David MorganNov 1, 2022
The Thing about Religion
An Introduction to the Material Study of Religions
University of North Carolina Press 2021
Common views of religion typically focus on the beliefs and meanings derived from revealed scriptures, ideas, and doctrines. David Morgan has broadened that framework radically to encompass the understanding that religions are fundamentally embodied, material forms of practice. The Thing about Religion: An Introduction to the Material Study of Religions (UNC Press, 2021) 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. After integrating carefully curated visual evidence, Morgan then applies these ideas and methods to case studies across various religious traditions, modeling step-by-step analysis and emphasizing the importance of historical context. The Thing about Religion will be an essential tool for experts and students alike.
Tiatemsu Longkumer is a Ph.D. scholar working on ‘Anthropology of Religion’ at North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong: India.