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Title: Awkward objects : relics, the making of religious meaning, and the limits of control in the information age
Author: Geisbusch, J. W.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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The thesis aims to recover relics - i.e. the bodily remains of the saints in the Roman-Catholic tradition - as a neglected object category within the study of material religion. In doing so, it seeks to widen the understanding of the materiality of religious practice, complementing more traditional approaches that have focused on religion as primarily a phenomenon of belief, ritual or written discourse. To achieve this aim the thesis examines the continuing conditions of the production, authentification, circulation and function of relics at the intersection of institutional and private contexts. Special emphasis is laid on the modes of abduction and appropriation that mediate between these contexts, in particular their more controversial aspects involving the use of modern electronic media such as commercial websites like eBay, the Internet auction house The first section of the thesis charts how relics are produced within the institutional setting of ecclesiastical authorities and how they derive potency, authority, in short: significance, from the inscription within these settings, localized at Rome and the Vatican as both, objective and imaginary spaces and how, often against the resistance of Church authorities, relics are alienated from these settings through more or less legitimate channels such as street markets, the trade in antiques and especially eBay, the Internet auction site, which appears as an arena on constructing and contesting religious significance through sacred objects. The second section then looks in more detail at the specific meanings that individual faithful invest in relics, especially when seen before a backdrop of larger controversies about popular and official piety, Catholic tradition(alism) and innovation following the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), a discussion that, within the social sciences, also involves debates on the understanding of religion and modernity, on memory, value and values, materiality and spirituality.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available