of such an extraordinary blessing. When a member of the team objects to going without food, Kirk retorts: “You’re not a Christian?” Preparing for the hairstyling event, for Kevin Kirk, required entering the sacred, through sacrifice, engaging in a transaction in which sacrificial giving would result in transcendental receiving. As Kirk later explained, he knew that his team would win, not only because of their prayers, but also through “the vision that God gave me.” Sacrificial exchange, as a quick trip to India shows, is essential for producing the raw materials that go into the rituals of hairstyling. At the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, we learn that 10 million devotees each year sacrifice their hair, participating in the ritual of tonsure, in exchange for divine blessing. “God likes hair,” one participant observes. Devotees offer their hair to God with prayers, requests, and vows. As Chris Rock explains, the ultimate meaning of this Hindu ritual of haircutting is the sacrifice of vanity, because “removing hair is considered an act of self-sacrifice.” Ironically, this ritual of hair sacrifice serves the vanity of hairstyling. Collecting, selling, and distributing this sacrificial hair is a global business, with active markets in Asia, Europe, and America. God might like hair, but as one entrepreneur exclaims, “Hair is gold.” Sacred hair and profane commerce are thoroughly interwoven in the international hair exchange. The music of worship and the noise of commerce, however, have always been related in the production of the sacred. Chris Rock’s film develops the ironic juxtaposition of African American Christians weaving into their heads Hindu temple hair, which has been “prayed upon,” on the basis of an aesthetics that is simultaneously religious and commercial, creating a quasireligious secret society, a “weave séance,” a weave culture, a weave world, which accounts for up to 70 percent of the hair-care industry and depends upon a global trade in human hair that transcends race, class, gender, and national borders. Testing this religio-commercial aesthetic, Chris Rock tries to


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market genuine African American hair, “cut off at a Baptist temple,” with no success (see image above). Stepping out of Chris Rock’s film, we find the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, with 600 barbers, 50,000 pilgrims per day, a priestly monopoly on the sacrificial hair, and the ongoing transactions of auctioning, preparing, and exporting sacred hair. The entire hair exchange is imbued with the sacred. “It is a holy business,” one prominent hair exporter declares (Sandberg 2008). As a global business, most of the temple hair goes to China to be used in the production of keratin rather than to Europe and America for wigs and weaves. However, according to this exporter, wherever in the world the hair goes, the entire value chain—from sacrificial offering in a Hindu temple to ritualized consumption in Asia, Europe, or America—is a holy business spreading “happy hair” around the world. The meaning, power, and ownership of the sacred are inevitably contested. When they learned that hair used in women’s wigs came from Hindu temples, Orthodox rabbis in Israel ruled that any use of such hair was idolatry. Since covering their own hair with wigs was an important practice for Orthodox Jewish women, this ruling against idolatrous hair had both a religious and commercial impact. Recasting the holy business in Hindu hair as false worship, the rabbis insisted that women had an obligation to avoid such hair at the risk of incurring ritual defilement. In response to this Jewish ban on Hindu hair, Indian entrepreneurs devised an ingenious argument that recast its sacred character. According to one prominent exporter, the hair’s sacred significance was not ritual but ethical. Its sacred aura was derived not through ritual sacrifice to the temple deity but through the ethical virtue of humility. “What is ritualistic about humbling yourself in the most basic way?,” this exporter asked. “In India, shaving your head equals shedding all vanity and becoming modest” (Rai 2004). The ethical virtue of modesty, therefore, which was at the heart of the Orthodox Jewish injunction for women to adopt head-coverings (such as wigs made out of hair from India), was asserted by this entrepreneur as the common sacred ground on which Jews and Hindus could meet and do business. This shift from the ritual to the ethical in locating the sacred has often been identified as peculiarly Protestant. Castigating Roman Catholic ritual as idolatry, early Protestant reformers sought to de-materialize the sacred, which was found in a faith, as Luther argued, that could be accessed only by hearing, with eyes closed, while erasing all traces of idolatrous worship of objects. In his conclusion to the film, Good Hair, comedian Chris Rock adopts this Protestant perspective on the sacred by distilling from his entire exploration of the ritual world of

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hair—African American, Hindu, and global—one message that he wants to give to his own daughters: “The stuff on top of their heads is nowhere near as important as what is inside their heads.” From a comedian, therefore, we learn that hair is sacred because it is a focus for extraordinary attention, the locus of ritual sacrifice, the nexus of ritualized exchanges, and the matrix of religious contestation. First, as Jonathan Z. Smith has argued, the sacred is produced through ritualization that is essentially a way of paying attention, in meticulous detail, coordinating every movement, gesture, and posture into a perfect pattern of action that factors out all of the accidents of daily life (Smith 1978). Ritual attends to incongruity, such as the gap between bad hair, which is perceived as chaotic, disorderly, and perhaps even defiling, and good hair that conforms to ritual rules of order. In this respect, classic scholarship on religious hair, which has tried to establish a basic lexicon of hair significance, such as Edmund Leach’s correlation of long hair with unrestricted sexuality, short hair with restricted sexuality, and shaven hair with celibacy, can be easily challenged by counterexamples of shaven-headed religious people, such as South African President Jacob Zuma, an adherent of both Zulu ancestral tradition and evangelical Christianity, who seems to display an unrestricted sexuality (Leach 1958: 154). Not a stable lexicon, with universal correlations, the sacred is produced through intensive, ongoing, and extraordinary attention, through processes of interpretation, attending to minute detail, which are always over-determined in their proliferation of meanings. Second, as a recurring mode of producing the sacred, sacrifice, with its etymological root in “to make sacred,” plays a prominent role in our understanding of the meaning and the power of the sacred. In the film, Good Hair, we see sacrifice as evangelical Christian fasting and as devotional Hindu haircutting. In the earliest and perhaps most enduring theory of ritual sacrifice, do ut des (I give so you give), sacrificial ritual is an exchange between humans and deities, giving something ordinary for extraordinary returns. Unfortunately, the evangelical Christians lose the hairstyling competition. As we learn in Good Hair, however, the sacrifices of evangelical Christian hairstylists and devotional Hindu haircutters are wrapped up in a global industry in which ordinary hair does, in fact, produce extraordinary financial returns for entrepreneurs. Third, as a nexus of ritualized exchanges, sacred hair circulates through global transactions that merge religion and economics. In the global hair market, we find the sacred being produced according to what anthropologists Jean and John Comaroff have identified as the prevailing milieu in late modernity, millennial capitalism, a kind of global cargo cult in which abundant wealth is


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expected from extraordinary sources (Comaroff and Comaroff 2000). But we also find what the perverse Durkheimian Georges Bataille called expenditure, the engine of a general economy in which sacrificial destruction, loss, or waste of resources in ritual display or public spectacle must be as great as possible to certify the sacred (Bataille 1985: 118). Finally, as a result of intensive interpretation and regular ritualization, we are left with a sacred surplus, an abundant surplus of the sacred, that is available for competing claims to ownership. Like hair, the sacred is everywhere, immediately available for meaningful interpretation and participatory ritualization, but inevitably owned and operated by someone. Who owns the sacred? In October 2009, Chris Rock was sued for appropriating the intellectual property of a filmmaker who had made a documentary about African American hairstyling, My Nappy Roots: A Journey through Black Hair-itage. “Let’s go to India,” Rock allegedly said, when he saw the film (Access Hollywood 2009). Although Chris Rock eventually won his case, the competing claims in the dispute remind us that the ownership of intellectual property, even sacred property, is now settled in courts rather than in temples. As an appendix to his classic article, “Magical Hair,” Edmund Leach cited the proceedings of a court case in India from January 1957 dealing with competing claims on the hair offered by devotees at the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, the same temple featured in Chris Rock’s Good Hair, in which a secular court ruled against competing barbers by finding that only temple-authorized haircutters “were entitled exclusively to shave the heads of the pilgrim-votaries who wished to offer the hair of their heads to the deity in discharge of their vows and the temple was entitled to control shaving of the heads of pilgrim-votaries and collect the hair which was endowed to the deity” (Leach 1958: 162–3). Certifying an exclusive claim on sacred hair, this court case in the 1950s established a legal monopoly on the sacred that eventually developed into a global industry and a film by an African American comedian that was ostensibly about hair, but really about the permutations of the sacred.

Bibliography Access Hollywood. 2009. “Bad Day: Chris Rock is Sued over ‘Good Hair’.” MSNBC: Entertainment, October 6, 2009. entertainment-access_hollywood/ (accessed April 14, 2010). Bataille, Georges. 1985. “The Notion of Expenditure.” In Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927–1939, edited by Allan Stoekl, translated by Allan Stoekl, Carl R. Lovitt, and Donald M. Leslie, Jr., 115–29. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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Chidester, David. 2005. Authentic Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press. Chidester, David and Edward Tabor Linenthal. 1995. “Introduction.” In American Sacred Space, edited by David Chidester and Edward T. Linenthal, 1–42. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Comaroff, Jean and John L. Comaroff. 2000. “Millennial Capitalism: First Thoughts on a Second Coming.” Public Culture 12(2): 291–343. Firth, Raymond. 1973. “Hair as Private Asset and Public Symbol.” In Symbols: Public and Private, 262–98. London: Allen & Unwin. Good Hair. 2009. Dir. Jeff Stilson. Chris Rock Entertainment and HBO Films. Hallpike, C. R. 1969. “Social Hair.” Man (n.s.) 4(2): 256–64. Hershman, Paul. 1974. “Hair, Sex and Dirt.” Man (n.s.) 9(2): 274–98. Leach, Edmund R. 1958. “Magical Hair.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 88(2): 147–64. Obeyesekere, Gananath. 1981. Medusa’s Hair: An Essay on Personal Symbols and Religious Experience. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Rai, Saritha. 2004. “A Religious Tangle over the Hair of Pious Hindus.” New York Times, July 14, 2004. (accessed April 14, 2010). Sandberg, Britta. 2008. “Hindu Locks Keep Human Hair Trade Humming.” Spiegel Online International, February 10, 2008, business/0,1518,536349-2,00. html (accessed April 14, 2010). Smith, Jonathan Z. 1978. “The Bare Facts of Ritual.” In Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown, 53–65. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Synnott, Anthony. 1987. “Shame and Glory: A Sociology of Hair.” British Journal of Sociology 38(3): 381–413.



Screen S. Brent Plate

Figure 26  Piece of wire-mesh screen. Photo by author.

Several years ago I co-taught a course on “methods and theories in the study of religion.” We would start the course by passing around a small, square piece of wire-mesh screen—the material used for screen windows and doors. I remember it having a rip in it. Students would examine the object at hand. Some would immediately look through it at the classroom around them; some would twirl it as they looked through it to play with their visual perception; others would simply feel it with their hands. (I don’t recall anyone tasting or smelling it.) Then we had the students describe the object: discussing its weight, dimensions, color, and texture, as well as some of its functions. Readers probably know where I’m going with this. The screen, we noted, is like religion. You can see through a screen, but it changes the relationship between observer and observed. It alters perception, while also offering protection. The screen, then, is akin to Clifford Geertz’s “aura of factuality” that influences “moods and motivations.” Or something like Peter Berger’s “sacred canopy” that keeps chaos and anomy at bay. Or the screen can be a dividing line between the “sacred and profane,” as Eliade would put it. Or again, it is the point of connection as well as distinction that allows social communities to form and “effervesce” a la Durkheim. The metaphorical applications weren’t perfect—there were holes in it, so to speak—but it sparked some good dialogue. Moreover, for the purposes of our class, the screen was also about the academic approach to understanding religion: it must be seen, felt, possibly tasted and smelled, and ultimately described. Religious tradition cannot be merely read about in a book, as the older models of intellectualist approaches to religion suggested. Instead, religious life is a physical experience bound up with the performance of rituals, the telling of myths, the sensual engagement with symbols and bodies, the communal gatherings, mixed with some focus on aspects of the divine realm. To “get it” means it has to be bodily experienced, not just thought or read about. Like the screen, you have to look through it by holding it up to your eye, feeling it, observing it. To look more clearly at screens, as well as through them, and to account for how screens are not merely metaphors for religious life and practice but also central to

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their practice, we have to get beyond the wire-mesh door or window covering. But I want to introduce the low-tech type of screen doors/windows because in these instances we can distinctly see the two-sided nature of screens: they let things in and keep things out; they are dividers, though not necessarily permanent or impermeable. Screens protect and conceal just as they reveal. Thus, a screen door lets in the breeze but keeps out the bugs, a fireplace screen lets in warmth but keeps out embers, and a folding screen in a room provides visual concealment while doing little to limit auditory sensations. In other instances, screens have been used for protection, not just from bugs and embers, but also for employment or medical purposes: screening processes allow the right kind of people in, and the wrong kinds out. In other words, unlike many of the contemporary high-tech electronic screens that we tend to imagine as only being a one-way process— passively consuming the information from the screen—screens actually take part in dual processes of connection and distinction, of linking across distance but also reorienting the sensual encounters between people. Perhaps instead of a “sacred canopy,” we might envision a “sacred screen” that filters experience, protects, motivates, and enacts a kind of “purity.” Newer versions of screens are lit up, show motion, and are typically linked to audio projections so that screens are part of audiovisual media. Such screens are animated (literally “with soul,” from the Latin anima, or “life,” “soul”). And they are everywhere. Parents give allotments of screen time to their children, which entails combined time on the internet, television, and/or video games. Screens are in our seatbacks on airplanes, hanging on walls in bars and restaurants and classrooms, in the dashboards of our cars, and on powerful little devices in our pockets and purses. Their ubiquity belies their power. Our eyes are drawn in, unable to resist the lure of the flickering life contained therein. In religious settings, massive screens are employed in megachurches, in part because there are so many people in attendance that they cannot see the pastor, but they are also used for flashy audio-video productions that get congregations up and moving. Marleen de Witte’s chapter on “Touch” in this volume tells of the use of screens in Ghanaian Pentecostal environments to transmit the power of the Holy Spirit, while there are many accounts of people performing puja in front of television screens as renditions of the Ramayana or Mahabharata are aired on Indian television. And as Kathryn Lofton indicates in her chapter on “Technology” here, screens are addictive in contemporary secular settings, and so there is no neat division in terms of desire between those who enact darshan through the screen and those who binge-watch television shows through internet streaming. All of these examples are relatively recent in religious history, but we might also recall the very old use of an iconostasis in Eastern Orthodox churches.


Key Terms in Material Religion

An iconostasis is essentially a screen that has two purposes: first, it serves as a wall on which to hang icons for viewing, and second, it separates the nave from the sanctuary, even as sounds from the clergy in the sanctuary can still be heard and icons looked upon by the congregation. Screens have been sites of image mediation for a long time. Screens do not merely convey power. Rather, they produce power, often regardless of content. Not merely empty receptacles to be filled with messages, screens navigate and negotiate our very identities and relationships. The technical apparatus of the screen is a medium, a channel, a conjurer, a quasispiritual force that links two worlds, just as it keeps them separate. Tele-vision, for example, literally means “far-seeing,” the ability of the screen to bring something far off close to us, making the absent present. Woody Allen’s film The Purple Rose of Cairo provocatively indicates the power of the screen, the story revolving around a character who comes down off the movie screen and enters the “real world” in which Cecilia (Mia Farrow) lives. They fall in love, but one of the smart parts of the film is that Allen does not ignore the impact of the screen as a site of separation: it is a permeable boundary in Purple Rose, but differences remain. The star-crossed lovers here become screen-crossed lovers. The screens of current social media have continued such functions as we communicate with people far away through the seeming immediacy of personal screens. Screens are our primary interface for social life today. As Woody Allen knows, there are two sides to a screen. Screens give and take: they can be windows that are seen through, allowing distant lands and lovers to be made present in front of our eyes, but the screen simultaneously changes the user. Screens are both vessels to receive projections, as well as projectors themselves. Images (or warmth from a fire or breeze through a door) are projected onto the person using the screen. Meanwhile, the screen functions as an interface, mediating the face-to-face encounters of human communications, and thus resituating human community. Perhaps then it is little wonder that psychoanalysts such as Jacques Lacan utilize the screen as a prime metaphor to understand who we are. Like all metaphors, his is based on physical reality. Human identity, for Lacan and others, is a negotiated entity, one that is “mediated,” and can thus also be “mapped.” Indeed, in some instances, he suggests humans have “masks” as their identifying surfaces (cf. Roberts, “Masks” in this volume), but in the cinematically infused world, the primary metaphor of identity Lacan used was that of a screen. In between the subject who looks at the world and the social world that looks back at the subject, there is situated a screen. The individual’s “eye” meets the social “gaze” at the site of the screen, which is projected on to

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from both directions. The subject is never fully in control of his or her own identity, but must negotiate his or her self on screen, for all to see1 (Lacan 1981). More recently, Sherry Turkle has applied such psychoanalytic insights to analyses of computer screens and their impact on human communication and identity. Screens become tenuous boundary markers. They indicate distance between people, but in so doing create social spaces for negotiation of relationships. As with masks, people can hide behind screens, and among the screens of social media, identity is fluid. As one famous cartoon suggested, “On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” Like a masquerade, the screen allows shifting, sometimes playful, identities (Turkle 1995). New religious rituals grow in the wake of this with televangelism, streaming church services, online puja, and prayer apps at the touch of a screen, creating ever new religious identities. Then there is Jacques Lusseyran, French resistance fighter, who was blinded by an accident at age seven. Unlike people born blind, Lusseyran retained memories of things seen, and just as some of these images began to fade from his mind, he constructed in his imagination a “screen.” He writes that, “In a few months my personal world had turned into a painter’s studio.” “Every time someone mentioned an event,” he says, “the event immediately projected itself in its place on the screen, which was a kind of inner canvas.” His screen was adaptable, could morph for various uses: it could be as big or small as he needed, full of color and light. His inner visual abilities are remarkable, and captured the interest of neurologist Oliver Sacks who writes about the variety of ways that blind people nonetheless “see” (Sacks 2003). Significant in Lusseyran’s case is that they are not merely “mental images” floating in mind-space, but need the substrate of the screen to become productive. There is no image without the screen, and the difference of screens make a difference. To conclude, I offer one historical precedent that recasts our understanding of contemporary screens. Paper can be productively thought of as a type of screen. Like almost all electronic screens, it is rectangular in shape, and imagery (including alphabetic characters) is projected on to it, as viewers respond by looking at the words and images on the page. Book users are drawn in to the textual worlds through the paper page. In the Middle Ages, new technologies of papermaking traveled from China through the Islamic Empire, eventually finding their way to southern Europe (Bloom 2001). Paper quickly replaced parchment as the screen for words because it was cheaper, but also because it was thinner. Thin pages allowed more to be packed into a small space (an entire bible in a portable format!) and made more information available for consumers, which gave rise to more books being printed, a rise in literacy rates, and, ultimately, the establishment of the printed word as the premier medium of the modern


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world. Ultimately, the thinness of the page corresponded with the democracy of reading, a ubiquitous screen for the printed word. The history of media technology is a movement of gradual erasure of itself; the more complex the media, the thinner the technology, and thus the more mediated experiences appear im-mediate. I would even argue that the Holy Grail, however unspoken, of multimedia technologies is to make the media itself disappear. In the present day, as with paper technology before it, the screen is growing thinner as flat-screen LCD monitors give way to polymer film-based screens that are so thin they can be rolled up and stored in a tube. It’s not just resolution levels that are rising; it is the screen depth that is shrinking, becoming more flexible, and concomitantly more omnipresent. The thin screen will ubiquitously mold itself around walls, objects, and bodies. Which all means that the screened world becomes more enmeshed with the so-called real world—the screen between the two becomes (seemingly) ever more invisible. Transcendence is paper thin.

Note 1. Lacan gets much of this phenomenological structure from Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and in particular his work The Visible and the Invisible.

Bibliography Bloom, Jonathan. 2001. Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Lacan, Jacques. 1981. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Norton. Plate, S. Brent. 2009. “Introduction: Worldmaking on Screen and at the Altar.” Religion and Film: Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World. New York: Columbia University Press. Sacks, Oliver. 2003. “The Mind’s Eye: What the Blind See.” The New Yorker, July 28, 48–59. Stolow, Jeremy, ed. 2012. Deus in Machina: Religion, Technology, and the Things In Between. New York: Fordham University Press. The Purple Rose of Cairo. 1985. Dir. Woody Allen. Orion Pictures. Turkle, Sherry. 1995. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Touchstone.


Sensation David Howes

Figure 27  Haus tambaran, or spirit house, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea. As among the Arapesh, this Kwoma men’s house is the focus of the annual yam harvest ceremony (see Howes 2003: ch. 5). Photograph by the author, 1990.

