Item Details

Vibrant Sacralities and Nonhuman Animacies: The Matter of New Materialism and Material Religion

Issue: Vol 26 No. 3 (2013) Rethinking Religion and the Non/Human

Journal: Journal for the Academic Study of Religion

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Buddhist Studies Islamic Studies Biblical Studies

DOI: 10.1558/jasr.v26i3.234


This article addresses the complex and contentious associations between the study of religion, materialism, and nonhuman materialities. Acknowledging the revaluation of religious material culture, and the reconguration of the relations between religion and materialism, it is argued that the utility of such theoretical and methodological manoeuvres would be better served by thinking through the work of the ‘new materialisms’, which engage the question of matter and the material through posthumanist and anti-anthro-pocentric positionalities that are at times absent from the study of material religion. In so doing, this article analyses the potentialities and limitations of the religious materialism of Manuel Vásquez, placing it alongside the theory of new materialism and the representative work of Jane Bennett. Such interventions are then thought with and through a recongured sense of ‘animism,’ both as a means with which to differently ontologise nonhuman material agency, and to posit an approach to these topics that might be labelled a ‘new materialist religious animacy’. Ultimately, it is averred that such a theoretically entangled exploration of the above elds and concepts is important for the examination of religious phenomena alongside the self-generativity and recalcitrance of (religious) materiality, both human and nonhuman in kind.

Author: George Ioannides

View Original Web Page

References :

