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SIEF2013 11th Congress: Tartu, Estonia.
30 June - 4 July, 2013

SIEF2013: Circulation

Tartu, Estonia; 30th June - 4th July

(P20)

Fluidity, mobility and versatility of the sacred

Location Ülikooli 18, 139
Date and Start Time 03 July, 2013 at 10:30

Convenors

Peter Jan Margry (University of Amsterdam/Meertens Institute, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) email
Clara Saraiva (FLUL, University of Lisbon) email
Anna Niedźwiedź (Jagiellonian University) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel addresses the questions of why and in which ways through time and space the many ideas and perceptions of the sacred (and a fortiori of religion and spirituality) have been increasingly changing and moving all over the world.

Long Abstract

This panel addresses the questions of why and in which ways through time and space - via trade, travel, migration, tourism, globalization, mediatization, internet and social networks - the many ideas and perceptions of the sacred (and a fortiori of religion and spirituality) have been increasingly changing and moving all over the world. The once seemingly stable geography and classification of the sacred have been inverted over the last decades into a worldwide eclectic religious and spiritual marketplace from which the individual chooses what suits best. This does not only apply to esoteric, neopagan, eastern and 'new age' religions and spiritualities, but also to the traditional religions of the west that have seen all kind of charismatic and pentecostal movements and other agents of change.

We welcome paper proposals which, from a theoretical perspective, present case studies drawing on ethnography to show how in contemporary society (as well as in the past) the cultural transmission and transformation of ideas of the sacred (in its broad sense) occur in practice and how these appropriated and adapted ideas and practices are created and expressed.

This panel is organized by the SIEF Working Group Ethnology of Religion.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Marketed spirituality: African healers in the Netherlands

Author: Amber Gemmeke (University of Bayreuth)  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on clientele-building of African healers in the Netherlands. It explores specifically how notions of the sacred are transferred, modified, or rejected within the discursive translation of 'spiritual' practices between African healers and non-African clients in the Dutch setting.

Long Abstract

This paper addresses the translation of spiritual, African, and Islamic worldviews in a European, dechurching Christian context. It focuses on the ways in which African healers set up a clientele, through personal and publicized means, in the Netherlands. It addresses specifically the translations and adaptations of their services, practices, and visual and verbal presentation to the Dutch setting. The paper is based upon fieldwork in Senegal in 2004-2006 and in the Netherlands in 2011-2013.

The Netherlands is a relatively new market in African healers' multilocal networks. Coming mostly from Muslim West African countries such as Guinee, Senegal, the Gambia, Mali, and Nigeria, they establish since about twenty years networks in the Netherlands. Some healers advertise in newspapers, on the internet, on the radio and with door-to-door leaflets. Many find their clientele, however, through friends, colleagues, neighbors and family. In the Netherlands, African healers cater to a clientele consisting mostly of Africans and Surinamese, and, to a lesser extent, Antilleans, Moroccans, Turks, and Dutch. Taking the discursive translation of 'spiritual' practices between African healers and their non-African clients in the Netherlands as a starting point, this paper explores how notions of the sacred are transferred, modified, or rejected.

Fluidity and mobility of the pilgrimage place: Medjugorje in pilgrimage objects

Authors: Marijana Belaj (University of Zagreb)  email
Petra Kelemen (University of Zagreb, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences)  email

Short Abstract

Taking ethnography of pilgrimage practices in Medjugorje as a starting point, the authors indicate the processes of sacralization of everyday life and desacralization of the pilgrimage place. They discuss the fluidity of boundaries and mobility of the pilgrimage place.

Long Abstract

Many anthropologists of pilgrimage locate the pilgrimage place outside the temporal and spatial boundaries of everyday life or at least at its margins. Moreover, they believe that traveling outside one's own home culture is the defining characteristic of the development of pilgrimage. In the paper the authors explore whether the separation between the pilgrimage place and everyday reality is indeed clear and defined.

