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date: 25 January 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter engages the concept of the numinous and applies it to the material culture of the sacred body in American material culture, with two examples from early American history. It introduces early twentieth-century scholar Rudolph Otto’s idea of the numinous, and it proposes that it can help dispel confusion over the nature of sacred matter, leading to a better grasp of the phenomenological complexity of religious material culture, especially as it relates to the body. The chapter focuses on two bodies, that of nineteenth-century American missionary to Liberia Ann Wilkins and famous eighteenth-century preacher George Whitefield. These bodies are used as case studies to demonstrate the prevalence of numinousness, even among American Protestants who had traditionally eschewed material religion. The author makes the claim that the invisibility of religion is a verdant precondition for its materialization.

Keywords: religion, body, numinous, sacred, Protestant, Holy, Rudolph Otto, Ann Wilkins, George Whitefield, relics

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