Mysterium Materiae

Vital Matter and the Object as Evidence in the Study of Religion


  • Jennifer Scheper Hughes University of California, Riverside



material culture, images, objects, Mexican religion


This article examines religious image, popular devotion, and hybird religious identities by relying upon objects for analysis in the context of colonial and contemporary Mexican religion. In this article, I explore the risk and benefits of approaching the objects of material religion as evidence. I explore the variety of ways in which objects can be read/received as evidentiary. At the same time, I suggest that the meaning of objects is, like texts, fundamental unstable. At the same time, to regard objects as evidence disregards their most fundamental aspect and character: that is that they are not so much representation, that is symbols that can be read and interpreted, but PRESENTATIONAL, that is transubstantiated so that they often become the spirit itself.

Author Biography

Jennifer Scheper Hughes, University of California, Riverside

Jennifer Scheper Hughes is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at University of California, Riverside, USA.


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How to Cite

Hughes, J. (2012). Mysterium Materiae: Vital Matter and the Object as Evidence in the Study of Religion. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 41(4), 16–24.