Call for Papers
“Material Religion” in discourse theoretical perspective
This special issue of Implicit Religion aims to bring together essays in which central works in
the field of “Material Religion” are reviewed from a discourse theoretical perspective. Since
the first decade of the 21st century, the Material Religion approach has grown to become
arguably one of the dominant methodological paradigms among scholars of religion,
particularly in North America and the UK. Material Religion is often subsumed under a
broader New Materialism, seen as a “method, a conceptual frame and a political stand, which
refuses the linguistic paradigm” (Rosi Braidotti, interviewed in Dolphijn & van der Tuin
Some scholars in the study of religion have described Material Religion as “phenomenology
by stealth” (Cotter & Robertson 2016, 13), a return to the mystified religiosity of Eliade et al
in which an irreducible religious essence is expressed through objects, to be simply
“discovered” by the scholar. At the very least, there seems to be a tension between the stated
desire in the “Mission Statement” by the founders of the journal Material Religion to focus
the study of religion on “what people do with material things and places, and how these
structure and colour experience and one’s sense of oneself and others”, the invocation of
“richer, more embodied forms of experience” that immediately follows, and the agency of the
objects themselves: “what the images or objects or spaces themselves do, how they engage
believers, what powers they possess, and in what manner a community comes to rely on them
for the vitality and stability of belief” (Goa, Morgan, Paine & Plate 2005, 6-7).
The rationale of this special issue is to go beyond a general critique of Material Religion by
critically engaging with specific works central to the field of Material Religion. Contributors
may, for instance, discuss underlying ontological and epistemological assumptions, address
questions pertaining to methodology and theory, analyse the production of data or carve out
and discuss the specific understanding and conceptualization of the material in these works.
Relevant questions could be (but are not limited to):
How is the “material” conceptualized in Material Religion and what ontological and
epistemological assumptions go into these conceptualizations?
How is the “material” linked to other concepts (e.g. experience, lived religion)?
What kind of data is used/produced in the specific work under discussion? How are claims
and arguments empirically backed?
To what extent is Material Religion typical of and/or distinct from different approaches
falling under the label of New Materialism more generally?
Can different varieties or lineages of Material Religion be identified and described?
How can Material Religion be located in genealogies of the Study of Religion?
What points of digression, conflict and potential confluence exist between Material
Religion and discursive approaches?
In how far can Material Religion stimulate a sustained engagment of discursive
approaches with the so called material?
Diana Coole and Samantha Frost‘s The New Materialisms (2010), Jane Bennett’s Vibrant
Matter (2010) and Appadurai’s The Social Life of Things (1986) could serve as reference
points for contributors to contextualise the issue in broader theoretical discussions.
Formalities and tentative schedule
The issue will consist of review essays of 2-4,000 words, each addressing one text that
positions itself as contributing to Material Religion, as well as a short introduction by the
editors. If you would like to contribute, please email Carmen Becker at
[email protected] to express your interest including a suggestion of a text
you would like to review.
Deadline for expressions of interest: 20 December 2022
Deadline for the submission of complete drafts: 30 April 2023
Full submission and formatting guidelines can be found at: