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Accepted Paper:

Holy body lengths: objects of religious and emotional practice  
Birgit Johler (House of Austrian History)

Paper short abstract:

My lecture will focus on the "True" or "Holy Lengths" of Mary and Jesus. Based on the materiality of these body lengths made from paper, I develop a new perspective on these objects often categorised as "superstitious" and inquire into a specific religious and emotional practice.

Paper long abstract:

My lecture is about an almost forgotten type of museum object: the "True Length". "True" or "Holy Lengths", especially of the supposed proportions of saints, and in particular of the foot or body of Jesus and Mary, have been known since the Middle Ages. Their heyday was the Baroque, though they remained widespread in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These strips of paper were kept in the home, worn on the body or wound around it. Their purpose was to protect their owners from dangers, enemies and diseases and to help them during pregnancy and childbirth. The Catholic Church disowned "True Lengths" early on. The objects were collected and exhibited in museums of folklore as evidence of "superstition".

In ethnology studies, the distinction between belief and superstition has long been critiqued. Sacred and popular religious practices are no longer examined separately. In my lecture I undertake a "re-measuring" of these objects from the perspective of material culture studies and emotional studies, examining the interplay between the materials, subject and relationship to the transcendental. The materiality of "Holy Lengths" and the types of uses they were put to shed light on an individual religious practice that seeks to involve the body and to emotionalise and to mobilise feelings. But feelings and expressions of feelings are still subject to particular social conventions and values. So the "Holy Lengths" can also be used to ask further questions about a specifically Catholic "emotional education", thus contributing to research into religious and emotional practices.

Panel Body06
Body, affect, senses and emotion: fields and perspectives [SIEF Working Group on Body, Affects, Senses, and Emotions (BASE)]
  Session 1 Tuesday 16 April, 2019, -