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Materiality and the Spirit: Pigment, Paper, Script

(20) Materiality and the Spirit: Pigment, Paper, Script - Sarah Mirza, Department of Religious Studies

Despite assumptions that we live in a highly textualized and literate world, several contemporary cultures understand writing materials as meaningful, not as carriers and substrates for verbal or visual information, but in their nature as material objects.  We will survey the basic processes and socio-economic history of pigment and handmade paper production, through studies of the uses of paper and script in Southeast Asia, Islamic cultures, and the Arts and Crafts movement in Ohio.  How can we read these materials as divorced of linguistic meaning and semantic content, and how can we understand that the material conducts spirit?  We will learn how to locate evidence for meaning in material artifacts and how to present such evidence critically, through application of approaches in anthropology of religion and material culture studies.  The seminar will include hands-on instruction and assignments.