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Material Culture and the Construction of Subjects

Marie-Pierre Julien and Céline Rosselin explore the issues at stake in the close physical relationship that people have with objects, proposing that this seemingly quotidian and frequently non-verbal process is a means of constructing human beings as subjects. What is at stake in material culture is not only the production of physical environments by actors but the effects of these environments in shaping people as specific kinds of social entities.

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Sensing Eid al Kabir’s Tactile, Viscous Stickiness: Affect, Embodiment and Material Religion

Rebecca Moody reads Eid al Kabir in Fes, Morocco, through the lens of affect theory. The sights, sounds and smells of Eid yield the circulation of “sticky” affect that, as it touches each participant and observer, in turn renders them sticky and therein “(re)surfaces” their material bodies. Moody argues that affect theory offers a unique approach to the study of material religion, specifically Islam, by combining the materiality of the human body with the “textures” of affect that circulate around Islam in its different, quotidian expressions.

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Clothed with Strength: Meaningful Material Practices in the Sport of CrossFit

Alexander D. Ornella explores the sport of CrossFit as meaningful material practice via the use and display of t-shirts. He provides us with a unique case study and encourages us to look at the domain of sport with new eyes, one where materials, artefacts and practices are simultaneously part of the mundane world but also transcend the ordinary and manifest transformative values.

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Visiting Laurel Kendall at the American Museum of Natural History

Laurel Kendall speaks about the challenges and rewards of her role as curator of the Asian collection at the American Museum of Natural History, and Faculty at Columbia University. John and Urmila visited her in her office at the AMNH and were offered a tour of the collections, some aspects of which are highlighted in the interview. In this interview, Laurel conveys the excitement of working in a unique space between the material expressions of cultural heritage and their value for diverse peoples. (Published 3 June 2015.)

“Agents of a Fuller Revelation” Photographs and Religion in Nineteenth-Century America

Rachel McBride Lindsey discusses the significance of photography in the study of religion and, particularly, how photographs were “made sense of” as an emerging technology in the nineteenth century. In reviewing the meaning of photos in American religion, she suggests that these images are not mere “things” but enable an entirely new way of engaging religious practices and doctrines.