Posts Tagged ‘José Mapril’

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 »

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