Material Religion: Objects, Images, Books

2023 CHAViC-PHBAC Summer Seminar
Sunday, June 25 - Friday, June 30, 2023
Christopher Allison
Sonia Hazard

Scholars of religion have taken a material turn, delving into the study of images, objects, monuments, buildings, books, spaces, performances, and sounds. What do these inquiries look like in the context of early America, and how did religious materialities shape early American worlds? The goal of this seminar is to explore this area’s exciting archives, theories, and methods, enabling participants to bring together religion and materiality in their own work in fresh ways.

AAS provides an exceptional site for hands-on inquiries into the material worlds of early American religions. Collections at AAS furnish materials relating to religion before 1900 in North America, including Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Catholicism, Protestantism, metaphysical religions, African-inspired religions, South Asian religions, and civil religion as well as collections that support studying religious hybridity and forms of Christianity as practiced in Hawaiian, Caribbean, and Indigenous nations & groups.

Topics will include lived religion, materialisms (old and new), sensory culture, books as objects, animisms and animacies, iconoclasm, visual piety, the ontological turn, residual transcription, and sacred objects in archival contexts.

‬The seminar will be held from Sunday‭, ‬June 25‭, ‬through Friday‭, ‬June 30‭, ‬2023‭, ‬at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester‭, ‬Massachusetts‭. ‬Co-leaders for the seminar will be Chris Allison and Sonia Hazard. ‬Guest speakers will include Solimar Otero‭‭, Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University, Bloomington and Anthony Trujillo, doctoral candidate in American Studies, Harvard University.

Participation is intended for faculty, museum and library professionals, and graduate students. It welcomes researchers across fields such as art history, religious studies, history, anthropology, American studies, music, and literature. It is co-sponsored by the Center for Historic American Visual Culture (CHAViC) and the Program in the History of the Book in American Culture (PHBAC).

The format of the seminar will be select readings, highly interactive seminar discussion, collections explorations and archival sessions, individual research time with the collection, and site visits to notable collections and religious sites in the area, including the Worcester Art Museum, burial grounds, and sacred sites. Lunch and refreshments are provided each day, and two dinners.



Sonia Hazard is Assistant Professor of Religion at Florida State University. Her book, Building Evangelical America: How the American Tract Society Laid the Groundwork for a Religious Revolution, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. She did her graduate work at Harvard Divinity School and Duke University.

Christopher Allison is Director of the McGreal Center for Dominican Historical Studies, Department of History, Dominican University. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Protestant Relics: Capturing the Sacred Body in Early America, under contract with the University of Chicago Press. He did his graduate work at Yale Divinity School and Harvard University.

Guest Speakers

Solimar Otero is Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University, Bloomington. She is the author of Archives of Conjure: Stories of the Dead in Afrolatinx Cultures (Columbia University Press, 2020).

Anthony Trujillo is a doctoral candidate in American Studies at Harvard University. He works at the confluence of Native American and Indigenous studies, history, religious studies, anthropology, and the arts.



The syllabus is available online. Information on access to the readings will be emailed to students.



Tuition for the seminar is $600, which includes lunch each day and some evening meals. Some financial aid is available for graduate students.



The cost of housing is not included in the tuition fee.

Housing is available at two nearby hotels. Both are located just over a half-mile from the Society.

Single dorm room housing will be available on the Worcester Polytechnic Institute campus (within easy walking distance of AAS) for approximately $100.00 per night.



The deadline for application was April 17, 2023.



For further information on the seminar, please contact John J. Garcia, Director of Scholarly Programs and Partnerships, at or (508) 471-2134.

Quick Links

Catalog | Login | Digital A-Z


Monday: 9-5
Tuesday: 10-5
Wednesday: 9-5
Thursday: 9-5
Friday: 9-5

Keep in Touch

Link to AAS Facebook Link to AAS TwitterLink to AAS BlogLink to AAS Instagram   Link to AAS YouTube