CFP SAR 2011 Conference, Santa Fe, NM: Marginal Objects? How to think with the things that surround faith practices



I hope this is the most useful place to post this. I'm gathering interest to put together a panel for the Society for the Anthropology of Religion conference this April 30-May 2 in Santa Fe, NM, and thought I'd see if the idea appealed to anyone here. The panel description below is not written in stone--I'd love to hear any feedback, and of course any interest in participating! Thanks.



Society for the Anthropology of Religion 2011 Conference Call for Papers: Marginal Objects? How to think with the things that surround faith practices


Refocusing our attention to the explicitly material domains of encounters with the sacred has the potential to open radically new spaces in the anthropology of religion. Experiences of encounter with 'the sacred' continue to be more overtly marked by intersections with 'commoditized' worlds—one not only sits in awe of the apparition of the Virgin Mary on a toasted cheese sandwich in Florida, one can also purchase a ‘Virgin Mary Holy Toast Toasting Stamp’ on eBay. One not only helicopters from the Nepali lowlands to Muktinath temple, the high-altitude site sacred to Hindus, Buddhists and more, one can also have the family photo taken with the temple in the background and developed within the hour, making a refrigerator magnet to bring home.


If 'the sacred' is, as many scholars have argued, a phenomenon fluid not only in space but also in time, one both constituted by and constitutive of the possibility for transcendent experience, how does it move? Where does it move from, to? How do we begin to think about the ways in which sacred objects and sacred spacetimes come to constitution alongside the ‘commodity objects’ which mark intersections with such spaces? Are the commodities that interpenetrate mediations of contemporary religious experience fully outside the experience as such? How do we think about acknowledging refrigerator magnets, Virgin Mary toasting stamps, and other such seeming marginalia to sacred space and experience? This panel looks for ways to complicate questions of sacred spacetime, object, and experience: here, we ask not where are the boundaries of these things, permeable or not, but also when and how.


Here, we hope to provide a broad forum to discuss space, time, and materiality as they come to fruition (or not) in the context of religious experience, encouraging particular attention to the 'commodity' forms involved in, but seemingly marginal to, the explicit production and process of encountering 'the sacred.' Please let me know if you're interested, and if you have any suggestions!






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The theme of the conference is interesting and try to explore the contemporary format of sacred in space and time.

What is the nature of sacred in time and space and what form it takes when it move to contemporary market driven society is a question which worth probing. Though continuities of the past can be seen in this social world, it takes a different road when it enters the market, a new space-time. I am so much interested in the conference.

I like this conference primarily because of the fact that I am an indigenous/traditional performer of a sacred folk form of Kerala, called Theyyam. Theyyam means God. Performer takes the role of the god through various rituals and rites, and trance into the state of God and dance before the sacred shrine instilled in each places where God is seated. We invoke the God and incarnate its form and present to the villagers of north Malabar. 


I am writing my own experience as an ordinary human and God during this practice or worship ritual pattern of Theyyam.

It is a thick description of a form, and experience of being the God. In short, it takes the routes of sacred which takes its own form when it is in its actual space called shrine, a sacred space. But, take its ritual body and costumes as a display when it enters the market. Of course, I would like to think around this practices which touch upon sacred, ritual in a changing social organisation. This is also a religious experience as the human transcend into the status of God. 


As a young researcher and performer of this form, and doing an auto-ethnographic exercise in this regard, I would like to participate in this conference to learn more in search of sacred in Modern India.



Rajesh Koamth





OAC Press



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