Religious Texts and Textual Practices

A page of the manuscript of Ong-Angry-Not-So, 2007, Cambodia. Photo by Emiko Stock, who writes about it in the Routledge Handbook of Material Religion.

The study of religion has long focused on the study of religious texts, to the extent that religion has been identified as text. The call for materialising the study of religion involves recasting religious texts both as genre, taken as performance, and as material objects.

Our research reconceptualises any engagement with religious genres as an embodied and mediated practice. We look at form, content, and meaning of religious texts, but understanding them is interrelated with users, formed by material affordances, and mediated through oral and scriptural practices. Taking an interdisciplinary perspective that includes history, anthropology, and philology, we combine a focus on the semantic content of religious texts with a material and praxeological approach.

Exemplary questions include: What makes a text sacred? Through which infrastructures of transmissions do texts circulate across time and place? How do texts preserve their oral character in practices of performance? How do religious practitioners engage with canonical or non-canonical texts related to authoritative religious sources in their projects of self-making and religious worldmaking, and in the lived reality of their everyday lives? How are religious texts embodied and in which ways do people use religious texts in both a performative and intellectual sense? How do textual practices form religious knowledge and beliefs? What are the transmedial and transtextual relations of scripture to other popular-religious texts, in both institutional and non-institutional contexts, and how is scripture produced, authenticated, and transmitted among a variety of religious actors?