Light Mediations: Special Issue of Material Religion

13 February, 2020

The study of light and lighting devices, and the light mediations yielded by them, is important for scholars of material religion. Synthesizing metaphorical and physical uses of light allows for a deep understanding of the processes through which a professedly immaterial transcendent becomes real for religious practitioners in the material world. This special issue is based on the workshop on Religion and Light held in May 2018 (click).  Focusing on various theologies and uses of light in the Christian tradition, the special issue contains an introduction by Birgit Meyer and Jeremy Stolow, and articles (open access) by Bissera Pentcheva, Jojada Verrips. Frank Kessler & Sabine Lenk, and Katja Rakow, as well as an In Conversation section with short essays by Mattijs van de Port and Christian Suhr. Both reflect on the actual and metaphorical uses of light in their research.

Click here to see the table of contents and to download separate chapters of the issue.

This special issue also includes an In Conversation section, titled Grounded Reflections:

Grounded Reflections

Birgit Meyer and Jeremy Stolow

In research on religion, light is always there, and yet its presence is usually taken for granted. With this In Conversation, we wish to call attention to researchers’ everyday encounters with ideas and practices involving light and light-bearing technologies and techniques. In their grounded reflections on Candomblé in Brazil (van de Port) and Islam in Egypt (Suhr), the authors show how and why thinking and talking about a fundamental matter such as light triggers new insights, whether in the example of the atmospheric impact of introducing LED-bulbs in a Candomblé temple or in the use of ethnographic film as a medium that reveals how the Light of the Prophet is experienced by devout Muslims, “shining” in visible and also invisible ways.

Click here to read the short essay by Mattijs van de Port and here to open the short essay by Christian Suhr.

Image source: The New Jerusalem in cubical form as represented on the website of Never Thirsty. Courtesy of Pat Marvenko Smith (Cop 1982/1992).
Reprinted in the issue on p.49. See Jojada Verrips, ”Transilluminations: Making the Transcendent Transparent”, p.41-60.