material culture

December 9, 2014

Announcing Why Prayer? A Conference on New Directions in the Study of Prayer

The Social Science Research Council’s program on Religion and the Public Sphere announces Why Prayer? A Conference on New Directions in the Study of Prayer (February 6-7, 2015). This two-day gathering will showcase the work of over 30 scholars and journalists exploring what the study of prayer can tell us about a range of topics.

Please join us February 6-7, 2015, for panels and presentations on topics including religious technologies, embodiment, material culture, language, politics, and the mind. Beginning Friday afternoon, the conference will also feature the Prayer Expo—a pop-up installation of multi-media presentations and material objects that call attention to the myriad representations of prayer shaping discourse and practice. On Saturday, two plenary events will highlight the multiple registers of engagement occasioned by new, transdisciplinary research on the practice of prayer.

For more information on the conference and how to register, please click here. Registration is free, but space is limited.

January 23, 2014

Searching for Something in a Kansas Record Bin

[Editor’s Note: This post is in response to “Vinyl Prayers,” John Modern’s portal into Reverberations’ unfolding compendium of resources related to the study of prayer.]

“To our knowledge this is the first time the ‘gift of tongues’ has been recorded.” Liner notes, The Gift of Tongues: Glossolalia LP, Scepter/Mace Records MCM-10040, circa 1960s

I often head back to my hometown of Olathe, Kansas, the “Cupcake Land” of Thomas Frank’s description. And when I’m back I usually try to make a couple of short day trips—one up I-35 north to Kansas City and another along K-10 to the west and Lawrence. The latter is a classic college town, bearing the stamp of its Beecher Bible carrying forbearers, who trekked across America in the 1850s to set up a little slice of educational and reformist utopia. So strong was the northeastern, Yankee imprint that the novelist Thomas McMahon dubbed Lawrence a whaling town on the prairie. These migrants from New England might not have been as zealous as the hirsute, broadsword-wielding John Brown, but they were dedicated nonetheless.