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Material Religion Initiative (MRI)

In recent years, the study of religion has undergone an important shift, as a growing number of scholars foreground the role of diverse forms of media, technology, material culture, embodiment, and the senses in research on religious experiences, practices, affiliations, and forms of public-making. Such research has generated new bases for studying key dimensions of religious life -- such as ritual practice, communal identity, knowledge formation, or ecstatic experience -- in local settings, both historically and today. This 'material turn' in the study of religion has also facilitated the re-evaluation of a range of phenomena not always classified as religious but that merit comparison, from magic and occultism to politics, theatre, art, science, consumer culture and popular entertainment. Bringing together Concordia and Montreal-based experts in a variety of disciplines, this working group will explore how material approaches to the study of religion (broadly defined) inform individual research projects and also provide new opportunities for comparison and debate.

Jeremy Stolow, Department of Communication Studies
Hillary Kaell, Religions & Cultures
Nicola Pezolet, Art History

1. In what ways might the term 'material' offer new theoretical perspectives (and new methodological approaches) for the study of religious modes of belief and practice? Conversely, in what ways do diverse religious discourses and practices shape our very understanding of terms like 'matter' and 'materiality'?

2. How are religious bodies and senses made palpable and how is religious experience shaped by material culture, media forms, and environments?

3. How are concrete elements of religious material culture produced, circulated, ritually enacted, preserved, displayed, hidden, or destroyed, and what might those processes teach scholars about the dynamics of religious transmission, memory, community formation, or conflict?

4. What can a material perspective teach us about the relationship between religion and its 'others' (secularism, science, magic, entertainment, art, theatre, politics)?

Jeremy Stolow, Communication Studies

Hillary Kaell, Religions & Cultures

Nicola Pezolet, Art History

Leslie Orr, Religions and Cultures

Carly Daniel-Hughes, Religions and Cultures

Naftali Cohn, Religions and Cultures

Erica Lehrer, History

Sandra Huber, PhD Student, Humanities Program

Marie-Josée Blanchard, PhD Student, Humanities Program

Felicity Hamer, PhD Student, Communication Studies

Myriam Rafla, PhD Student, Communication Studies

Lindsey Jackson, PhD Student, Religions & Cultures

Purna Roy, PhD Student, Religions & Cultures

Kristin Norget, Anthropology, McGill U

Katherine Lemons, Anthropology, McGill U

Armando Salvatore, School of Religious Studies, McGill U

Material Religion Initiative Working Group Events

Those interested in attending any of the below events can be in touch with Jeremy Stolow ( or Hillary Kaell (

Sarah Imhoff, Indiana University (Bloomington)
"The 'Crippled' Zionist: Jessie Sampter, Religion, and Disability."
September 16 2019
*Open to the Public*
For more information, download the poster.

Mattijs van de Port, University of Amsterdam
“Knots and Holes: An Essay Film on the Life of Nets” (film) and workshop TBA
A Film Screening plus discussion featuring Catherine Russel (Film Studies, Concordia), Kregg Hetherington (Anthropology, Concordia), and List Stevenson (Anthropology, McGill)
November 1 2019
4:00-6:30 PM
EV. 1.605
1515 St.-Catherine St. W
*Open to the Public*
For more information, download the poster

Angela Zito, New York University
"Filiality as Piety and Propaganda: A Museum of Elusive Family Intimacies, and Pants"
December 6 2019
Winter events TBA

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