Touching, crafting, knowing
religious artefacts and the fetish within animism
Keywords:touch, religious artefacts, animism personhood, fetish, performance
Based on a small ethnographic study at the shrine of the Virgin of Alcala in Andalusia, Spain, this article asserts that 'touch' is not only an intrinsic part of religion, but the principal facilitating medium through which the performances, expressions and relationships with the Virgin, take place. The article uses the relational discourses of animism and the fetish to critically explore the dynamics of touch, focusing primarily on the ways in which powerful religious statues such as the Virgin are creatively forged from raw materials, the gendered ways in which her statue-body is ritually touched, cared for and maintained, and the potentiality of her personhood. Personhood, it is argued, emerges co-creatively between 'persons' (artefact persons and human persons) during moments of active relating that involve touch. It is concluded that 'to fetish' is both to apprehend beloved religious statues with the senses and to be invited into creative religious, relational engagements with so called religious objects. 'To touch' is 'to fetish'.
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