College of Liberal Arts

Colloquium Addresses “Contentious” Interpretations of Religious Relics

Monday Apr 23, 2012 | Student Activity Center (SAC) Legislative Assembly Room 2.302

Exploring issues of contention and competition over relics or other mobile repositories of religious power among the communities that venerate or value them, the “Matter of Contention” colloquium aims to further the study or relics and other sacred objects.

Religious rivalry over objects takes a variety of forms, ranging from physical conflicts for the possession of material remains to discursive arguments about such objects' meanings and narratives.

Participants intend to push the study of religious relics beyond their function within seemingly discrete religious traditions to consider the material and social factors that conditioned their ongoing relevance across multiple—and often rival—religious communities. They will examine particular examples according to their areas of specialization, while the colloquium as a whole will consider broader patterns across space, time, and cultural context.

Presenters include —

Adam H. Becker – New York University – Respondent
Ra'anan Boustan – University of California, Los Angeles and The University of Texas at Austin – “The Temple Vessels among Jews, Christians, and Muslims”
Donald Cosentino – University of California, Los Angeles – “Skull Wars in Modern Naples”
Benjamin Fleming – University of Pennsylvania – “Reading the Liga as ‘Relic’”
Cynthia Hahn – Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY – “Making the Crown

of Thorns”
James Robson – Harvard University – “Buddhist Relic Veneration and Contestation in East Asia”
Jalane Schmidt – University of Virginia – “Monuments, Memory, and Religious Devotion in Cuba”
Gregory Schopen – University of California, Los Angeles – “Arguing against Relics in the Indian Buddhist Tradition”
Chad Seales – The University of Texas at Austin – “American Protestants and the Sacred Play of Cultural Objects”
Patricia Spyer – Leiden University – “Dwelling and Contamination in Ambon’s War”
Rolf Strootman – University of Utrecht – “The Serpent Column in the Hippodrome of Constantinople”
Annabel Wharton – Duke University – “Protestant, Relics, Things”

 You can find the schedule of individual presentations here.

For more information, email Ra‘anan Boustan at or visit

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