Objects as Subjects: Agency and Performativity in Rituals

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


In ritual theory, ritual objects have mostly been discussed in terms of symbols and interpretations. But objects that are employed in rituals are not merely passive carriers of attached cultural meanings. In this article I discuss how objects not only become animated but also animate the ritual field. As ritual agents they have important performative functions in the field of transformations. The smoke of burning sage in a ritual setting is not ordinary but sacred smoke, and it does not only symbolize a purification process for the participants, but actually cleans them from bad spirits. It is thus more useful to discuss the phenomenology of animism as relational epistemology rather than an epistemological fallacy.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Religious Studies


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Relational Dynamics of Enchantment and Sacralization
Subtitle of host publicationChanging the Terms of the Religion Versus Secularity Debate
EditorsPeik Ingman, Tuija Hovi, Terhi Utriainen, Måns Broo
PublisherEquinox Publishing
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781781794753
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameThe Study of Religion in a Global Context