Call For Papers: Sacred stuff: Material Culture and the Geography of Religion

Call for papers for Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Annual Conference, 30th August-2nd September 2016

Sacred stuff: Material Culture and the Geography of Religion

Session sponsored by the Social and Cultural Geography Study Group of the RGS-IBG.

Organisers Ruth Slatter (UCL), Nazneen Ahmed (UCL) and Claire Dwyer (UCL)

This session seeks discussion around the role of material culture in studying geographies of religion, faith and spirituality. Social and cultural geographers have offered critical insight into the use of material cultures, such as the processes of making and repairing material things, as a way of understanding geographical processes, networks and knowledges (Cook & Harrison, 2007; Gregson et al, 2007; Ogborne, 2007). In geographies of religion a material approach has been creatively developed to discuss buildings (Connelly, 2015 and Edensor, 2011) but also to understand the role of objects and places in shaping spiritual engagements (Holloway, 2003; Della Dora 2011; Hill 2007).
This session seeks to extend the critical insights of this work to understand how the material things made, used and appropriated in religious communities (and beyond them) can provide insights into everyday practices, congregational translations of religious practices and experiences of the spiritual, social and cultural aspects of religious communities. Drawing on concepts of materiality developed within anthropology and design history (Miller, 2010; Ingold, 2012; Lees-Maffei et al, 2010), we are interested in exploring in this session how material things offer alternative narratives about religious communities and what religion means to its adherents; how material objects are designed, created, appropriated or travel; what affects the decay, damage and necessary repair and maintenance of religious things have on religious engagements and experiences; what role material things play, and have played, in both the contemporary geographies and past histories of religious institutions and spaces.


Cook IJ, Harrison M, ‘Follow the thing: ‘West Indian hot pepper sauce’. Space and Culture, 10.1 (2007), 40-63

Connelly, A., ‘Continuity and Adaptation: Archway Central Hall, 1934-2010’, The London Journal, 40.1 (March, 2015), 33-55

Della Dora, V., ‘Circulating Sacred Place: Fin-de siècle Russian Cards of Mount Athos as Travelling Object-Icons’, in Brace, C., et al, Emerging Geographies of Belief (Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing; 2011) 168-192

Edensor, T., ‘Entangled Agencies, material networks and repair in a building assemblage: the mutable stone of St Ann’s Church, Manchester’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 36 (2011), 238-252

Gregson, N., Metcalfe, A. & Crewe, L., ‘Practice of object maintenance and repair: how consumers attend to consumer objects within the home’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 25.4 (2007), 682-700

Hill, J. ‘The story of the amulet’ Journal of Material Culture (2007) 12(1), 65-87

Holloway, J., ‘Make-Believe: Spiritual Practice, Embodiment and Sacred Space’, Environment and Planning A, 35 (2003), pp.1961-1974

Ingold, T., ‘Towards an Ecology of Materials’, Annual Review of Anthropology, 41 (2012), 427-442

Lees-Maffei, G., The Design History Reader (Bloomsbury, London, 2010)

Miller, D., Stuff (Polity Press, Cambridge and Malden, 2010)
Ogborne, M., Indian Ink: Script and Print in the Making of the English East India Company (The University of Chicago Press, 2007)

Please submit abstracts to Ruth Slatter ( by 8th February 2016. Abstracts should be now more than 200 words and include your contact details.