Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Sites and Politics of Religious Diversity in Southern Europe: Book Review

May 21, 2014

Mapril, José and Ruy Blanes (eds). 2013. Sites and Politics of Religious Diversity in Southern Europe: The Best of All Gods. Leiden and Boston: Brill.

By: Kim Knibbe (University of Groningen)

The anthropology of religion in the South of Europe is alive and well. That is the resounding conclusion after reading this volume. Furthermore, it has stepped out well beyond the bounds of the classic ‘anthropology of the Mediterranean’. In an important sense, this volume also falls outside the scope of the anthropology of Christianity, since its subject is religious diversity, and it includes studies of Islam, Sikhism, Umbanda and Candomblé, New Age, and neo-paganism. In fact, only a small number of chapters deal with Christianity as their main subject matter. Nevertheless, the volume raises some important questions that are worth discussing in this forum.

The introduction by the editors does a good job of introducing the subject and providing a framework for the very diverse contributions to the volume. It starts out with the question of the religious heritage of Europe that emerged around the issue of a European constitution: can this be thought of only in terms of Christianity (in other discussions, ‘Judeo-’ is sometimes added in front of Christianity, still not self-evidently part of what is thought of as the European heritage)? This volume aims to show that the groups discussed here conceptualize Europe in quite different ways, and create new cartographies of this place called Europe. Each of these cartographies in their own right can be read as a challenge to the ‘secularist hegemony’ of public opinion and, one might add, of Eurocrats (1). Europe, even the south of Europe, which appeared so homogenously Christian in the anthropology of the Mediterranean, is quite diverse in terms of religion.

While religious diversity is not a new phenomenon, in the light of the ‘return of religion’ in public debate (if not in fact, since religion had never really gone away) the editors argue that it is something worth noting and exploring. How do different groups shape the relationship between religion and culture on the one hand, and place on the other hand? How are migrant groups subject to ‘double marginalization,’ as migrants and as ‘religiously other,’ and how do they resist this? The south of Europe is particularly interesting, they argue, because it is at the edges of the Schengen area, the place where boundary work is particularly urgent since it is a gateway for migrants from Africa and the Middle East to Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

Beekers, “Pedagogies of piety”

March 13, 2014

Beekers, Daan.  2014.  Pedagogies of piety: Comparing young observant Muslims and Christians in the Netherlands.  Culture and Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract:  In this article, I compare the active religious engagement found among many of today’s young Dutch Muslims and Christians. I show that such comparison requires a move beyond the separate frameworks through which these groups are commonly perceived, found both in widely shared public discourses (‘allochthons’ versus ‘autochthons’) and in academic research (minority studies versus the sociology of religion). In their stead, this comparative analysis examines in what ways both groups give shape to observant religious practice in the shared context of contemporary Dutch society. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, I show that young Christians as well as Muslims participate in social settings of religious pedagogy, where they are encouraged to attain, sustain and improve personal piety in today’s pluralist Dutch society. Such social participation does not preclude, but rather comes together with a strong emphasis on reflexivity and authenticity.

Saint-Blancet and Cancellieri, “From invisibility to visibility?”

February 14, 2014

Saint-Blancet, Chantal and Adriano Cancellieri.  2014.  “From invisibility to visibility?: The appropriation of public space through a religious ritual: the Filipino procession of Santacruzan in Padua, Italy.  Social & Cultural Geography. Early online publication.

Abstract: Mainly employed as domestic workers and care providers since the 1980s, Filipino migrants have been, and still are, largely invisible in Italian public space. Since 1991, once a year, on the last Sunday of May, they transform the streets of Padua, city of Saint Anthony, into their own temporary ‘sacred space’ celebrating the finding of the Holy Cross (Santa Cruz). Based on ethnographic research and in-depth interviews, the paper analyses the preparation of the ritual and the embodied performance as a means to interpret the Filipino local and transnational territorialisation in the Italian context. The discussion underlines how the Italian setting affects the relationship between the sacred and the secular and between majority and minority religions in the urban texture. Urban space being the symbolic arena where identity and the process of boundary making are inscribed, we consider public space as a social process constituted by three levels: accessibility, temporary appropriation and visibility. Drawing on this immigrant religious ritual, we apply this perspective to look at the interactions between local society and newcomers and the blurring boundaries between religious and non-religious in the ambiguous Italian public space.

Muehlebach, “The Catholicization of Neoliberalism”

August 28, 2013

Muehlebach, Andrea.  2013.  The Catholicization of Neoliberalism: On Love and Welfare in Lombardy, Italy.  American Anthropologist 115(3): 452–465.

Abstract: In this article, I track the ways in which Catholicism articulates with contemporary neoliberalism. Grounded in an analysis of how neoliberal welfare-state reform in Lombardy, northern Italy, is rendered through core idioms of the Catholic imaginative universe, I argue that the Lombardian case offers general insight into the “moral style” of contemporary neoliberalism. In contrast to the messianic gospel of prosperity exhibited by the Protestant ethic at the turn of the millennium (a gospel that promised instantaneous rushes of wealth through quasi-magical means), the charisma of Catholicized neoliberalism lies not in its rejection of the market but in its injunction that parts of this wealth ought to be redistributed through charitable actions. Catholicized neoliberalism thus hinges on a loving empathetic subject that purportedly repairs the damages of excessive marketization. It couples market rule to moral sentiment, economic rationality to the emotional urgencies of caritas. Although this new culture of feeling and action tends to leave neoliberalism’s basic structural features intact, it also at times allows for the disruption of market rule.

