EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W032)

Ethnographies of Catholicism

Location Humanities Large Seminar Room 2
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

Anna Niedźwiedź (Jagiellonian University) email
Ingo Schröder (University of Marburg) email
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Long Abstract

In the Anthropology of Christianity Catholicism has received far less attention than the seemingly more dynamic and rapidly expanding Pentecostal/ Charismatic churches. The workshop seeks to close this gap by inviting presentations that are based on the ethnography study of Catholic communities and the church. We would like to invite all interested in discussing what issues, challenges, and new perspectives "ethnographies of Catholicism" can bring to the anthropology religion.

Catholicism is a transnational religion organized in a tightly structured hierarchy. This fact raises questions like: how are the official structure and doctrine lived by Catholics in various setting all over the world? What kinds of relations exist between the national and the transnational dimension of Catholicism? How does the social life of the Catholic Church differ between countries where it is a hegemonic institution and others where it constitutes a minority among other churches or nonbelievers?

Focusing on "ethnographies of Catholicism" we want to reflect on the variety of expressions of the Catholic faith in individuals' lives and how cultures of Catholicism can be identified in the practices and experiences of believers. We would also like to discuss contradictions and convergences between "official" and "popular" Catholicism; the implication of the church and Catholic belief in political struggles over domination and resistance; the Catholic discourse on the moral and spiritual crisis of modern civilization; and the church's involvement in social activism and charity work, especially under the contemporary conditions of global economic crisis.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Making place: the changing role of the parish church in village life in the Netherlands

Author: Kim Knibbe (Rijks Universiteit Groningen)  email
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Long Abstract

In this paper I will elaborate on the changing role of the parish church in practices of 'place making' in village life in the south of the Netherlands, based on ethnographic research. Historically, the clergy increased its control over village life in the south since the 1920-ies, in response to the threats of 'modernization'. As in the rest of the Netherlands, the process of depillarization has changed the place of the church in social life drastically. However, I will argue that on the local level it was the process of polarization between liberal Catholics and neo-conservatives that has most drastically influenced the attitude towards the church as an institution and subsequently the role it plays in local life. To analyze this process, I will draw on the theoretical approaches such as developed by Doreen Massey (2005) Kim Knott (2005) and Hervieu-Léger (2002). Furthermore, I will contrast this account to other 'ethnographies of Catholicism' available in the literature.

From rock concerts to liturgy: the role of contemporary Christian music in Catholic communities

Author: Kinga Povedák (Hungarian Academy of Sciences)  email
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Long Abstract

My presentation explores the influences of contemporary Christian music on Hungarian Catholicism. By many contemporary Christian music is considered the most effective instrument for spreading Christianity among younger generations. However, it has been a topic of controversy in various ways as this new genre of church music is rooted in popular culture but at the same time serves religious functions.

Less attention was paid towards the introduction of this relatively new genre of church music. Several features of the inner dynamics of Catholic small communities can be explored by studying one of its conspicuous phenomena. I examine how contemporary Christian music has a complex effect on the listeners' behavior which is articulated in their religious conventions, in their personal religiosity, communal rituals and the dynamics of their religious communities. In this way we get a better understanding of Catholic "vernacular religion"1 (religion as it is lived).

1 L.N. Primiano's term

Nuns from Rybno: new charismatic convent within the Polish Catholicism

Authors: Agnieszka Poźniak (Uniwersytet Jagiellonski / Jagiellonian University)  email
Anna Kapusta (Jagiellonian University)  email
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Long Abstract

Our paper focuses on a phenomenon of a charismatic church emerging in Poland within the frames of a newly founded Catholic contemplative convent. It is based on a field research in a Polish village Rybno where we observed a formation of the convent. In our analysis we will interpret the creation of the order treating it as an example of changes in a social model of religion observed in Poland since 1989. In the Polish context the Catholic Church holds a hegemonic position within the state and society. Its conservative structure used to be very suspicious of new Pentecostal and charismatic churches. We want to discuss how, paradoxically, in frames of a very traditional form of contemplative order a new type of the charismatic spirituality is being shaped and promoted. We will particularly analyze the practices of the examination of conscience and confession which dominate the charisma of the order.

