Saturday, May 4th 2013: one-day workshop in the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge

Religious discourse is situated within a material environment. Objects, substances and materials play a fundamental role in the mediation of religious knowledge by informing and acting upon people’s experience of reality. Yet, up until recently this mediative role of material culture has received little attention in religious studies. Instead, religion has been approached as a set of creedal assertions and doctrines, as a phenomenon situated in people‘s heads. Material culture has taken a backseat in the study of religion.

Hence, the aim of this one-day workshop is to shift the spotlight to the materiality of religious discourse. We will examine how material culture both informs and structures religious ontologies in different historical and socio-cultural contexts. This demands that we investigate the mediative role of material culture on multiple levels, including its design, sensory/cognitive effects and involvement in ritual practice.

The workshop welcomes submissions to the following topics:

• the relationship between religious material culture, emotion and cognition

• the materiality and role of religious art, iconography and aesthetics • the role of material culture in ritual practice

• religious material culture and the body

• object biographies and temporalities