This two-day symposium will explore material cultures of religious belief and faith in modern Britain. We hope to encourage an interdisciplinary dialogue by bringing together scholars in history, religion, art/design history, architecture and sociology.
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 cannon 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.
Possible themes or topics include:
• Religious objects
• Religious ephemera
• The materiality of religious and sacred texts
• Sacred Dress and Clothing
• Religious Architecture and the built environment
• Construction of sacred space
• Social identity/identities including class, gender and life stage
• Ideas surrounding materiality and religion
• Advertising and Consumption
• Making of religious objects
• Religious Interiors and the domestic display of material objects
• Religious aestheticism
Please send abstracts of 400 words either Lucinda Matthews-Jones [email@example.com] or Tim Jones [firstname.lastname@example.org] by 31st March.
We plan a number of publication outputs from this conference. If you are unable to attend, but would like to express your interest for future events or outputs, please email Lucinda Matthews-Jones [email@example.com] with a brief description of your work and a short CV.
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