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Marginal Maps

Samuel Tongue merges book history, marginalia studies, reader usage, cartography, and cultural geography to theorize the inclusion of maps as an example of biblical marginalia in 16th-century printed Bibles. By examining a specific example of a user adding their own marginal map, Tongue focuses on religious, historical and economic forces that undergird their authority, arguing that, for a certain user, these maps produce an imagined ‘Palestine,’ framing the land as stage for a divine history, while also underwriting the ‘truth’ of the biblical texts in a type of cartographical Protestant geopiety.

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Hula Hoop Spiritualities: Social Media, Embodied Experience, and Communities of Practice

Jenna Gray-Hildenbrand and Martha Smith Roberts investigate how the hula hoop has become both an empowering tool for embodied practical spirituality rooted in metaphysical religiosity and a basis for a thriving community connected not by a shared dogma but by a common practice. They argue that the growth of the hooping subculture lies in its ability to nurture the diverse spiritual experiences of individual hoopers and to build an inclusive hooping community (composed of both spiritually and recreationally motivated hoopers).

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Replicating the Holy Land in the U.S. (a ‘Materializing the Bible’ Road Trip)

James S. Bielo analyzes a practice of religious replication: re-creations of Holy Land sites in the United States. Such replications invite visitors into an experience of sensorial and imaginative immersion, marshaling indexical techniques for materializing the Bible. Replicating the Holy Land is a strategy for actualizing the virtual problem of authenticity, a problem that animates any and every lived expression of Christianity. To explore this phenomenon, we indulge another national tradition: the great American road trip. This essay emerges from a larger project, Materializing the Bible, curated by Bielo.

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Enacting “Electronic Qur’ans”: Tradition Without a Precedent

Natalia Suit describes instances in Egypt in which the Qur’ān is enacted through the daily routines of worship and piety known as the etiquette of the muṣḥaf. These practices, she argues, are inseparably entangled with technology. A book made of paper is not the same as the Qur’ānic text on the screen of a phone. A text visible on the page does not necessarily appear in the same way as its digitized version under a plastic cover. When the medium of the message changes, the etiquette of the muṣḥaf changes as well, and practices are redefined to accommodate this new and unprecedented materiality of the text.

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New Images for New Publics: Oral-Visual Narratives of the Telangana

Chandan Bose analyses an oral-visual tradition of South India to argue that the efficacy of such storytelling is located not just in linguistic practice but in a performative ‘doing’. That it is through acts of performance and participation that storytellers, audience and practice forge relationships with each other, invent new traditions, and confront the tensions of contemporary conditions of production and reception.

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The Church-Museum: Context and (Dis)connection in Public Religion

Alexandra Antohin explores the museum-ification of churches in Ethiopia, Russia and the U.S. and how exhibitions and tours of religious significance establish active reference points for new forms of public engagement. Antohin draws upon her experience of these sites as well as contextualization theory to explore how religious media are included in the interpretative space of ‘church-museums’. She suggests that in Ethiopia, where tourism is still a new industry, multiple subjectivities and modes of interpretation may emerge through the display and reception of religious media in a public context.

Between Temples and Toilets: Sanitation Worship in India

Jacqueline Cieslak artfully describes the complicated relationships between sanitation, reverence, and political contrivance in contemporary India. Cieslak focuses on the phenomenon of ‘The Toilet’ and its objectification as artefact and cultural institution. She argues that officials have not simply recruited religious imagery but that sanitation itself has become an object of worship.

Transformative Rituals

Dimitris Xygalatas suggests here, in the final section of his book, The Burning Saints, that rituals can be deeply transformative. In this case, a person suffering from a mood disorder is cured by virtue of her participation in a traditional fire-walking ritual in the town of Agia Eleni in Northern Greece. Agia Eleni is one of five villages that celebrate the tradition of the Anastenaria, a group of Orthodox Christians who practice a fire-walking ritual. These rituals are performed at a konaki, a place where icons and other religious objects are stored and venerated. This passage is evocative of an important excerpt from Durkheim’s classic, The Elementary Forms of Religious Ideas, where he wrote: “the real function of religion is not to make us think, to enrich our knowledge…but rather, it is to make us act, to aid us to live. The believer who has communicated with his god is not merely a man who sees new truths of which the unbeliever is ignorant; he is a man who is stronger. He feels within him more force, either to endure the trials of existence, or to conquer them.”