Religion and Touch
Religion is, at its very root, a sensual and often tactile affair. From genuflections, prayer, dance, and eating, to tattooing, wearing certain garments or objects, lighting candles and performing other rituals, religions of all descriptions involve regular bodily commitments which are mediated by acts of touch.
Contributors to this volume have isolated the ‘sense of touch’ from the general sensorium as a particular ‘sense tool’ from which to creatively innovate and operationalize fresh concepts, theories, and methods in relation to a diverse range of case studies in Africa, South America, Polynesia, Europe, and South and Southeast Asia. Organised over three main parts: Reciprocity and Knowing: Being in Touch with Things; Crafting, ritual, and creativity: working devotion; and ‘Touch, Ritual Efficacy and Communication, common and overlapping themes among the contributions include how touch mediates direct physical (often deliberate) contact between physical bodies (human and other than human) and the things that are crafted, blessed, related with, engaged with, or worn. Understanding touch as the vehicle to alternative forms of knowledge-making in specific religious contexts is the driving force behind the contributions to this collection.
The volume argues that touch is not only an intrinsic part of religion but the principal facilitating medium through which religion, religious encounters and performances take place. The diverse contexts presented here signal how investigations that centralise the body and the senses can produce nuanced, culturally specific knowledges and allow for the development of new definitions for lived religion. By placing both ‘body’ and the sense of touch at the centre of investigations, the volume asserts that material practice and bodily sensation are lived religion.
Published: Sep 1, 2021