EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


New perspectives on 'European' Christianity

Location Victoria Victoria's
Date and Start Time 19 Sep, 2006 at 11:30


Ramon Sarró (University of Oxford) email
Elisabeth Claverie (CNRS) email
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Short Abstract

Through innovative ethnographic approaches, the panel examines the ways European Christianity has shaped territorial identities and the challenges that new forms of Christianity represent for such an old ingredient of European cultural heritage.

Long Abstract

One of the key processes in the history of European expansion in the world has been the role of Christian missionisation in the colonial project. Today, when anthropology is discussing the issues of postcolonialism within a globalised and transnational frame, recent studies have shown how this aftermath has reversed directions in terms of the dialogue between Europe (East and West) and the world, observing new stages, expressions and agencies of Christian faith and practice in Europe. Reconfiguration of the scale in which holy images, cults, are framed, in the West and in the East, due to encounters with the new political equilibrium after the end of the cold war, and religious grammars trying to mobilise in partly political terms, will be analysed in their local expressions which are showing the ways international politics are interpreted here and there. This panel will explore these processes through the presentation and discussion of contemporary ethnographic research.

Chair: Elisabeth Claverie and Ramon Sarró


'Are you a real Christian?' Stereotypes, distrust and distinction strategies between 'new' and 'old' Protestants in Barcelona

Author: Maria del Mar Griera Llonch (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper deals with the effects of the 'reversal mission' in the protestant community of Barcelona. The arrival of a substantial number of protestant followers, as well as the creation of new churches, have shaped the configuration, future growth expectation and public role of the protestant community in the city. Paper is based on the fieldwork carried out during 2002-06 among Protestant Churches in Catalonia.

'We believed in God, we just didn't know who He was'; defining faith among Portuguese and Spanish Pentecostal Gypsies

Author: Ruy Blanes ((CSIC) / (INCIPIT))  email
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Long Abstract

The Gypsies in the Iberian Peninsula have, since their arrival to this region (five centuries ago), been often described as 1) black magic or sorcery practitioners; 2) incapable of being "truly" religious; or, in the best of chances, as 3) cheats, adopters of a "cynical" Christianity. In this period, the Portuguese and Spanish religious and governmental institutions have been the main instigators of this paradigm, promoting a conjoint notion of self, morality and faith. Over the last four decades, though, the widespread conversion of Portuguese and Spanish gypsies into Pentecostal Christianity (namely the "Filadelfia" movement) has promoted a redefinition of those concepts in a somewhat surprising manner. Drawing on published memories, "Filadelfia" conversion testimonies and fieldwork accounts, this paper intends to reveal how.

Torn between Christianity and neo-paganism: menstrual rituals in contemporary Spain and France

Author: Anna Fedele (CRIA, Lisbon University Institute)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper describes the ritual practices of a group of Spanish and Catalan women who consider the "sacralization" of menstrual blood to be one of the key processes in acquiring self-esteem and healing psychological wounds. Influenced by texts derived from neo-pagan authors, they perform rituals to commune with Mother Earth by offering her their menstrual blood. Raised and educated in Catholic families, these women--who consider themselves part of the worldwide Goddess movement--do not consider their beliefs and rituals to be in contrast with Christian values. They see Mary Magdalene as the guardian of menstrual blood and they advocate a "feminist reading" of Jesus' message.

The Virgin Mary in Lebanon: a shared worship

Author: Emma Aubin-Boltanski (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris)  email
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Long Abstract

In Lebanon, a small Maronite village (Bichû'ât) located in the North of the Bekaa area is the center of a pilgrimage that is gathering Christian and Muslim worshippers. A Virgin Mary' statue attracts pilgrims coming from the entire Lebanese territory, as well as from the neighbouring countries (Jordan and Syria). This statue is a representation of the Virgin who appeared in 1871 in Pontmain, a village of the west of France. A French Jesuit brought it at the beginning of the 20th century, a time where the catholic missionaries were exporting in great numbers holy images toward the countries of the Orient.

