Dugan, “iPrayer”

Dugan, Katherine. (2019) ‘iPrayer: Catholic Prayer Apps and Twenty-First Century Catholic Subjectivities’. In: Fewkes, J. (ed.) Anthropological Perspectives on the Religious Use of Apps. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Abstract: In this chapter, Dugan investigates what happens when mobile technology mediates Catholic prayer. How does the experience of prayer shift when mediated through mobile technology? In what ways does the technology affect the formation of Catholic subjectivities? Drawing on ethnographic work among app developers and users, this chapter examines three Catholic prayer apps. These apps instruct Catholics in correct performance of prayer and attune Catholics to daily requirements of religious practice. Prayer apps contribute to twenty-first-century Catholic subjectivity by drawing Catholics into contested spaces between the laity and hierarchy, rote and spontaneous prayer, and between the sacred and profane. These apps participate in prayer-based Catholic discipline in—and for—the iPhone era.

Loustau, “Labor of and Labor in Post-Medjugorje Slideshows”

Loustau, Marc Roscoe. 2019. “The Labor of and Labor in Post-Medjugorje Slideshows.” Journeys 20(1): 31-52. 

Why do post-pilgrimage slideshows help Transylvanian Hungarian Catholics perform domestic devotional labor? There is growing interest in breaking open pilgrimage research, and scholars have recently begun studying rituals of return—including pilgrims’ practice of using photographs to narrate their journeys after returning home. I contribute to this effort by sketching out the general characteristics of Transylvanian Hungarian Catholics’ post-pilgrimage slideshows about the Medjugorje shrine. I then give a detailed description of an exemplary case: a married couple’s presentation for their children gathered around the family computer. Although we might expect pilgrims to routinize stories and images from a chaotic journey, many slideshows were quite disorganized and impressionistic. This disorganization helped travelers tailor their stories to the diverse spiritual interests of guests in a changing Transylvanian Hungarian Catholic religious landscape. Family members’ conversations also dramatized how neoliberalism in Romania has emerged alongside new global pilgrimage sites like Medjugorje. Medjugorje appeals to pilgrims because it is a privileged site for advertising national wares on the global market.

Farinacci, “Our Lady of the Wall”

Farinacci, Elisa. 2017. The Israeli-Palestinian Separation Wall and the Assemblage Theory: The Case of the Weekly Rosary at the Icon of Our Lady of the Wall. Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics 11(1): 83-110. 

Abstract: In this work I analyse the ethnographic case study of the icon of Our Lady of the Wall as establishing a unique ritual landscape among the cement slabs of the Israeli-Palestinian Wall separating Jerusalem from Bethlehem. Although the Wall has been widely described as a technology of occupation on one side and as a device to ensure security on the other, through Latour’s concept of assemblages I unearth its agency in developing a Christian shrine. Through a decade of weekly recitations of the Rosary along the Wall near Checkpoint 300, the Elizabethan nuns of the Caritas Baby Hospital have been invoking Mary’s help to dismantle the Wall. This weekly ritual represents both political dissent against the bordering action enacted by the Wall, as well as giving visibility to the plea of the Palestinian Christian right to live in this territory in the face of their status as an ethnoreligious minority.

Kraybill, “Non-ordained”

Kraybill, Jeanine E. 2016. “Non-ordained: Examining the Level of Female Religious Political Engagement and Social Policy Influence within the American Catholic Church.” Fieldwork in Religion 11(2): DOI: 10.1558/firn.32964

Abstract: The Catholic Church, constructed on an all-male clerical model, is a hierarchical and gendered institution, creating barriers to female leadership. In interviewing members of the clergy and women religious of the faith, this article examines how female non-ordained and male clerical religious leaders engage and influence social policy. It specifically addresses how women religious maneuver around the institutional constraints of the Church, in order to take action on social issues and effect change. In adding to the scholarship on this topic, I argue that part of the strategy of women religious in navigating barriers of the institutional Church is not only knowing when to act outside of the formal hierarchy, but realizing when it is in the benefit of their social policy objectives to collaborate with it. This maneuvering may not always safeguard women religious from institutional scrutiny, as seen by the 2012 Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, but instead captures the tension between female religious and the clergy. It also highlights how situations of institutional scrutiny can have positive implications for female religious leaders, their policy goals and congregations. Finally, this examination shows how even when women are appointed to leadership posts within the institutional Church, they can face limitations of acceptance and other constraints that are different from their female religious counterparts working within their own respective religious congregations or outside organizations.

Hoenes del Pinal, “A Ritual Interrupted”

Hoenes del Pinal, Eric. 2016. A Ritual Interrupted: A Case of Contested Ritual Practices in a Q’eqchi’-Maya Catholic Parish. Journal of Contemporary Religion 31(3): 365-378.

Abstract: Although Q’eqchi’-Maya Mainstream Catholics and Charismatic Catholics in the Guatemala highlands share many of the same physical and social spaces, the relationship between them is a tense one due to their differing modes of ritual practice. Although this conflict rarely comes to a head directly, on one particular occasion a highly ranked member of a Mainstream congregation, and indeed an outspoken critic of the Charismatics, entered the village chapel during the latter’s weekly service and proceeded openly to criticize their ritual practices, leaders’ religious knowledge, and relationship to the larger institutional Catholic Church. This article analyzes this event as a means of furthering our understanding of what happens when unexpected circumstances threaten the integrity of a religious group’s ritual. How do participants try to circumvent, mitigate or otherwise manage such an occurrence? Examining the spoken and embodied actions taken by both the speaker criticizing the congregation and his intended audience sheds light on the interactive strategies each used to manage their social and ethical standing during the uneasy interaction. This article draws critical attention to the way adherents to two related but distinct forms of Christianity establish and contest their modes of religious authority through language, discourse, and bodily behavior. By investigating an episode in which two modes of Christian practice came into direct confrontation with each other, we can better understand how differing ways of being Christian are dialogically constituted.

