Dr. Katja Rakow

Universitair hoofddocent
+30 253 4097

Current Research Focus: Practicing Texts: Materializing the Study of Religious Texts and Textual Practices in Contemporary Religion

The project starts from the observation that popular religious products (e.g. TV programs, advice books, Apps) play an important role for religious practitioners in the acquisition of religious knowledge and its enactment in everyday life. It is not just authoritative scriptures in the narrow sense – the Bible, canonical Buddhist texts, or the Qur’an – that are crucial for the formation of religious subjects and worldviews. The project hypothesizes that religious actors acquire religious knowledge and shape their religious identity through active engagement with popular textual media related to authoritative religious sources. The project proposes a reconfiguration of the study of religious texts and text-related practices.

Moving beyond a narrow focus on scriptures, I propose the concept of the ‘scriptural field’ as a relational framework for an analysis of the interaction between popular and authoritative religious texts, related textual practices, and their role in forming religious subjects and notions of religious authority.

Instead of simply perceiving texts as reservoirs of semantic content accessed through disembodied acts of reading, the project employs a praxeological approach to integrate recent theoretical developments from material culture, lived religion, and cognitive science. As practices combine the cognitive and material dimensions of human activity, I conceptualize all textual practices – from the ritual handling of texts to reading and interpreting them – as embodied practices, which engage the material dimension of texts and the sensing body of religious practitioners.