I will analyse the forms of the encounters of worshippers from different religions. These encounters take place in a context, Lebanon, where the relations between religious communities, since the civil war (1975-1990) are marked by the suspicion and the prejudice toward the "confessionnaly Other". Also, they take place around and thank to the mediation of a figure of great importance for both religions (Christianity and Islam): the Virgin Mary.

Perspectives on prayer and symbolisation in an Irish Catholic community

Author: Carles Salazar (Universitat de Barcelona)  email
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Long Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to present a preliminary analysis of the experience of prayer in the everyday life of an Irish community. Apparently, prayer is one of the most salient and ubiquitous religious acts in the community. But its mainly mental nature poses complex theoretical and empirical problems for the ethnographer. This paper will concentrate on the relationship between internal mental events and their external forms of symbolisation. The hypothesis is that in order to be meaningful and effective prayers have to struck a subtle balance between both their internal and external dimensions.

Sicilian Mafia: from local system to global Evil

Author: Deborah Puccio-Den (CNRS-EHESS)  email
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Long Abstract

The Organised Crime Network is one of the aspects of a World going global. Their interconnection gives it a more and more global dimension. Sicilian Mafia proves it. Its unitary structure appears to Judge Giovanni Falcone at the beginning of 1980's, following Mafiosi Repentant confessions - most of which Tommaso Buscetta come from. The construction of a new theoretic model, fit to catch the systemic nature of mafia association, goes with the deployment of a repressive system, police and judicial, organised like an international and intercontinental frame. The Maxi-processo (1984) is the fruit of this enterprise of repression and knowledge at the same time. That enormous criminal trial, which showed Mafiosi's repentance, also develops the figure of "Man of Honour" like a "Barbarian", an "Enemy of humans beings", a "Antichrist". The social consequences of the religious definition of political criminals will be examined in the context of the transformation of the fight against mafia - firstly localised and limited to Sicily - in a paradigmatic war between Good and Evil.

'Between Europe and the menacing Islam: defending Europe on the borders from the Turks': a representation of identity in religious-political context - an example from Serbia

Author: Maria Vivod (UMR 7367 Strasbourg France)  email
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Long Abstract

In the past 15 years many things have been written and sad about the historical and sociological events in the Balkans, especially in ex-Yugoslavia. In this lecture I would like to study the elements of a political-historical way of speaking of the representation of the Serb national identity, in her active creation of the position of the Serb nation and state in Europe and the world. From the anthropological point of view it would be of special interest to investigate the development of this political speech of parts of the public opinion and of the simple individual, derived from the interpretation of the past historical events by the nationalist historians and politologues.

The civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the interpretation of lower social-classes and the ultra-nationalist political parties, is justified by the later events in the world, especially with 9/11 and the War on Terror, as a part of an all-out war of Christianity against Islam.

This way of speaking is an active process of the individuals, representatives of a nation, based in a search of inspiring moments in the past to relate them with the present ones and to create a 'line of destiny of the Serb people'. One of the examples is the defense system of the Habsburg Monarchy - 'Europe' in the eyes of the Serbs - against the Turkish Empire in the XVI. century, where the Serbs were the base of the so called Militärgrenze, very much used in the contemporary political speeches.

The 'leitmotif' of such a speech are the defense of the whole Christianity (in spite of the fact that the Serbs are orthodox Christians) from Islam, based on the virtues of a patriarchal society and the insufficiently rewarded loyalty of the Western world, Europe, which are the guiding lines of political speeches and 'political discussion' of the ordinary man.

In the form of such speech Serbia is representing itself in her middle age status, bleeding in defense of Christianity against the Turks, both willingly and unwillingly, partially because of her geo-political position on the border of Christianity and sacrificing herself guarding the borders of the ungrateful Europe from the invading Islam.

In this line of representation Islam is a growing evil, Europe is paying the price of her thoughtless politics, the US deserved 9/11 (because of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999), and Serbia is the last Christian crusader. In my lecture I would like to analyze the elements of this speech and the basics of this kind of self-representation, of Christianity and of the image of Europe.