The focus is on the objects brought to and from Medjugorje. By bringing a variety of personal objects to Medjugorje, pilgrims inscribe their everyday issues in the pilgrimage place, simultaneously constructing Medjugorje as a pilgrimage center. On the other hand, the taking of objects from the pilgrimage place as mementos or gifts for one's loved ones turns the place into a part of everyday symbolic inventory, even for people who have never visited it. Coming from a powerful pilgrimage place, these objects are often attributed with powers for solving everyday crises.

The processes of sacralization of the everyday (mementos and gifts from the pilgrimage place) and desacralization of the pilgrimage place (personal objects reflecting pleas and hopes relating to everyday issues) blur the supposedly clear boundary between everyday reality ("common", "profane", "this-worldly") and the separate reality of the pilgrimage place ("extraordinary", "sacred", "otherworldly"). The authors conclude that, although Medjugorje has a fixed geographical position, the space of this pilgrimage place is as wide as the space of existence of its users.

Ancient ideologies and modern practices in the newly established holy places of Latvia

Author: Rūta Muktupāvela (Latvian Academy of Culture)  email

Short Abstract

Factors promoting the establishment of the so-called “modern holy places” in the last decades of the 20th century in Latvia, with the ideology mostly based on the elements of Baltic pre-Christian world view, are analyzed, yet a process of universalization of these places can be observed.

Long Abstract

As social movement for restoration of independent national state began in Latvia in the last decades of the 20th century and as the search for self-confidence and values intensified, besides ecologic, rock-music and neofolklore movements, an increased interest was displayed towards rediscovery, restoration and putting in order of culturally and historically significant objects, including "pagan" cultic places, ruined churches etc. Simultaneously, the so-called "new holy places", mostly of pantheistic character, were established. The ideology of these newly established holy places was mostly based on the elements of Baltic pre-Christian world view, yet, especially after Latvia joining the EU, a process of universalization of these places can be observed, and the New Age style rituals and practices, such as cleansing of chakras, absorbing of cosmic energy, balancing of biorhythms, healing etc. have been performed, and simulations of the methods of natural sciences, manipulations with concepts drawn from information technology have been used with an ever increasing frequency.

The intensity of the establishing of the new holy places in post-Soviet Latvia can be explained with the unstable social, political and economical situation, with the new possibilities of spiritual life and with predisposition towards it. Nevertheless, even after 20 years of independence, almost every local community considers it the matter of honour to "discover" at least one holy place of ancestors, or paleoastronomic observatory or megalithic astrological calendar.

Based on the fieldwork done in 1999, 2009, 2010 and 2011, the factors promoting these "new findings" are analyzed in the paper.

"This is a multicultural place": a phenomenon of the worshipping of "saints" in Roma Muslim communities in the Balkans

Author: Ksenia Trofimova (Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences)  email

Short Abstract

The paper intends to examine the specificity of the contemporary existence of tradition of worshiping of "saints" among Muslim communities in the Balkans. The key concepts, their interpretations and transformations of meanings as a result of cultural processes in the local traditions are analyzed.

Long Abstract

The worship of "saints" is a historically based tradition and is relevant for different ethnic and religious communities including Rroma ethno cultural groups. The cult discussed appears primary in the frames of tradition of veneration of "saints" (auliya), widely spread in Muslim milieu. It includes in itself a creation of sacred places (tekke), which were the place of pilgrimage and performance of certain ritual practices, associated with the figure of either of "saints" or "babalara". Later on, this local tradition develops in the multicultural area and therefore undergoes various changes right up to the present time. Nowadays such places appear mostly in Rroma districts and are developing in the syncretic cultural space reflecting the relevant social and cultural processes within the communities. This paper focuses on the analysis of the current status of the cult and recognizes the variety of its content, the construction of social and religious statuses and roles in local communities as well as the specificity of formation of this discourse in Rroma milieu. The proposed research discovers an interesting prospect for the study of different aspects of the formation of tradition in Rroma communities.

The circulation of Pentecostal religious practices among Roma communities in Hungary

Author: Kinga Povedák (Hungarian Academy of Sciences)  email

Short Abstract

I analyse how Pentecostal religious practices circulate and reach Hungarian Roma communities.