In “Anthropology and the Study of Religion,” Roger McDonnell discusses an experiment carried out by a colleague, which provides an illuminating introduction to the complex issues raised by any attempt to treat sensation as an object of study. The experiment involved playing a sound recording to two groups of people and asking them to identify the noises they heard. The groups consisted of an introductory psychology class at a university in a major North American city and a small band of Inuit on Baffin Island in the territory of Nunavut. The recording began with some deep rhythmic breathing punctuated by a few gasps and moans. After some minutes the breathing speeded and became less rhythmic, and the moans grew louder and there was an occasional infantile peep and muffled cry. Eventually it ended in a crescendo of hoarse breathing, cries, and moans. Not a word was spoken throughout. Although both groups agreed that the sounds were made by humans their reactions were otherwise quite different. Soon after the recording started the students began to snigger and titter. Eventually they were laughing without reservation. To them the sounds indicated a couple copulating. By contrast, when the Inuit heard the recording they remained silent throughout. When asked what it was they had heard they were not immediately certain. Eventually they agreed it had to be one of two things; either it was two men trying to run down a caribou over rough ground, or it was a single man straining with all his might on a harpoon line attached to a large seal under the ice. (McDonnell 1979: 101)

In his discussion of this example, McDonnell makes the point that “the facts” (be they noises, as here, or visual images, or smells, etc.) do not, in important respects, speak for themselves; rather, they are “recognized” (McDonnell 1979: 101). Such recognition rests on the specific means of discriminating and relating sensations employed in a given culture. The challenge facing the anthropologist is to elicit and, ideally, emulate these local “ways of sensing” in order to arrive at an understanding of how people in the culture under study “make sense” of the world. This way of framing the task of anthropology, with its stress on “sensing”, plays on the multiple meanings of the word “sense.” This polysemous word

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includes both sensation and signification, feeling and meaning, in its spectrum of referents, which should be conceived as forming a continuum. Before the recent rise of sensory anthropology, the discipline of psychology held a monopoly over the scientific study of the senses and sensation. The understanding of sense perception that prevails within psychology is derived from the doctrine of psychophysics. According to this doctrine: The events that culminate in perception begin with specialized receptor cells that convert a particular form of physical energy into bioelectric currents. Different sensors are sensitive to different types of energy, so the properties of the receptor cells determine the modality of a sensory system. Ionic currents are the currency of neural information processing, and current flows that begin in the receptors are transmitted through complex networks of interconnected neurons and, in the end result in a pattern of brain activity we call perception. (Hughes 2001: 7)

On this account, perception is a matter of “information-processing.” It begins at the edge of the CNS (central nervous system) and is conditioned by the properties of the receptor organs. There is a world of difference between the psychophysical account of perception and the cultural account of perception that comes out of anthropology. On the latter account, the sensorium is a social formation. Perception begins at the edge of the man-made environment and is conditioned by the “cultural preformation” of the senses (Howes 2009). This conditioning is what makes it so important for the anthropologist to study the local “ways of sensing,” and emulate them, to the extent possible. In the absence of such an attempt, all the observer would pick up on is the sensation without the signification, the feeling without the meaning. In other words, the anthropologist would be left in much the same position as the psychologist tracing current flows. This is not to belittle the value of all the studies dedicated to tabulating just noticeable differences (JND), or timing neural impulses, or picturing how different regions of the brain light up in response to different stimuli; it is only to point out that the picture that emerges from such research is incomplete. It must be supplemented by research in the cultural mediation of sensation, which, for its part, focuses not on the pathways from receptor organ to brain but on the interface between sense organ and world. Just as the conventional psychophysical understanding of perception stands in need of revision from an anthropological perspective, so does the preoccupation with the transcendental or “metaphysical” in the conventional Western definition of religion. Religion has typically been defined as “ideas and practices that postulate reality beyond that which is immediately available


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to the senses” (Bowen 2002: 5 emphasis added). However, a more nuanced and fruitful definition would underscore the mediatory role of the senses in the production of religious experience. This is the point of Birgit Meyer’s definition of religions as “sensational forms” (Meyer 2006, 2009). She treats religions as modes of inducing experiences of the sacred, or rendering the transcendental “sensible,” while at the same time instilling a sense of limit, which in turn evokes the experience of “something beyond.” Meyer’s sensationist definition of religion is one of the inspirations behind the massive reorientation of thinking about religion along more material, sensuous lines in recent years, as can be seen in the work of Sally Promey (2014) and Brent Plate (2014). It also helps us appreciate the groundbreaking character of earlier works, such as Donald Tuzin’s seminal analysis of the origins of religious experience in “Miraculous Voices” (Tuzin 1984). Tuzin points out that cultures everywhere seem to favor sound as the medium through which to awe worshipers and exchange messages with the gods. This is particularly so in the context of the secret men’s cult among the Ilahita Arapesh of Papua New Guinea. During the elaborate yam harvest ceremonies, which are the focal point of the Arapesh ritual calendar, Arapesh adult male initiates use drums and slit-gongs, bullroarers and giant voice-amplifying pipes to mystify and intimidate cult outsiders. The ritual sounds are said to be the “voices” of the spirits, and because of the secrecy surrounding their production (inside the screened-off haus tambaran), the illusion of spirit presence is a compelling one for the noninitiates (women, children, and younger men) who remain outside. The curious thing, however, is that these sounds are mysterious to the men who produce them as well: The initiate discovers that the interpretation revealed to him, viz., that the sounds are man-made, is inadequate to the experience he continues to have upon hearing them. While the naive illusion is dispelled, something about the quality of the sound rededicates the initiate to the truth that the spirits are real, though invisible, and that the ritual sounds are their voices. (Tuzin 1984: 580)

One possible explanation for this conviction that the initiates feel, even as they know they are staging an illusion, is that the rhythm of the drums and so forth puts them in an Altered State of Consciousness (ASC) due to the phenomenon of “auditory driving.” While Tuzin allows that the auditory-driving-as-technique-ofecstasy hypothesis may have merit, he is not content to let his analysis rest there, partly because Arapesh ritual sounds are more cacophonous than rhythmic, and partly because he wants his theory to extend to other cases, such as male ritual chanting.

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Tuzin’s own explanation is that “the common denominator of drumbeats and chants is not what can be heard but what cannot” (Tuzin 1984: 581). It is the subauditory sound waves propagated by drums (especially those of great diameter) and human voices (especially when they are augmented and distorted in a resonating chamber such as a basilica, or via the giant amplifying pipes of the Arapesh) that “affect the brain in a manner that arouses feelings of the uncanny, the preternatural . . . and other mysteries commonly indicative of ‘religious experience’” precisely because such “sounds” exceed the ordinary range of human hearing and so remain inaudible even as their effects on the body are quite palpable. There is the experience of “high intensity sound pressure in the absence of perceived sound” (Tuzin 1984: 581, 586). The mysterium tremendum—to invoke that old (but peculiarly apt) way of referring to the experience of the godhead—may, on this account, be related to the mystery inherent in experiencing vibrations that cannot be heard. It bears noting that part of this effect among the Arapesh anyway is due to the topography of their region and the timing of the yam harvest ceremonies during the dry season. There is little wind and no rain during this period. But there are all these spectacular lightning displays over the tall mountains off to the south of Arapesh country. As a result, the area is, literally, “bathed in infrasonic waves of very great intensity—greater in their effects than an actual thunderstorm, since they are free of the mask of audible concussion and distracting wind and rain” (Tuzin 1984: 588). Tuzin is here evoking that eerie experience everybody knows of the “quiet-before-the-storm” which is actually produced by the inaudible vibrations of distant thunder striking our ears. This experience is exacerbated in the case of the Arapesh, however, because of the central importance attached to aurality in their culture (see Tuzin 1980). They listen intently to the “voices” of the spirits, as conveyed by the instruments, but this conscious focus is eclipsed by the way in which the infrasonic waves generated by the [same ritual] instruments unite with and exploit the roar of the unheard thunderstorm. Creating an object where none is apparent, they persuade the listener that the powers felt belong not to the puny (because man-made) illusion but to the majestic (because supernatural) forces which invest and transform that illusion. (Tuzin 1984: 588)

Summing up, Tuzin proposes that certain sound stimuli may produce an experience without an object (because they register as feelings not as sounds), and religious culture steps in to resolve (but also fan) the quandary by positing an “interpretational object”—namely, the numinous, the transcendent. Tuzin’s analysis could be extended further and form the basis of a general theory of


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religious or mystical experience as arising at the intersection of the senses. Consider the way in which peak religious experiences are frequently expressed in synaesthetic language. Synaesthesia, the union of the senses, is a prime example of intersensory perception. It involves a fusion of the faculties, whereby the stimulation of one modality automatically evokes an impression in some other modality (e.g. hearing colors, smelling shapes). By way of example, a hatha yoga practitioner describes the sudden arousal of kundalini after many years’ practice of meditation as follows: “Suddenly, with a roar like that of a waterfall, I felt a stream of liquid light entering my brain through the spinal cord” (Hollenback 2009: 99). Here, acoustic, visual, and tactile sensations come together to produce a transcendental experience of bliss. The union of the senses and union with the divine are intimately intertwined. Thus far we have been exploring various aspects of the sensualization of the spiritual. But there is more to the connection between the numinous and the sensuous than this. There is also the spiritualization of the senses, or metaphysical doubling of perception, such as found among the Cuna of Panama, or in the Christian tradition from the time of Origen. Thus, according to the Cuna, “ the ‘soul’ is a ‘spiritual copy’ of the physical body[:] Every organ of a person’s body has its spiritual counterpart”, which the shaman is able to “see” due to his special, spiritual powers of vision (Taussig 1993: 120). As regards the spiritual senses in the Christian tradition, according to medieval doctrines: there were two sets of senses: an external physical set and an internal, spiritual one. Thus, a Christian could practice extreme asceticism in terms of the physical senses, and still lead a rich sensory life with regard to the spiritual senses: seeing divine light, tasting heavenly sweetness, and so on. This double sensory life was experienced by many mystics, who would seem to have more than made up for their physical deprivations by the intensity of their spiritual delights. (Classen 1998: 14)

There is no room for these spiritual senses in the modern Western psychology of perception. There is no mention of them in any of the standard textbooks. Yet, they were cultivated to an extraordinary degree in the Middle Ages and were still being exercised well into the nineteenth century (Classen 1998; Schmidt 2009). It appears that the understanding of what we moderns call “cognition” was more sensuous, and less cognitivist, back then—that is, in the period before the reduction of the perceptual to the psychophysical set in. The disappearance of the spiritual senses remains a mystery.

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Spiritual senses, synaesthesia, subauditory vibrations—these are but some of the many fascinating topics that beckon scholars of religion with an interest in sensation. The only barrier to their investigation is the assumption that the proper object of religion is transcendent of the senses—either having to do with belief (an inner state) or the supernatural (a separate reality)—rather than being grounded in the intersection of the senses.

Bibliography Bowen, John. 2002. Religion in Practice. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Classen, Constance. 1998. The Color of Angels: Cosmology, Gender and the Aesthetic Imagination. London: Routledge. Hollenback, Jess. 2009. “An Anatomy of Mysticism.” In The Sixth Sense Reader, edited by D. Howes, 97–103. Oxford: Berg. Howes, David, 2003. Sensual Relations: Engaging the Senses in Culture and Social Theory. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. Howes, David. 2009. “Introduction: The Revolving Sensorium.” In The Sixth Sense Reader, edited by D. Howes, 1–52. Oxford: Berg. Hughes, H. C. 2002. Sensory Exotica: A World beyond Human Experience. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. McDonnell, Roger. 1979. “Anthropology and the Study of Religion.” In Challenging Anthropology, edited by D. H. Turner and G. Smith, 100–16. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. Meyer, Birgit. 2006. “Religious Sensations: Why Media, Aesthetics and Power Matter in the Study of Contemporary Religion.” Inaugural Lecture, VU University, Amsterdam, October 6, 2006. Meyer, Birgit, ed. 2009. Aesthetic Formations. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan. Plate, S. Brent. 2014. A History of Religion in 5½ Objects: Bringing the Spiritual to Its Senses. Boston: Beacon Press. Promey, Sally M. 2014. Sensational Religion: Sensory Cultures in Material Practice. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Schmidt, Leigh. 2009. “Swedenborg’s Celestial Sensorium.” In The Sixth Sense Reader, edited by D. Howes, 151–82. Oxford: Berg. Taussig, Michael. 1993. Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses. New York: Routledge. Tuzin, Donald. 1980. The Voice of the Tambaran. Berkeley: University of California Press. Tuzin, Donald. 1984. “Miraculous Voices: The Auditory Experience of Numinous Objects.” Current Anthropology 25(5): 579–96.



Sign Wei-Cheng Lin

Figure 28  Detail of a mural depicting miraculous apparitions of the divine presence in the form of a Buddha head and hand at Mt. Wutai (the renowned Buddhist sacred mountain in presentday Shanxi Province), Yulin Cave 19, near Dunhuang, ca. tenth century. Photograph courtesy of Dunhuang Research Academy.

Traffic signs and billboards, the cross and a tombstone, family photo albums and outdoor sculptures, all these are signs in one way or another, despite their different forms and contents and varied natures and purposes. Human culture is made up of signs. Our current culture, in particular, is characterized by not only a profusion, but also a confusion, of signs, out of which we try to make sense of the world around us. Still we create new signs every day and look for more signs, say, of the resurgence of the recessed economy. We employ ideas of signs for better comprehension of our surroundings, but we also tend to read meaning into things as if everything potentially signifies. If this excessive sign-ness is one of the symptoms of the modern world, so are the abundant studies and research of signs, namely semiotics, as the principal approach for understanding it. The focus of these studies has been on how signs operate and mediate between the subject (us) and the image, entity, or idea (to which the sign refers). A sign becomes a sign only through this operation and mediation, where the sign appears to the subject to refer to something other than itself. A picture of a wild landscape can refer to a real site for one person, but it can also be an urban nostalgia for another, the primordial power of nature for a third, and so on. In other words, signs do not represent (non-mimetic) but operate in an interpretive framework of a given process of signification. To read signs, one is thus engaged in this deciphering operation—searching for the something else they stand for. But what are signs, after all, if the reality of a sign is thus always outside itself? In our modern inquiry, signs as physical entities seem to have ceased to exist presently, materially, and actively in their participation in the process of signification. Signs, as will be demonstrated in this discussion, are nonetheless not always passive and static, but vital and invocatory, bringing about immediacy rather than exegesis, at least during some historical periods. In ancient China some of the most potent signs were auspicious omens, or ruiying in Chinese. These were tangible signs of Heaven in the form of unusual events, marvelous sights, or extraordinary flora and fauna, expressing the mandate of the unseen will, in particular, regarding political affairs. It was

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believed, for instance, that “twin birds joined at the wing appear when a ruler’s virtue reaches high and far,” and that “the Jade Horse arrives when a ruler is pure and incorrupt and honors the worthy” (italics added; see Wu 1989: 234–45). An auspicious “omen” (rui) thus does not refer, so much as “respond” (ying), to the ruler’s virtue, as spelled out in its Chinese characters. This difference is critical: the causal relation between the auspicious omen and its referent (i.e., one causes another to happen) turned ruiying into vital signs of Heaven’s will, believed to be able to intervene in human affairs. Auspicious signs as such were eagerly searched, collected, compiled, and publicized, and their images made and carefully catalogued with commentaries in order to decipher “heavenly messages.” Omen pictures, contrary to what one may expect, are mostly nonrepresentational, strictly in profile, or against an empty background, but have just enough pictorial information to indicate their content. It is, however, precisely the visual image reduced to its bare essentials that could effectively do away with human agency and pictorial convention, and thus communicate unmistakably the otherwise unperceivable will. In this regard, signs become invocatory when we can reconceive the structured relation between the signifier and signified (as in a semiotic sense) as between the stimulus and response, such as in religious terms. And sign reading is not grounded solely in the particular context of interpretation, but is also decided by the ways in which they appear to people. In Chinese medieval Buddhism, radiant light, a chiming sound, a curing touch, and scented smell experienced unexpectedly served as signs of the divine presence, manifesting miraculously in response to the deserving believer for his/her accrued karma. Divine response evoked through supplication of the devotee was related to the Buddhist notion of yingyan, (lit. efficacious response), received also as a sign of the fulfillment of a ritual performance or of devotional or virtuous deeds. Interestingly, these were all sensory signs, transitory and elapsing and irretrievable in time. Yet, as recorded in hagiographic literature, the very body of the believer—which saw, heard, smelled—was the vehicle that substantiated the signs and testified to the presence of divinity. Alternatively, the divine response in sign could also take on somatic forms of the Buddha’s body parts—head, hand, feet—endowing the sign with a sense of corporeality (see Figure 28). It was very much an embodied piety, which took the sensible world seriously as capable of signifying and manifesting the spiritual. Rather than fixed and static, these sensory signs were performative in their material enactment of the divine presence and physical interaction with the subject. In fact, outside China, this performative propensity and emphasis on materiality of signs were among the common features of signs across the medieval world.


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An example of this point is the Hodegetria, the most important and venerated icon of Marian devotion in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople during the centuries after the Iconoclasm. The Hodegetria refers to a type of icon in which the Virgin shown in frontal view holds the Child in her left arm with her right hand gently pointing to him. He, in return, raises his right hand gesturing toward the viewer, while holding a scroll in his left hand. Rather than the Virgin cuddling the infant in her arms, this icon emphasizes a quiet conversation between them through their gesturing hands, unfolding multiple layers of signification that characterize the icon. To start off, as the Mother of God, Mary is literally the carrier of the Child. Also, as the vessel through which Christ acquires flesh to show the path to God, the Virgin could also be thought of as the sign, or signpost, pointing to its referent, that is, the way to salvation. This is evident in her gesturing fingers that direct the gaze of the viewer, as well as indicated in the meaning of Hodegetria, “she who points the way.” Following Mary’s pointing fingers, one turns one’s attention to the baby Jesus. Looking at the viewer, the Child answers with his raised right hand in a gesture of blessing. Indeed, Christ himself is the answer for the salvation presented by the Mother, but he also serves such a function with the scroll he holds in his left hand, which in turn makes him a sign for the Word. Revealing the salvific way, the icon of the Hodegetria in its entirety thus prophesies (or signifies) the ultimate sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, which is further suggested in the image of Crucifixion that one finds on the reverse side of the icon. Between its front and back, the Hodegetria asserts itself both visually and physically. This elaborate process and complex layers of signification were developed most likely for the processional liturgy, in which the icon literally performed in space mediating between the viewer and the divine response initiated through prayer. The Virgin’s raised hand and gesture, for instance, mimic those of the pious when saying prayers in front of the image. The Virgin’s gesturing hand, therefore, both signifies the hands of the faithful and solicits a similar gesture in prayer from the viewer. Held up in the procession, the Hodegetria icon was both intercessional and interactive. One should remember that in the post-Iconoclastic period, the icon did not represent the Divine but resembled the prototype that could stimulate the divine presence in response. The icon was thus defined as the absence of the Divine, yet it was never inactive as a mere material image. In fact, many icons of this period were richly decorated with precious metals and enhanced by enamel, pearls, or gemstones. In some cases, the term Hodegetria is physically inscribed on the silver revetment that covers the background and halos, heightening the materiality of the icon in both visual and tactile terms. As if the very material aspect of the icon/sign could partake in the significance

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of the divine presence, the faithful during this period in return pinned actual precious objects onto sacred icons in veneration. The sign stands for something else, yet the very materiality of the sign, serving as the point of contact between the subject and the something else, becomes a site of mediation, as well as meditation. The sign refers to something other than itself, and that something, logically, is absent here and now. In the foregoing discussion, I have tried to recuperate the sign as something vital, active, and performative despite the necessary absence of its referent. The absence, on the other hand, can also be positive and meaningful in our rethinking of the very physical existence of the sign. The modern cult of monument exemplifies such meditation on the sign of absence. Made of permanent material, inscribed with texts, and built in public space, a monument is a sign-bearer with an intended purpose, audience, and viewing context. A monument gains another layer of meaning in our period for its endurance and survival through time. While its intended signs may continue to be valued, both accidental and intentional cracks, marks, damage, or effacement become new signs of what has been lost, missed, and forgotten. These are unintended traces of history and memory, making the continual presence of the monument a token/sign of the absence. By extension, a broken bridge, collapsed walls, or a dilapidated building all fall into the category of this sign of absence. Like ruins, they are signs that no longer stand for anything other than themselves, metasigns of a sort, that point to their very physical existence as both the signifier and signified. Interestingly, entering modern times, humans seem no longer able to confront and account for the meaning of signs in their most direct, vital, and material appearance. During the modern period, historical monuments with their carved signs became less and less a proper topic of study, yet as just discussed, people came to appreciate more the unintended signs of monuments as the enduring evidence of the past and history. We have also become more obsessed with memory in our postmodern society, invigorating the sign of absence (instead of its presence) for the sense of the unattainable. History is thus the ephemeral sign of memory, evoked between the past and present, between absence and presence. On the other hand, we have also learned to be aware of the sign’s operation, rejecting the complete acceptance of its system of encoding and signification. “What you see is what you see,” the famous adage of Frank Stella in 1961 referring to his early black paintings, is telling. Limiting his works in the selfreferentiality of signs, Stella insists on art’s autonomy by reducing its potential for association and signification. More important, his statement and insistence betray the fact that even with abstract art and its austerely minimal meaning, the


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signifying process does not stop in a semiotic context of our current world. For Stella (and later Roland Barthes, Nelson Goodman, etc.), signs are products of culture, not nature, and their constructed meaning needs to be unmade and demystified. Exploring signs of absence or reducing the signifying potential of signs—in either case, signs are rendered as related to the discursive, antirealistic, nonmaterial, passive, or inactive. Signs have been analyzed and understood in terms of semiotics, the “science of signs,” but it is perhaps more fundamental to approach signs by their very material and visual appearance and potency that bring the viewer into the system and process of signification. I am not suggesting that we no longer take into account the material and visual properties of the sign. Rather, I am of the opinion that we have placed much more emphasis on the process of signification than the sign itself, and thereby on its exegesis, rather than its immediacy. When a contemporary Chinese artist, Xu Bing, came across this phrase on a pack of gum, “please use your wrapper to dispose of the gum in a trashcan,” indicated in three pictograms in 2003, he began to compile pictographic signs around the world. The result is a series of works in which Xu tried in different ways to tell . By reducing the complexity elaborate stories in simple signs: of the signifying process, indeed, signs become much more transparent, giving rise to a utopia and universality of signs as everyone can use and decipher them. Whether we agree or not, Xu Bing’s art is meaningful only in our current world where the obsessive and excessive presence of signs is the norm of everyday life.

Bibliography Campany, Robert F. 1993. “The Real Presence.” History of Religions 32(3): 233–72. Lin, Wei-Cheng. 2014. Building a Sacred Mountain: The Buddhist Architecture of China’s Mount Wutai. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. Pentcheva, Bissera V. 2006. Icon and Power: The Mother of God in Byzantium. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. Wu, Hung. 1989. The Wu Liang Shrine: The Ideology of Early Chinese Pictorial Art. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Xu Bing. “Regarding A Book from the Ground.” home_english.htm.


