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Longleaf Select University Press Titles Spring/Summer 2021

The Thing about Religion
An Introduction to the Material Study of Religions
By (author): David Morgan
David Morgan


The University of North Carolina Press



Product Form:


Form detail:

Paperback , Trade


Apr 12, 2021
$33.95 CAD


9.2in x 6.1 x 0.7 in | 360 gr

Page Count:

268 pages


15 color plates, 54 halftones
The University of North Carolina Press
RELIGION / History
Common views of religion typically focus on the beliefs and meanings derived from revealed scriptures, ideas, and doctrines. David Morgan has led the way in radically broadening that framework to encompass the understanding that religions are fundamentally embodied, material forms of practice. This concise primer shows readers how to study what has come to be termed material religion—the ways religious meaning is enacted in the material world.

Material religion includes the things people wear, eat, sing, touch, look at, create, and avoid. It also encompasses the places where religion and the social realities of everyday life, including gender, class, and race, intersect in physical ways. This interdisciplinary approach brings religious studies into conversation with art history, anthropology, and other fields. In the book, Morgan lays out a range of theories, terms, and concepts and shows how they work together to center materiality in the study of religion. Integrating carefully curated visual evidence, Morgan then applies these ideas and methods to case studies across a variety of religious traditions, modeling step-by-step analysis and emphasizing the importance of historical context. The Thing about Religion will be an essential tool for experts and students alike. Two free, downloadable course syllabi created by the author are available online.

David Morgan is professor of religious studies and art, art history, and visual studies at Duke University. His most recent book is Images at Work: The Material Culture of Enchantment.

David Morgan's engaging and accessible primer sets out how and why religion matters. Brimming with great cases, the book is both judicious and capacious in addressing a large swath of religious traditions, as well as a range of fields and methodologies. Morgan, who helped to define this approach to religious culture, demonstrates to students as well as scholars in religious studies, anthropology, art history, and related fields how to push beyond articulations of religion as all about questions of meaning and belief."—Matthew Engelke, Columbia University

David Morgan has again proven himself to be the leading voice for the modern study of material religion. Rich in fascinating details and broader reflections, this book offers pause and practical wisdom for all who are interested in significant and novel ways to study religion. It is also ideally suited for teaching at a variety of levels."—Justin McDaniel, University of Pennsylvania

Academics with an interest in religion or anthropology will most appreciate this broad examination of religious practice." —Publishers Weekly

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