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Reflections on 'Museality' as a Critical Term in the Aesthetics of Religion

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image of Journal of Religion in Europe

'Museality' and 'museal' can be viewed as perceptible qualities of a social—and thus also religious—complex of forms of expression, representation, and action, which have become consolidated in modern times in Europe in the institution of the 'museum,' but which are not restricted to it as group-specific and individual representation patterns. The basic aim of this article is to show that there is a 'museal principle' which, like theatrality, permeates both social and individual action, which is not restricted to the European tradition, and which can described by the term 'museality.' Taking a combined perspective of cultural anthropology and the aesthetics of religion the following study understands the 'museal principle' as a social practice, a perceptible and productive gesture and habitus centred around the collecting and exhibiting of artifacts. The prototype of museality is the modern European institution of the 'museum' that is found also in premodern and religious contexts: cathedral treasures, church interiors, cemeteries are types of museal practice and aesthetics, as well as home altars, private collections, or ensembles of sacred buildings.


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