Long Abstract

It is a truism that religions and spiritual movements go through rapid transformation in late modernity. These processes are well-researched, however in the Central and Eastern-European environment it is not well-investigated. The connection between globalization, mediatisation and religious transformation in CEE can be well analysed in the case of Hungarian Roma religiosity. There are mushrooming Roma communities in Hungary converting to Pentecostal Christianity or to the charismatic Catholics. Roma groups based on traditional values were exposed to the "secularized" globalized mass culture and had the chance to suffice their religious needs from a plural global religious market at once in 1989. Through my ethnographic research among a Roma community I analyse how Pentecostal religious practices circulate and reach these communities. I investigate the ways the traditional values are changed and in what way the individuals and communities from traditional locality are immersed in global Pentecostal practices.

Transnational lay movements as agents of a selective hybrid Catholicism and as actors of a parallel Catholic regime

Author: Birgit Huber (University of Innsbruck)  email

Short Abstract

Based on case studies from Austria drawing on ethnography it is analysed, in what ways and based on which media actors of three transnational lay movements − a Catholic charismatic, an integrative and an emancipatory movement − combine and spread elements of several spiritual Catholic traditions.

Long Abstract

It is analysed, based on case studies from Austria drawing on ethnography, in what ways and based on which media actors of three transnational Catholic lay movements combine and spread elements of several spiritual Catholic traditions and emotional styles. The "Charismatic Renewal within the Catholic Church (CE)" is a variation of the worldwide Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) movement. The "Focolare" movement, chosen as an example for an integrative movement, practises his ideal of a "spirituality of universal brotherhood" in 182 countries. The "We Are Church" movement, chosen as an example of an emancipatory Catholic movement, having come into being only in 1995, brings together attempts from 42 countries to democratise the official church. The following hypothesis will be presented in the lecture: Multiple active actors of the movements, who are accompanied by the researcher in their travels to take part in religious events, groups and contexts allover Europe, are agents of an intrapersonal, selective hybrid Catholicism, which emerges among them. Moreover it is analysed, in what ways the selected movements are actors of a new transnational Catholic regime that is destabilising the centrally organised, equally transnational but Rome-centred Catholic regime, or contribute at least to the establishment of a parallel Catholic regime.

"You all worship the same god": ghosts and religion

Author: Paul Cowdell (Folklore Society)  email

Short Abstract

Based on recent fieldwork I discuss the relationship between informal belief in ghosts and institutional religious practice and reflect on the genres employed. The syncretism of ghost belief shapes transmission and feeds into congregational religious observance, which operate at a different pace.

Long Abstract

In recent field research into ghost belief in England I sought to cover a number of developments including the demographic shifts that have taken place in Britain over the last period and the relationship between informal ghost belief and more institutional religious practices. The two are related, as discussion of ghost beliefs revealed a thoughtful syncretism and eclecticism informed by exposure to new cultural factors. A young Hindu woman, for example, linked English vernacular death traditions involving candles to Hindu burial practice. This has not always been reflected in folklore research on ghosts: even Gillian Bennett's groundbreaking work of the 1980s dealt with a rather limited social group of informants.

This openness to syncretism across reflects the patterns of transmission of ghost beliefs and narratives. The acceptance, or negotiation, of anomalous events determines the ways in which such topics are shared, but it also feeds back into congregational religious observance with which it may sometimes be at odds.

Given the pattern of transmission such informal beliefs do not respond immediately to external economic pressures in the same way as institutional religious forms do, but both developments continue to influence each other. I will discuss these patterns of transmission and investigate their relationship, touching on the genres employed in their continued circulation.

The origin, mobility and manifestation of ideas in Source-Breathwork Community

Author: Katre Koppel (University of Tartu)  email

Short Abstract

Source-Breathwork community is a New Age community which is unified by the healing practice called Source Process and Breathwork. The aim of my paper is to introduce the ideas that are used to create Source-Breathwork community and analyse the origin and mobility of these ideas.

