Accepted paper:

"A world set apart": the emergence and sustenance of Utopian space through expressive culture

Author:

Leonard Norman Primiano (Cabrini University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the emergence and sustenance of religious utopian and perfectionist spaces through expressive culture in the context of an abundantly expressive “indigenous” American religion centered for the last seventy years in the city of Philadelphia, namely Father Divine’s Peace Mission Movement.

Paper long abstract:

Influenced by the work of spacial theorists Yi-Fu Tuan and Edward Casey among others, ethnologists of religion have focused on the study of how collaboratively produced and continually reproduced forms of artistic expression and communication generate a "sense of place," that is the subjective and emotional attachment individuals have to a place (Rosina Miller) both religious and non-religious. This paper examines the emergence and sustenance of religious utopian and perfectionist spaces through expressive culture in the context of an abundantly expressive "indigenous" American religion centered for the last seventy years in the city of Philadelphia -- one of the most fascinating urban and African American religions of the twentieth century - namely, Father Divine's Peace Mission Movement. My paper will give specific attention to the ways the Peace Mission has worked to establish this space as sacred both for the followers and for the outside world, how they have used artistic expression and communication to generate a sense of religious utopian and perfectionist place through songs, through a food tradition, and in a tradition of ordered perfection, ornamentation and decoration, especially with flowers. All of these expressions emphasize a consistently creative conception of Peace Mission spaces and places as "A World Set Apart."

panel Reli003
Almost heaven: vernacular utopias and the culture of belief