1st Edition

The Efficacy of Intimacy and Belief in Worldmaking Practices

Edited By Urmila Mohan Copyright 2024
    242 Pages 43 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores ‘efficacious intimacy’ as an embodied concept of worldmaking, and a framework for studying belief practices in religious and political domains. The study of how beliefs make and manifest power through their sociality and materiality can reveal who, or what, is considered effective in a particular socio-cultural context. The chapters feature case studies drawn from diverse religious and political contexts in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, and explore practices ranging from ingesting sacred water to resisting injustice. In doing so, the authors analyze emotions and affects, and how they influence dynamics of proximity and distance. Taking an innovative approach to the topic of intimacy, the book offers a fascinating examination of how life-worlds are constructed by material practices. It will be of interest to scholars of anthropology, religion, and material culture.

    Foreword by Jean-Pierre Warnier


    1.    Introduction: Efficacious intimacies of worldmaking

    Urmila Mohan

    Part I Making the Innermost

    2. Inexpressible reading: The efficacious non-discursivity of drinking the Qur’an

    Hanna Nieber

    3. Praying through the hands: Making objects and devotees in Umbanda

    Patrícia Rodrigues de Souza

    4. Objects as bodies in Michael Landy’s Shelf Life

    Lindsay Polly Crisp

    Part II Techniques and Rituals of Intimacy

    5. Tisser du lien: Textile art as a tautological performance and embodiment of an expression

    Claire Le Pape

    6. Rituals and riverine flows: Negotiating change in Majuli Island, Assam

    Simashree Bora

    7. Protective cloaks, enveloping baby carriers: Embodiment and ritual practice in Angkola Batak Ulos textiles

    Susan Rodgers

    8. Kokoro-dzukai as a practice of the heart in Japanese Islam and design

    Lira Anindita Utami

    Part III Intimacies of (Dis)enchantment

    9. Intimate with the enemy: Nuclear presence, vernacular art and Post-Chornobyl transformations Elena Romashko

    10. What’s solid about solidarity? Shields and efficacious intimacy in the 2020 protests in Portland, OR

    Steve Marotta

    11. Grieving as a practice of resistance: Bishnoi entanglements with the Indian nuclear state

    Sonali Huria

    12. Pause, pivot and (un)mask in early pandemic U.S.

    Urmila Mohan


    Rose Wellman


    Urmila Mohan is an anthropologist of material culture with a focus on embodied belief practices in religious and political contexts. She is the founder of the open-access digital journal The Jugaad Project, collaborates with scholars and educators globally, and is associated with the Matière à Penser group. She has researched and theorized materiality, praxis, and aesthetics in diverse contexts including religious communities and maker groups in India, Indonesia, and the U.S.

    “Crossing continents and disciplines, and fundamentally concerned to examine practices of worldmaking, this engaging volume maintains a remarkable unity of purpose. It succeeds admirably in troubling long-standing assumptions about self and subjectivity, proximity and distance, and brings a superbly comparative sensibility to the challenging task of exploring fraught intersections between materiality, experience, and belief. In doing so, it makes us reflect in new and sophisticated ways about something that we thought we knew best, but which we perhaps did not know at all: intimacy.” - Simon Coleman, Anthropologist and Chancellor Jackman Professor, University of Toronto

    “This important collection of globally arrayed essays argues for the materialization of belief. Whereas it had become a commonplace that “belief” meant something narrowly Christian—an interior state of volition keyed to creeds or doctrines—this book explores belief in the intimacy of bodies, practices, and material culture broadly understood. The impressive result will help change the conversation. The authors encourage readers to think about belief as part of the spectrum of agencies that propel human behavior—from within and from without. This is a very welcome contribution of original work.” - David Morgan, Duke University 


    “In this volume artists, scholars, and practitioners use the theoretical framework of “efficacious intimacy” to explore relationships between the body, materials, and belief. With the diversity of perspectives presented, makers from all disciplines will have access to new ways of thinking about their own making, and how a proximate and intimate act resonates beyond the immediate object or action. This collection of essays resists the separation of art from life, situates it firmly within generative experience, and presents new ways of relating to both the natural and built world.” - Wendy Weiss, Professor Emerita, Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design Department, University of Nebraska-Lincoln