Accepted paper:

'This is our tradition!': contemporary Ghanaian Catholics and the heritagization of 'African traditional religion'

Author:

Anna Niedźwiedź (Jagiellonian University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will discuss the interface between so-called ‘African traditional religion’ and contemporary Catholic practices in Ghana. Focus will be on heritagization processes that transform elements of contested ‘traditional religion’ into ‘our tradition’ appreciated and valued by local Christians.

Paper long abstract:

Based on ethnographic research in central Ghana, this paper will discuss the interface between so-called 'African traditional religion' and Catholic practices. Focus will be on heritagization processes that transform elements of 'traditional religion' (usually contested by local Christians) into a concept of 'our tradition' and 'our heritage' (which seems to be appreciated and highly valued irrespective of religious affiliation). Firstly, I am interested in which elements of 'traditional religion' happen to be labeled by today's Catholics as 'tradition' and in which circumstances the labelling occurs. Family feasts (outdooring, funerals) and local 'traditional' festivals (Yam Festival, local shrine's festivals) appear as important interfaces where Christian identity is confronted with 'traditional religion'. However, numerous elements of 'traditional religion' are accepted and practiced by Christians, while labelled by them as 'our tradition'. Secondly, the process of heritagization of 'traditional religion' reveals itself also within today's Catholic religious practices. Numerous 'traditional' symbols and rites are getting 'inculturated' into 'Christian way' of life and worship. In the course of this process 'traditional religion' happens to be inscribed into an image of the past, thus valued as historical 'heritage'. These processes are of a twofold nature. On the one hand they are supported by an official stance of the Catholic church and its turn toward 'inculturation'. On the other hand, numerous grassroots activities appear, sometimes conflicting with these initiated by clergy. Finally, in the multi-religious environment of central Ghana 'our tradition' seems to provide shared symbolic language enabling interactions among people belonging to various religious denominations.

panel Reli002
The heritagization of religious and spiritual practices: the effects of grassroots and top-down policies (SIEF Ethnology of Religion Working Group)