South Asia Institute
South Asia Institute

SAI Co-sponsored Event - Matter of Contention: Relics and Other Sacred Objects at the Crossroads of Religious Traditions

An inter-disciplinary colloquium at The University of Texas at Austin

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

Colloquium website

This colloquium will explore, from both historical and theoretical perspectives, the dynamics of competition and contestation among religious communities over relics or other mobile repositories of religious power (also, e.g., ritual vessels, books, royal insignia).  The histories of such objects often highlight how intimately tied processes of social and political domination are to religious practices such as pilgrimage or the exchange of sacred mementos.  Religious rivalry over objects-actual or legendary-takes a variety of forms, from physical conflict over material remains to competing discourses concerning the meanings and narratives with which sacred objects are imbued.

The colloquium aims to push the study of relics and other sacred objects beyond their location and function withinseemingly discrete religious traditions to consider the material and social factors that conditioned their ongoing relevance across multiple-and often rival-religious communities.  Participants are encouraged to focus on the inter-relationship between material conditions (e.g., technological, political) and discursive practices (e.g., institutional settings, narrative patterns), as these operate across the boundaries of religious tradition or community.  While participants will examine particular examples according to their areas of specialization, the colloquium as a whole will allow for consideration of patterns of similarity and difference across space, time, and cultural context.


Adam H. Becker -- New York University (Religious Studies and Classics)
Ra'anan Boustan
 -- University of California, Los Angeles and The University of Texas at Austin (History, NELC, Religious Studies)
Donald Cosentino -- University of California, Los Angeles (World Arts & Cultures)
Benjamin Fleming -- University of Pennsylvania (Religious Studies)
Cynthia Hahn -- Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY (Art History)
James Robson -- Harvard University (East Asian Languages & Cultures)
Jalane Schmidt -- University of Virginia (Religious Studies)
Gregory Schopen -- University of California, Los Angeles (Asian Languages & Cultures)
Chad Seales -- The University of Texas at Austin (Religious Studies)
Patricia Spyer -- Leiden University (Anthropology)
Rolf Strootman -- University of Utrecht (History)
Annabel Wharton -- Duke University (Art History)

Primary sponsors:   Harrington Fellowship Program, Office of the President, The University of Texas at Austin
                                    Department of Religious Studies, The University of Texas at Austin

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

Sponsored by: Various

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