Smell James McHugh

Figure 29  A civet, from Buffon’s Histoire Naturelle, Paris 1766–69.

My subject here is the virtue of mystery and wonder. Ambergris is both mysterious and wonderful. Having eaten ambergris, I can report that it tastes like ambergris; there is no other way to describe it, frustrating as that may be to the reader, who may well never taste or smell this material. The flavor and aroma are pleasant and unique. In December 2014, I was being shown around a perfume factory owned by a Bangladeshi family in Dubai. They took me to the storerooms containing millions of dollars worth of rare aromatic materials, and there I held a round, dark-gray lump of ambergris about as big as a basketball. Generously, my guide invited me to nibble a small fragment off another hunk of the same material, which was about the size and shape of half a salami, white inside with shiny, black squid-beaks showing in places. My guide explained that he had me taste the material for me to know genuine good-quality ambergris; the sexually invigorating powers of ambergris were incidental. And as I stood there in a veritable olfactory treasury, surrounded by metal chests filled with pounds of the precious agarwood (“oudh”), chewing a $100 sliver of ambergris as if it were a piece of gum, I had two responses. First, I was filled with a host of rather dry academic thoughts and questions that I shall relate here. But the best part was the almost guilty pleasure, a sense of wonder, I felt on holding and tasting priceless and exceedingly rare blobs of sperm-whale bowel-concretions aged for years in Indian Ocean gyres. Mystery and amazement might be seen as impediments to clear understanding. In Capital, in a brilliant section that is well known to scholars and students of material culture, Karl Marx scorns the apparently mysterious form of the value-embodying commodity, its mystical character that deludes us into fetishism—a delusion he wishes to explain and remove (Marx 1990 [orig. 1867]: 163–77). While I do wish to explain and demystify the perfume I shall discuss below, I will also argue that for the study of perfumery, retaining some sense of wonder, an intellectual-sensory connoisseurship, far from being a dubious, deluded, and, in my case, Orientalist hindrance to scholarship, but is a good and useful response to a particularly messy object of study that intrinsically evokes a response of amazement and ultimately defies our attempts to understand it. (Even the perfumery industry of today is notoriously secretive in its practices.)

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To illustrate my points I will focus on one smell in a single religious context, an example from my own work that illustrates the uncertainties and complexities involved in studying this particular variety of material culture. My topic here is the perfume called “civet” in English. Not any civet, but in particular the civet oil used in the inner sanctum of the temple of Ven˙kates´vara at Tirupati in south India, where it is used with a few other aromatic materials I shall also mention. I have never smelled the civet perfume at this temple, and I assume most readers of this book will have never smelled civet nor will they know what it is. That this smell must remain imaginary, however, is a good thing for us here. Civet is an animal-derived perfume, the secretion from glands located near the anus of certain types of animal called civets. It is produced in Ethiopia for the perfumery industry, but synthetic substitutes are available. Civet smells bad and it seems that people felt ambivalent toward it in India, too, for one of its names in Sanskrit is pu¯ ti, or “stinky.” For the temple in Tirupati, civet is collected from a small number of captive animals at the local zoo which rub their secretions on a sandalwood log. References to civet are absent from what one might loosely call the classical scriptural and liturgical texts of most major religions, appearing in the textual record around the ninth century of the common era, yet in just a few centuries it had become an enormously popular perfume in China, India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. I shall return to the matter of how this civet-boom took place below (see McHugh 2012b). But what intrigued me about Tirupati is exactly how this relatively new and rather odd, possibly even repellant, perfume came to be used in the inner sanctum of this important temple. Camphor is also abundantly present in the temple at Tirupati. A white crystalline powder with a volatile odor, this material was originally a rare and precious product obtained from certain trees in Southeast Asia, though later on cheaper distilled varieties were produced in various sites over Asia, and at the beginning of the twentieth century, camphor was synthesized, lowering the price still further and making this now abundant material a ubiquitous feature of Hindu temple rituals. In the enormously popular temple at Tirupati in south India, the sacred image of Lord Ven˙kates´vara is smeared with an oil containing civet every Friday, and at the same time a large and distinctive square, white mass of camphor is placed on the face and forehead of the image. For the remainder of the week, pilgrims to the temple see the image adorned in this manner, as well as with many garlands and jewelry. The sheer numbers of pilgrims at the temple mean that one only has a short glimpse of the image when one visits, and this is from quite a distance—the inner sanctum being viewed along an axis of doorways at the end of a series of passageways.


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Despite the presence of all these perfumes, the smell experience of the visitor to the temple at Tirupati is not exactly what one might expect. Though the temple is a highly perfumed space, redolent of sandalwood, camphor, and saffron, I never, in fact, smelled civet there, nor do any of the pilgrims. This is because the sacred civet-perfumed image of Ven˙kates´vara is placed at a considerable distance, too far away for anyone but select temple priests to smell the perfume. The only way a pilgrim might ever smell or touch the perfumes placed on the main image is if they are received as a prestigious maha¯prasa¯d gift from a senior priest at the temple—not something the typical pilgrim receives. In interviewing the senior priest in 2010, I noticed he kept on a shelf by his side a small bottle of the civet oil, which I did not smell, but he did graciously offer me a pinch of the camphor from the forehead of the image. Camphor (toxic in large quantities, and in any case only borneol camphor may be eaten) is stunningly pungent when consumed orally, and the contrast between my mental image of the placid white mark on the forehead of the remote sacred image and the intensely invigorating taste of the white powder in my mouth was quite stunning. Aside from the dynamics of “the gift,” one other aspect of the system of receiving prasa¯d in Hindu temples is that on some occasions, such as this one, in taking prasa¯d one experiences the physicality of the adorned image in such contrasting ways. Anyone visiting the temple can, however, see Lord Ven˙kates´vara together with his aromatic adornments (though the civet oil is not visible). That is, at least, for the couple of seconds when, after a long wait in the queuing system, one’s point of view is fleetingly aligned with the axis of passages and doors from the outer pavilion structures to the inner sanctum. This restriction of direct viewing of the image is combined with a set of extremely strict, fully enforced prohibitions on any photography of the inner sanctum. And after this glimpse of the sanctum, one only has the memory of the sacred image, or an illustration on a poster in order to visualize Ven˙kates´vara. One famous image that seems to be an old photograph of the image in the inner sanctum is displayed and sold widely in town, yet the authenticity of this image was, in my experience, a topic of some lively debate among locals and pilgrims. In these ways the systems at the temple create a scarcity of sensory access to the sacred image. The aromatic materials of worship here, civet, camphor, sandalwood, and garlands, are what one would call very traditional, having been used in this manner for hundreds of years. Yet, what one might call the ecology of this particular realm of material culture has changed dramatically in modern times. That is to say, the price and availability of these materials is quite different now, and the typical responses of worshipers to these materials have also no doubt changed. For civet was previously a well-known scent worn by people, though

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it is largely forgotten now in India in my experience, and where camphor was at one time a rare and precious material, it is now a cheap and ubiquitous emblem of Hindu worship. The extreme temporal scarcity of sensory access to the image noted above is also intensified in the modern period where roads and transportation have increased the numbers of pilgrims at this and other sites to the point where time at the sanctum is so limited, and, of course, the absence of photographs or film of the sanctum is a modern type of restriction. Arguably, the contemporary strangeness of the divine perfumes, coupled with the prohibition on humans wearing flowers and garlands on the temple hill, functions as a sumptuary regulation. In this place, only the gods are adorned with these materials, and Ven˙kates´vara alone wears the archaic civet perfume. All the above conditions contribute to the preciousness of the image of the god, as experienced, remembered, or imagined. The use of the word “unique” is often frowned upon in the academic writing, but in this case, the scents, adornments, and rules concerning decorations enable the performance of a unique archaic regal divinity on behalf of the sacred image. Why did a pungent animal secretion become popular in the early second millennium CE, so esteemed as to be smeared every week on the body of Lord Ven˙kates´vara? We first need to remember how changeable and complex the world of perfumery has always been. In pre-modern Europe and Asia, aromatic material culture was highly permeable and ambiguous, both linguistically and materially. From Tibetan musk as admired and consumed in the Middle East to “Turk” Frankincense in India, prior to the dominance of industrial synthetics, perfumes, like “spices,” were historically appreciated for being exotic and rare, from strange remote places, with evocative foreign names. The recent work of Anya King reveals how frankincense, so closely associated in the Euro American imagination with Arabia and Islam, is nothing like as important in the perfumery practices and imaginary of Islam as musk, itself quite foreign to the Middle East. Perfumes themselves are typically blends of a number of materials traded from different regions of the world, and in the case of India, as elsewhere, innovation was the norm, and there was never any problem in adding a new substance to the mix (though perfumes-as-described in Sanskrit belles lettres remain mostly unchanged—a classical fantasy of the smell-world of the mid-first millennium CE). In practice, aromatics might not even have been real, such was (and is) the prevalence of adulteration and artifice; many texts describe both the fabrication and evaluation of these materials. In the case of Indian perfumery, I discovered that the civet-boom started when this material was used in formulas for artificial versions of the already prestigious rare perfume musk, from the Himalayas and China. It then seems that this


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adulterant, easily produced in India, became popular in its own right, but going by the name (in Sanskrit at least) that was used in Persianate courtly culture for this substance (java¯di). Thus a local, artificial version of a well-established exotic perfume thrived when aligned with a new foreign style of perfumery. If we add to these complex situations the massive methodological problems of translating and identifying the referents of ancient aromatics, religious scents seem to vanish into an ineffable cloud of exotic origin-stories, artifice, physical inaccessibility, and nebulous philology. Having studied these scents for several years, and while not abandoning efforts to grasp some more concrete details of the histories of these scents, I now believe that part of their interest and charm is and always was this sense of the mysterious: ancient exotic perfumes as concretions of uncertainty. “What exactly is this strange smelly stuff with weird origins?” “Is this even the real thing?” “Has anyone ever seen or smelled this precious material, or does one just read about it in texts on imaginary luxuries?”1

Note 1. Despite visiting many perfumers and aromatics traders over the years, and having smelled many samples of “musk,” I am still not confident that I have ever smelled real musk.

Bibliography King, Anya. 2007. “The Musk Trade and the Near East in the Early Medieval Period.” Ph.D. diss. Indiana University. King, Anya. 2008. “The Importance of Aromatics in Arabic Culture: Illustrations from Pre-Islamic and Early Islamic Poetry.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 67(3): 175–89. King, Anya. 2011. “Tibetan Musk and Medieval Arab Perfumery.” In Islam and Tibet: Interactions Along the Musk Routes, edited by A. Akasoy, C. Burnett, and R. YoeliTlalim, 145–61. Burlington, VT: Ashgate. Marx, Karl. 1990 (1867). Capital, Volume 1. Translated by Ernest Mandel. London: Penguin. McHugh, James. 2011. “Seeing Scents: Methodological Reflections on the Intersensory Perception of Aromatics in South Asian Religions.” History of Religions 51(2): 156–77. McHugh, James. 2012a. Sandalwood and Carrion: Smell in Indian Religion and Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

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McHugh, James. 2012b. “The Disputed Civets and the Complexion of the God: Secretions and History in India.” The Journal of the American Oriental Society 132(2): 245–73. McHugh, James. 2014. “From Precious to Polluting: Tracing the History of Camphor in Hinduism.” Material Religion 10(1): 30–53. Schafer, Edward H. 1963. The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of Tang Exotics. Berkeley: University of California Press.



Sound Isaac Weiner

Figure 30  St. Florian Parish, Hamtramck, Michigan. Photograph by Nathaniel Smalls, Jr.

How does one depict sound in a visual format? What photographic image would best exemplify the relationship between sound and materiality? Perhaps we could consider the sources of religious sounds. We could study pictures of vibrating bells and gongs, of orating preachers and imams, of electro-acoustic loudspeakers, of musical instruments and record album covers, or even of a lightning bolt flashing across a darkened sky. Or perhaps we could consider the receivers of sound. We could observe audiences listening attentively, producing new sounds of their own as they clap, shout, sing, and sway to a rhythmic beat. Or we could analyze a piece of sheet music, attending to the interplay between lyrics and musical notation. We could even study a graph plotting sound’s intensity as measured in decibels or a diagram of the human ear, charting the path that sounds follow as they penetrate the human body. However, none of these images quite gets us to experiencing the sound itself, a phenomenon that does not lend itself readily to the visual format that has dominated material culture studies. Perhaps for this reason, scholars of material religion have only recently begun to tune into sound as a potentially productive field for further study. Moreover, it is hard to know what to say about the materiality of sound. We might be more inclined to describe sound as distinctly immaterial, as airy or evanescent. You can’t touch sound, feel it in your hands, or even see it, except perhaps in its effects. To a greater degree than texts, buildings, or other material objects, sounds are ephemeral and transitory, striking with potentially great visceral intensity, yet dissipating quickly. For much of history, humans have lacked the means to record and preserve the sounds of the past. Written accounts have tended only to emphasize the exceptional, ignoring the unremarkable sounds of everyday life. Indeed, it would seem that there is very little “there” for scholars of material religion to study. Perhaps it is more appropriate to think of sound as a property or characteristic of a discrete material object. We might conduct a material analysis of a particular church bell, then, and include a description of its sound in our findings. We could measure the bell’s height, weight, and curvature. We could assess the differences among different types of raw materials, different types of manufacturing

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processes, and different types of ringing methods. We could study the intended uses of the bell, the normative prescriptions regulating its ringing, the content of its intended message, or the lyrics associated with its melody. We also could distinguish its normative use from a particular performance or recording. To get at the latter, we might try to convey through words what the bell sounds like to us when struck, most likely by comparing it through analogy to other familiar sounds, or by annotating its sound through musical notation, charting its pitch, tone, and duration. Yet, to focus on sound merely as a secondary characteristic of discrete material objects ignores how a sound’s material properties change as it emanates from its source. It ignores how particular sounds are affected by other aspects of the physical world, including weather patterns, the built environment, and the geographic landscape. And it ignores the vibrating of air on the eardrum that makes hearing itself a physiological process. Recent scholarship has emphasized, however, that hearing is not merely a physiological process (Weiner 2014). Hearing can also be interpreted as socially constructed, mediated by and expressive of a range of culturally specific values. To focus on the discrete object, on the producer of the sound, solely on the church bell itself, ignores the way that sound’s meaning always emerges through the interplay of broadcaster and receiver, of noise-maker and listener, situated within particular historical and social contexts. One learns to hear properly, to make sense of a particular sound, from within a particular community or tradition, and different listening audiences may understand and interpret the meanings of sounds in different ways. Studying sound should direct our attention, therefore, not to discrete physical objects, but to the space—and relationship—between them. Studying sound implies a theory of religion that is inherently communal and intersubjective. To study sounds as material culture, then, is to attend both to their physical properties and to the historically specific processes through which broadcasters and receivers invest sounds with significance. Take, for example, the seemingly ordinary, unremarkable ringing of church bells, as at St. Florian parish in Hamtramck, Michigan, a historically PolishCatholic enclave located next to Detroit (Figure 30). Built in 1928, St. Florian’s magnificent structure dominates Hamtramck’s visual and auditory landscapes. Its two-hundred-foot-tall spire can be seen from miles away, and its bells resound throughout the 2.1-square-mile city. As at churches throughout the world, St. Florian’s bells announce the presence of the church, broadcast service times, and invite all within earshot to join together for communal prayer. Bells also have celebrated significant life-cycle events, such as weddings, funerals, and confirmations. In earlier periods, Christians rang bells to ward off evil spirits,


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and many churches even baptized their bells as an acknowledgment of their miraculous function, a practice that Protestant sects tended to disavow. In both Europe and the United States, parish bells were often used for civic purposes as well, such as announcing curfews, alerting neighbors to potential danger, or defining the limits of safe passage. Religious and civic boundaries overlapped as authorities used bells to regulate social order and map geographic space. In all of these ways, church bells such as those at St. Florian’s marked communal boundaries, regulated the rhythms of daily life, and oriented Christians in relation to each other and to God. The composer R. Murray Schafer even described parishes as “acoustic communities,” constituted by those within auditory range of its church bells, its boundaries mapped aurally rather than visually (Schafer 1993: 215). Indeed, the 1928 dedication and blessing of St. Florian’s bells provided an important opportunity for Hamtramck’s Polish Catholics to celebrate their communal growth. Each parishioner was invited to file by and strike the bells with a small hammer. As one historian described the event, “In a very tangible way the bells brought together the parish community as the first step in giving life and making their own the structure that was soon to become the center of their neighborhood and their lives” (St. Florian Parish 1983: 80). While church bells mark communal boundaries, they also broadcast messages to those outside the community. St. Florian’s two-hundred-foottall spire ensures that its bells will be heard not only by its parishioners, but also by “others” who hear and interpret their meaning in different ways. The sound of church bells has always been invested with both meaning and power. In the early church, when Roman authorities suppressed Christian practice, Christians spread news about meetings by word of mouth. Publicly calling attention to their gatherings would have invited persecution. Not until after the Edict of Constantine did Christian communities regularly begin to announce services publicly, signaling Christianity’s increased power and confidence. In early modern times, European churches competed to construct the loudest chimes, for the volume of bells was understood to correlate with the prestige of a parish or municipality. A large bell-tower, such as that found at St. Florian’s, ensured that only their bells could be heard within a given geographic space. Even in areas where Catholic or Protestant rulers permitted dissenters to build churches, they regularly prohibited rival confessions from ringing bells. Silencing others was as much an exercise of power as producing the loudest sound. In fact, Eastern Christianity never developed a strong bell-ringing tradition because Muslim leaders frequently prohibited bells in areas under their rule. They did not want Christian churches to compete acoustically with the Islamic call to prayer. Religious sounds such as church bells thus signal unity and division, taking on

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different functions depending on the relative homogeneity found within their acoustic boundaries. In modern industrialized society, the meaning of church bells has become even more contested as critics have questioned the need for such public auditory announcements. Particularly in urban contexts such as Hamtramck, where the rhythms of daily life have been de-regularized, bells have increasingly come to be heard solely as practical instruments, merely as announcers of worship time, a function easily usurped by such modern technologies as city clocks, wristwatches, and smartphones (and, yes, today there’s an “app” for that). As such, bells have tended to be celebrated only for sentimental or nostalgic reasons, as evoking a long-since-abandoned pastoral ideal. Critics have dismissed bells as not really necessary and even as potentially distracting from genuine religious conviction, imagined as properly personal, individualized, and private. Stripped of their sacred significance, church bells could come to be heard simply as noise. “Religion does not unite itself to show and noise,” Thomas Paine once wrote in an essay on church bells, “True religion is without either” (1945: 758). The meaning of church bells has also been transformed by other modern technologies, such as electro-acoustic loudspeakers and audio recording devices. St. Ladislaus parish, located close to St. Florian’s, also in Hamtramck yet far less visually imposing, uses an electronic carillon system that broadcasts pre-recorded bell-ringing over loudspeakers. Such systems have enabled smaller churches to expand their acoustic reach, but they also have enabled churches to replicate the sounds of the finest church bells in the world at minimal cost. Churches do not have to compete to build the tallest bell-towers or to commission the finest bells if they can broadcast audio recordings for a fraction of the cost. Critics of such electronic systems have tended to complain on aesthetic grounds, yet concerns about aesthetics and about class privilege easily overlap. As a 1930 editorial in Church News put it, “How will Churches retain their distinctiveness [when any church] can put a record of the Bok Carrillon on its little victrola and amplify it out of a broken second-story window, [thinking it will sound] just as sweet and rich [as] real Belgian chimes?” (Anon. 1930: 161, quoted in Rzeznik 2006: 169). Amidst the din of modern industrialized cities, church bells more typically have faded into the background, hardly noticed against the noisy urban clamor, far less obtrusive or objectionable than “newer” sounds signaling religious difference. In the last few decades, Hamtramck has received an influx of mostly Muslim immigrants. Some Hamtramck residents have ignored St. Florian’s bellringing even as they have complained about the unwelcome intrusion of the


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adha¯n, or Islamic call to prayer, into public spaces. In other communities, local zoning boards have permitted the construction of new mosques even as they have insisted that the proposed mosques agree never to broadcast the adha¯n. The visual or physical presence of a house of worship has been treated differently from its potential acoustic output, recognizing the ways that sounds expand boundaries, emanating outward from buildings and material objects into city streets and neighbors’ homes. Silencing religious others has continued to offer an effective means for managing or containing religious difference. Responses to religious sounds, whether church bells or the adha¯n, have always been shaped by attitudes toward the sound-producers as much as by the sounds themselves. These sounds mediate contact among diverse religious communities in ways that seem distinct from visual encounters. After all, it is more difficult to close one’s ears than one’s eyes. The study of material religion has been closely aligned with visual culture studies, paying little attention to sound and hearing practices. Sounds have tended to be perceived as distinctly immaterial, and it has been challenging to represent sound in visually dominated formats (although new media might ameliorate this difficulty). This brief inquiry into the culturally mediated, historically shifting meaning of church bells has tried to suggest a range of questions we might ask about religious sounds, their producers, and their audiences. We might attend to the sounds “themselves,” studying their physical properties, including tone, intensity, and duration, and how they are affected as they interact with the built environment and other material objects. We also might attend to how their meaning—and power—emerges through the interplay of broadcaster and receiver, subject and object, self and other, always situated within particular historical and social contexts. In the case of church bells, for example, we have seen how they have fulfilled particular religious functions while also mapping communal boundaries and marking difference, and how their meaning has been transformed by processes of industrialization, immigration, and technological innovation. By challenging us to think differently about materiality, sound offers a promising area for future study in a field that has at times been overly dominated by the visual.

Bibliography Anon. 1930. “An Awful Prospect.” Church News, 161. Paine, Thomas. 1945. “Worship and Church Bells.” In The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine, edited by P. S. Foner, 2 vols, 756–63. New York: Citadel.

