Diverse Perspectives and Charismatic Objects

Nicholas Swann, Naomi Collick

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Visitors do not apprehend exhibits in museums in a single, standardised, way. For some an exhibit might be of little or no interest, passed by with hardly any impact. The same exhibit may be profoundly enthralling for others. The reason is likely to be the visitor’s enculturation. For someone raised in a South Asian community in Britain, sub-continental exhibits are likely to resonate differently when compared to those visitors identifying as, for example, White British. White Britons who have visited South Asia are likely to apprehend such exhibits differently still, as will White Britons whose religious beliefs are informed by those originating from, say, India. The exhibit might be uniform in a material and positivist sense, but different communities, with different forms of cultural capital, will construct different ontologies around it - an aesthitically appealing work of art; an historical curio; an actual god or goddess.

This paper attempts to explore the ways different communities apprehend exhibits through using the concept of ‘charismatic objects’, as well as Actor Network Theory. ANT takes into account the visitors themselves and the exhibits’ meaning to them, and also the material setting and connections to cognate phenomena in their homes and/or religious settings such as temples or Buddhist centres. The paper is informed by a recent decolonisation exercise at Chiddingstone Castle in Kent, as well as data gathered from visitors to the Buddhist collection there. In this, we attempt to construct a wider picture of how exhibits are encountered by individuals and communities with varying levels of vested interest in the Buddhist collection at Chiddingstone.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventReligion, Collections & Heritage Group 2023 Double Conference - Hybrid / St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Nov 202316 Nov 2023


ConferenceReligion, Collections & Heritage Group 2023 Double Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Museum Studies
  • Decoloniality
  • Buddhist Studies
  • Charismatic Objects


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