Christianity and the Limits of Materiality
University of Turku, Finland
September 25-26, 2014
The relation between materiality and religion has quickly emerged as one of the core dimensions in the study of different religious traditions. Religion and religiosity are understood to be thoroughly intertwined with matter. Throughout times, also Christianity has become tangible and has been lived out materially through objects, symbols, the body, and the environment. But what happens when such intertwinements are considered to fail? The purpose of this interdisciplinary seminar is to examine the limits of materiality in relation to Christianity at different times in history and within a variety of Christian traditions. What happens, for instance, when a Catholic relic turns out to be powerless in spite of all expectations? In what kinds of situations are statues of Virgin Mary or Orthodox icons experienced as not “functioning” or as failures? What does it mean to a member of a Pentecostal church when faith refuses to manifest itself as gifts of the Spirit? And what are the contexts in which the Bible becomes meaningless or prayers do not work? Where do the limits of materiality lie and how are they found to be or made meaningful or meaningless in different Christian traditions?
We invite proposals for papers on the theme of the limits of materiality in Christianity from researchers working in different disciplines such as the study of religion, history, arts studies, anthropology, ethnology, musicology, folklore studies, gender studies, archaeology, museology, and theology, to name but few. The examination may concentrate e.g. on the above mentioned topics such as objects and things, the body, environment, symbols and other semiotic expressions related to Christian religion and faith. The papers should also in some way touch upon the issue of Christian views on the nature of materiality. Possible approaches include, but are not restricted to the following:
- change and transformations
- public – private
- knowledge – emotions / senses
- theory – practice
- mediation, transmission
The keynote speakers of the seminar are Professor David Morgan (Duke University, USA), Professor Jeffrey F. Hamburger (Harvard University, USA), Dr. Matthew Engelke (London School of Economics, UK) and Dr. Marleen de Witte (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands).
The seminar is organized by the Study of Christianity Roundtable group at the School of History, Culture and Arts Studies, University of Turku, Finland and the research project Materiality and Immateriality in Indigenous Amazonian Christianities funded by the Academy of Finland.