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ThingsReligion and the Question of Materiality$
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Dick Houtman and Birgit Meyer

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823239450

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823239450.001.0001

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The Modern Fear of Matter: Reflections on the Protestantism of Victorian Science

The Modern Fear of Matter: Reflections on the Protestantism of Victorian Science

Chapter:
(p.27) The Modern Fear of Matter: Reflections on the Protestantism of Victorian Science
Source:
Things
Author(s):

Peter Pels

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823239450.003.0002

Addressing the problematic Protestant stance with regard to materiality, this chapter demonstrates the historical construction and situatedness of notions of “matter” and “materiality,” emphasizing their profoundly relational character: materiality may be understood as either “concrete” in opposition to “abstract,” “material” in opposition to “spiritual,” “objective” in opposition to “subjective,” or “natural” in opposition to “cultural.” Discussing the role of the Protestant “fear of matter” in nineteenth-century Victorian science, he traces shifts in all four oppositions, driven by a Calvinist combination of contempt for and fear of materiality and giving shape to a “dematerialization” of anthropology and the other social sciences that came to privilege the “immaterial” over the “material.”

Keywords:   Protestantism, Victorian science, Materiality and immateriality, Spirit and matter, Anthropology

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