chapter  7
14 Pages

Im/material objects

Relics, gestured signs and the substance of the immaterial
WithTimothy Carroll

This chapter analyses one example of a material thing and, by comparing it to a class of things apparently distinct, demonstrates a much richer sense of how an indigenous community understands the world. It addresses one final relic, the sign of the cross, in order to trouble this distinction further. Relics are usually spoken of as objects, solid, but old and fragile. For the most part these include bones of dead saints, and sometimes, such as with the chains of St Peter, metal or other enduring materials. The production of relics, and the effective use of relics, rests on an understanding of bodies and persons as being porous. The synergy, or coaction, of soul and body means that even as the soul becomes holy – and the saint glorified – so too does the body become holy. In this way the synergistic coaction of the material and immaterial connects the two extremes as continuations of each other.