Home > News > Content

Incarnations: The Materiality Of The Religious Gazes In Hindu And Byzantine Icons

Mar 23, 2017


This study reflects on the current “material turn” in religious studies, in particular on the issue of material agency. Some scholars, such as Ingold and Latour, have seen the concept as both a form of naivety and anthropocentrism. On the other hand, exponents of the so-called “new materialisms” have banned phenomenology, understood as the way in which material agency can impact humans, as anthropocentrically biased. Through the adoption of the notion of focal object, as formulated by Morgan (2014) and informed by Merleau-Ponty’s “flesh,” this paper investigates the epistemological implications of a materialist approach to religion. Comparison between Rajasthani folk Hinduism and Byzantine Christianity aims to stimulate a broader reflection on the role of images in regulating the relationship between the worshipper and the holy, which in this paper is understood in phenomenological terms as a mutual exchange of gazes.