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Rzeznik, Thomas F. 2006. Spiritual Capital: Religion, Wealth, and Social Status in Industrial Era Philadelphia. PhD Diss., University of Notre Dame. Schafer, Murray R. 1993. The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books. St. Florian Parish. 1983. St. Florian Parish, Hamtramck, Michigan, 1908-1983: History of a Faith Community. Hamtramck, MI: St. Florian Parish. Weiner, Isaac. 2014. Religion Out Loud: Religious Sound, Public Space, and American Pluralism. New York: New York University Press.



Space Thomas A. Tweed

Figure 31  A Latina devotee kneels in prayer in 2007 at the shrine’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel, which includes a mosaic designed by Mary Reardon (1912–2002) and manufactured by Ravenna Mosaic Company. Photograph by the author and used with the permission of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Even if we ignored reports of the celebrated “spatial turn” in cultural theory and glanced only at the Baroque intricacy of the Oxford English Dictionary’s enormous entry on “space,” we might conclude that the English word—and its Latin and French antecedents—has had a wide range of uses in diverse contexts. To refine our understanding of “space” for those who study religious practice and material culture, it might help to begin by setting aside some discipline-specific terminology and challenging some vernacular uses. In other words, let’s start by indicating what space is not. Most important, for our purposes space is not a preexisting static container isolated from other spaces. Space is not an absence waiting for a presence. It’s not undifferentiated vacuity, a void to be filled. It’s not static or outside of the flow of time. It’s not self-contained or beyond the flow of causes. But then what is space? Referring to this photograph of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Figure 31) to illustrate the broader points, we can propose a list of defining features: space, I suggest, is differentiated, kinetic, interrelated, generated, and generative. If we use this image of a woman praying in a chapel to anchor our discussion, we’re reminded, first, that religion-as-practiced has little to do with the most abstract notions of space. Lay devotees rarely employ generic notions, as with philosophical conceptions of space as an a priori category of thought or mathematical ideas of space as a set of points in an imagined field. For religious practice, space is usually differentiated. Religious space is a particular space. I didn’t think of asking this Catholic woman of Mexican descent I encountered in 2007 how she’d describe the chapel, but in my years of fieldwork at shrines I’ve found that devotees, lay and clerical, rarely invoke the abstract singular noun. Speakers refer to “this space” or, turning to the plural, “spaces,” but those sites are specific locales. This Latina migrant and the other pilgrims I’ve studied are not unique. Some peoples, including the southern Sami of Scandinavia, have no term for abstract space (Rydving), but only labels for particular spaces— from the vertical strip on either side of a tent’s opening (bejsjeme) to the world of the departed (aajmoe). Some languages—including Latin, Arabic, and

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Sanskrit—allow talk about abstract space, but they also distinguish generic spatiality from specific locales. In Latin, it’s the distinction between spatium and locum, and for the kneeling Marian devotee, who is a Spanish-speaker, it’s the difference between el espacio (space) and un lugar (a place). To make a similar point, some geographers have used the term “place” to classify a “type of space that is defined by . . . the lived experiences of people” (Hubbard, Kitchin, and Valentine 2004: 5), and it’s possible to talk about the Mexican chapel in those terms, as a devotional “place.” Similarly, we also could call the shrine—as well as the surrounding neighborhood, Brookland, and the city, Washington—a place. Rather than employing two terms to acknowledge the difference inscribed in this distinction, however, we might, instead, classify diverse “spaces” on a continuum between differentiated and undifferentiated, where differentiated means imaginatively figured and/or sensually encountered locales that are deemed more or less “special,” “singular,” or “set apart” (Knott 2005: 61; Taves 2009: 28–35). The distinctions here are not between more or less “real”—or “authentic”—locales, since the never-experienced contours of a desired terminus (Christ’s heaven or Amida’s Pure Land) or a distant territory (Jerusalem or Mecca) might orient daily life and elicit affective response more than tangible sites nearby. The poles on the continuum function as imagined extremes. At the one end are sites most fully marked by multisensorial encounters and colored by affective attachments, such as the chapel in Washington with its mosaic of the Virgin of Guadalupe or the shelf in the devotee’s living room where a similar image is enshrined. At the continuum’s other pole are unnamed generic locales farthest from the devotee’s sensorial range and beyond the community’s cognitive map. Using this continuum model offers several advantages to the scholar of religious material culture. Understanding differentiated religious space as one kind of “special” space and positing a scale of singularity acknowledges religion’s interaction with biological and cultural factors affecting human life and expands the potential locales studied to include those—like the movie theater and the sports stadium—that might be regarded as “secular.” While still allowing for distinctions, this approach reminds us that there are no purely profane or solely sacred spaces. That’s because, as I argue below, religious space is always interrelated with nature and with culture, and so-called secular forces always impact religion to some degree. To classify a site on this spatial continuum, it’s necessary to clarify what we mean by special and religious. A space might be designated as special because it is ideal—such as the perfection of Mary’s celestial realm—or because it seems anomalous—as with the Mexican site of the Virgin’s apparition (Taves 2009: 35–46). There are no universal standards for isolating reified binaries


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called “religion” and “secularity,” but we can stipulate for our purposes that religions are “confluences of organic-cultural flows that intensify joy and confront suffering by drawing on human and suprahuman forces to make homes and cross boundaries” (Tweed 2006: 54). In other words, religions are about dwelling and crossing, about finding a place and moving across space. Devotees enact the kinetics of dwelling and crossing as they use tropes, narratives, rituals, and artifacts to appeal to suprahuman forces and map the ultimate horizon of human life. So some differentiated spaces might be deemed religious—by devotees and/or by those who study them—to the extent they meet two criteria: at that site humans have appealed to suprahuman forces (like the Virgin of Guadalupe) and imagined an ultimate horizon (like Mary’s celestial realm, heaven). The differentiated space of the religious is also kinetic. Spaces are processes, not things. Propelled along by natural-cultural flows, they change over time. Some linguistic usage juxtaposes space and time. The Latin spatium and the English space refer to both extension and duration, a temporal and spatial “interval.” So does the Japanese word ma, which has implications for the arts, since it refers not only to the space between walls in architecture but also to the aesthetically appropriate intervals of “no action” in performance (Pilgrim). This interlocking of the temporal and the spatial also characterizes the material culture of religious practice, including the Mexican chapel. In other words, that worship space has a history. The chapel was dedicated in 1967, just after legislators revised the 1965 federal immigration law but before anyone could notice that statute’s dramatic demographic effects, and it now has much more resonance—and, shrine officials report, many more visitors—than it did during the late 1960s. In that sense, the space has changed, as more migrants from Latin America seek out the patroness of the Americas. The chapel’s design also self-consciously propels devotees back to the moment in 1531 when the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego on a hill outside Mexico City. That miraculous encounter is memorialized in the mosaic’s image of a kneeling Juan Diego, who raises his arms as he gazes up at the glowing Virgin of Guadalupe, and that event is architecturally recreated in the chapel’s curved contours, which have a transtemporal function: “the undulation of the walls gives the visitor the feeling of being ‘present’ during the apparition” (Basilica 2007: 75). This kinetic chapel, which has both extension and duration, connects to other sites and events; and spaces are also interrelated. For this Latina and many other visitors, the chapel is linked with domestic spaces and childhood memories, since they grew up with images of the Virgin of Guadalupe in their homes. The chapel also opens out to other times and wider spaces. As one of forty-five chapels and ten oratories in that domed Washington shrine, which

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clerical promoters have marketed as a national site that “complements” the US Capitol Building and claims civic space, the chapel connects Marian devotion and American identity (Tweed 2011). Like the shrine’s nineteen other ethnic chapels consecrated by 2010, the Virgin of Guadalupe chapel allows US Latino migrants to feel they have a place in the Catholic Church and American society. Yet, the central image above the altar is, after all, Mexico’s national patroness, and the polychromatic tiles on the right wall allude to the Virgin’s shrine in Mexico City. So it is a Mexican national space. As the figures represented on the mosaic indicate, however, it’s also a transnational space. The mosaic catalogs a who’s who of Catholic saints in the Americas, including Rose of Lima, Ann Seton, and Katherine Tekawitha, and juxtaposes tiled renderings of lay devotees from, for example, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Canada. So the translocative and transtemporal chapel propels visitors in time and space, back to earlier miraculous interventions and exemplary actions and up and down sacred sites in the Western Hemisphere. Spaces are interrelated in another way. To suggest that the dynamics of religious practice can be understood as a confluence is to use aquatic metaphors to emphasize the mutual intercausality of the biological and the cultural, and, in turn, to acknowledge that converging cultural streams—political, social, and economic—impact religions as they emerge from the swirl of transfluvial currents. So political processes, social relations, and economic forces mark religious spaces, and, therefore, they are sites where power is negotiated as meaning is made. Further, whether we consider a sacred mountain, a tattooed icon, or a devotional chapel, there are no purely natural or exclusively cultural spaces. The chapel’s marble walls and tile mosaics include natural materials, for example, but the political antagonisms of early-twentieth-century Mexican church-state relations and the social dislocation of late-twentieth-century transnational migration also have encoded devotions. The shrine’s clerical leaders regularly protested Mexico’s restrictions on Catholicism during the 1920s and 1930s, and, as I’ve hinted, more recently the chapel’s central image has attracted Latin American migrants because that familiar symbol recalls the homeland and signals ethnic identity. The kinetic and interrelated spaces of religious practice are produced from the swirl of transfluvial currents and, in turn, exert a causal influence as they mix with other currents along the way. Never inert preexisting containers, devotional spaces are both generated and generative. They make and are made. Generated spaces, which come into being through embodied perception, figurative imagination, and ritual practice, include many intermediate locales— from the street to the empire—but piety situates practitioners in four primary chronotopes or space-times: the body, the home, the homeland, and the


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cosmos. Yet, as the image of the kneeling devotee reminds us, the confluence of organic-cultural flows—and spatial orientation—always begins with bodies, biologically constrained and culturally coded selves. The “sensory cultures” (Promey and Brisman 2012: 198) that scholars of material religion study are co-produced by embodied selves interacting with sensorial environments encountered through sound, touch, smell, and sight. This multi-sensorial interaction begins with the brain and two modes of spatial cognition: autocentric (self-centered) and allocentric (object-centered) reference frames. Autocentric framing involves the parietal neocortex and uses the three bodyaxes to orient humans in the immediate environment. So this woman kneeling in prayer might say the Virgin is “above” and the tiled image of the Mexico City shrine is on the wall to her “right.” And gazing at that representation of the Mexican shrine might prompt her to shift to allocentric framing, which employs fixed (not relative) points and helps navigate space beyond the body and its immediate environment. Drawing on the hippocampus and adjacent cortical and subcortical structures as well as culturally transmitted symbols (the Virgin of Guadalupe) and learned linguistic labels (Spanish terms for directions), this praying devotee might also note that Mary’s Mexican shrine—and her own homeland—is “south” (sur). So spatial orientation involves neurons firing and cultures coding, just as special spaces, like the Washington chapel where this devotee kneels to orient herself, are always both “natural” and “cultural sites,” always more than the stuff—in this case, marble and tile—that forms and decorates them. This prayer site takes on meaning—and negotiates social power—through the use of symbol, narrative, and ritual. It becomes this particular chapel only through the shared symbol of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the familiar story about the historic apparition, and the contemporary migrant’s kneeling supplication. At the same time, the space is also generative. Spaces do things. We might say playfully: spaces are people, too. Some scholars have suggested that images perform actions—weep, cajole, and comfort—and, in a similar way, spaces are structures that exert agency. We might re-imagine them as characters—not just settings—in our scholarly narratives. What do those quasi-characters do? Well, it depends on the scale, form, and ornamentation of the space. For example, the Shrine’s upper church, measuring 399 feet along the nave and 159 feet in height from the floor to central dome, evokes different sensations and produces different associations than the small enclosure dedicated to the Mexican patroness on the nave aisle. Crossing from the narthex to the nave, the viewer’s eye is drawn down the long central aisle, past the refracted light of the Great Dome’s thirty-six stained glass windows, and toward the enormous red and gold mosaic,

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Christ in Majesty, which covers 3,610 square feet and dominates the north apse (Basilica 2007: 90). The furrowed brow and piercing gaze of the stern, even frightening, divine judge at the nave’s terminus creates a very different mood than the intimate chapel’s smaller image of the humble Virgin, an accessible intercessor suspended in perpetual prayer whose downward glance averts her eyes from the supplicant’s vision. And whether we attend to the intimate chapel or the imposing nave, it becomes clear that space—and special spaces of many kinds and multiple scales—are important for the pious, who make the spaces that, in turn, make them.

Bibliography Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. 2007. Guide and Tour Book. Washington, DC: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Hubbard, Phil, Rob Kitchin, and Gil Valentine, eds. 2004. Key Thinkers on Space and Place. London: Sage. Knott, Kim. 2005. The Location of Religion: A Spatial Analysis. London: Equinox. Pilgrim. Richard B. 1986. “Intervals (Ma) in Space and Time: Foundations for a ReligioAesthetic Paradigm in Japan.” History of Religions 25(3): 255–77. Promey, Sally M. and Shira Brisman. 2010. “Sensory Cultures: Material and Visual Religion Reconsidered.” In The Blackwell Companion to Religion in America, edited by Philip Goff, 177–205. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell. Rydving, Håkan. 2004. The End of Drum-Time: Religious Change among the Lule Saami, 1670s-1740s. 3rd edn. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala Universitet. Taves, Ann. 2009. Religious Experience Reconsidered: A Building-Block Approach to the Study of Religion and Other Special Things. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Tweed, Thomas A. 2006. Crossing and Dwelling: A Theory of Religion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Tweed, Thomas A. 2011. “America’s Church”: The National Shrine and Catholic Presence in the Nation’s Capital. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.



Spirit Peter van der Veer

Figure 32  Swami Vivekananda in Chicago, 1893. On the left Vivekananda wrote in his own handwriting: “one infinite pure and holy—beyond thought beyond qualities I bow down to thee.”

The nineteenth century witnessed a great interest in spirits and spirituality. This interest also entered the anthropology of religion when the evolutionary thinker Edward Tylor defined religion as the “belief in spiritual beings.” Spirituality and the belief in spirits are certainly not the same, but the difference is not always clearly demarcated and this leads to (sometimes creative) confusion. In Christianity one has the Holy Spirit descending on the Apostles and making them speak in tongues at Pentecost. Nineteenth-century Pentecostalism describes this oneness with the Holy Spirit as a spiritual experience. Another nineteenth-century phenomenon was a sudden interest in communicating with the spirits of the fallen soldiers after the American Civil War. Colonel Olcott who had fought in the Civil War had had a great interest in such forms of communication, but together with Madame Blavatsky he developed it into something quite different by founding the Theosophical Society of New York, a spiritual movement led by “masters of the universe” with whom Madame Blavatsky had privileged communications. Since Madame Blavatsky claimed to have been to Tibet and was under the influence of “Eastern Spirituality,” they sought to connect the Theosophical Society to India and Swami Dayananda’s Arya Samaj, a Hindu reform movement, a plan that failed partly because of the Hindu rejection of spirits called bhut (a category of haunting ghosts). It is especially the globalization of a notion of spirituality that leads to productive encounters with traditions in which spirits have a variety of roles (positive and negative). Spirit cults, spirit mediums, spirit writing, spirit possession are found everywhere as forms of popular religion that are always in some tension with orthodoxies of various kinds. Especially with the emergence of modern science supported by developmental states, these cults come under heavy attack as forms of superstition and magic. Simultaneously, however, one finds the rise of spirituality to which I will devote my attention in the rest of this short intervention. The origins of modern spirituality are, in my view, to be found in the nineteenth century and in the imperial encounter of East and West. One can, obviously, find deep histories of spirituality in mysticism, gnosis, hermeticism, and in a whole range of traditions from Antiquity, but modern spirituality is something, indeed,

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modern. It is part of modernity and thus of a wide-ranging nineteenth-century transformation, a historical rupture. Spirituality is notoriously hard to define and I want to suggest that its very vagueness as the opposite of materiality, as distinctive from the body, as distinctive from both the religious and the secular, has made it productive as a concept that bridges various discursive traditions across the globe. There is a sense that the material is gross and the spiritual subtle and higher. This develops into a notion that those who are focused on material aspects of life are materialists and that spirituality directs us to higher nonmaterial aspects of life. This leads to a critique of materialist religion and to the contradiction that the spiritual often needs to take a material form to be visible. My contention is that the spiritual and the secular are produced simultaneously as two connected alternatives to institutionalized religion in Euro-American modernity. There is a central contradiction in the concept of spirituality in that it is at the same time seen as universal and as tied to conceptions of national identity. Moreover, while the concept travels globally, its trajectory differs from place to place as it is inserted in different historical developments. An important element in the emergence of spirituality was that it offered an alternative to religion. This was, first and foremost, institutionalized religion. In the West, spirituality formed an alternative to Church Christianity (whether Protestant or Catholic). Together with the so-called secularization of the mind in nineteenth-century liberalism and socialism, as well as in science (especially Darwin’s evolution theory), one can find widespread movements in different parts of the world that search for a universal spirituality that is not bound to any specific tradition. Good examples in the United States are the transcendentalists from Emerson to Whitman as well as Mary Baker’s Christian Science. Theosophy is another product of spirit-searching America. In fact, not only America is full of spirituality as Catherine Albanese has shown (2007), but also there is a huge proliferation of this kind of movement that parallels the spread of secularist ideologies around the world. However, it is important to highlight that spirituality should not be relegated to the fringes of modernity, as often happens, but that it is located at the heart of Western modernity. The extent to which spirituality emerged as a sign of Western modernity can be best shown by its direct connection to abstract art. Kandinsky, one of the pioneers of abstract art, connects abstraction with the spiritual. He is certainly not exceptional, since other leading abstract pioneers such as Frantisek Kupka, Piet Mondrian, and Kazimir Malevich similarly saw themselves as inspired by spirituality, either through the influence of Theosophy and Anthroposophy or otherwise (see the exhibition catalog, Tuchman 1986). This may be somewhat unexpected for those who see the modern


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transformation of European life in the nineteenth and early twentieth century in Weberian terms as demystification. In one of the most pregnant expressions of modernity, namely in modern art, the spiritual stages a comeback as the return of the repressed. The connection between art and spirituality points at the way in which art comes to stand for the transcendental interpretation of experience that is no longer the exclusive province of institutional religion. Artists are groping for a radically new way of expressing transcendental truth and are often better in doing that in their chosen medium than in words. Modern art has a transcendental and moral significance that is enshrined in museums and galleries. One could legitimately argue that the spirituality of Western modernity is enshrined in Art. We find that Christianity, the religion of the colonial powers, in the second half of the nineteenth century attempts not so much to convert people to Christianity but to find a universal morality or spirituality in other religious traditions and thus a kind of Hegelian Aufhebung of all traditions. This is exemplified in the Unitarian organization of the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 at Chicago, where representatives of World Religions were invited to speak on a common platform, as well as in the newly developed discipline of Science of Religion that went beyond Christian theology. The show was stolen by the representative of Hinduism, Swami Vivekananda. As the response in the Parliament and in his further lecture tours in the United States indicates, this was a message that resonated powerfully among American audiences. His writings in English often compare the lack of spirituality in the West with the abundance of it in India. Vivekananda is probably the first major Indian advocate of a “Hindu spirituality” and his Ramakrishna Mission, the first Hindu missionary movement, following principles set out in modern Protestant evangelism. Vivekananda’s construction of “spirituality” has had a major impact on Hindu nationalism of all forms, and at the same time on global understandings of spirituality. Two major figures in the history of Modern India have been deeply influenced by Vivekananda’s ideas about spirituality: the great Indian political leader Mohandas K. Gandhi and the Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore. The first developed the nationalist strand in the idea of spirituality while the second developed the international strand, both showing the extent to which the national and transnational are actually interwoven. They argued that the materialism of the West created warfare and colonial exploitation, while the spirituality of the East provided an alternative that would lead to world peace and equal prosperity for all. After the Second World War, some of these ideas entered into the ideology of the Third Way, especially exemplified by the Bandung Conference of 1955 and the Non-aligned Movement.

