For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!
You are using a browser that is no longer supported by Microsoft. Please upgrade your browser. The site may not present itself correctly if you continue browsing.
Birgit Meyer (Utrecht University) will give the lecture 'Legacies of missionary iconoclasm. Religious matters in an entangled world' in the programme Current Issues in Religious Studies and Western Esotericism.
Event details of Current Issues with Birgit Meyer
13 March 2023
16:00 -17:30
Legba figures in het Übersee-Museum Bremen
Legba figures in het Übersee-Museum Bremen (photo by Birgit Meyer)


This lecture calls attention to West-African material forms that were targeted as dangerous “idols” by Western missionaries. Focusing on a collection of legba-figures and dzokawo (so-called “charms” and “amulets”) assembled by a Protestant missionary among the Ewe in Togo and the Gold Coast (now Ghana) for the Übersee-Museum Bremen, I will trace the trajectory of the items contained. Special attention will be paid to the interpretative frames, especially the frame of “idolatry” employed by 19th century missionaries, through which they were re-signified and alienated from their original value and meaning. Collections like this offer gateways into the complex colonial and postcolonial entanglements that must urgently be unpacked. Approaching the items in the collections as religious matters in an entangled world par excellence, I take them as entry points into critically unravelling modalities of colonial encounter and contemporary co-existence in Europe’s plural frontier zones from a transregional and historical perspective.

About the researcher

Birgit Meyer is professor of religious studies at Utrecht University. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, she studies religion from a material and postcolonial angle, seeking to synthesize grounded fieldwork and theoretical reflection in a multidisciplinary setting. Her research is driven by an urge to make sense of the shifting place and role of religion in our time, and to show that scholarly work in the field of religion is of eminent concern to understanding the shape of our world in the early 21st century. Characteristic of her work is her engagement with the corporeal, material, and political-aesthetic dimensions of religion from an anthropological perspective. Visual culture and religious images and objects play a central role in her work. Awarded with the ‘Academy professor prize’ and the ‘Spinoza prize’ in 2015, Meyer initiated the comprehensive research programme Religious Matters in an Entangled World ( which she currently is conducting.


If you wish to attend, please write to the secretary of Religious Studies, Antoinette Rutten, For further information, write to:

Oost-Indisch Huis

Room E0.14C
Oude Hoogstraat 24
1012 CE Amsterdam