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.