Material Religion

Journal Information
ISSN / EISSN : 1743-2200 / 1751-8342
Published by: Informa UK Limited (10.1080)
Total articles ≅ 986
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Latest articles in this journal

Published: 1 September 2021
Based on ethnographic research in Southeastern Bénin, this article considers how the Yorùbá òrìs.à (divinity) Orò bolsters religious pluralism by manifesting only as sound. Synthesizing theory from sound studies and religious studies, the article shows how Orò and his followers demand religious tolerance from those who would reject the spirit, such as Christians who oppose African Indigenous religions. Key to this process is how Orò interacts with the material world, as a voice that blankets towns during his yearly festival. The sound ignores material barriers, such as the walls of houses, to bring blessings to all who hear it. Yet to safeguard Orò’s ability to bestow such boons, his followers threaten violence against anyone who would publicly betray the secrecy surrounding how Orò’s voice manifests. Thus, non-initiated men must be confined indoors and keep Orò’s secrets or face potentially horrible consequences. Meanwhile, Orò’s followers force these detractors to encounter the divinity anyway. Thus in crossing material barriers, Orò ensures that all who hear him participate in his festival while reinforcing social boundaries based upon how they do so—as a sacred and beneficent sound, or an affront that nevertheless demands their silence. Supplemental data for this article is available online at
Published: 1 September 2021
This paper discusses the role of hymns and musical practices in the articulation of Christian subjectivities among Nuer communities in western Ethiopia. It examines how the members of two fundamentalist born-again groups responded to the Pentecostalization of the local Christian soundscape over the past two decades, focusing on the distinct approaches they adopted for the production and performance of hymns and the authorization of Christian music. Born-again musical practices, it is argued, take shape through a constant process of public argumentation, fuelled by a ceaseless quest for divine authenticity. Believers from different churches are therefore engaged not in destructive conflicts over the domination of public spaces, as some accounts of tensions over religious sound from elsewhere in Africa may suggest, but in constant provocations and debates that are both of a productive nature and inherent to the endless political project of born-again subjectivation.
Published: 2 August 2021
This article does two interconnected things. Firstly, it explores what sort of theoretical concept of atmosphere emerges when studying the considerations and challenges involved in establishing and managing the atmosphere inside a Night Church in Copenhagen. What emerges is a re-conceptualization of atmosphere as atmosphering; that is, as a practice embodied and carried out by agents. Secondly, with the concept of atmosphere as atmosphering at hand, it examines how—according to the Night Church—the atmosphere is supposed to be practiced in order to ensure that it feels the right way. The article demonstrates how making it feel right revolves around a balancing act between being in a church but not being in a traditional church. This is further evidenced by the employment of coherence-making strategies tasked to remove practices that tip the balance and alter the atmosphere.
Published: 27 July 2021
This article documents and analyzes the ways in which mass-produced imagery, frequently intended for secular functions, is creatively repurposed at Buddhist shrines in Ladakh, India. I argue that these inventive reformulations of printed material—often requiring cutting, pasting, and reframing—play a critical role in the construction and vitality of Ladakhi Buddhist shrine assemblages. While scholars have recently examined the role of early photography in Tibet and the Western Himalaya, this paper pays attention to a broader spectrum of mass-produced imagery found in newspapers, advertisements, magazines, and travel guides, which is often refashioned and reused at shrines. The article proposes a tripartite typology for mass-produced images, some of which were never intended for religious use though they feature Buddhist content. Case studies illustrate that these innovative practices of repurposing mass-produced imagery are the result of several concerns; central among them is upholding a Buddhist precept about perceiving and caring for images of the Buddha. Other notable motivations and practices of preservation relate to generating blessings and merit.
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