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As in the West, Indian spirituality transcends institutionalized religion. It uses and transforms existing traditions, but goes beyond the authority of priestly lineages and monastic institutions. Gandhi used the ideas of Tolstoy, Ruskin, and Nordau about civilization, spirituality, and industry to transform the Hindu traditions in which he had been socialized. His political actions against the British colonial state were meant to pose a spiritual alternative to materialist exploitation. His contention was that the East was more spiritual than the West and that India could be a spiritual leader of the world. Such notions were not only popular in India (and Asia), but, more generally, also in the Western world. Since one of the biggest problems in the Indian subcontinent even today is the relation between Hindus and Muslims, a transcendence of religious difference in universal, all-embracing spirituality is of the utmost political significance. Interestingly, Gandhi found a way to tie this universalist spirituality to the nationalist project by arguing that since one was born in a particular tradition and civilization, one should not proselytize or convert. Instead, each person had to find the Truth in one’s own tradition. In this way, Gandhi could argue for a spiritual nation that transcended internal religious differences. India was seen to be very rich in its spiritual resources and had to develop them rather than imitate the materialism of the West. Besides Gandhi, it is the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore whose understanding of spirituality has been very influential both within India and outside of it. Tagore was deeply ambivalent, if not hostile toward “the fierce selfidolatry of nation-worship” (Tagore 1916: 15). However, as the irony of history has it, today both India and Bangladesh use his poems as national anthems. Tagore was convinced that a unique spirituality unified Asia and in a series of lecture tours in Japan and China tried to persuade Chinese and Japanese intellectuals to create a pan-Asian movement toward a common Asian civilization. After he received the Nobel Prize in 1913 and the First World War broke out in Europe, Rabindranath Tagore felt that Asia should assume a role of spiritual leadership in the world. He visited Japan and was received by huge crowds with unbridled enthusiasm. At Tokyo Imperial University, he delivered a speech on June 11, 1916, entitled: “The Message of India to Japan.” His major theme was the unity of Asia and the spiritual mission of Asia in the World. While Europe’s achievements are not denied, Tagore points at its great materialistic pursuit of self-interest and the need for the spiritual resources of a regenerated Asia. While Japanese intellectuals accepted that there was a spiritual element in Japanese civilization, they tended to see it as a part of their national heritage. They also definitely liked Tagore’s denunciation of Western imperialism, but rejected his denunciation of Japan’s fledgling imperialism. Tagore’s attitude


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toward Japanese militant nationalism was explained as a sign of his membership of a defeated, colonized nation. His critics saw that there was a contradiction between his rejection of Japanese militancy and his praise of Japanese spirituality of which that militancy was part and parcel. Tagore’s and Gandhi’s interpretation of Eastern spirituality as non-violent ignored or rejected the militant aspects of Asia’s religious traditions. In 1924, Tagore went to China. His reception in China resembled the one in Japan. At first, there was great interest in this great poet from an unknown India and in general he drew large audiences. But quite quickly his message of Pan-Asian spirituality and the revival of ancient religious traditions in China met with strong criticism, especially in Beijing, which had considerable student activism. Much of the opposition against Tagore was organized by Communist activists who painted Tagore as a traditionalist from a weak and defeated colonized nation. But more generally, the poet’s visit was a failure because Chinese intellectuals had been leading a revolution against the Qing Empire and the traditions that supported the ancient regime. They were too much inclined to reject the past in building a modern society to be able to accept Tagore’s praise of ancient traditions. The concept of spirituality thus connects a wide variety of notions ranging from Christianity’s holy spirit to spiritual masters of the universe, from antimaterialism to spirituality in modern art, from universal spirituality to the spirit of the nation. The very vagueness of the concept allows for creative misunderstandings and mistranslations across the globe and thus leads to an interactive space that is created but not dominated by imperial power. Weber’s assumed process of disenchantment as an element of these historical encounters is, in fact, a dialectics of enchantment and disenchantment that characterizes the spirit of the age.

Bibliography Albanese, Catherine. 2007. A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion. New Haven: Yale University Press. Tagore, Rabindranath. 1916. Nationalism. New York: MacMillan. Tuchman, Maurice, ed. 1986. The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985. New York: Abbeville Press. Van der Veer, Peter. 2001. Imperial Encounters. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Van der Veer, Peter. 2008. “Spirituality in Modern Society.” In Religion: Beyond a Concept, edited by Hent de Vries, 789–98. New York: Fordham University Press. Van der Veer, Peter. 2014. The Modern Spirit of Asia: The Spiritual and The Secular in China and India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Taste Rich Freeman

Figure 33  Turmeric, sandalwood, and vermillion powder merchant in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Photo by Dennis McGilvray.

If we hazard a broadly scientific definition of taste as that sense faculty enabled by specialized organs of the tongue and mouth for discriminating and evaluating certain biochemical properties of substances we ingest, then the foods we ingest most naturally comprise the objective field for considering its nature and operations. In those Indic traditions we club together today as Hindu, this seemingly straightforward, everyday notion of taste was early recognized both in its distinctness from the other senses as a particular faculty localized on the tongue, and in its discrimination into six basic component tastes (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent). As with any faculty or field of the human sensorium or mind, however, culturally perceived attributes have conditioned the objects of taste, the meta-sense of the sense itself, and the relation of these to the sensing subject and its own nature. From the earliest philosophical speculations of the Upanishads (circa sixth century BCE), enshrined in the consensus of most later orthodox Hindu and folk systems, the cosmos itself is collectively and substantially comprised of food and its circulation. This food is conceived of as a metaphysical substance of constituent essences, whose individual properties the gross perceptions of taste partly access and register. In the more theistic register of ritual action, the earlier sacrificial cult of the Vedas had already established this basic paradigm of human and cosmic sustenance through feeding deities on the essences of foods, which were extracted by immolating the offerings in sacrificial fires that conveyed the subtle elements skywards. The key term rasa, which would later signify “taste” in both literal and figurative senses, referred in the Vedas to the sap, vital fluid, or liquid essence of plants and foods. By the time of the Upanishads, rasa had taken on the subjective sense of the faculty of taste, localized on the tongue, but it also retained and extended the earlier meanings to signify the fluid part or essentially immanent nature of any thing, substance, or living being, including the human spirit. While food as the objective field of taste’s operation was thus configured in a metaphysics of trophic exchange, and variously divinized in theology and ritual, the subjective apperception of taste was further complicated at basic levels of

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epistemology. This is because many of the dominant philosophical and religious schools argued, against materialist positions, that some or all of the senses are “extromissive”: they do not passively receive sensory stimuli from external objects, but rather project the subjective faculties from the mind, through the channels of the senses to contact and at least partly constitute the sensing and experiencing of objects. This explains how different subjects can derive radically different experiences from the same objective substratum, and is an important thread in the karma doctrine where individuals experience the “fruits” of the residua stored in their minds as these “ripen” into the world of sensory contacts in embodied experience. The sensing of objects therefore connotes their consumption (bhoga) for subjective ends, and this latter concept is generalized, as in a host of Indic tropes, to include consumption and enjoyment of both comestibles and the objects of sexual desire. This subjective teleology is, indeed, written into the atomic level of matter, for the bare essence and self-nature of each atom in most Indic schemes is a datum of sense perception. In the fivefold scheme of pairing each element with a sense faculty, where taste correlates with water, taste is not a contingent matter of subjective contact with insensate matter, but the manifestation of the innate, subtle, and essential nature of every atom of water and every physical property of fluidity this informs. These are not mere abstractions, but inform the everyday concern with regulating health, diet, cuisine, nutrition, sexuality, and well-being. In the pan-Indic and still flourishing system of Ayurvedic medicine, the complexly ramifying scheme of sixfold tastes (rasa) is the immediately subjective index of all the liquid elements of both foodstuffs, and of their nutritive assimilation into the constituents of the body. As with the English notion of flavor, however, more complex cross-sensory perceptions combining taste with odor, texture, and other enumerated physical properties (gunas) were discriminated, and all possible combinations of the six tastes were tallied into sixty-one theoretically possible aggregate tastes. As the elements and elemental tastes combine in gustation, through their liquid compounding as complex flavors, so they precipitate into the gross constituents of the body (plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, marrow, and the male and female seminal fluids). Health is a matter of monitoring and regulating this transformative flux in a salubrious equilibrium, and this is synoptically condensed into the relative balance between the three “humors” (doshas), of internal wind, phlegm, and bile. Even more basic is the attribution of the (empirically non-obvious) thermal properties of hot and cold to foods, flavors, and bodily states. Both these humoral and thermal systems crosscut and intersect with the sensation of tastes into a complex diagnostics,


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dietary regime, and pharmacopeia in the medical system. Throughout rural and urban South Asia, related concepts still inform everyday dietary, sexual, and medical commonsense, and their extensions into a generalized semiotics of physical and social life are beautifully conveyed in the ethnography of one particular region, as captured in its title, Fluid Signs: Being a Person the Tamil Way (Daniel 1987). This subjective essentializing of taste (rasa) and its keying to changing bodily states has led to its deployment as the major trope for describing aesthetic experience in South Asia. Initially discussed in the earliest extant treatise on drama (the early centuries CE), it soon became the focus of aesthetic theory generally in the quest for establishing what was diagnostically essential to the dramatic and poetic arts. Under this treatment, rasa came to signify the aesthetic apperception itself, which could have eight dominantly emotional “flavors” (the constituent rasas), depending on the nature of the eight underlying emotions intentionally depicted and experienced through art. This emotional reflexivity, on the basis of mentally conditioned and fixated sub-emotions, which were themselves accessed from the visible (drishya) and audible (shravya) aspects of drama, was all the province of this specialized “taste.” Initial debates on the locus of such emotional experiences, whether primarily seated in authorial intention, the actors and their craft, or the audience’s reception, raised problems of the subject–object relations in art. The most significant consensus came to hold that rasa was literally the phenomenological “tasting” (rasana) of the emotional experience shared across the author, performers, and audience, but experienced individually by each through the generalizing abstraction of the artistry, on the one hand, and the refined sensibilities of the audience, on the other. Each individual, thereby, drew on his or her own karmically stored emotional residua, but could nonetheless share in the generalized experience, provided he or she was qualified by training and temperament as “those of the same heart” (sahridaya), or aesthetic “gourmets” (rasikas). Of the eight basic emotions that were initially delineated, the dominant object of this aesthetic savor was always the emotional state of eroticism. This savor of sexual appetite and its satisfaction were not merely incidentally related to the tasting of food in the fluid idioms of rasa. Dominant literary tropes both within and outside the scholastic realm of Sanskrit, and throughout the regional languages and their arts, related the consumption of food to that of one’s love-object in the sexual act, or one’s own consumption by him or her in the pining of sexual and emotional deprivation. At the personal and physical level, medical and folk wisdom maintain that sexual partners should be mutually and typologically

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compatible, since their seminal fluids, as their most concentrated personal essences, commingle in sexual congress. Such suitable unions leave both parties physically nourished and lead, wholesomely, to eventual conception, whereas incompatibilities, by caste, age, and so on, are the source of wasting disease and degeneration. Set against this eroticized aesthetics was the equally early assimilation of drama to a kind of ritual forum, a religious festival offered to please the gods, where dramaturgy was claimed as a “fifth Veda.” This theme was accommodated by the addition of a likely later rasa to the original list, that of religious quietude (shanta). This was, no doubt, an attempt to address the longstanding tension between erotic and ascetic values in the Hindu mainstream, since the emotional state of shanta was based on savoring the enduring emotional state of nirveda, a positive distaste for worldly desires. In a related turnabout, the rise of late medieval cults (circa fifteenth century CE) of emotional religious devotionalism (bhakti) seized on the poetics of rasa theory to erotically aestheticize their folkcults (as bhakti-rasa), wherein god and devotee courted each other like lovers, consuming and exchanging each other’s essences in a poetically sublimated model of human sexual union. This was reminiscent of earlier south Indian regional devotionalism (ninth century CE), where deities were beseeched to swallow their devotees, to melt and eat their hearts, and where they were, in turn, savored by their devotees like “honey, milk, ghee, syrup, and nectar” (Carman and Narayanan 1989: 165). At the sociological level, food, in all its tastes and essences, has provided a powerfully nuanced medium for the expression of caste. Not only are the various raw constituents ranked according to associations with the ranked castes who consume them (vegetarian vs. non-vegetarian, those who will eat fish, game, non-beef meats, beef, etc.), but further rankings also emerge from considering who will share food with whom, in what contexts, and how foods are prepared so as to make them more or less permeable to such socially communicable values. These transactions in feeding and being fed have been treated in their role of expressing and enacting caste and other rankings in south India under the felicitous term “gastro-politics” (Appadurai 1981). These commensal relations also partly map onto the circle of connubial relations since sex, through conjoining bodily substances, should express the same general compatibilities of the food essences that make up the partners’ bodies, and since, through conception, it should reproduce them physically and socially. These relations around food and sex are, of course, part of the greater circulation of goods and services in the political economy of caste and power, and it is instructive to close these reflections with a return to the gods and their feeding, for as


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super-persons, they raise some of these issues of ranked consumption at an institutional level. From the early medieval period, the Vedic sacrificial worship of invisible deities at temporary sites yielded to the now-standard worship of deities embodied in iconic form, housed in permanent temples. Modeled on human royalty in their palaces, these divine persons are today invoked and satiated with a variety of standardized sumptuary “services” (upacaras) of which the central rite is offering them special foods (nivedya). They are then ritually induced to consume the subtlest essences of these, and the remainders are returned to worshipers who consume them as “grace” (prasada). In the semiotics of food pollution, to eat the leftovers of other beings, tainted by their saliva, is the most potentially defiling of acts, and so, by the inverse logic of its willing embrace, it is also to show them the greatest deference. To share in such foods is to express one’s fellowship and identity in the community of worshipers. The gods themselves, however, show their own rankings relative to each other and that of their worshiping constituencies through their dietary preferences and other sumptuary regimes. The highest gods ministered to by Brahman officiants require vegetarian diets, balancing the various rasas in accordance with their refined constitutions. They also receive the various “services,” including articles and substances catering to the various senses (such as unguents, lamps, perfumes, jewels, and finery), and music, dance, and dramas may be performed for their gratification. On festival occasions, deities may be taken, through their special, portable icons, on conjugal visits to their spouses or consorts in rites of symbolic congress. The temples of non-Brahman gods, staffed by non-Brahman officiants, may deploy parallel services and goods in worship, but reflecting a commensurately lower social register. Food may entail offerings of meat and liquor, such as those castes themselves consume, reflecting the gastronomically and dispositionally “hotter” temperaments of the deities and their worshipers. Still lower deities may receive more polluted meats, in keeping with the lower-caste diets of their human constituencies, and particularly violent deities may require live blood offerings, often symbolic of the slaughter of their enemies. Farther along this continuum, such beings themselves may be said to crave and drink the blood of live offerings, and at the lower fringe this shades into the demonic, where such beings may even be offered normally polluting non-foods. While complexities abound in the particulars, the circulation and consumption of divinely dedicated foods, goods, and services materially sorts communities into ranked groups along a gradient of social relations. Subjectively, these discrepant tastes are attributed to the respective gods, and this finds parallels in the characterological keying to caste identities that are often

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inscribed in divine myths and discursive and performative arts depicting these deities and their natures. For higher castes, this actual personhood of the gods’ enshrined icons is asserted through the installation rites themselves, where the images are endowed with egos and senses, and a gross and subtle set of physiological elements just as though they were human. For lower castes, officiants’ or worshipers’ own bodies may serve as living icons under spirit possession, and the congruence of caste and divine identities is thereby rendered flesh, and tastes demonstrated through the literal consumption of offerings. Despite these marked differences in the forms of embodiment, however, there is a common theme of empowerment and salvation. When worshipers merge their tastes and desires in the collectively shared divinity, their faculties merge into those of the deity, and, thereby, at the limit of the ideal, they may themselves approach divinity.

Bibliography Appadurai, Arjun. 1981. “Gastro-politics in Hindu South Asia.” American Ethnologist 8(3): 494–511. Carman, John and Vasudha Narayanan. 1989. The Tamil Veda: Pillan’s Interpretation of the Tiruvaymoli. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Daniel, E. Valentine. 1987. Fluid Signs: Being a Person the Tamil Way. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. Freeman, J. R. 1998. “Formalised Possession among the Tantris and Teyyams of Malabar.” South Asia Research 18(1): 73–98. Schwartz, Susan L. 2004. Rasa: Performing the Divine in India. Columbia University Press.



Technology Kathryn Lofton

Figure 34  Airline flight with screens in seatbacks. 2015. Photo by S. Brent Plate.

In 2014, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal reported on his own struggle with a twenty-first- century addiction. Binge-watching television shows—viewing episodes back-to-back for hours on end—may be America’s new favorite pastime, but it’s brought me to some pretty dark places. At 3 a.m., bleary-eyed and faced with the choice of watching another episode or going to bed so I could be ready for work and family the next day, I’ve often found myself opting for “just one more” hit. I’ve struggled with this habit intermittently for more than a decade (my first all-nighter was season 1 of 24 on DVD). I would hit the Netflix hard and reach rock bottom, then go cold turkey by canceling my membership—only to start the cycle again when I thought I had the wherewithal to watch responsibly. (Hsu 2014)

The confessor, Michael Hsu, here describes himself as stuck in a vortex fostered by the allure of cultural programming and the technology used to access it. The process that brings such programming (such as season one of 24) to your personal device (laptop computer, television monitor, smart phone) is generally referred to as streaming media. Certain providers—like Netflix, to which Hsu refers—specifically exist to provide (and profit from the provision of) on-demand Internet streaming media. With his references to rock bottom, cycles, and cold turkey, Hsu describes his struggle in pre-streaming language, but it is very much of the technology of his specific epoch. The majority of definitions for technology emphasize its physicality. Dictionaries and encyclopedias tend to focus on technology as the physical result of cognitive work done elsewhere, defining technology as the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. Advances in computer technology lead you to possess a device that can track your cat’s movements at home in Cleveland while you are traveling to China. Whatever those “advances” might be, the technology is the material capacity to track the cat. More esoteric definitions of technology consider it a way of thinking itself. In such definitions, technology is a form of thinking about technical means to negotiate the self in society. This underlines how often technology connects scientific laboratories

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to home economics, engineering schools to industrial arts, pure science to applied science. In recent years, technology has also been increasingly used to describe a process or a method, that is, the technology by which you resolve a problem. Technology thus can refer to the physical manifestation of thought; it can be thought itself; it can refer to the sum of the ways in which social groups provide themselves with the material objects of their civilization. The technological context in which Hsu can be a so-called binge viewer is one in which everyone is in possession of low-cost computers on integrated circuits that connect users to networks that transfer information at increasingly higher rates of speed. The hardware that makes possible Hsu’s binging includes everything from the cables that carry terabits of data to the microprocessor in your computer sitting in front of you. The protocols that organize how information passes through the Internet include the transmission control protocol (TCP), the Internet protocol (IP), and the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP), each of which route and organize packets of data through cables and to your laptop screen. The information carried in accordance with these protocols are streams of binary digits, 1s and 0s. These digits are mathematical entities, but they are also tangible ones: they are embodied and manipulated as voltages in electronic circuits. Therefore, every bit of data must have some mass, albeit minuscule. A science reporter for Discover magazine calculated that the weight of the Internet adds up to just about 0.2 millionths of an ounce, roughly the same as the smallest possible sand grain. So it is as immaterial a material can be while still being material. The historical precedent to streaming media can be found in 1922, when an American Army Signal Corps officer named Major General George Owen Squier (1865–1934) created “Wired Radio,” a service that delivered music to businesses and subscribers over wires. This innovation depended on Squier’s longtime effort to improve the transmission of information signals, including a system for the transmission and distribution of signals over electrical lines, which he called “wired wireless.” Squier sold the rights to his information transmission patents to the North American Company utility conglomerate, which created a company named Wired Radio Inc. with the plan to use the technique to deliver music subscriptions to private customers of the utility company’s power service. This service, which provided music by cable to subscribers, was known by the name Squier gave it shortly before his death: Muzak. Although Muzak has been supplanted by other more interactive commercial music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, for years it was the sound of the corporate pause, the music heard overhead by a mall fountain, and the inevitable accompaniment to dental procedures.


Key Terms in Material Religion

Squier was, like so many tinkers, scientists, and practical reformers of his Progressive Era moment, a person who didn’t think technology was merely material. He thought it served intangible ends. “It seems to me,” he said in a 1911 interview, “that one of the great troubles of all modern civilization . . . is that men . . . have too little time for contemplation. It must be through contemplation that crude thoughts find their evolution into the finished thoughts which mean development. Americans especially rush through life at such a speed that thought-seed planting is too rare and the development of thought into completion is still rarer” (Marshall 1911). Every time you rolled your eyes at a Muzak rendition of an alternative rock song, you avoided the meditative frame Squier had set for your contemplation. Slow down, the music suggests. Use this elevator ride to think. Is Hsu’s binge-viewing an addictive act or a meditative one? Binge-viewing gives viewers the ability to watch a TV show as it fits their schedule, allowing them to have a customized viewing experience that’s not dictated by a broadcaster. It’s not an entirely new concept—TV marathons (which were first programmed in the 1980s), renting series on DVDs (first available in the 1990s), and watching multiple episodes on TiVos facilitated binge-viewing before the advent of sites like Netflix and Hulu. However, new technology, consumers’ desire to watch TV on their own terms, and an increase in quality TV content have brought binge-viewing to a new level. “Binging” is increasingly the normal way media content is consumed; that is, individuals increasingly watch at least three episodes of the same show in one setting. As one student remarked to me, “If I’ve decided to watch TV, I am going to watch a lot of TV.” Emma Montgomery, global product director for the Human Experience Center at Starcom MediaVest Group, discourages criticism of this new practice: “Bingeing connotes excessive indulgence, and while the back to back viewing occasion may be long, millennials’ actual behavior is neither excessive nor indulgent. It is a deliberate and ongoing shift toward how they prefer to view and stay on top efficiently in a world of far greater, and far better quality programming” (Montgomery 2013). Yet, Hsu felt the deliberative quality of his viewing had long passed. Instead, he found the relationship he had with this technology was increasingly like that between an addict and heroin, or a bulimic and food. Indeed, the symptoms he describes are not unlike those associated with binge-eating episodes. Doctors describe binge-eating episodes as when someone eats much more rapidly than normal; when someone eats until feeling uncomfortably full; when someone eats large amounts of food even though he or she is not feeling physically hungry; when someone feels unable to stop eating or control how much is eaten; when someone eats alone because he or she is embarrassed about how much he

