Matters of Faith: Material Objects As Plot Devices in the Formations of Religious Subjects

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Seminar 33 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Daniel WINCHESTER, Purdue University, USA
What role do material objects play in the construction of religious persons? Drawing from an ethnographic investigation of the evolving relationships between a group of American Eastern Orthodox converts and their religious icons, this article develops an approach to this question that conceptualizes religious artifacts as “plot devices” in the formation of religious selves. Integrating insights from studies of material-sensory religious culture with narrative theories of identity, this article argues that material artifacts become significant to religious identity formation to the extent they act as resources for the configuration of a narrative structure in which transcendent or sacred others play a part. As the empirical details of this study demonstrate, attending to the interplay between the religious object’s symbolic meanings (i.e., what it represents) and physical characteristics (how meanings are sensibly made present to social actors in embodied interaction) is of vital importance to explaining the role objects have in the religious emplotment of action and experience.