Matter of Contention: Relics and Other Sacred Objects at the Crossroads of Religious Tradition

An interdisciplinary colloquium at The University of Texas at Austin.

Mon, April 23, 2012 | Student Activity Center, Legislative Assembly Room (SAC 2.302)

8:15 AM - 5:30 PM

Conference website:

This colloquium explores contention and competition over relics or other mobile repositories of religious power among the communities that venerate or value them. Our goal is to push the study of relics and other sacred objects beyond their location and 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. 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. While participants will examine particular examples according to their areas of specialization, the colloquium as a whole will consider broader patterns across space, time, and cultural context.

Primary Sponsors: Harrington Fellowship Program; Department of Religious Studies

Co-sponsored by: Center for Middle Eastern Studies; Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies; South Asia Institute; Department of Asian Studies; Department of History

Free & open to the public.

Please visit the website for the full program.


  • Ra'anan Boustan (UCLA & UT Austin), "The Temple Vessels among Jews, Christians, and Muslims"
  • Donald Cosentino (UCLA), "Skull Wars in Modern Naples"
  • Benjamin Fleming (University of Pennsylvania), "Reading the Linga as 'Relic'"
  • Cynthia Hahn (Hunter College, 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 (UCLA), "Arguing against Relics in the Indian Buddhist Tradition"
  • Chad Seales (UT 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), "Protestants, Relics, Things"
  • Adam H. Becker (NYU), Respondent

For more information, contact Ra'anan Boustan at

Sponsored by: Harrington Fellowship Program, Department of Religious Studies

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