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Object Narratives explicate religious images, objects, monuments, buildings, or spaces in 1500 words or less.

Volume 6: Issue 3 Characterizing Material Economies of Religion in the Americas

A special issue curated by Kati Curts and Alex Kaloyanides

  • Illustration of a woman with grey hair and dark skin, in a yellow and white dress and black hat, holds a baby in a yellow bonnet. Behind them are mountains and a sacred heart.
    Alexia Williams
    More than a portrait of a holy person, an icon structures a present encounter with a saint and the community that the saint represents. What kind of encounter does Greeley’s icon conjure with race and Catholicism in the Old West?
  • An open journal with white lined pages. On the left page, there are a few lines of text and a few geometric sketches. The right page is filled with handwritten text.
    Paul Christopher Johnson
    Through Af Klint’s journal entries and sketches, we can shift analyses of sacred space from the guise of transcendent force that simply “appears,” in the phenomenological nomenclature, and instead approach it as technique.
  • Front of a postcard featuring the cross view of a very large felled tree in front of a leafy green background. On the cross section of the tree, nine white text boxes label different rings on the tree with dates and events.
    Sally M. Promey
    These redwood rings are both family trees and family circles, literally naturalizing a canonical “American” familial heritage insistently recited and instantiated in many media and locations: artistic and built environments, judicial practice, legislation and policy, textbooks, land use, and national land theory. Heritage is a family business.
  • A figure with long, dark, curly hair is seated facing away from the viewer, draped in material covered in calligraphy. The same material covers the background of the image, and the figure's right hand is raised, holding a pen, writing on the material.
    Ellen Amster
    I wondered—how does a person become a place? A street, city quarter, mosque, or town could take the name of the wali interred there, like the cities of Sidi Slimane and Mawlay Idris. The sacred enters physical space through the body.
  • Dr. Levitt pictured, shoulders up, in a purple shirt and glasses, reading from Maggie Nelson's The Red Parts from her office.
    Laura S. Levitt
    In her memoir, The Red Parts, Maggie Nelson writes about the over-thirty-year-old unsolved murder of her aunt, Jane Mixer, a case brought back to life in a Michigan court room. Who gets to tell this story? How should it be told?
  • A stil from a YouTube video features a choir, symphony orchestra, and conductor on the Carnegie Hall stage
    Kathryn Lofton
    The musical in which this song appears includes archetypal depictions of the modern artist and his attendant gendered capacities and failures. Sondheim would point out: its lyric is a single sentence; it is a description of a process; it includes a word, “forever,” that he observes makes him cry.
  • Fourteen Magdalens--six kneeling in the front row, and eight standing behind--are photographed outside, in front of trees and brush, in black and white habits respective to their individual categorization. The photo is in mostly sepia tones.
    Tracy Fessenden
    Was [the Magdalens'] decision to own in perpetuity the status of penitent a judgment on waywardness, or a benediction? An internalization of white surveillance, or its repudiation?
  • An unlit candle in a glossy, rounded, yellow glass container sits unboxed beside a silver boxed candle, which most prominently says "Let it burn." and "SOUL" in black, white, and yellow text.
    Cody Musselman
    While a stationary bike is the main conduit for the SoulCycle experience, perhaps no object plays a greater role in facilitating SoulCycle’s choreography of emotion than the brand’s signature grapefruit-scented candle.
  • Electronic screenshot of the Redeeming Home website homepage
    Suzanne van Geuns
    Biblical womanhood blogs often resemble the idealized Christian home they encourage women to build. Businesses have long recognized the potential for profit in networked domesticity, enticing bloggers to participate in commercial enterprise by promising percentages of purchase costs made through their sites.
  • Gold buddha standing Buddha statue photographed against a cardboard background
    Alexandra Kaloyanides
    This golden Buddha, which has a striking resemblance to a Burmese Buddha in the British Museum, came up for sale on eBay for the sum of $5,000.00. The material of teak, the economies of the British and Burmese empires, the religion then being named "Buddhism," now give us this American eBay Buddha.
  • Kim Kardashian sits on top of an enlarged heart shaped perfume bottle
    Dusty Gavin
    The fragrance Wifey by KKW Fragrances was released in 2019. As wife to black artist Ye (formerly Kanye West), Kim KW claimed and sold the role of wifey. The “wifey” is not simply a wife. She is a model or caricature of a wife, a down-ass. The “wifey” signifies a new ideal in our contemporary popular culture.
  • Close up of people's feet standing next to a short statue
    Maya J. Berry
    Eshu-Elegguá is a divinity in the Regla de Ocha-Ifá pantheon characterized as a warrior and messenger. Enslaved Africans in Cuba taught their descendants that a good relationship with this divinity is helpful for making risky choices and providing protection when embarking on a treacherous new beginning.

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