Search and Hit Enter

Feeling Apollo: The Sensual Paradigms of Landscape at the Sanctuary of Apollo at Klaros

Jaimie Gunderson assesses the interplay between body and visual representations at the Sanctuary of Apollo at Klaros. In conversation with aesthetic theory and classical studies, Gunderson suggests that visitors to the Klarian landscape were implicated in two competing sensual paradigms, which enabled them not only to see, but to feel, Apollo.

Continue Reading

A Bourdieusian Take on the Imperial Patronage of Cloisonné in Qing China

Julie Bellemare relates the imperial patronage of cloisonné objects for religious and secular purposes in eighteenth-century China to an increased taste for colorful and dazzling surfaces. She uses the ideas of Pierre Bourdieu and Alfred Gell to unpack the significance of this technical enchantment, and to clarify and complicate questions of taste, class, and ethnic identity in the Chinese production and consumption of cloisonné. Bellemare argues that the non-Chinese origins of the medium made it adaptable to the evolving needs of display and an ideal canvas for imperial decoration.

Continue Reading

Uncanny Images and the Literalism of Modernity

Ali Qadir and Tatiana Tiaynen-Qadir offer an initial description of the widespread presence of uncanny images in religious practice in South Asian Islam and Russian Orthodox Christianity. Drawing on their multi-sited fieldwork, the authors map the presence of two religious images in each tradition that are familiar yet eerie, and that signal a rupture from the ‘normal’ order of things. Their analysis proposes that uncanny images make a phenomenological demand of the viewer that inherently challenges literalist or allegorical readings. While literalist readings increasingly attempt to tie down singular meanings of such images (or ban them altogether as in many Islamic cases), in practice many faithful viewers assign differing meanings to them as part of their locale, era, and life condition. The persistent use of such inexplicable images in vernacular religious practice opens the path for further empirical mapping and theoretical analysis into our collective religious unconscious.

Continue Reading

On Blood and Words: How Certain Objects Become Subjects Among the Mande (West Africa)

Agnès Kedzierska Manzon explores how Mande ritual specialists in West Africa, who own and manipulate power-objects called basiw, turn these objects into “gods forever in the process of construction” thanks to blood sacrifices and speech. While doing so, they construct at once these object’s agency and their own identities as accomplished, powerful and respected individuals.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Non-ordinary Powers: Charisma, Special Affordances and the Study of Religion

Ann Taves presents a rich theoretical work on religious objects. Reviewing Max Weber’s ideas about charisma, J.J. Gibson’s ecological psychology, and a range of other theorists too numerous to mention, Taves produces a novel account, deeply informed by cognitive science, regarding the fascinating roles objects have played in religious traditions.
Continue Reading