Humanities Center Director: Thomas Wilson

S. Brent Plate

Visiting Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Hamilton College

A History of Religion in 5 1/2 Objects

Thursday, March 6, 2014 • 4:10pm • Taylor Science Center G027

Professor Plate brings religion to its senses by rewriting the story of religious traditions, exploring the bodily basis of spiritual experience. Beginning with our incomplete, desirous “half-body,” he will examine five types of objects that humans have engaged and put to use in highly symbolic, sacred ways: stones, crosses, incense, drums, and bread. Each object relates to one of the five senses. From out of our sensual engagements, the lived realities of religious life are born.  Religions continue to survive because the practice of them is holistic, encompassing body and mind, the senses and meanings. Tongues tell, and ears listen to, myths. Hands, feet, and noses enact rituals, performing them in specific times and places with other bodies around us. These physical engagements continue throughout our lives as we practice religion through seeing and smelling, reading and reasoning, singing and swaying. This has broad reaching implications for the way scholars, and the general public, understand the work of religion in the everyday lives of people around the world.

Brent Plate is Visiting Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Hamilton, and co-founder and managing editor of Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief. Along with several books, his writings have been published in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Religion Dispatches.  His new book, A History of Religion in 5 1/2 Objects: Bringing the Spiritual to Its Senses, will be published by Beacon Press on March 11 (National Humanities Day).

Sponsored by the Dean of Faculty