Antropologicheskij forum, 2022, no. 55


OBJECTS IN SEARCH FOR INTERPRETATION: A Review of ANNA BIGELOW (ed.), ISLAM THROUGH OBJECTS. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021, 264 pp.

Gleb Stukalin

CERES, Ruhr Universität Bochum
90a Universitätsstraße, Bochum, Germany

Abstract: The new collection, edited by Anna Bigelow, expands the methodology of the material approach to religion through the authors’ close look at various aspects of Muslim life. Under the cover one can find articles by researchers of substantial expertise in their fields. Each article represents a statement on a separate topic (be it history, architecture, numismatics, art history, environmental studies, etc.). The works highlight both examples from the very heart of the Muslim world (Mecca), as well as cases that are considered to be peripheral or even marginal (historic Granada, Upper Volta, the American Nation of Islam). Given such large gaps between the topics of the articles in the collection, one may conclude that material religion as a separate field of knowledge is still at the stage of formation. The review draws a disappointing conclusion that the authors’ interdisciplinary approach comes to a standstill, since the collection does not set a general framework and concepts. Referring to Ibn Arabi, the editor proclaims maximum freedom in choosing a research topic (“any subject is Islamic insofar as it is embodied by the force of the knowledge of the Creator”). Thus, materials on Indian talismans, Yemeni coins, American pins, and the Granada water system are collected under one cover—and all these topics still pretend to be united by the frame of religion.

Keywords: Islam, material religion, object-oriented anthropology.

To cite: Stukalin G., ‘Objects in Search for Interpretation: A Review of Anna Bigelow (ed.), Islam through Objects. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021, 264 pp.’, Antropologicheskij forum, 2022, no. 55, pp. 342–354.

doi: 10.31250/1815-8870-2022-18-55-342-354