Arellano-Yanguas, “Religion and Resistance to Extraction”

Arellano-Yanguas, Javier.  2015.  Religion and Resistance to Extraction in Rural Peru: Is the Catholic Church Following the People?.  Latin American Research Review 49 (S): 61-80.

Abstract: This article analyzes the Catholic Church’s involvement in social conflicts resulting from resource extraction activities in Peru. The nature and degree of the Catholic Church’s involvement vary greatly according to the type of conflict and the diversity of standpoints of the Church at the local level. The article focuses on three distinctive, widely known conflicts against the expansion of extractive activities. It shows that the importance conventionally given to the role of particular religious figures, their adherence to progressive ideologies, and the defense of the Church’s strategic interests do not fully encompass the complexity of local processes. In contrast, the article contends that the Church’s institutional embeddedness in local networks is the most influential factor in the involvement of Catholic organizations in anti-mining conflicts. Embeddedness coincides with a spirituality that prioritizes local people’s agency, whereby the priests and Church organizations accompany and follow the initiatives of local communities instead of taking a leading role. This does not mean that the Church takes a passive stance in these conflicts. Priests and other pastoral agents have incorporated environmental and human rights discourses into an explicit religious framework that amplifies the social space of the Church and provides legitimacy for mobilizations. In parallel, locally generated doctrinal frameworks permeate the official discourse of the Catholic Church, reinforcing the position of those committed to the defense of local demands.

Corwin, “Lord, Hear Our Prayer”

Corwin, Anna. 2014. Lord, Hear Our Prayer: Prayer, Social Support, and Well-Being in a Catholic Convent. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 24(2): 174-192.

Abstract: This article examines intercessory prayer, specifically, petitions to the divine as they are performed in Mass and in prayer groups at a Catholic convent in the midwestern United States. It demonstrates that these petitions function on multiple levels. Petitions are designed primarily as a form of communication with the divine, intended to elicit divine aid. In addition to functioning as requests to the divine, the petitions function on a number of socio-communicative levels: first, as an index of the presence of the divine; second, as a means for individuals to communicate social support to copresent participants; and third, as a mode of peer socialization. Finally, these multiple functions of prayer provide spiritual and social support that may contribute, in the context of the convent, to the inhabitant nuns’ documented success in achieving physical and mental well-being throughout their lives.

Walking Where Jesus Walked: Book Review

Kaell, Hillary. 2014. Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and Holy Land Pilgrimage. New York: NYU Press.

By: Jackie Feldman (Ben Gurion University)

“On each trip, certain interpenetrations are articulated and shaped by group leaders, Many, however, are not. At the back of the bus, pilgrims make the experience meaningful in ways that guides and tour operators may not expect and cannot predict. Pilgrims keep these deeply felt connections to themselves, and they color each trip in very personal ways.” (Kaell 2014: 80)

Although I have been working with American Holy Land pilgrims for over three decades, both as anthropologist and as tour guide, Hillary Kaell’s book surprised me. The perspective she has chosen – accompanying and talking with women before, during and after the voyage – places the voyage within a longue durée that was invisible to me as tour guide, and only partially visible as researcher. Rather than privilege the narratives spoken into bus microphones by guides and pastors/priests, Kaell places her microphone with the woman in the back, who rarely expresses her desires or thoughts in public on the tour. This perspective is a useful corrective to scholars who focus on ecclesiastical guidelines, sermons, recited public prayers, guides’ explanations, and the goals made explicit by the pilgrim/tour industry or the pastors who organize and lead groups. Kaell’s concentration on the lived experience of 50-75 year-old Catholic and evangelical American women traveling to the Holy Land demonstrates how the geographical, political or even biblical context of the sites and routes of the Holy Land may serve as the background for an intensely personal trajectory. This personal path is a continuation of the home lives of ‘middle-old’ aged women, who make up a major portion of Holy Land pilgrims. Without ignoring denominational distinctions, Kaell reminds us that the pilgrimage experience is rooted in profoundly American, (mainly) middle-class values that cut across traditional religious lines. Continue reading

Bandak, “Problems of Belief: Tonalities of Immediacy among Christians of Damascus”

Bandak, Andreas. 2012. Problems of Belief: Tonalities of Immediacy among Christians of Damascus. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 77(4):535-555.

Abstract

This article examines the different effects Christianity has among Christians of Damascus. Instead of focusing on devout subjects, I trace out the ramifications Christianity has in different settings. Christianity sets different kinds of foregrounds and backgrounds which in this article are attended to during the Feast of the Holy Cross. During this Christian feast, a great variety of themes are brought into play with different kinds of relations to what it is to be a Christian in Damascus. I argue that what I term tonalities of immediacy is a fertile way to understand how contingencies and histories are played upon in concrete situations. The problem of belief, I argue, is not settled by pointing to a particular Christian and Western heritage or to default reactions against imagined certainties; rather the interplay between faith and scepticism may be a productive lens through which to grasp local Christian concerns.