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.
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.
In this theoretically rich piece, Jean-Pierre Warnier discusses the entanglement of ‘things’ and their representations.In most religious traditions, this topic plays an important historical role in determining how devotees respond to imagery and materiality, especially as these media convey or embody their most important religious concepts.Cycles of iconophilia and iconoclasm relating to this issue form a central thread in the Abrahamic faiths, for instance.Warnier insists that scholars of religion need to be more circumspect regarding the ‘cognitive gap’ that exists between the praxeological ‘things’ of a religious tradition and the representations of those things.