The Relational Dynamics of Enchantment and Sacralization
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
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.
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.
This collection is a major contribution to the emerging field of enchantment studies, with papers that are almost uniformly interesting and innovative.