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The Relational Dynamics of Enchantment and Sacralization

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This volume revisits the concepts of enchantment and sacralization in light of perspectives which challenge the modern notion that man (alone) is the measure of all things. As Bruno Latour has argued, the battle against superstition entailed shifting power away from God/the gods to humans, thereby disqualifying the agency of all the other objects in the world. Might enchantment and sacralization be understood in other ways than through this battle between almighty gods and almighty humans? Might enchantment be understood to involve processes where power and control are not distributed so clearly and definitely?

Like social constructionists, Latour emphasizes that things are constructed; yet, like many other new materialists, such as Jane Bennett, Manuel De Landa and Karen Barad, he emphasizes that this construction is not the result of projecting meaning onto a passive and meaningless world, but a matter of compositional achievements, whereby assemblages of actants co-compose each other and frame, enable and delimit one another’s agency. This move recognizes the active and entangled participation of players beyond the humans versus God(s) framework that informed the modernist project. Understanding enchantment and sacralisation as compositionally and relationally constructed does not mean the same as understanding them as constructed by humans alone. What it means is one of the main questions posed in this book. In other words, if enchantment and sacralization are not understood (solely) in terms of projecting anthropocentric meaning onto mute objects, what are some promising alternative approaches – old and new - and what are their implications for how we understand modernity and for method and theory in the study of religion?

Published: Dec 15, 2016


Section Chapter Authors
List of Illustrations Peik Ingman, Terhi Utriainen, Tuija Hovi, Måns Broo
1. Towards More Symmetrical Compositions Peik Ingman, Terhi Utriainen, Tuija Hovi, Måns Broo
Part I: Revisiting Enchantment and Animism
2. Objects as Subjects: Agency and Performativity in Rituals Anne-Christine Hornborg
3. Enchantment, Matter and the Unpredictability of Devotion Amy Whitehead
4. Empowerment and the Articulation of Agency among Finnish Yoga Practitioners Måns Broo, Christiane Königstedt
5. Mastery and Modernity: Control Issues in the Disenchantment Tale Linda Annunen, Peik Ingman
Part II: Political Concerns
6. Recomposing Religion: Radical Agnosticism and Transformative Speech Michael Norton
7. Re-enchanting Body and Religion in a Secular Society: Touch of an Angel Terhi Utriainen
8. Marian Apparitions: The Construction of Authenticity and Governance of Sacralization in the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Portugal Nora Machado des Johansson
9. Protection through the Invocation of Shared Thirds: Sacralization without Iconoclasm Peik Ingman
Part III: Academic Concerns
11. From Religion to Ordering Uncertainty: A Lesson from Dancers Milan Fujda
10. Enchanted Sight/Site: An Esoteric Aesthetics of Image and Experience Jay Johnston
12. Co-composing a Village History in the Archipelago of Southwestern Finland Jaana Kouri
13. After Dis/enchantment: The Profanity of the Human Sciences Stuart McWilliams
14. Epilogue: When Things Talk Back Kocku von Stuckrad
End Matter
Index Peik Ingman, Terhi Utriainen, Tuija Hovi, Måns Broo


This volume brings the study of ritual, religion, and spirituality into full conversation with agency, networks, and materiality. The result is a fascinating and insightful resource that casts new light on enchantment and sacralization, which become in the authors’ hands very useful analytical concepts. In a day when traditional notions of ‘religion’ have lost relevance, a new set of conceptual tools is important to develop. This book makes a splendid contribution.
Professor David Morgan, Duke University

This is a wonderful book. It draws on sophisticated cutting edge theory to provide significant new insights into ritual, enchantment, and religious practice. I particularly enjoyed the creative engagement with contemporary debates about ‘religion’ that draws us back to empirical studies of the ethical and moral challenges negotiated through the experience and practice of religion.
Professor Douglas Ezzy, University of Tasmania; President: Australian Association for the Study of Religion; Editor: Journal for the Academic Study of Religion

Invoking the previously exorcised “religious” terms, enchantment and sacralisation, this radical volume experiments with re-positioning religion and the study of religion as relational encounters. Facing down some suffocating polemics, the contributors demonstrate what may be achieved by allowing new possibilities to emerge from dialogue, reflection and a willingness to learn.
Professor Graham Harvey, The Open University

If your academic interests include Bruno Latour, vernacular religion, materiality in religion, ritual, enchantment, or animism, then this book is a must-have for your collection. However, even if these topics fall outside of your normal research areas, I would recommend this book if for no other reason than to see some ways in which the field of religious studies is being reconfigured.
Novo Religio

Overall, this is an excellent book. It is not only approachable from several different fields, but leaves the reader with multiple perspectives from which to further investigate the enchantment of new materialism.
Reading Religion

This collection is a major contribution to the emerging field of enchantment studies, with papers that are almost uniformly interesting and innovative.
Material Religion