The analysis of religion has often placed an emphasis on beliefs and ideologies, prioritizing these elements over those of the material world. Through the ethnographic analysis of a variety of contemporary religious practices, Making Spirits questions the presumed separation of spirit and matter, and sheds light on the dynamics between spiritual and material domains. By examining the cultural contexts in which material culture is central to the creation and experience of religion and belief, this volume analyses the different ways in which the concepts of the material and spiritual worlds intersect, interact and inform each other in the reproduction of religious rites. By concentrating on the processes of communication, exchange and transformation between realms considered spiritual and those seen as material or worldly, this volume questions the general opposition between the transcendent and the immanent in contemporary studies of religion. Making Spirits offers a wide range of examples in which these worlds collide, and indeed subside into each other. For example, the volume explores the significance of material things in the practice of Cuban spiritism, a popular medium cult. The 'spirited ones' are, according to these practices, gifted individuals adept at materialising the presence of the dead in their own lives and in those of their clients, and through this embody the images of Cuba's ethnic, racial and religious diversity, as well as its trauma and conflict. Thus, the material and the spiritual world not only interact with each other, but are both used to shape the everyday reality of the believer. Furthermore, the importance of the material culture of religion is also examined here. By looking at the ways in which objects are defined as mediators between humans and deities, the volume analyses the ways in which material items are used in order to make men and women think, believe, perceive and act in a way that presupposes a tight connection between them and their gods. In this volume Nico Tassi and Diana Espirito Santo offer insights that challenge accepted categories in the study of religion, making this book important for scholars of comparative religion, anthropology and sociology.
Materiality and Transcendence in Contemporary Religions