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CONFERENCE: MATERIAL RELIGION IN MODERN BRITAIN AND ITS WORLDS

 

Depiction of a fetish in South Africa by the London Missionary Society, circa 1900. [Wikipedia]

8-9 June 2012

University of Glamorgan, UK

The Conference will be hosted by the University of Glamorgan, Cardiff Campus

Please contact Lucinda Matthews-Jones [l.matthew-jones@ljmu.ac.uk] or Tim Jones [twjones@glam.ac.uk] to book.

Material Religion in Modern Britain and its Worlds

This two-day symposium will explore material cultures of religious belief and faith in modern Britain. As Birgit Meyer, David Morgan, Crispin Paine and S. Brent Plate have recently pointed out, studying material objects provides us with an alternative evidence base in the study of modern religious belief (Birgit Meyer et al; 2011). Yet few attempts have yet been made to do so. While many scholars now concede that Britain’s religious landscape is more varied and rich than the narrative of secularisation allows, a tendency remains in the historiography of religion to privilege written sources over material manifestations of religion. This means that all sorts of belief practices have been overlooked. Analysing the material past, we propose, will provide scholars with new and exciting ways of understanding the apparently fraught relationship between modernity and religion.

As Jane Bennett points out, objects are culture constructions and lead active lives in our social and cultural landscape. Religious historians have too often been guilty of adopting an implicitly Protestant binary (set up in opposition to Catholicism) in which words are privileged over objects. Yet everyday cultures of Protestant belief in Britain relied on all kinds of material cultures which sustained religion in an age of uncertainty.

Despite Britain’s ‘official’ Protestant past, we are nonetheless keen to encourage papers which explore religious denominations or groups beyond the official canon and which made up Britain’s multi-faith landscape in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Papers are welcome which consider either formal or informal aspects of religious materiality. We would especially like to encourage papers that consider ‘Britain’s worlds’, including investigations of religious objects in the Empire or commonwealth or geographical locations inhabited by British people.

Steam Engine, University of Glamorgan


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