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or she is eating; and when someone feels disgusted with himself or herself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating. These are the feelings Hsu suggests he began to experience in relation to consuming media online. These are feelings of shame, self-repudiation, and chaos. It is tempting to think about grand-scale analogies to binge-viewing within religious culture: the way that many churches have all-night worship services, or extreme forms of monastic discipline such as fasting. Extremity in general is something religions can offer, a feeling of removing yourself from the world so as to feel something about the cosmos more purely. It is tempting, too, to think about how many religious groups have chosen to develop elaborate rules around the use of technology in order to keep at bay the very kind of addictive, possessive frenzy Hsu relates. When tens of thousands ultra-Orthodox Jewish men gathered in 2012 at a New York City baseball stadium, they did so not to celebrate a particular holiday or support a new leader, but to discuss the potential problems that can stem from access to pornography and other explicit content on Internet. “Desires are out there,” one attendee said, adding that men could be particularly susceptible. “We have to learn how to control ourselves.” What rectifies a soul out of control? In his Wall Street Journal confession, Hsu explains that his addiction required a mechanical solution and a psychological one. Mechanically, he could alter his relationship to the machinery if he disabled auto play (the feature that automatically starts the next episode in a series when the one you’re watching ends) or the Wi-Fi router. Psychologically, he could alter his relationship to his habit if he exercised self-restraint. The latter is helped through nutritional intake (“A lot of evidence has shown that getting some food into you can restore your self-control when you’re depleted,” Hsu reports), but is finally a discipline of the mind. Indeed, comments to Hsu’s column emphasized the mind-body problem in the consumption of media. “Binge-watching is but one of an endless number of addictions we use to keep ourselves mindless,” one commentator remarked, continuing with a critique of Hsu’s recommendations. “The techniques of this article, or the admonition of some commentators to ‘go to bed’ can work, but they don’t correct the cause, which is a mistaken choice in the mind.” Squier would be shocked and pleased: shocked that his technology produced the very dullness he sought to save humans from; pleased to hear that people still rallied for meditative calm. The work of religious studies scholar Jeremy Stolow has encouraged us to think of religion itself as technology. “Religion,” he writes, “is inherently and necessarily technological.” What he means by this is several things: first, the use of technology in religious activities; second, the embodied techniques of ritual observance; third, the representational technologies of language


Key Terms in Material Religion

and iconography; fourth and finally, the ways in which all experiences are “materialized, rendered tangible and palpable, communicated publicly, recorded, and reproduced—in short, mediated—in and through its given range of technological manifestations and techniques” (Stolow 2008: 195) With Stolow’s observation about the technological nature of religion, we could look upon Hsu’s relationship to 24 and perhaps one with more meditative possibilities. The one existing study of binge-viewing, conducted by Raj Devasagayam, a scholar at Siena College, found that students who binge-viewed in excess said that they often did so because they became particularly attached to a certain character. One commentary on binge-viewing published in a 2011 post on Grantland agreed, “binging on an entire season of a television show without commercial interruption allows you to completely ‘immerse’ yourself in the world of your new favorite show” (Carles 2011). Immersion in a world that is not this one, and aligning yourself with someone imaginary, is a longstanding pleasure for readers of fiction or fans of film. When do the pleasures of such immersion become something problematic? For the Orthodox Jews, it is when you become distracted from right mindedness; for Hsu, it’s when he can’t function by the standards of daylight productivity. The engagement with porn or 24 on the Internet isn’t a problem because it’s irreligious; it’s a problem because it is a competing ritual relation, one with attachments and detachments, worldviews and cosmologies. Religion describes what humans do when they harness—or talk about harnessing—material means to access immaterial power. Those who bingeview deploy material goods to (nearly—recall that sand grain) immaterial power. There are not yet enough studies on the practice to determine the concepts of community at work in binge consumption practices, or to discern what kinds of ethics emerge from such an altered state. The term immersive has increasingly become synonymous with immersive media to describe digital technology or images that deeply involve one’s senses and may create an altered mental state. Future scholars of religion may find that meditation retreats and worship centers no longer represent the most exigent religious technology. Instead, they may find that the sharpest sectarian divides are formed between how you binge, on what, and when, and the commentary produced by those who decide something meaningful happens as they watch their glowing screens. Writing for Slate, television critic Jim Pagels has agitated against binge-viewing TV, writing a series of imperatives in praise of solo-episode viewing. “Cliffhangers and suspense need time to breathe,” he writes, “TV characters should be a regular part of our lives, not someone we hang out with 24/7 for a few days and then never see again” (Pagels 2012). In the annals of religion, such a voice has a counter-reformation

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familiarity, as the sacramental observer suggests something deep has been flattened in the name of all this spiritual immediacy and aniconism. Studying technology in concert with religion requires that one should pay attention to not merely when the latter prohibits the former, but also when the former engenders new ways to occupy life, ways for which there is no vocabulary more provoking, or more incendiary, than that of religion.

Bibliography Baumgarten, Luke. 2012. “Elevator Going Down: The Story of Muzak.” Red Bull Music Academy Magazine (September 27). magazine/history-of-muzak. Carles. 2011. “Friday Night Lights, ‘Better Person’, Becoming a Man.” Grantland (July 25). Cass, Stephen. 2007. “How Much Does The Internet Weigh?” Discover Magazine (May 29). Devasagayam, Raj. 2014. “Media Bingeing: A Qualitative Study of Psychological Influences.” Once Retro Now Novel Again: 2014 Annual Spring Conference Proceedings of the Marketing Management Association, 40–4. http://www.mmaglobal. org/publications/Proceedings/2014-MMA-Spring-Conference-Proceedings.pdf. Grynbaum, Michael M. 2012. “Ultra-Orthodox Jews Rally to Discuss Risks of Internet.” New York Times (May 20). Hsu, Michael. 2014. “How to Overcome a Binge-Watching Addiction.” Wall Street Journal (September 26). -a-binge-watching-addiction-1411748602. Marshall, Edward. 1911. “‘AMERICANS ARE DULL AND SLEEPY,” SAYS MAJOR SQUIER: Inventor of the Wireless Telephone Who Gave the Patent Free to the Public Tells His Remarkable Philosophy of Life—Conservation of the Mind Most Important’. New York Times (May 21). Montgomery, Emma. 2013. “Why We Need To Rethink Millennial ‘Binge Viewing’,” Broadcasting & Cable (December 5). mbpt-spotlight-why-we-need-rethink-millennial-binge-viewing/125532. Pagels, Jim. 2012. “Stop Binge-Watching TV,” (July 9). blogs/browbeat/2012/07/09/binge_watching_tv_why_you_need_to_stop_.html. Stolow, Jeremy. 2008. “Technology.” In Keywords in Religion, Media and Culture, edited by David Morgan, 187–97. New York: Routledge. Stolow, Jeremy, ed. 2012. Deus in Machina: Religion, Technology, and the Things In Between. New York: Fordham University Press.



Thing David Morgan

Figure 35  “The Family Idols of Pomare,” in Missionary Sketches, No. 3 (October 1818).

In many languages, the pronoun for a thing is “it.” An it, or id, signifies some entity other than an I, or ego. “It” often operates grammatically in the passive voice in order to signal, at the same time also conceal, agency. “It was said that you committed the deed.” Someone said it, but who did so is not indicated. As an it, a thing dwells in obscurity. Its identity, its drive and desire, its intention, and its use elude us. Perhaps we even refuse to recognize what it is because it threatens to violate what we hold proper. For this reason, Freud aptly named the suppressed realm of desire “the It” (das Es, translated into English by James Strachey as the Id). In any case, thingness refers to an identity and precise agency that remains hidden. A thing remains ill-defined until we discern what it does, that is, until we grasp its functional relationship to the milieu in which it exists. At that point we are able to apply a name to the thing. In that moment “it” becomes a particular object, an example of an entire class. We say, “this thing is a glove, or a chinchilla, or a tree.” A thing, in other words, is an object waiting to happen if by “object” we mean something that has been identified, that is, something that is an example of a class of objects. I pick up something from the table. I query what this thing is by examining its texture, weight, and size. I touch it, discern its mass and composition, and I find that the thing reminds me of objects I know. Vaguely, I become aware of this thing’s membership in a class of kindred objects. This awareness grows as I concentrate on the assortment of common features composing the class: size, color, surface qualities, weight, and composition. As I note these characteristics, it becomes clear to me that this thing must be understood as an instance, however unique, of a general type. “What kind of a thing is this?” I ask as I search for the class to which it belongs. Most practically, perhaps, I look for apt comparisons. What does it remind me of? What does it look like? Have I seen this before? One compelling example of likeness becomes a shortcut to identification. The resulting specification of the object reveals that this thing belongs to a set of related artifacts. I know what the thing is when I recognize it, which is to say, when I have determined it is an example of similar sorts of objects.

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But such specification does not exhaust the thing, which remains more than its classification. A thing exists independent of the human taxonomies that classify it. Thus, even when we manage to assign a thing to a taxonomy, it may not rest easily there. A thing occupies a specific category impatiently inasmuch as its particularity exceeds the template of specificity. Often, this is because the specifier got it wrong. That happens whenever the desire to see something exceeds the evidence at hand. David Hume described in his “Natural History of Religion” (1757) the universal tendency among mankind to conceive all beings like themselves, and to transfer to every object, those qualities with which they are familiarly acquainted, and of which they are intimately conscious. We find human faces in the moon, armies in the clouds; and by a natural propensity, if not corrected by experience and reflection, ascribe malice or good-will to everything that hurts or pleases us. (Hume 1993: 141)

This is a remarkable passage because it reminds us that human consciousness operates with its own rules and interests in making all manner of epistemological claims. Thingness does not depend on us; objecthood does. Objects are intentional things, but may have little to do with what things want or do. Travelers and missionaries have often demonstrated the truth of this when facing a strange culture’s myriad things. Where their interests are most pitched to draw lines, assert dominance, or subject the other to convenient categories, the visitor’s misattributions are most common. For example, the concept of the fetish was developed to help distinguish “them” from “us.” Their sacred objects are fetishes, the false gods they fashioned from wood or stone, so different from our sacred objects, which are the produce of true religion, our religion, the religion that the true God truly revealed to us (Latour 2010: 1–16). In this case, a thing is not what seemed to fit the specification, but is something else, whatever falls outside of the erroneous classification. The relationship or likeness that people thought they recognized turns out to be false; at least, it appears that way when someone else proposes another specification or points out where the likeness fails. For example, when British Protestant missionaries encountered the ritual objects surrendered to them by the Polynesians they converted (Figure 35), they did not know precisely what to make of them. The problem was that they did not resemble the idols that Protestants claimed to know about—the figures hewn from wood and stone reported by Hebrew prophets in the Bible. The Polynesian objects were covered with fabric woven from coconut fiber to which were tied feathers and long quills. Some displayed eyes and ears. The Protestants decided they must be idols because the Polynesians greatly


Key Terms in Material Religion

valued them, housing them in their marae, or sacred precincts, and treating them with grave ceremonial honor. Driven by their purpose of conversion, the missionaries applied to the objects the category of “idol” since they needed a metric of the venture’s success. Acquiring the Polynesians’ sacred objects meant securing the new faith among them. So the designation of idol stuck, but not very well because these things did not look like any idol they’d ever seen or imagined. The “family idols” of a Tahitian chieftain were reproduced in the October 1818 issue of the Missionary Register, where the editor frankly conceded that readers would be disappointed at their appearance (see Figure 35): “The idols themselves . . . bear no resemblance whatever to the human form, and differ from any thing we remember to have seen or read of, which has been used by idolators for the purpose of worship.” The writer missed the familiarity of biblical idols as described by the second commandment, in which the “idols of the heathen” are described as imitating living creatures. But the Tahitian figures “convey no idea whatever of an animated being, and we are totally at a loss to account for their form.” The objects did not look like “idols” because the writer was looking for something else. It was another case of the object and the thing failing to match. What were these objects? Their specificity was in doubt. A culture comprises a large variety of conceptual, symbolic, aesthetic, and linguistic taxonomies that tell us what kind of an object a thing is. A thing is assigned a place in a taxonomy, and remains there until circumstances require it to be re-assigned to another taxonomy. A thing is an ongoing colloquy between material characteristics, the particularity of desire or need, and a patchwork of epistemological cataloguing. Until the object is placed, it remains a thing, held in abeyance. But things also resist the epistemic spell of objecthood. Objects have a tendency to dissolve when they are dislodged or reclassified, returning to the unfixed state of things. Bill Brown has captured this indeterminate sense in his discussion of “thing” as a designation for something that has lost or refuses to assume a proper designation (Brown 2001: 4–5). Modernity may be a cultural condition that thrives on indetermination. The modern production of and discourse on art, for example, indulges in the unstable plasticity of thingness. Artists relentlessly dissolve what is revered as art, replacing it with a new conception. A urinal, a stuffed goat, a dead shark becomes a work of art. Art is a category of open identity. The cult of the new urges that every novel or truly original work of art should undermine the conventions of what defined art before it. According to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, capitalism was likewise a universal solvent, transforming what people thought was enduring into the fluid medium of exchange. “All that is solid melts into the air,” as the Communist Manifesto put it. So thingness is an unstable, entropic, mercurial quantum, not

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unlike Freud’s characterization of the Id as a seething cauldron or chaos, an unsteady sea of libido always threatening to overtake the fragile ego. Culture enables the recognition of a thing, but can also disable it. The instability of specification is well illustrated by a historical example of objects passing through several successive frameworks of interpretation, showing how objects are culturally constructed from the metamorphosis of things over time. For example, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, missionaries dispatched from London to the South Seas encountered a variety of deities worshiped by means of cult statuary that was installed in lodges or “spirit houses” dedicated to the gods, such as Ta’aroa, the creator god who was widely worshiped among Polynesians. Ta’aroa originally created his home from his body, and the result served as the prototype for all temples. The lodge was therefore regarded as distinctly sacred. The missionaries targeted these lodges and their images for destruction. A special place to appropriate was the marae, a cleared, civic space where ceremonial objects were sometimes kept and where gatherings and feasts were celebrated. Sometimes the missionaries built churches on the marae as a decisive way to appropriate the space for the new religion and bury the old one beneath it (Shaw King 2011: 16, 35–9). The “idols” were sought out by the missionaries, often to destroy them, but on many occasions to appropriate them for use against the indigenous religion. On the Polynesian island of Raiatea, they hit on a novel idea of gathering them into a church for the purpose of an exhibition, which was intended to demonstrate their subjugation to Christianity. Inhabitants were urged to see these “trophies of victory.” In order to gratify their desire “and to fan the Missionary Flame,” the missionaries “set apart an evening for the exhibition of . . . Idols.” One of the missionaries addressed the native assembly, asserting that “formerly . . . war must have ensued, and blood must have been shed, before the Evil Spirits would have been given up.” But their loss now took place “by the power of God alone” (“Renunciation,” 1882: 539). The toppling of gods was an event quite familiar to Polynesians because it was a common way of achieving victory over a rival group. This suggests that the act of Christian iconoclasm patterned itself after indigenous practices of triumph marked by symbolic destruction. Certainly, the violence of iconoclasm punctuated the shift from one taxonomy to another for Christians in the South Seas and back home in Britain. A full-page illustration in Missionary Sketches (no. 6, July 1819) sensationally portrays the “Destruction of the Idols at Otaheite, pulling down a pagan altar, and building a Christian church.” The violence effected a fundamental transposition of the object, subjugating the old conceptual regime to the new. The captive deities


Key Terms in Material Religion

were put to use as exhibited artifacts to demonstrate their inferiority and to deploy them in a new role as scripted by Christianity. Their lodges destroyed, the figures were exhibited within a Christian worship setting and re-cast as demons, minions of Satan, evil spirits that must submit to the authority of Jesus and his church. At the very time the artifacts were gathered in Polynesia, the London Missionary Society opened a museum in London to exhibit these and many others collected throughout Asia and Africa (Shaw King 2011: 53–67; Seton 2012). Europeans were curious to see them. A catalog of the Missionary Museum’s collection clearly signaled the reigning taxonomy, an ideological gaze trained unwaveringly on its artifacts: “It is hoped that a view of these ‘trophies of Christianity’ will inspire the spectators with gratitude to God for his great goodness to our native land, in favouring us so abundantly with the means of grace” (Catalog 1841: iv). The Museum existed until 1891, when its holdings were distributed between the Pitt Rivers Museum and the British Museum. An article describing the arrangement pointed out the convenience of the transfer of artifacts to the British Museum, noting “the greater public utility of the collection when in the British Museum, where it can readily be seen and studied by anyone interested,” adding that “an ethnographical museum . . . requires constant care for its [objects’] proper preservation, and this it is only likely to obtain where the custody of the specimens is a principal object of the institution” (Read 1891: 139). The objects collected in the South Seas traveled through at least five discrete cultural registers. Originally, they were cult objects in a spirit house or in the marae. This abode of the god was destroyed by the missionaries in order to transfer the object to the native church sanctuary, where it was christened an “idol,” a thing defined as hailing from the abode of Satan. From there it traveled to the Missionary Museum in London, where it metamorphosed into a “trophy of Christianity” and an example of Britain’s imperial prestige. By the end of the century, the “trophies” were re-christened as “ethnographic artifacts” when they were relocated to a public institution and a university museum. There they signified the life-world of their people. At present, in the post-colonial era, things like this have been increasingly regarded as the patrimony of their original nations, to which some have urged they be repatriated. These complex biographies of things have been fruitfully studied by anthropologists and art historians (Clifford 1988: 215–51; Davis 1997) and offer a vital field to the study of religious material culture. The press of the unspecifiable undermines the presumptive stability of taxonomies. What we think we know oscillates between the fragile purchase of our categories and the obdurate presence of something strange.

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Bibliography Brown, Bill. 2001. “Thing Theory.” Critical Inquiry 28(Autumn): 1–16. Catalog of The Missionary Museum, Blomsfield Street, Finsbury; including Specimens in Natural History, Various Idols of Heathen Nations, Dresses, Manufactures, Domestic Utensils, Instruments of War, etc., no date [1841?]. Clifford, James. 1988. The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Davis, Richard H. 1997. Lives of Indian Images. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Hume, David. 1993. “The Natural History of Religion.” In Hume, Principal Writings on Religion, edited by J. C. A. Gaskin, 134–96. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Latour, Bruno. 2010. On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods. Durham: Duke University Press. Read, C. H. 1891. On the Origin and Sacred Character of Certain Ornaments of the S.E. Pacific. London: Harrison and Sons. “Renunciation of Idolatry.” Missionary Register, December 1822. Seton, Rosemary. 2012. “Reconstructing the Museum of the London Missionary Society.” Material Religion 8(1): 98–102. Shaw King, David. 2011. Food for the Flames: Idols and Missionaries in Central Polynesia. San Francisco: Beak Press.



Touch Marleen de Witte

Figure 36  Stage backdrop by Nana Kwadwo Duah in the International Central Gospel Church, Accra, 2009. Courtesy ICGC.

The sense of touch is vital to many religious traditions. From the dramatic rituals of laying on of hands in global Pentecostalism to the use of contagious magic in indigenous African healing practices, and from the much sought-after embraces by the Indian “Hugging Saint” Mata Amritanandamayi to the kissing of Marian statues and icons in popular Catholicism, touch is a powerful medium of religious communication, not only between human beings, but also between humans and spirits. Touch can effectively establish physically felt contact with spiritual forces. Touching a religious object or being touched by a religious leader or specialist may induce very powerful religious experiences. Feeling touched by God may make a fundamental change in a religious person’s life. What is this touch in religion? And what does it do? What role do hands, skin, and the nervous system play in evoking a sense of the supernatural? People tend to trust their sense of touch. From birth we explore the world around us, first of all through our tactile sense. And throughout life we depend most of all on tactility for giving us access to what—we presume—is real. Of all the senses, we take touch to be the one least prone to trickery, the most direct of all senses, providing us with unmediated access to the real. More than “seeing is believing,” touching is believing. What we see can be “virtual,” not really real; we know how easily our eyes can be deceived. It is when we touch something with our own hands to ascertain its substantiality that we are convinced of its true existence. In this sense, “the Real is that which offers resistance” to our tactile sense (Tuan 2005: 78). But people also tend to believe in a Real beyond the tangible world. The power of a rational worldview based on positivist, empirical knowledge—that is, on sensory perception—notwithstanding, religion successfully convinces people of the presence and agency of power(s) beyond what can be perceived through the senses. And yet, as a practice of engaging with an extrasensory world, religion depends on the senses for making that world experienceable and real. One of the core questions for religion is how the divine becomes present. How can the intangible touch believers? Different religious traditions organize the sensory mediation of divine presence differently, through particular regimes of

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mobilizing and disciplining the senses and the body. Given the persuasive power of touch, it makes sense to ask how touch features in religion to authenticate the supernatural as real. In the religious context that I am most familiar with, charismatic Pentecostalism in Ghana, touch features prominently in imagery, discourse, and practice. To start with touch in religious imagery, we can note one example from the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) in Accra: a giant, computer-generated stage backdrop that served to visually mark 2009’s theme “Supernatural.” It also circulated on the Internet as an electronic New Year’s wish and is sold as a postcard in the church’s bookshop. A creative charismatization of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it dramatically shows the split second before the touch of the divine hand as it is about to transfer the spark of life, here in the form of a lightning bolt, to the first man. The touch is obviously the chief thing here, as it is in the endless reproductions and parodies of Michelangelo’s famous fresco. Illustrating the biblical story of man’s creation in the book of Genesis, the almost touching index fingers of God and Adam bring out the fundamentally tactile relationship between the human and the divine in Christianity and the deep encoding of the bodily experience of touch in Christian culture (Sennett 1994: 225). In charismatic Pentecostalism, the image of divine touch does not refer back only to the creation of humankind, but also, primarily, to the individual believer’s relationship with God through the Holy Spirit in the here and now. Being touched by the Holy Spirit and receiving new life through this touch forms the center of charismatic-Pentecostal attention and desire. It is the basis of being “born again.” In the ICGC auditorium, then, the tactile imagery of the nearly touching fingers also expresses the tension in the moment of intense expectation—as experienced during worship, prayer, or anointing services—of divine touch. This experience of the manifestation of the power of the Holy Ghost in the worshiper’s body is often described in terms of tactile sensations, sometimes generally, as “being touched by the spirit” or receiving “the miraculous touch of God”; sometimes more specifically, as a sensation of heat, coldness, or heaviness in particular parts of the body. Other common descriptions include goosebumps or the tingling feeling of electricity running through the body. Charismatics often use the language of electricity to describe the spirit realm as immediate and tangible. Explaining the concept of anointing, the manifestation of divine power in a person, one ICGC pastor said: “The anointing is tangible. It can be felt. Just as electricity is tangible, so is the anointing. And not only is it tangible; it is also transferable. When the anointing touches you, you become different; [it] will set you alive.”