Long Abstract

New Age has been described by notions like do-it-yourself-religion, pick-and-mix religion, religious consumption a `la carte or spiritual supermarket. Although it can be said the phenomenon of New Age is eclectic and the concept itself fuzzy, the ideas, beliefs and practices are not random that are chosen for creating the religious/spiritual understanding of the world. The aim of my paper is to introduce the ideas that are used to create Source-Breathwork community and analyse the origin and mobility of these ideas. Source-Breathwork community is a New Age community which is unified by the healing practice called Source Process and Breathwork (developed from the similar practice Rebirthing). Characteristic to New Age healing practices, the purpose of Source-Breathwork is to heal a person as a whole. The main attention is given to healing the (physical) birth that is seen the most fundamental and influential event in a person's life. Being intertwined to a wholesome and complex system, the teaching of Source community is formed by western and eastern religious and Esoteric traditions, on the other hand, by modern sciences like psychology and biology. In addition, there is always an interaction between scientific and magical perceptions in the community. The teachings of Source community are clearly manifested during the pregnancy and baby's birth. Source Process and Breathwork trainings have been regularly organized in Estonia from the beginning of 2000s. As a consequence the local Source community has emerged. The paper is based on fieldwork materials collected in 2010-2012 in Estonia.

Localizing the sacred in a contemporary African Catholic community

Author: Anna Niedźwiedź (Jagiellonian University)  email

Short Abstract

The paper discusses an example of Catholic community from central Ghana and reveals how European-based concept of the sacred is adopted and adapted to local circumstances. Specific practices will be analyzed problematizing the concept of inculturation as perceived by clergy and experienced by people

Long Abstract

Catholic idea of the sacred (and of religion, and spirituality) originally was being constructed within the framework of European cultures and traditions, as well as European-grounded philosophy. However, recent centuries brought expansion of new, significant non-European developments within Catholicism. As one of the global religious denominations Catholicism is widespread and lived in various continents, adapting and being adopted to local traditions, symbols, myths, concepts and worldviews.

This paper seeks an answer for the question how exemplary contemporary African Catholic community adapts, transforms, and adjusts the Catholic concept of the sacred (as well as religion and spirituality) to its local circumstances, cosmological and anthropological concepts, living conditions, local landscape, worldview, ritual patterns, bodily expressions etc. On one hand I will discuss the concept of inculturation as perceived and implemented by missionary and local (Ghanaian) clergy. On the other hand I will present how on the ground ideas conceived within a framework of inculturation are additionally reframed, redefined, and reinterpreted or even misunderstood and rejected.

The data used in this paper are based on ethnographic field research among Catholics from Brong Ahafo region in Ghana. I will focus on specific examples representing various ways of reframing the sacred, including the spatial localization of the sacred (e.g. creation of the local grotto as a new sacred space), ritualistic encounters with the sacred (combining traditional festivals with Christian feast and rites), as well as bodily practices modeling spiritual experiences.

How to read Catholic kitsch

Author: Leonard Norman Primiano (Cabrini University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will specifically examine Catholic kitsch, defining the term, discussing its sources in Catholic devotionalism, and highlighting its energetic use and importance within the vernacular religious lives of contemporary Catholics.

Long Abstract

The recent special issue of the journal Material Religion on "Key Words in Material Religion" (March 2011) contained discreet essays on such terms as "Sign," "Thing," "Icon/Image," and "Display," but no separate consideration of a most significant expression of religious imagery in the lives of many Catholics and Christians: religious kitsch. This paper will specifically examine Catholic kitsch, defining the term, discussing its sources in Catholic devotionalism, and highlighting its energetic use and importance within the vernacular religious lives of contemporary Catholics. While religious illiteracy in terms of content knowledge of religious traditions is on the rise, an equally significant visual religious illiteracy is leaving especially younger Catholics with the ability to locate images on their digital conveniences, but with little knowledge of the context and meaning of the images they find. Mass produced and reasonably priced, items of iconographic kitsch become for some the only link they have to Christianity's abundant material and visual past. Critiques of Catholic kitsch involving cultural, aesthetic, and ethical approaches will be noted, ethnographic work with contemporary Roman Catholics highlighted, and the presentation profusely illustrated.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.