Materialities of the Sacred (2016)

Organizer: Caroline Hirasawa (extension 4063; ninzu-dou [at]

Sophia University, FLA Participants: Takeshi Ito, Noriko Murai, Tatsuo Murakami, and David Slater

Non-Sophia Participants: Lucia Dolce (SOAS, University of London), Benedetta Lomi (University of Virginia), and, as speakers, other scholars of sacred material culture within and outside Japan.


This transdisciplinary research unit brings together scholars of art history, history, religion, literature, and anthropology who work with sacred visual and material culture to think more deeply about often-overlooked or peripherally-regarded objects and agents in sacred contexts. Scraps of wood, paper, or metal; grains of sand, bone, or quartz; smoke, soot, charcoal, insects, and animals; agents of disease and materials employed in their remedy are among the materialities that circulated through religious practice and imagination. Collaborators in this research unit will examine objects, materials, and other non-human entities that were invested with powerful meanings or cumulative effects in sacred enterprises. Our research will draw attention to the lives of a wide range of materials and beings as they circulate within and are redefined by their participation in networks of sacred practice and exchange.


July 9, 2016: A Sacred Materialities Workshop "Rites, Rice, and Rokuji Myōō"
The flyer for the event can be downloaded from here (PDF)

October 24, 2016: Public Lecture by Dr. Christine GUTH "Gender and Needlecraft in Early Modern Japan"

November 21, 2016: Public Lecture by Dr. HARAGUCHI Shizuko "The Holy Relics of Ananda and the Dragon Girl’s Jewel: As Depicted in the Honpō-ji Lotus Sūtra Mandala"

December 15, 2016:Public Lecture by Dr. Fabio RAMBELLI "Of Matter, Spirits, and Places: Japanese Discourses on The Bodies of the Shinto Divinities (Kami)"

January 19, 2017:Public Lecture by Dr. Fabio GYGI "THE INSENTIENT COMPANION: Some Thoughts on Dolls, Robots, and Significant Otherness, Sacred and Profane"