Key Terms in Material Religion

Such descriptions should not be understood only metaphorically. They inform techniques of the body and, as such, become literally embodied and produce bodily sensations as they tune the believer’s senses to the working of this invisible yet tangible power. In charismatic ritual practice, the sense of touch is particularly well tuned by the experience-oriented character and multisensory appeal of religious events and the haptics of much of religious practice. Being tangible and transferable, Holy Spirit power—like electricity—does not touch you out of the blue. You need to “plug into a socket” or “touch the wire” before you can feel the shock. Physical touch, and especially the pastor’s touch, features centrally as an effective mode of plugging into the flow of supernatural power: from pastors laying their hands on people’s heads and anointing body parts with olive oil so as to create “points of contact” with the Holy Spirit to “stamping on the devil” and holding hands among the congregation. Despite a theological emphasis on immediate access to the Holy Spirit, the body, and especially the hand, of the specially endowed “Man of God” is authorized as an important instrument for the operation of the Holy Spirit on earth. Part of the spiritual “wiring,” the physical touch of the pastor’s hand on the believer’s skin closes the spiritual-physical circuit through which the Holy Spirit can flow like electricity and touch the expectant believer. But it is not only hands that touch. Sound too has a particular tactile quality to it in charismatic ritual. The loud and penetrating voices of pastors preaching, surround-sound amplification, crowds of born-again Christians praying aloud and speaking in tongues, and the moving beats, rhythms, and melodies of praise and worship music make an impact on one’s senses that goes beyond mere hearing, not only touching one’s eardrums, but also making one sense the sonic vibrations from toe to fingertip. Spoken or sung words or musical sounds do not just have meaning—and in the case of glossolalia they don’t—but are vibrations of air that physically contact and influence the hearer. Auditory and tactile sensations share a highly invasive quality. Sound penetrates the listener, fusing the material and the nonmaterial, the tangible and the intangible: in many religions sound is found to be a powerful medium for connecting to and accessing the effective power of spirits. Although sound arguably has a more powerful visceral impact than image, images too can touch the beholder and evoke bodily sensations. This certainly holds true for the visual spectacle of many charismatic events. And, indeed, for the image described at the beginning. Its sheer size, covering the entire back wall of the church auditorium, and its intense colors give it a haptic quality that gets across to the viewer the drama of the divine touch. From the image and talk of touch, we have thus moved to the touch of images and the touch of talk (or sound, more generally). In stressing tactility as a key

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modality of religious experience, then, I do not seek to privilege touch over seeing and hearing, but take seriously the sense of touch as it is implicated in the material qualities and affective power of sound and image. The charismaticPentecostal emphasis on touch and the embodiment of the supernatural is thus not to be understood as an alternative to vision and hearing. On the contrary, charismatic-Pentecostal pastors all over the world are well known for their far-reaching use of audiovisual media as a means to bring individuals into physically felt contact with the transcendental. Some preachers establish a form of “teletactility” (Benthien 2002) by calling their listeners, viewers, or readers to create a “point of contact” by laying their hand on the radio set, the TV screen, or the book page. Or, viewers may be asked to place a bottle of oil on the television set in the belief that the oil will be infused with anointing as the pastor on the screen prays. Media preachers thus make use of the materiality of the media device; much like the materiality of the skin is used to create “contact points” during live services. The television set, radio, or audiocassette thus becomes something like a talismanic medium for effective anointing (Asamoah-Gyadu 2005: 23), following the same principle of contagious magic that is used in indigenous African healing rituals. But also without physically touching the medium, people can receive the touch of the Holy Spirit through the eye and the ear. Concerned with the coming into presence of spirit power, church media staff seek to translate the bodily mediations of spirit power and religious authority into touching audiovisual formats. With stunning imagery and dramatic voices, they seek to convince people of the truth and affective power of the Holy Spirit transmitted through the airwaves and the TV screens. Just as the physical body and voice of the “anointed man of God” mediate divine presence in a church service, so are the televised images of his body intended to transfer Holy Spirit touch to the viewer at home through the television screen. Media technologies are thus authorized as effective channels through which to connect, physically, to the realm of spiritual power. They can close the circuit that enables the power of the Holy Spirit to flow and manifest in believers’ bodies as physical sensation. “Feeling it in the body” is often taken as an indicator of the true presence of the Holy Spirit. Yet, people’s awareness of charismatic churches’ exploitation of the enchanting power of technology and its capacities to manipulate the senses also causes concern about the authenticity of experiences interpreted as divine or supernatural. In July 2007 a story started circulating in the global news media about a Ghanaian charismatic preacher who was arrested at Entebbe airport in Uganda on the accusation of trying to import from the USA an “Electric Touch machine” to lure people into believing that he could pass on the Holy Spirit.


Key Terms in Material Religion

The device, a product of the American company Yigal Mesika, gives its wearer an electric charge, which is transferable to other people or objects through the medium of touch. Illustrated by another creative variation of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam the company’s website exclaims: “Have a volunteer touch any part of your body, and watch them receive a pleasant electric static shock that will amaze them! They will believe you have supernatural powers!” The preacher in question denied the accusations of trying to fake supernatural powers, claiming the machine was a toy for his daughter. The police, however, seized the device and an investigation was started into his ministry practices. The story brings out the convincing power of touch and tactile sensations in politics of religious authentication. At the same time, the unsettling slippage between Electric Touch and the touch of God, between the device and the divine, can be read as an extreme example of broader concerns about charismatic pastors’ use of slick media formats, editing techniques, and special effects to manipulate people’s senses, and artificially create in them powerful experiences they falsely attribute to the Holy Spirit. Most troubling about the Electric Touch machine was the realization that even people’s sense of touch, generally the most trusted of the senses, could be deceived by technological manipulation.

Bibliography Asamoah-Gyadu, Kwabena. 2005. “Anointing through the Screen: Neo-Pentecostalism and Televised Christianity in Ghana.” Studies in World Christianity 11(1): 10–28. Benthien, Claudia. 2002. Skin: On the Cultural Border Between Self and World, 221–34. New York: Columbia University Press. Chidester, David. 2005. “The American Touch: Tactile Imagery in American Religion and Politics.” In The Book of Touch, edited by C. Classen, 49–65. Oxford: Berg. Sennett, Richard. 1994. Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization. New York: Norton. Tuan, Yi-Fu. 2005. “The Pleasures of Touch.” In The Book of Touch, edited by C. Classen, 74–9. Oxford: Berg. Verrips, Jojada. 2008. “Offending Art and the Sense of Touch.” Material Religion 4(2): 204–25. Zuckerkandl, Victor. 1956. Music and the External World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Stolow, Jeremy, ed. 2013. Deus in Machina: Religion, Technology and the Things in Between. New York: Fordham University Press.


Vision Robert S. Nelson

Figure 37  Mosaic of the Transfiguration of Jesus, in the apse of the monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai. Photo by the author.

The mosaic glistens in the early morning light, as its gold tesserae (cubes made of glass and gold leaf) catch the reflected rays of the bright desert light streaming through the windows of the apse wall. Represented is the Transfiguration of Jesus, in which his three disciples on a mountain witnessed him visually transformed, as he spoke with the prophets Moses and Elijah. Matthew’s Gospel describes the event as follows: And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (Mt. 17: 1-3, Revised Standard Version)

For the disciples, this was a vision in the sense of a spiritual vision of their Lord, one that would have powerful religious significance for later Christians, but at the same time, it also was a palpable physical vision for those three men, because the evangelist notes Jesus’s face shinning like the sun and his garment white like the light. This chapter is about this second meaning of vision and the ways it plays important roles in religion and its material manifestations. The ancients called vision the first of the human senses. It is a broad topic, but here the focus is on experiences of vision and light, as in the biblical account of the Transfiguration. The mosaic occupies the apse of the sixth-century church of the monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai. Erected at the place where, according to tradition, Moses had an encounter with an angel in a burning bush, the church is also located at the base of the mountain, where Moses received the tablets of the law from God and brought them down to the Israelites camped in the nearby valley. Both events are depicted on either side of the double windows above the apse mosaic (Forsyth and Weitzmann 1973: CLXXIV). Only the scene of Moses receiving the law can be seen in the view illustrated above, however. Underneath the mosaic are the canopies built much later, which stand above the altar on which the Eucharist is celebrated in this Orthodox monastery, one of the oldest continuously occupied Christian monasteries in the world. By tradition, Christian

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churches are oriented east to west, which is to say, their altars are placed in the east with the entrance to the west. This makes the light especially important at the early morning services in the monastery, as the photograph here shows. Prayer begins before dawn and continues as the sun rises and breaks into the nave of the church, first through the upper windows and later through the lower windows behind the altar. In the pre-dawn rites lit only by candles and oil lamps, the apse mosaic is dark and invisible. As dawn unfolds, the apse is gradually illumined and Jesus’s garments become suffused with light until they are resplendently white against the dark blue surrounding mandorla. They are literally “white as light,” as Matthew wrote. The reflected light of the church animates the metallic tesserae of the mosaic’s gold ground, as well as the silver cubes of the soft white rays of light that emanate from the figure of Christ. Gold cubes also appear on the hem of his robe and his nimbus, the circle that surrounds his head. These tesserae are different from those made of the non-reflective stones used for the other colors in the mosaic, the garments, faces, hair, the ground, etc., so that when one moves even slightly, the metallic cubes reflect the ambient light, suddenly sparkle, and draw the eye back to the composition. These metallic colors, then, are not secondary, but primary, to the visual effect of the whole. With the aid of the St. Gregory of Nyssa’s mystical treatise on the Life of Moses, J. Elsner has explained how the two scenes above the Transfiguration, the Moses at the Burning Bush and the Moses Receiving the Law, might have been used in religious devotion in the sixth century. Through contemplating the Light of God that appeared to Moses and manifested at the Transfiguration, the believer came to know Divine Truth and mystically ascended to higher realms. The vision of the depicted physical light was the first step in spiritual contemplation for the monk or pilgrim standing in the apse of this church in the Sinai. That concern with light and vision, however, extends beyond the iconography of the mosaics. As I have written (Nelson 2006), above the two Moses scenes and the double window, there is a small circular window on axis with the Christ of the Transfiguration below. This window cannot be seen today, due to the post-medieval flat ceiling that was added (visible in the illustration above). This window (Forsyth and Weitzmann 1973: XXXV) is crucial to the overall program. In the two narrative scenes, both figures of Moses look up to a hand of God in a quadrant of a circle and beyond toward this central window, even though Moses should only be looking up when he receives the law from God. At the Burning Bush, Moses should be properly attending to the commands coming from the bush before him. This uppermost window would have been the first to register the light of dawn in the dark church. The gradual illumination of the mosaics


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below constitutes a spiritual interpretation of that initial light, first as the light that illumined Moses at the Burning Bush and atop Mt. Sinai and later as the light of the sun that shone in the face of Jesus and so transfigured his garments that they became white as light in the scene of the Transfiguration. The physically powerful light of the desert sun and the spiritually transformative light of the biblical scenes intermingle, and as they do so, they surround and incorporate viewers in the sixth-century church. Similar visual dramas are encountered again in Baroque art of the seventeenth century, especially in the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. In the apse of the great church of St. Peter’s in the Vatican, Bernini sculpted a vast bronze tableau of angels and light rays centered round an eastern window with a diaphanous image of the dove of the Holy Spirit (Wittkover 1981). Below is Bernini’s monumental throne of St. Peter, the first bishop of Rome. Everything is framed by Bernini’s magnificent baldachin that stands over the main altar of the church. Thus when the Pope celebrates mass at that altar, worshipers can see above him the throne of the first bishop of Rome and the Holy Spirit, which adds its blessing to all below. Like many Baroque windows in this position, its dove of the Holy Spirit sacralizes the light that shines down on the liturgies. More elaborate and yet more theatrical is Bernini’s masterpiece, the Cornaro Chapel at the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome (Wittkover 1981). The chapel and its principal altarpiece of St. Theresa in ecstasy are well known. An angel appears before the recumbent saint and pierces her heart with a flaming golden arrow. It is a tribute to Bernini’s skill that he has managed to make this strange, mystical event palpably real for those present, who include, besides pious worshipers or modern tourists, members of the Cornaro family, who are represented on the side walls of the chapel. All witness the divine encounter animated by the Holy Spirit. A light source, concealed by the large pedimented frame of the composition, illumines and seemingly sets on fire the bronze rays that extend down to the angel and saint. In the vault above, a fresco of the dove of the Holy Spirit serves as the imagined source of these golden rays of light. The result is a theatrical vision complete with audience in viewing boxes. Bernini’s vision and light in these two Roman churches share points in common with the Byzantine apse in the Sinai, but only in the latter’s Transfiguration does the deity confront the audience directly and thereby break down the distance between viewed and viewer. Looking straight forward, Christ raises his right hand in a gesture of speech to communicate not only with the two prophets and the three disciples, but also with all who have come to the church. Jesus’s white garments contrast with the dark blue ground and push him forward toward the viewer and into our space, much as the light that streams in the windows. This

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then is not a drama on a stage before us—the condition of much of Baroque visual theatrics—but a different type of visual engagement, one that envelopes and interacts with religious beholders. All the above applies, that is, if the eyes of worshipers are open, the essential condition assumed by all religious imagery prior to the Reformation. Many aspects of religious vision changed as a consequence of the Protestant Reformation in the communities directly affected. With the Reformation, services changed from a predominately visual to an auditory experience due to the shift to the vernacular that could be understood by all and because of the removal of statues and paintings. Vision itself and its protocols also changed in Protestant regions, a subject that deserves more study than it has heretofore received. Although modifications in bodily attitudes and customs were not as abrupt as the destruction of religious images, over the centuries profound differences emerged between Protestants and Catholics in regard to religious vision. While Protestants did not immediately adopt the postures that are taught children today—prayer with eyes closed and heads bowed—the denigration of sight began with the Reformation and has lasted in northern European and American religious cultures to the present. That change in English religious attitudes toward vision has been well captured in a recent study by John Craig, who has shown that beginning in the sixteenth century and continuing more forcefully in the next century, English Protestants were cautioned to pray with their eyes closed.1 As George Herbert put it in his Temple of 1633, In the time of [church] service seal up both thine eies . . . Those doores being shut all by the eares comes in. (Wilcox 2007: 61)

Hearing, thus, was the primary sense for religious edification, a marked reversal from the sensory regime that had prevailed during Antiquity and the Middle Ages down to the Reformation. To help seal those eyes, as Craig noted, some English Protestants covered them while praying, which led Catholics to satirize their practice as praying into their hats. For George Fox, the seventeenth-century founder of the Society of the Friends or the Quakers, light, nonetheless, was an essential part of his theology. In his Some Principles of the Elect People of God, however, this light, the Light of Christ, was inner-, not outer-directed. As early American examples demonstrate, Quaker meeting houses were extreme examples of a Protestant architecture that restricted religious vision to straight lines and white colors. With no distracting symbols or figuration, simplicity prevailed. Seating in the main hall consisted of plain benches arranged in rows to form a square so that the congregation faced inward. The aesthetics of modernism in architecture and painting have


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helped us appreciate the power inherent in the reduction and concentration of visual means and the plain styles that characterized the religious expressions of such early American Protestants. Recently, the plan of early Quaker meeting houses has been reemployed in meeting houses in Houston, Texas (2000), and Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania (2013), that incorporate Skyspaces by the light artist James Turrell. Here light and vision take on new significances that join modern art and religion. Turrell, raised in the Quaker tradition, although not practicing for many years, has pursued an artistic career focused on the physical and psychological properties of light and space. The two recent meeting houses are modest buildings (illustrations online) with retractable roofs and cove ceilings with recessed lighting around the perimeter. Viewing is best at sunrise or sunset. My personal experience is with the Houston meeting house at sunset. Arriving in the late afternoon, everything at first seemed ordinary: a simple room; other visitors seated here and there on the pews; and the roof open to the pale blue of the late spring sky. That sky was the only thing to watch minute after minute; the tedium was interrupted only by an occasional cloud or passing airplane. But gradually the sky darkened, and what had been the background to, and remote from, the room assumed a stronger role. The opening became a defined blue shape, much like a minimalist painting. Never, however, had I seen a painting made of such a powerful blue, so alluring, so tangible that I wanted to reach out and touch it. This magnetic blue came into the space of the room, into our space. These effects cannot be captured photographically and must be experienced (the published photograph in Govan and Kim 2013: 163 is as close as one can get). The viewing in which I participated was not a religious service. If it had been, I can imagine that some might have understood this light to be within the community. As dusk gave way to night, the blue faded to black and retreated back into the sky, and the attendant closed the roof. Such is a modern Protestant vision but also a materialization of vision that here and in Turrell’s other work has captivated believers and non-believers in religion and art.

Note 1. I thank my colleague Bruce Gordon for this reference.

Bibliography Craig, John. 2013. “Bodies at Prayer in Early Modern England.” In Worship and the Parish Church in Early Modern Britain, edited by Natalie Mears and Alec Ryrie, 173–96. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

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Elsner, John. 1994. “The Viewer and the Vision: The Case of the Sinai Apse.” Art History 17: 81–102. Forsyth, George H. and Kurt Weitzmann. 1973. The Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai: The Church and Fortress of Justinian. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Fox, George. 1661. “Some Principles of the elect People of God who in scorn are called Quakers.” London [also available online]. Govan, Michael and Christine Y. Kim. 2013. James Turrell: A Retrospective. New York: DelMonico Books-Prestel. Nelson, Robert S., ed. 2000. Visuality Before and Beyond the Renaissance: Seeing as Others Saw. New York: Cambridge. Nelson, Robert S. 2006. “Where God Walked and Monks Pray.” In Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai, edited by Robert S. Nelson and Kristen M. Collins, 1–37. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum. Wilcox, Helen, ed. 2007. The English Poems of George Herbert. New York: Cambridge. Wittkower, Rudolf. 1981. Gian Lorenzo Bernini: The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque. Oxford: Phaidon.



Words S. Brent Plate

Figure 38  Poster for Helvetica typeface.

Gary Hustwit’s 2007 documentary film, Helvetica, tells a story of the eponymous, ubiquitous, oft-loathed typeface. The film makes the point that Helvetica is the most modern of typefaces and is now so predominantly visible that it has become invisible. Its minimalist, sans-serif lines mark it as at once neutral and thus, in good modernist belief, universal. Its omnipresence filters its way into street signage, album covers, adverts, t-shirts, and company logos. Its influence on the modern age has been so pervasive that the Museum of Modern Art in New York made it their first typeface acquisition in the history of the museum in 2007. Helvetica’s imperceptibility still stirs the souls of those who do perceive such things (Figure 38). Within Hustwit’s film, graphic designer and founder of Eye magazine Rick Poynor is interviewed about the impact of typefaces on their perceivers. Poynor states, “Type is saying things to us all the time. Typefaces express a mood, an atmosphere. They give words a certain coloring.” Over the years, major corporations like The Gap, Sears, Chevrolet, and Crate & Barrel have used slight variations on Helvetica to sell their product, as well as a certain lifestyle brand. Poynor suggests that even though we are not thinking about type when we look at company logos and store signage, the printed words nonetheless “make us feel good,” they make us believe “that’s our kind of product. But,” he concludes, “that’s the type, casting its secret spell.” Modern type’s secret is its imperceptibility, and once it goes into hiding it can work magic and cast a spell (Hustwit 2007). Regardless of their semantic meaning, words, and, by extension, sacred texts, exist in and through their material, mediated forms. Words are primarily seen and heard. They are printed, written, chiseled, carved, painted, as well as sung, spoken, digitally recorded, dramatized, and echoed. Try as perfumists and chefs might, words can be neither smelled nor tasted, but they can be touched in Braille or gravestones. Such multisensuality is as true for the logos of consumer advertising as it is for the Logos of Christianity. The “Word,” according to the New Testament Johannine literature concerning Jesus Christ, is “seen,” “heard,” “touched with our hands” (I Jn 1.1).