Reclaiming the (Swiss) nation for God: the politics of Charismatic prophetism

Author: Philippe Gonzalez (Lausanne University)  email
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Long Abstract

Using an ethnographical approach, this paper examines the relationship between Charismatic prophetism found in Evangelical circles and a discourse that envisions the concept of "the (Swiss) nation" as the basis and horizon for understanding God's activity within history. We will demonstrate the intricacy of various modes of participation, ranging from ecstatic involvement in charismatic meetings among youth to citizenship in the national community. In such settings, participants are urged to connect the religious and political realms in order to restore the nation through the (re)establishment of an ancestral purity which is seen to have its origin in Christianity. "Spiritual warfare" is the concept used by the members to describe the religious issues at stake, and is then extended to the public domain. The analysis will try to shed light on the nature of the communities envisioned, the diverse modes of participating in them and the role of the Holy Spirit as an empowering agent for reshaping those communities.

Charity and salvation in the Eastern Churches: an ethnography of faith-based charities in Hungary and Greece

Author: Stéphanie Mahieu (Institut National du Patrimoine, Paris)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper focuses on faith-based charities in the Eastern Churches. My ethnographical case studies are Paraklisz, a Greek Catholic detoxification centre in Hungary, and Allilevigui, an NGO led by the Greek Orthodox Church. I put the accent on the social doctrine of the Eastern Churches rather than on the Church-State relations. The study of Nationalism within Eastern Churches in South East Europe is indeed of crucial importance, as it appeared during the wars in the former Yugoslavia and the debates over the identity card or the European Constitution. However, it has been over-emphasized during the last decade, and therefore somehow neglected other fundamental socio-historical aspects of religious life. The crucial role played by religious actors, besides traditional state-provided resources, in providing forms of social security, is indeed getting more and more acknowledged both by policy makers and scholars. However, few researches have been undertaken about faith-based charities in Central and Eastern Europe. This apparent lack of interest is partly related to the fact that charity as an institutional activity was much less developed in the Eastern tradition. This relative lack can be explained by three set of reasons: geo-political factors, the role of the Eastern Churches itself (in terms of salvation and morality), and community-based organization of the society. Nevertheless, in the most recent years, significant forms of a structured Eastern non-profit sector have developed. Labeled as the Diakonia, the doctrine of Eastern charity is growing. Organizations such as International Orthodox Christian Charities, and Ortaid (led by the Finnish Orthodox Church) are developing charitable activities in Europe, but also all over the world. Do Eastern charities promote a specific set of values connected with Orthodox morality? How do they interrelate with other European faith-based institutions? Are charitable activities a way to salvation, like in other Christian traditions? These are few of the questions I am interested in.

Peripheries of Eastern Christianity: the Greek Catholics of Western Ukraine

Author: Vlad Naumescu (Central European University)  email
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Long Abstract

At a first glance Eastern Christianity appears as the most conservative of the main Christian traditions and this is also the self-image of its constituent Churches. Apparently isolated from historical transformations, Eastern Christianity evolved over time into a variety of local traditions shaped by local religious practices and beliefs. However, a certain degree of uniformity in both practice and beliefs bonds the 'imagined community' of Orthodoxy together (rather than authority or doctrine as in the case of other Christian traditions). Here the variety of religious expressions is the result of the different modes of religious transmission (from which iconography is just one example) and the borders between practical and doctrinal religion are blurred. As any religious tradition Eastern Christianity has its own modalities of adjustment to changing social conditions, embedded mechanisms of reproduction and change.

The ethnographic material for this paper comes from Western Ukraine, a region at the intersection of two great religious traditions, Eastern and Western Christianity. To grasp the particularity of the local religious tradition some authors referred to it as a 'religion of the margins' [une religion des confines], a place of religious plurality and confessional fluctuation. The case of Ukrainian Greek Catholics illustrates well the 'ambiguity of peripheries' and the continuous move between the two attraction poles: East and West. Postsocialist Ukraine has seen the revival of 'traditional' Churches alongside new religious groups developing a remarkable religious pluralism. Still believers tend to go beyond recently-built confessional borders by transporting their practice and expectations to different churches as different places of prayer and remaining thus 'unchurched'. The local religious tradition shapes institutions (new and traditional alike) but it is also modified through constant interpretation and negotiation.