Framing abortion as crisis: an ethnography of pro-life Catholic activism in Milan (Italy)

Author: Claudia Mattalucci (Università di Milano Bicocca)  email
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Long Abstract

In Italy, the Catholic Church has long played a prominent role in countering the legalization of abortion. Since the approval of Law 194, in 1978, Catholic activists have gradually abandoned a militant opposition to the law to embrace a "cultural mission" and engage in different forms of social work. Through an ethnography of the pro-life movement in Milan, this paper explores the social and political role played by the Catholics in the fight against abortion. Particular attention will be devoted to the construction of abortion as crisis and to the role attributed to imagination as a tool to cope with the psychological consequences that abortion is supposed to engender. In addition to being presented as a product of the moral and social crisis that characterizes modern society, abortion is in fact recognized by activists as a producer of crises that affect those who are involved in it. These crises are managed through various types of counselling provided by Catholic clinics or parishes, in which psychological therapies merge with prayers.

The hippie pilgrimage to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa

Author: Judith Samson (Radboud University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper aims to explore a specific type of pilgrimage that stands apart from the popular repentance pilgrimage to the Black Madonna of Częstochowa. In this Polish Hippie pilgrimage different kinds of so-called alternative people who hold a rather marginal status in society and institutional Catholic Church join in. At the same time many brothers, priests and nuns participate in the pilgrimage. The 'Hippies' are perceived with suspicion by some conservative Catholics who regard their rather freely structured pilgrimage not as a 'real' Catholic ritual. On the other hand in non-Polish liberal Catholic and secular alternative groups people cannot identify with the Hippies' participation in a pilgrimage to the Virgin Mary as Marian devotion is regarded as a hallmark of conservative Catholicism. All this makes the pilgrimage into an interesting case study on how Catholic identity is contested from different perspectives.

'Popular Catholicism' in Ghanaian contexts

Author: Anna Niedźwiedź (Jagiellonian University)  email
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Long Abstract

Trans-national and global structure of the Catholic Church is lived by Catholics all over the world in different contexts and circumstances. This paper explores how the Catholic faith is lived and practiced in contemporary Ghanaian society. Basing on ethnographic field research in central Ghana I will portray practices, strategies, modes of identification present in lives of people who describe themselves as Catholics.

My aim is to analyze the notion of "popular Catholicism" in the context of a chosen contemporary African society. In case of Ghana Catholic Church appears as one of many Christian churches and congregations. Additionally it co-exists with Muslim communities and "traditionalists" (people practicing "traditional religions"). It is interesting to observe how the Catholic doctrine adapts to local circumstances and which aspects of "popular Catholicism" described in other cultural contexts and theorized on the ground of the anthropology of religion are promoted and present in Ghanaian Catholic communities.

Rwandan visionaries of the Virgin Mary: 'competing discourses' and transnationalization

Author: Emilie Brebant (ULB (Université Libre de Bruxelles))  email
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Long Abstract

In 2001, apparitions of the Virgin Mary to three students in southern Rwanda were officially approved by the catholic church, while withholding such recognition from others with similar claims. Since then, new alleged visionaries kept on emerging among former refugees, genocide survivors, or prisoners. The idea that horrific visions described by the seers in 1982 announced the violent events of the nineties is now widely accepted. However, these narratives that promote peace and reconciliation both at an institutional and a popular level proceed from a rereading of the phenomenon's early history, then much more related to the moral implications of Rwanda's continuing modernization. Based on a bi-sited fieldwork in Rwanda and in Brussels, this paper proposes to discuss how imported religious concepts can be locally worked on, integrating nationalist imaginaries and achieving transnationalization through flows of media and migration.

The 'Mama Mary' of the white city's black underside: reflections on a Filipina domestic workers' block rosary in Tel Aviv, Israel

Author: Claudia Liebelt (Bayreuth University)  email
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Long Abstract

Each Friday, a group of Filipina Catholic domestic workers carries a figure of Our Lady of Fatima through the socially and economically deprived neighbourhoods of southern Tel Aviv, where most of them live. As the icon is carried from home to home, she sanctifies these homes and the urban space, hears the women's petitions, creates a community of devotees, and does miracles, so they believe. On the background of the troubled neighbourhood's Friday nightlife and the migrants' own life turbulences, 'Mama Mary,' as she is tenderly addressed, comes to stand for compassion, refuge, and protection. While their fervent Marian devotion attracts little interest from Jewish residents, it has produced tensions with the local clergy. Based on ethnographic research in Israel and the Philippines, my paper provides a fascinating analysis of lived Catholicism in the context of transnational mobility and diaspora.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.