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Among the tenets of modernism, of which Helvetica is a product, the image and the word were often pitted against each other, or at least as two parallel but separate means to truth. Whether or not artists, critics, graphic designers, theorists, literary figures, theologians, and others view words and images in opposition or in some tandem, there is a tendency to fall back on the refrain that words and images exist in separate realms. The word-image dichotomy often appears as a corollary to mind-body dualism, in which the invisible, interior term is praised, just as the material, external form is diminished. Words, in such a view, are silent, individual, immediate, of the spirit; images are exterior, opaque, available to a collective, carnal. We can see the spiritual interiority of words most prominently in Christian fundamentalism: fundamentalism is a movement only possible in modernity, standing in opposition to modern beliefs in secularism and rationalism. At the same time, fundamentalism is impossible without the advances that new technologies of print, paper, and binding have provided: the Word of God in a personalized, portable format readily accessible to the masses. Here is type, casting its secret spell. The medium of print seemingly vanishes, leaving the perceiver in direct, immediate communication with God. Modern Bible printing and Helvetica thus share a similar function: to visibly make their printed words disappear. The secret spell is the highly developed visible printing process that makes itself seem invisible, leaving one in direct communication with truth. Breaking the spell entails the realization that, in writing and print, words are visual images that are looked at. This seems obvious when stated, but how many readers have noted the typeface in which these very words are printed? The most successful and influential typefaces designed in the modern age have grown out of rationalizing processes based on proper proportionality between individual characters, vertical and horizontal dimensions, and contrasts between thick and thin strokes, including the hairline serifs that quickly move the eye horizontally across the page. The aim was, and continues to be, the speeding up of the mechanically visual aspects of reading so that the reader no longer feels her/his self to be reading words. The materiality of the words seems to disappear but it is only through their material form that the secret spell occurs. In other times and places, it has been the very visibility of words and their characters that has worked the magic, for instance in mythical depictions of runes, and of alchemical and Kabbalistic writings. In each of these, the individual characters of words become prominent, words being molecular forms of atomistic characters, whether in Western alphabets or Chinese writing. Scripted language has long facilitated visual experiences by allowing viewers to engage the physical reality of the characters. This is quite unlike modernism’s attempted


Key Terms in Material Religion

erasing of its signifiers. As Johanna Drucker notes of the creating of the great Chi-Ro page from the Book of Kells: “Such practices bespeak a faith in visuality which escapes the need for textual reference: the image of the letter functions in its own right to communicate effectively” (Drucker 1995: 108). In such cases, religious responses are produced through the opacity of the visual words and their characters. The emphasis on the visually opaque word is perhaps most apparent in calligraphic traditions, particularly in China, Japan, and across the Islamic world. Calligraphy triggers visceral emotional responses before and beyond the intellectual capturing of verbal signification. Discussing the “Intermediary of Writing,” art historian Oleg Grabar quotes from a classic source to show the power of Chinese calligraphy: “A well-written character . . . to the perceiving mind it is a dynamic experience” (quoted in Grabar 1992: 58). Such crucial experiences between imaged characters and perceiving mind-bodies likewise form the glue of religious encounters with words of God. Islam, with its mostly aniconic bias, developed a strong tradition of calligraphy in which the material written word is a means of access to the direct revelation itself. While the term Qur’an literally means “recitation,” and is thus primarily oral, it is also “taught by the pen,” according to the Surat al-Qalam (“The Pen”; Qur’an 68:1). Islamic calligraphers through history have sought to embody the very words of Allah in graphically appropriate form, which includes, variously, their inscription in gold ink, the use of lapis lazuli as the source for blue framing surrounding the Qur’anic verses, the accompaniment of arabesques and geometric patterns, and the continued use of parchment long after paper was accessible to the Islamic world through its connections with paper’s origination in China. Each of these aspects pays homage to the value of the word itself, in visible form. Ultimately, the Word of God in Islam transcends the bounds of the book, appearing on jewelry, pottery, epigraphy, wall hangings, mosaics, textiles, and coins, among other media. The words of the Qur’an have even been believed to “sanctify, politicize, beautify, or bestow talismanic properties on objects and buildings” (Suleman 2007: 16). Among the non-Muslim Nafana in Ghana, for example, a kind of soup is made from a tonic that washes slates with Qur’anic verses on it. The liquid is captured and used, sometimes drunk, as a holy water for protection. Visually speaking, words are seen more often than is realized, and it is in the seeing of words, whether printed or written, in a carefully designed layout, that religious experiences can occur. In the preface to A Short History of the Printed Word, typographer Warren Chappel opines, “Experience has convinced me that calligraphy and printing have satisfied some of the deepest human

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needs, intellectually and aesthetically. A page of printed type is one of the most abstract pieces of communication I can imagine. Symbols of the most ancient origin can be put together in ways that stimulate the eye, through pattern, and the mind, through thought” (Chappell and Bringhurst 1999: xii). Whether talismanic or technological, visible or seemingly invisible, words have existed through religious cultures as objects that are experienced before and beyond their semantic meanings. While moderns may comprehend words through primarily visual means, particularly as they are printed on paper, most of the histories of world cultures comprehend words in terms of oral utterances, recitations, or parts of a performance or drama. Mythically, God “speaks” the world into existence, just as God speaks to Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, offering verbal revelations through oral means. And revelatory words are ongoing: contemporary communities of Hindus in India may spend a full week’s evenings experiencing the dramas of the Ramlila, a dramatized version of the ancient Ramayana; Anglican Christians in England may engage the “Word of God” as it is spoken during Sunday services; and Korean Buddhists may listen to the Heart Sutra recited on their wristwatch. Meanwhile, a chanted mantra or mystical prayer may be repeated so often that the words become nothing more than sounds, just as the meaning stretches beyond the comprehension of the reciter. Sacred words are often heard, and often it is merely the sound of them that provides protection, assurance, and/or conviction. Turning again to Islam, we find that Qur’anic calligraphy not only provides words to be seen as a visual encounter, but Qur’ans are also often written in a way that the words of Allah can be faithfully recited. Part of the evolution of the Qur’anic calligraphic tradition has been to provide diacritical marks and ways of writing characters that allow many and various Arabic readers to look at the Qur’an and begin to orally recite. Calligraphy, in these examples, reads more like a musical score than a modern written text aiming to silence the reader. Indeed, one metaphor for calligraphy is that it is “music for the eyes.” Of course, even with the sharps and flats, half-notes and pauses of musical scores, there is always room for interpretive improvisations on the given score, and the reciters of Qur’anic texts have historically given their own inspired take on the words. Finally, it would be remiss not to mention the tremendous impact of words sung and chanted in religious traditions around the world. From Christianity’s plainchant to Contemporary Christian Music, Sufism’s Qawwali, and even Bollywood’s devotional musical scenes, each, like typeface, sets a mood for words, giving them color, clothing. In their heard form, the meaning of words is altered, becoming devotional, a force of power, a protection device.


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Words, understood as visual, aural, and even tangible, are not just texts to be interpreted. As James Watts has noted, scriptures “are material objects that convey religious significance by their production, display, and ritual manipulation” (Watts 2013: 10). When spoken or written in particular settings by particular persons, and seen, heard, or drunk, words become sacred, regardless of the semantic meaning people make of them. Words are bodies, full of power. To conclude, I return to Helvetica. The argument the film makes becomes most intriguing when in conversation with columnist and advertising critic, Leslie Savan. Impassioned, she declares, “Helvetica has the perfect balance of push and pull. . . . Helvetica is saying to us, ‘Don’t worry. Any of the problems you are having, or problems in the world . . . all those problems aren’t going to spill over. They’ll all be contained, and, in fact, maybe they don’t even exist.’” Is Savan talking theology or typography here? Do fonts speak what the gods wish? The answer may be a bit of both.

Bibliography Chappell, Warren and Robert Bringhurst. 1999. A Short History of the Printed Word. 2nd edn. Point Roberts, WA: Hartley and Marks Publishers. Drucker, Johanna. 1995. The Alphabetic Labyrinth: The Letters in History and Imagination. London: Thames and Hudson. Grabar, Oleg. 1992. Mediation of Ornament. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Hustwit, Gary, dir. 2007. Helvetica. 80min. Veer Production. Suleman, Fahmida. 2007. “Introduction.” In Word of God, Art of Man: The Qur’an and its Creative Expressions, edited by Fahmida Suleman, 1–26. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Watts, James W., ed. 2013. Iconic Books and Texts. London: Equinox Press.


absence/absent  42, 81, 148, 150, 190, 195, 197, 204, 205, 206, 209, 211, 224 addiction  189, 246, 249 adhan (call to prayer)  5, 218–20 aesthetics  10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 75, 81, 181, 219, 241, 271 Africa  119, 121–2, 132–7, 141, 143, 159, 158, 262 Central Africa  132–3 South Africa  1, 183 West Africa  88–9, 262–5 African American  180–4 architecture  42, 120, 226, 271 aroma, see “scent” art  3, 7, 10–12, 50–4, 57, 65, 67, 83, 96, 118, 119, 158, 170, 205, 206, 226, 233, 234, 236, 240, 243, 247, 256, 258, 270, 272 Aum Shinrikyo ¯  14 authority, authorization  4, 6, 12–13, 20–1, 28, 52–3, 81–3, 105, 107, 120, 124–5, 140–3, 150, 158, 178, 184, 218, 235, 240, 258, 264–5 beads  29, 56–60, 133, 162 beauty  10, 11, 12, 14–15, 50, 75, 83 belief  3, 4, 7, 19–22, 26, 37, 46, 72, 88, 91–3, 96, 105, 119, 121, 140–2, 158, 163, 165–6, 168, 199, 232, 265, 276–7 Bible  5, 140, 191, 255, 277 blood  36, 56, 58, 90, 146, 239, 242, 257 body  3–7, 13–14, 21–2, 25–30, 34–5, 56, 60, 64, 73, 104–5, 107–8, 134, 140, 146, 148–50, 157, 163–4, 180, 197–8, 203, 211, 216, 227–9, 233, 239, 249, 257, 263–6, 277 books  34, 51–3, 60–1, 99, 141, 176, 191 bread  57, 96, 100, 146–7, 149–50

Buddha  26–30, 141, 203 Buddhism/Buddhist  5, 10–14, 27–30, 36–7, 52, 146, 203, 279 Byzantine  204, 270 calligraphy  85, 278–9 Candomblé 91–2 Carisbrooke Castle Museum  50, 52–4 Carrière, Eva  104–5, 107–8 chant, chanting  3, 30, 66, 196–7, 279 China  26, 29, 182, 191, 202–3, 209, 211, 235–6, 246, 278 Christianity/Christian  5, 12, 19, 43–5, 52, 68, 96, 112–16, 141, 143, 149, 165, 181, 183, 198, 217–18, 232–4, 236, 257–8, 263–4, 268, 276–7, 279 Catholic (including Roman)  14, 18–20, 22, 45, 52, 56–8, 64, 89, 97, 115, 170, 171, 175, 182, 217–18, 224, 227, 233, 262, 271 (Eastern) Orthodox  52, 112–14, 189, 268 Pentecostal  143, 165–6, 189, 232, 262–3, 265 Protestant  18–21, 26, 119–20, 141–2, 162, 165–6, 182, 218, 233–4, 255, 271–2 church  5–7, 22, 43, 45–7, 52–3, 57–8, 64–5, 67, 89, 114, 125, 141, 143, 158–9, 168–9, 171, 175, 177, 189, 191, 217–19, 227–8, 233, 249, 257–8, 263, 265, 268–71 church bells  5, 216–20 city  2, 22, 42–3, 45–6, 124–6, 128, 170, 175–6, 194, 217, 219–20, 225, see also “urban” clothes (including “fashion,” “dress”)  2–3, 5, 28–9, 72–6, 163, 174, 279 colonial, colonialism  19, 51, 107, 122, 164, 234–5, 258

282 Index

community, communal  2, 4, 6, 13, 42–7, 82, 97, 99–100, 124, 126, 128, 133–6, 147–8, 168–72, 176, 180, 188, 190, 217–18, 220, 225, 242, 250, 271–72, 279 computer  58–60, 191, 246–7, 263 consciousness  20–1, 28, 51, 66, 128, 196, 255 cookbooks  6, 97–9 curator  6, 52, 64, 99 dance  2–3, 67, 133–4, 136, 154–5, 242 diversity  42–4, 126 doll  114, 163–5, 174, 177 dress, see “clothes” Durkheim, Emilé  30, 80–1, 180, 184, 188 embodiment  4, 21, 26–7, 54, 107–8, 115, 150, 175, 243, 265 emotion  14, 37, 80–5, 155–9, 240–1, 278 England  50–3, 279 London  43–5, 64–7, 107, 257–8 ethnicity  6, 43, 44, 46, 73, 76, 98, 126, 168–71, 175, 177, 227 exchange  19, 65, 116, 165, 180–3, 196, 238, 256 fashion, see “clothes” feel, see “touch” fetish  87–92, 113, 119–21, 141, 143, 165, 208, 255 film  26, 29, 58, 60, 61, 85, 108, 121, 180–4, 190, 211, 225, 250, 276, 280 food  3, 5–6, 29, 96–7, 100, 146–7, 150, 170, 181, 238–42, 248–9 foodways  96, 100 Geertz, Clifford  20, 80–1, 188 gender  6–7, 42–3, 97, 105–8, 132, 168, 172, 181 hair  74, 180–4, 269 headscarf 72–6 hearing  2–3, 5–6, 10, 56, 83, 90, 165, 182, 190, 194, 196–8, 203, 217–20, 247, 264–5, 271, 276, 279–80 Helvetica (typeface)  276–7, 280 Hinduism  66–8, 107, 115, 140, 143, 181–3, 209–11, 232, 234–5, 238, 241, 279

icon, iconic  3, 5, 12, 57, 60, 89–90, 112–15, 140, 168–9, 172, 174, 190, 204–5, 227, 242–3, 251, 262, 278 iconoclasm  68, 90, 113, 204, 257 iconography  112, 135, 168, 171–2, 250, 269 identity  6–7, 12, 42, 45–6, 93, 96, 101, 124, 126–9, 140, 141, 148–50, 158, 168–72, 175, 190–1, 227, 233, 242, 243, 254, 256 idol  88, 90, 92, 112–13, 115, 143, 182, 235, 255–8 image  2, 4, 6, 12, 18–20, 25–9, 35–6, 57, 59, 64, 66–7, 72, 75–6, 80, 82, 90, 96, 104, 108, 112–16, 122, 141–3, 155, 158, 168–72, 190–1, 194, 202–4, 209–11, 216, 224–9, 250, 257, 263–6, 270–1, 277–8 immigration, immigrants  18, 44, 97, 98, 124, 170, 219–20, 226 incense  6, 12–13, 211 India  2, 19, 66, 119, 124–5, 127, 181–2, 184, 189, 208–9, 211–12, 232, 234–6, 241, 262, 279 Ganges River  2–3 Mumbai 124–8 Yamuna River  2, 19–20, 22 indigenous  141, 169, 177, 257, 262, 265 ISKCON 66 Islam, Islamic  43–5, 67, 72, 74–6, 85, 97, 99, 140, 191, 211, 218, 220, 278–9 Japan  9–15, 54, 226, 235–6, 278 Kyoto  9, 12 Jesus Christ  14, 18, 53, 56, 60, 64–5, 90, 96, 114–16, 142, 149, 204, 225, 229, 258, 268–71, 276, 279 Judaism  43–5, 97–100, 146–50, 174, 182, 209, 242, 249–50, 278 kinetic  154–6, 224, 226–7 Kumbh Mela  2 light  30, 67–8, 104, 149, 191, 198, 228, 268–72 Luther, Martin  113, 182 magic  118–22, 133, 178, 180, 184, 232, 262, 265, 276–7

Index 283

mask, masquerade  64, 90, 118, 132–6, 190–1, 197 matzah  5, 146–50 media  56–61, 67, 105, 108, 140–4, 158, 163, 166, 189–92, 220, 246–50, 265–6, 278 mediation  105, 108, 119, 140–3, 154, 180, 190, 195–6, 202, 204–5, 217, 220, 262, 265, 276 meditation  6, 12, 26, 36–7, 198, 205, 250 memorial  147–50, 159 memory  5–6, 11, 19, 21, 22, 75, 80, 81, 82, 85, 98, 145–50, 164, 166, 175, 191, 205, 210, 226 Mexico  169, 174–5, 226–8 mind  3, 6, 10, 13, 20–2, 28, 30, 33–8, 52, 54, 56, 60, 119–20, 165, 191, 233, 238, 239, 249, 277, 278, 279 Mind and Life Institute  35–7 miracle, miraculous  19, 22, 114, 132, 147, 165–6, 176, 196, 203, 218, 226–7, 263 missionaries  19–21, 143, 255–8 modern  5, 10, 19–21, 43, 45, 51–2, 73, 76, 88, 106, 118–21, 140, 142–3, 162, 191, 198, 202, 205, 210–11, 218–19, 232–4, 236, 248, 256, 270–2, 276–7, 279 modernity  20, 75, 118, 120–1, 124, 154–5, 157, 163, 183, 233–4, 256, 277 mosque  5, 44–5, 47, 125–6, 220 Muhammad, Elijah  99 Muhammad (The Prophet)  5, 84, 279 museum  6, 50–4, 64–5, 133, 150, 234, 258, 276 music  2–3, 4, 5, 30, 67, 83, 108, 134, 159, 181, 216–17, 242, 247–8, 264, 279–80 Muslim  5, 21, 44, 72–6, 80, 82–5, 146, 218–19, 235, 278 myth, mythology  5, 146, 148, 176, 188, 277, 279 National Gallery, London  64–7 nationality  46, 67, 76 neuroscience  35–8, 195

object  3–7, 12, 26–7, 34–6, 50–3, 58, 64–5, 80, 83, 85, 88–90, 113, 115, 118–19, 122, 133, 140–1, 148, 156–8, 162–3, 165–6, 168–9, 174, 177, 181–2, 188, 192, 194, 197, 199, 205, 208, 216–17, 220, 228, 238–40, 247, 254–358, 262, 266, 278–0, see also “thing” paper  53, 107, 191–2, 277–9 Passover  6, 97–8, 100, 146–50 peace  30, 157, 178, 234 Peirce, C.S.  112 perception  4, 10–14, 27, 30, 54, 81, 135, 188, 185, 198, 227, 236, 238–9, 262 performance  3–4, 6–7, 10–11, 13, 21, 27, 29, 36, 56, 67, 68, 73, 81–3, 96, 107–8, 121, 131–6, 162, 165, 178, 188–9, 203–5, 211, 217, 226, 228, 240, 242–3, 279 perfume  208–12, 242 photography, photographs  18, 29, 52, 104, 107, 108, 119, 121, 126, 143, 176, 202, 210–11, 216, 269, 272 spirit photography  104–5, 107–8, 118–22 pilgrimage  2, 5–6, 19, 22, 182, 184, 209–11, 224, 226, 269 prayer  5–6, 18, 29, 36, 52–3, 56–60, 80, 82–3, 85, 127, 148, 162–6, 181, 191, 204, 217–18, 220, 228–9, 263, 269, 271, 279 print  56, 60–1, 97, 143, 165, 175, 191–2, 276–80 protest  132, 158–9, 170, 227 Qur’an  5, 80–5, 278–9 race  7, 42, 107, 119, 132, 168–72, 175, 181 rasa 238–42 recitation, reciting  3, 5–6, 13, 57, 60, 80–4, 164, 278–9 relic  19, 26, 28–30, 52–4, 64, 99, 115, 146 ritual  2–4, 6, 10, 12–13, 19–21, 27–9, 56, 66, 68, 80–1, 96, 105, 113–16, 120, 132–5, 146, 148, 150, 174–8, 180–4, 188, 191, 196–7, 203, 209, 226–8, 238, 241–2, 249–50, 255, 262, 264–5, 280

284 Index

Rock, Chris  180–2, 184 rosary  18, 56–60, 162 sacrifice  147–9, 181–4, 204, 238, 242 St Catherine’s Monastery  268–9 scent  13, 203, 208–12, see also “smell” screen  2, 57, 60, 65, 143, 188–92, 247, 250, 265 secular, secularism, secularity  2, 7, 43, 52–3, 65, 67–8, 73–5, 119, 155, 157–9, 184, 189, 225–6, 233, 277 seeing, see “vision” sensational form  12–13, 141, 143, 196 senses, sense perception  4–7, 10–11, 13–14, 35, 56, 76, 121, 166, 195–6, 198–9, 238–9, 242–3, 250, 262–6, 268 sensorium  5, 60, 195, 238 sexuality  6, 22, 75, 106–8, 134, 180, 183, 208, 239–41 smell  6, 10, 12, 56, 188, 194, 198, 203, 208–12, 276, see also “scent” space, spatial  3–6, 13, 26, 42, 58, 60, 65, 67, 72, 80, 82, 106, 124–9, 140, 155–9, 169–71, 191, 204–5, 210, 217–18, 220, 224–9, 236, 257, 270, 272 spirit  21, 34, 104–8, 118–19, 121, 132–3, 140–1, 143, 171, 189, 196–7, 217, 232–3, 236, 238, 243, 257–8, 262–6, 270, 277 spiritual, spirituality  6–7, 45, 52, 57–8, 68, 97, 99, 105, 107–8, 113, 118, 136, 140, 147, 159, 171, 175, 190, 198–9, 203, 232–6, 251, 262, 264–5, 268–70, 277 Spiritualism  104–8, 118, 121 Suzuki, D.T.  10–11, 14 synaesthesia  134, 198–9 synagogue  5, 97, 126 Tagore, Rabindranath  234–6 taste  5–6, 146, 188, 208, 210, 238–43, 276 tattoo  3, 227 technology, technological  5, 35–8, 58–61, 104–5, 119, 133, 140, 143–4, 162–4, 166, 189, 191–2, 219–20, 246–51, 265–6, 277, 279

televangelism  141, 191 television  2, 5, 19, 29, 61, 141, 143, 189, 246, 248, 250, 265 temple  2, 10, 12–13, 26, 28, 53, 66, 125–6, 128, 147–50, 181–2, 184, 209–11, 242, 257, 271 texts  3, 14, 19, 26–8, 97, 99, 150, 205, 209, 211–12, 216, 276, 279–80 thing  4, 10, 19, 21–2, 26, 30, 35, 50–4, 57, 59, 64, 99–100, 104, 112, 120, 122, 133, 148, 162, 165, 174, 176, 178, 189, 191, 212, 226, 238, 254–8, see also “object” touch (including “feel”)  3, 5, 10, 12, 14, 21, 35, 45, 56–7, 59, 113, 133, 143, 158, 180, 188–9, 203, 210, 216, 228, 248, 254, 262–6, 272–7 tradition  3–7, 10, 12, 14, 19, 34, 37–8, 43–6, 52, 56, 58–9, 66, 72, 83–4, 96–100, 104–5, 107–8, 112–16, 119–20, 125–6, 140–1, 143, 147–8, 150, 163, 165–6, 183, 188, 198, 210, 217–18, 232–6, 238, 262, 272, 278–9 transcendent, transcendental  12–14, 105, 136, 141–3, 180–1, 195–9, 233–4, 265 Tylor, Edward  118–20, 232 United States of America  5, 18, 21, 50, 80–2, 97–8, 100, 142, 168–70, 180–4, 194, 211, 218, 226–7, 232–4, 246–8, 266, 271–2 urban  6, 18, 42–3, 76, 124–9, 168, 170, 202, 219, 240, see also “city” Veda, Vedic  238–9, 241–2 Virgin Mary  18, 88–90, 114, 175, 204, 225 La Conquistadora (Our Lady of the Conquest) 174–8 Virgin of Guadalupe  168–71, 225–7, 229 vision  4–5, 30, 56, 65, 99, 129, 135, 181, 190, 198, 229, 262, 265, 268–72, 278 water  2, 5–6, 19, 22, 29, 120, 166, 176, 239, 278 Westboro Baptist Church  158–9 World Cup  2