New Book | The Thing about Religion

Posted in books by Editor on August 29, 2021

From The University of North Carolina Press:

David Morgan, The Thing about Religion: An Introduction to the Material Study of Religions (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2021), 268 pages, ISBN: 978-1469662824, $95 / ISBN: 978-1469662831 (paperback), $25.

Front cover of the bookjacket, with a detail of the 1886 painting, The Magic Circle, by John William Waterhouse (London: Tate), showing a witch in a blue dress.Common views of religion typically focus on the beliefs and meanings derived from revealed scriptures, ideas, and doctrines. David Morgan has led the way in broadening that framework to encompass the understanding that religions are fundamentally embodied, material forms of practice. This concise primer shows readers how to study what has come to be termed material religion—the ways religious meaning is enacted in the material world. Material religion includes the things people wear, eat, sing, touch, look at, create, and avoid. It also encompasses the places where religion and the social realities of everyday life, including gender, class, and race, intersect in physical ways. This interdisciplinary approach brings religious studies into conversation with art history, anthropology, and other fields. In the book, Morgan lays out a range of theories, terms, and concepts and shows how they work together to center materiality in the study of religion. Integrating visual evidence, he then applies these ideas and methods to case studies across a variety of religious traditions, modeling step-by-step analysis and emphasizing the importance of historical context.

David Morgan is professor of religious studies and art, art history, and visual studies at Duke University. His most recent book is Images at Work: The Material Culture of Enchantment.



Introduction: How Materiality Matters to the Study of Religion

Part I. Theories and Definitions
1  How Some Theories of Religion Dematerialize It
2  What Is the Material Study of Religion?
3  How Religions Happen Materially

Part II. Studying Material Religion
4  The Power of Things: A History of Magic Wands
5  Notre-Dame de Paris: Religion and Time
6  Words and Things

Conclusion: Things, Networks, and Agents

Resources for Classroom Use
Primary Texts, Key Terms, and Online Resources
Writing Guide

Bibliography to Support Student Research

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