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Materiality as an Agency of Knowledge

Competing Forms of Knowledge in Rachel's Tomb in Tiberias

Nimrod Luz

Abstract

Materiality has become a compelling register through which to examine religious manifestations and matters of belief. There is a mounting awareness among scholars of both the tangible aspects of religion and the ways in which material objects are never neutral. Following these theoretical developments, I argue that materiality can serve as a form of agency for a particular version of knowledge to become conventional and accepted as true. This emerging materiality codifies a certain version of the truth. However, such validation through matter is often challenged and categorized as fake or a myth. To illustrate my argument, I explore the newly emerging site of Rachel's Tomb in Tiberias and the competing versions of truth surrounding it. I contend that its new materiality, which has evolved in recent years, serves as a way of validating the site's new mythology. However, among locals, who are familiar with the site's previous materiality, this new knowledge is pejoratively labeled as fake or mythical.

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Two Venerated Mothers Separated by a Wall

Iconic Spaces, Territoriality, and Borders in Israel-Palestine

Nurit Stadler and Nimrod Luz

This article explores the role of sacred places and pilgrimage centers in the context of contemporary geopolitical strife and border disputes. Following and expanding on the growing body of literature engaged with the contested nature of the sacred, this article argues that sacred sites are becoming more influential in processes of determining physical borders. We scrutinize this phenomenon through the prism of a small parcel of land on the two sides of the Separation Wall that is being constructed between Israel and Palestine. Our analysis focuses on two holy shrines that are dedicated to devotional mothers: the traditional Tomb of Rachel the Matriarch on the way to Bethlehem and Our Lady of the Wall, an emergent Christian site constructed as a reaction to the Wall. We examine the architectural (and material) phenomenology, the experience, and the implications that characterize these two adjacent spatialities, showing how these sites are being used as political tools by various actors to challenge the political, social, and geographical order.

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Introduction

Materialities, Histories, and the Spatialization of State Sovereignty

Valentina Napolitano, Nimrod Luz, and Nurit Stadler

In the introduction to this special section of Religion and Society, we discuss existing and potentially new intersections of border theories and religious studies in relation to two contested regions—US-Mexico and Israel-Palestine (as part of the history of the Levant)—respectively. We argue for a recentering of borderland studies through an analysis of political theologies, affective labor, and differing configurations of religious heritage, traces, and materiality. We thus define 'borderlands' as translocal phenomena that emerge due to situated political/economic and affective junctures and that amplify not only translocal but also transnational prisms. To explore these issues, we put into dialogue studies on religion, borderlands, walls, and historical/contemporary conditions in the context of US-Mexico and Israel-Palestine borders. In particular, we argue for recentering analyses in light of intensifications of state control and growing militarization in contested areas.