Di Goivine, “Padre Pio for sale: Souvenirs, Relics, or Identity markers”

July 6, 2013

Di Goivine, Michael. 2012. “Padre Pio for sale: Souvenirs, Relics, or Identity markers.” International Journal of Tourism Anthropology 2(2):108-127.

Abstract: Based on long-term ethnographic research, this paper examines therole of material culture (objects, souvenirs, art and built structures) in the contemporary Catholic cult of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, particularly how it iscreated, contextualised, contested, and consumed by pilgrims at Pio’s shrine of San Giovanni Rotondo. The shrine’s managers have frequently been criticised for its commercialism and invasive nature. While some critiques are warranted, this paper argues that they fail to consider deeper meanings of these objects. In particular, they are conceived of as relics – social and spiritual mediators – that connect the pilgrim with the saint and with other devotees; they are alsoidentity markers whose employment by diverse groups within the cult bothindex and construct deeply held cosmological notions of their relationship to Pio and the supernatural. The examination of these factors, therefore,ultimately provides a valuable look at the discourses and practices during theformation of a major saint’s cult.

Knibbe, “Faith in the Familiar”

July 6, 2013

Knibbe, Kim. 2013. Faith in the Familiar: Religion, Spirituality and Place in the South of the Netherlands. Boston: Brill. 

Publisher’s Description: Faith in the familiar is an ethnography of religious change in the Netherlands, discussing Catholicism and popular forms of New Age. It focuses on the location of religion in local life and how people relate to religious authority.

Djuriæ-Milovanoviæ, “‘Smuggling Bibles’: Everyday Life Of Baptist Serbs In Communist Romania”

December 18, 2012

Djuriæ-Milovanoviæ, Aleksandra. (2012). “‘Smuggling Bibles’: Everyday Life Of Baptist Serbs In Communist Romania.” Religion in Eastern Europe 32(4):33-40.

Excerpt: “This paper seeks to present everyday life experiences of Baptist Serbs in Romania during the specific historical period of communism . . .  Special interest is paid to the connections between Serbs from Romania and Yugoslavia, various missionary activities, and religious experiences of the born-again Christians during communism “

Webster, “The Immanence of Transcendence: God and the Devil on the Aberdeenshire Coast”

November 19, 2012

Webster, Joseph. 2012. “The Immanence of Transcendence: God and the Devil on the Aberdeenshire Coast.” Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, DOI:10.1080/00141844.2012.688762 [first print – pagination, volume and issue not available].

Abstract: In Gamrie (a Scottish fishing village of 700 people and 6 Protestant churches), local experiences of ‘divine providence’ and ‘demonic attack’ abound. Bodily fluids, scraps of paper, video cassettes and prawn trawlers were immanent carriers of divine and demonic activity. Viewed through the lens of Weberian social theory, the experiences of Scottish fisher families show how the life of the Christian resembles an enchanted struggle between God and the Devil with the Christian placed awkwardly in-between. Because, locally, ‘there is no such thing as coincidence’, these Christians expected to experience both the transcendent ordering of life by divine providence through God’s immanence and the transcendent disordering of life by demonic attack through the Devil’s immanence. Where this ordering and disordering frequently occurred through everyday objects, seemingly mundane events – being given a washing machine or feeling sleepy in church – were experienced as material indexes of spiritual reality. Drawing on the work of Cannell (on transcendence), Keane (on indexicality) and Wagner (on symbolic obviation), this paper argues that attending to the materiality of Scottish Protestantism better equips the anthropology of religion to understand Christian experience by positing immanence as a kind of transcendence and transcendence as a kind of immanence.

Jansen and Notermans, eds.,”Gender Nation and Religion in European Pilgrimage”

October 25, 2012

Jansen, Willy and Catrien Notermans, eds. (2012) Gender Nation and Religion in European Pilgrimage. Surrey: Ashgate Press.

Publisher’s Description: Old pilgrimage routes are attracting huge numbers of people. Religious or spiritual meanings are interwoven with socio-cultural and politico-strategic concerns and this book explores three such concerns of hot debate in Europe: religious identity construction in a changing European religious landscape; gender and sexual emancipation; and (trans)national identities in the context of migration and European unification. Through the explorations of such pilgrimages by a multidisciplinary range of international scholars, this book shows how the old routes of Europe are offering inspirational opportunities for making new journeys.

Voiculescu “To Whom God Speaks”

June 5, 2012

Voiculescu, Cerasela.  (2012). To Whom God Speaks: Struggles for Authority Through Religious Reflexivity and Performativity Within a Gypsy Pentecostal Church.  Sociological Research Online, 17(2): 10.

Abstract:

By limiting Gypsy Travellers’ mobility, the state has restricted their subjectivities and their mobile lifestyles. In this context, Pentecostalism, an egalitarian doctrine based on the privatization of relations with God, creates new spaces for Gypsy Travellers’ self-expression, and further premises for their ethnic and cultural revivalism. Through a symbolic interactionist approach, this paper argues that Gypsy Travellers obtain individual authority through religious reflexivity and performativity. It examines ethnographically the inter- and intra-personal religious conversations among believers in a Gypsy Pentecostal church in Edinburgh, UK. It shows the ways in which Gypsy Travellers use internal dialogues with God and symbolic interactions with significant others in the church as means of self-expression. God is the relational conversational partner and facilitates the believer’s self-mediation. It is the symbolic interface and signifier who can delegate authority to believers or preachers. Through the process of self-mastery, the practitioners of religious reflexivity gain control over themselves and perform authority in front of others. Thus, internal dialogues and symbolic interactions become the important experiential domains of a complex dramaturgy of Gypsy believers’ struggles for individual and collective authority.

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