The 11th annual meeting of the Midwestern Consortium on Ancient Religions

1-2 November 2013
University of Michigan

The Religious Life of Things

We invite participants to consider ancient religions as populous and varied worlds of things: statues, altars, figurines, amulets, papyri, tablets, baskets, pots, knives, garments, votives . . . the examples are almost endless. Papers on any topics related to the material accoutrements of religion in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East are most welcome. Participants may also take this as an invitation to indulge in a little “methodological fetishism”: a chance to endow religious objects with lives and follow them around to see what light they cast on the human world of religion (à la Appadurai in his introduction to The Social Life of Things). What can we learn from tracing the biographies of things as they passed through various social contexts, physical places, events, and states of being? How did they come to be (or cease to be) “religious”? In what ways were they special or marked? How can physical “articles of faith” help to illuminate the different ontologies and cosmologies in which they were implicated? Can we even go a bit further, and ask “What did religious things do?” Can we consider them not only as the products and objects of human beliefs and practices, but also as having reciprocal effects? In what ways, for example, could things elicit responses, generate beliefs, and even shape human subjects?

Anonymous abstracts of 250 words for papers to run 25-30 minutes should be submitted by 31 July to Anna Moyer at the University of Michigan. The committee will notify participants whether their proposals have been accepted by 15 August.