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Sensual Religion

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Sensual Religion demonstrates the value of paying attention to the senses and materials in lived religion and also leads the way for improved studies of religion as sensuality.

Each of the five senses – vision, hearing, taste, touch and smell – will be covered by two chapters, the first historical and the second contemporary. The historical discussions focus on the sensuality of religion in ancient Greece, Samaria, Rome and Byzantium — including reflections on their value for understanding other historical and contemporary contexts. Chapters with a contemporary focus engage with Chinese, African-Brazilian, Sikh, First Nations and Métis, and Spanish Catholic religious lives and activities. Beyond the rich case studies, each chapter offers perspectives and arguments about better ways of approaching lived, material and performative religion — or sensual religion. Historical and ethnographic critical and methodological expertise is presented in ways that will inspire and enable readers to apply, refine and improve on their practice of the study of religions. In particular, our intention is to foreground the senses and sensuality as a critical issue in understanding religion and to radically improve multi- and inter-disciplinary research and teaching about the lived realities of religious people in this sensual world.

Published: Sep 4, 2018


Section Chapter Authors
Series Foreword Graham Harvey
List of Figures Graham Harvey
Introduction Graham Harvey
1. A Pleasing Odour for Yahweh: The Smell of Sacrifices on Mount Gerizim and in the Hebrew Bible Anne Katrine Gudme
2. Wafting Incense and Heavenly Foods: The Importance of Smell in Chinese Religion Shawn Arthur
3. The Taste of Religion in the Roman World Zena Kamash
4. Candomblé’s Eating Myths: Religion Stated in Food Language Patricia de Souza
5. Sight and the Byzantine Icon Angeliki Lymberopoulou
6. ‘Seeing’ my Beloved: Darśan and the Sikhi Perspective Opinderjit Takhar
7. Resounding Mysteries: Sound and Silence in the Eleusinian Soundscape Georgia Petridou
8. North American Indigenous Song, the Sacred and the Senses Byron Dueck
9. The Texture of the Gift: Religious Touching in the Greco-Roman World Jessica Hughes
10. Touching, Crafting, Knowing: Religious Artefacts and the Fetish within Animism Amy Whitehead
End Matter
Index Graham Harvey


Overall, the ten chapters have shown very successfully with the ethnographic and historic details that “religion is sensual because it is corporeal and earthy” (p. vii) as outlined in the series foreword. Religion is what people do, what can be touched, tasted, smelled, seen and listened to. The chapters also demonstrated that senses do not work in separation but intertwined with each other. We can expect much from this series and its coming volumes.
British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR) Bulletin