Abrahamsson, Christian
2011 Book Review Forum: Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Dialogues in Human Geography, 1(3): 399-402. Doi:
Ahmed, Sara
2008 Open Forum Imaginary Prohibitions: Some Preliminary Remarks on the Founding Gestures of the ‘New Materialism’. European Journal of Women’s Studies, 15(1): 23-39. Doi:
Alaimo, Stacy, and Susan Hekman (eds)
2008 Material Feminisms. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
Appadurai, Arjun (ed.)
1986 The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Arweck, Elizabeth, and William Keenan (eds)
2006 Materializing Religion: Expression, Performance and Ritual. Ashgate, Aldershot/Burlington.
Asad, Talal
1993 Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
Barad, Karen
1999 Agential Realism: Feminist Interventions in Understanding Scientific Practices. In The Science Studies Reader, edited by Mario Biagioli, 1-11. Routledge, New York.
2007 Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Duke University Press, Durham/London.
2008 Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter. In Material Feminisms, edited by Stacy Alaimo and Susan Hekman, 120-154. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
Barrett, Estelle, and Barbara Bolt (eds)
2013 Carnal Knowledge: Towards a ‘New Materialism’ through the Arts. I.B. Tauris, London/New York.
Bennett, Jane
2001 The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics. Princeton University Press, Princeton/Oxford.
2010 Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press, Durham/London.
2011 Response to Thomas Princen’s review of Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Perspectives on Politics, 9(1): 120-121. Doi:
2012 Powers of the Hoard: Further Notes on Material Agency. In Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects, edited by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, 237-269. Oliphaunt Books, Washington, DC.
Bennett, Jane, and Klaus K. Loenhart
2011 Vibrant Matter, Zero Landscape: An Interview with Jane Bennett. GAM 07. Zero Landscape: Unfolding Active Agencies of Landscape, Graz Architektur Magazin (April).
Bird-David, Nurit
1999 ‘Animism’ Revisited: Personhood, Environment, and Relational Epistemology. Current Anthropology, 40(S1): S67-S91. Doi:
Brown, Bill
2001 Thing Theory. Critical Inquiry, 28(1): 1-22.
Chen, Mel Y.
2012 Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect. Duke University Press, Durham/London.
Chidester, David
2000 Material Terms for the Study of Religion. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 68(2): 367-380. Doi:
2005 Animism. In Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, Volume 1, edited by Bron Taylor, 78-81. Continuum International, London.
Coole, Diana
2010 The Inertia of Matter and the Generativity of Flesh. In New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics, edited by Diana Coole and Samantha Frost, 92-115. Duke University Press, Durham/London.
Coole, Diana, and Samantha Frost
2010 Introducing the New Materialisms. In New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics, edited by Diana Coole and Samantha Frost, 1-43. Duke University Press, Durham/London.
Crockett, Clayton, and Jeffrey W. Robbins
2012 Religion, Politics, and the Earth: The New Materialism. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
Daston, Lorraine
2004 Introduction: Speechless. In Things That Talk: Object Lessons from Art and Science, edited by Lorraine Daston, 9-24. Zone Books, New York.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari
1983 [1972] Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
1987 [1980] A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by Brian Massumi. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
de Vries, Hent
2006 Introduction: Before, Around, and Beyond the Theological-Political. In Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World, edited by Hent de Vries and Lawrence E. Sullivan, 1-88. Fordham University Press, New York.
Dolphijn, Rick, and Iris van der Tuin
2012 New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies. Open Humanities Press, Ann Arbor.
Engelke, Matthew
2012 Material Religion. In The Cambridge Companion to Religious Studies, edited by Robert A. Orsi, 209-229. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Finch, Martha L.
2012 Rehabilitating Materiality: Bodies, Gods, and Religion. Religion, 42(4): 625-631. Doi:
Franke, Anselm
2010 Much Trouble in the Transportation of Souls, or: The Sudden Disorganization of Boundaries. In Animism: Volume I, edited by Anselm Franke, 11-53. Sternberg Press, Berlin/New York.
Geertz, Clifford
1973 The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. Basic Books, New York.
Gell, Alfred
1998 Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Hallowell, A. Irving
1960 Ojibwa Ontology, Behavior, and World View. In Culture in History: Essays in Honor of Paul Radin, edited by Stanley Diamond, 19-52. Columbia University Press, New York.
Haraway, Donna
1991 Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Routledge, New York.
2008 When Species Meet. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
Harman, Graham
2010 I am also of the opinion that materialism must be destroyed. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 28(5): 772-790. Doi:
Harrington, Laura
2012 Where Angels Fear to Tread: Neurophenomenology and the Matter of Belief. Religion, 42(4): 643-648. Doi:
Harvey, Graham
2005 Animism: Respecting the Living World. Hurst & Company, London.
Heidegger, Martin
1962 [1953] Being and Time, translated by John Macquarie and Edward Robinson. Harper & Row, New York.
Hinton, Peta
2013 The Quantum Dance and the World’s ‘Extraordinary Liveliness’: Refiguring Corporeal Ethics in Karen Barad’s Agential Realism. Somatechnics, 3(1): 169-189. Doi:
Hornborg, Alf
2006 Animism, Fetishism, and Objectivism as Strategies for Knowing (or not Knowing) the World. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, 71(1): 21-32. Doi:
Hughes, Jennifer Scheper
2012 Mysterium Materiae: Vital Matter and the Object as Evidence in the Study of Religion. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 41(4): 16-24. Doi:
Husserl, Edmund
1973 [1931] Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology, translated by Dorion Cairns. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague.
Ingold, Tim
2007 Materials against Materiality. Archaeological Dialogues, 14(1): 1-16. Doi:
Iovino, Serenella
2012 Steps to a Material Ecocriticism: The Recent Literature about the ‘New Materialisms’ and Its Implications for Ecocritical Theory. Ecozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment, 3(1): 134-145.
Johnston, Jay
2013 Subtle Subjects and Ethics: The Subtle Bodies of Post-Structuralist and Feminist Philosophy. In Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West: Between Mind and Body, edited by Geoffrey Samuel and Jay Johnston, 239-248. Routledge, London/New York.
Koehlinger, Amy L.
2012 Blood and Adrenaline: Introduction to the Review Roundtable on Manuel Vásquez’s More than Belief: A Materialist Theory of Religion. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 24(4-5): 424-429. Doi:
Koons, Robert C., and George Bealer (eds)
2010 The Waning of Materialism. Oxford University Press, Oxford/New York.
Latour, Bruno
1993 [1991] We Have Never Been Modern, translated by Catherine Porter. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
2010 On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods. Duke University Press, Durham/London.
Marso, Lori J.
2011 Freaks of Nature. Political Theory, 39(3): 417-428. Doi:
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice
2002 [1945] Phenomenology of Perception, translated by Colin Smith. Routledge, London.
Meyer, Birgit
2012 ‘There is a spirit in that image’: Mass-Produced Jesus Pictures and Protestant-Pentecostal Animation in Ghana. In Things: Religion and the Question of Materiality, edited by Dick Houtman and Birgit Meyer, 296-320. Fordham University Press, New York.
Meyer, Birgit, and Dick Houtman
2012 Introduction: Material Religion – How Things Matter. In Things: Religion and the Question of Materiality, edited by Dick Houtman and Birgit Meyer, 1-23. Fordham University Press, New York.
Meyer, Birgit, David Morgan, Crispin Paine, and S. Brent Plate
2010 The Origin and Mission of Material Religion. Religion, 40(3): 207-211. Doi:
Miller, Daniel (ed.)
2005 Materiality. Duke University Press, Durham/London.
Morgan, David
2010 Introduction: The Matter of Belief. In Religion and Material Culture: The Matter of Belief, edited by David Morgan, 1-17. Routledge, London/New York.
Pick, Anat
2012 Turning to Animals Between Love and Law. New Formations, 76: 68-85. Doi:
Reid-Bowen, Paul
2011 Vital New Matters: The Speculative Turn in the Study of Religion and Gender. Religion and Gender, 1(1): 44-65.
Scott, Colin
2006 Spirit and Practical Knowledge in the Person of the Bear among Wemindji Cree Hunters. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, 71(1): 51-66. Doi:
Stuckey, Priscilla
2010 Being Known by a Birch Tree: Animist Refigurings of Western Epistemology. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 4(3): 182-205. Doi:
Taylor, Bron
2010 Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future. University of California Press, Berkeley/Los Angeles/London.
Tilley, Christopher et al. (eds)
2006 Handbook of Material Culture. Sage, London.
Tylor, Edward B.
1871 Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Language, Art and Custom, 2 vols. John Murray, London.
Van Wyk, Alan R.
2012 What Matters Now? Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 8(2): 130-136.
Vásquez, Manuel A.
2011 More than Belief: A Materialist Theory of Religion. Oxford University Press, Oxford/New York.
2012a On the Value of Genealogy, Materiality, and Networks: A Response. Religion, 42(4): 649-670. Doi:
2012b Work at the Limits: A Response to My Critics. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 24(4-5): 497-517. Doi:
Verbeek, Peter-Paul
2005 What Things Do: Philosophical Reflections on Technology, Agency, and Design. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park.
Whitehead, Amy
2013 Religious Statues and Personhood: Testing the Role of Materiality. Bloomsbury, London/New York.