Steinert, Isidora Urrutia and Eduardo Valenzuela Carvallo. 2019. “Religiosity at the Roadside: Memorials, Animitas, and Shrines on a Chilean Highway.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 34(3): 447-468.
Abstract: Roadside memorials devoted to vehicle-related deaths are increasingly common across the globe. Scholars have generally emphasised their commemorative status—as sites where a private memory is publicly displayed—underestimating, however, their religious dimension. This article is based on research which involved the content analysis of photographs taken during multiple visits to the 94 roadside memorials existing in 2015 on Route 78, a major Chilean highway connecting Santiago (Chile’s capital city) and San Antonio (one of the country’s main sea ports). We argue that Chilean roadside memorials are not solely commemorative sites but primarily animitas that have a core (popular) religious component: they are privileged locations where salvific grace is dispensed, acting as mediators between the living and the divinity and connecting the sacred and profane worlds. Furthermore, we suggest that the tragic nature of the deaths they commemorate confers on them a miraculous efficacy which may transform the sites into shrines and the victims into folk saints.
Loustau, Marc. 2016. Risking a Miracle: Transcendentally Oriented Improvisation and Catholic Charismatics’ Involvement in a Transylvanian Canonization. Journal of Contemporary Religion 31(3): 335-350.
Abstract: Anthropologists have begun to challenge the consensus that sainthood is not an operative factor in Charismatic Christianity, opening up space to re-examine how ritual and narrative shape habitual religious sensibilities. Through an ethnographic study of Transylvanian Catholic Charismatics’ search for miracles to aid a deceased Bishop’s canonization, I argue that canonization is driven by a form of adaptive ritualization and storytelling, which I call ‘transcendentally oriented improvisation’. In this mode, ritualization and storytelling are existential strategies by which subjects extrapolate styles of action and discourse into new situations to transcend disordered being-in-the-world. By engaging in improvisation, my acquaintances renewed a sense of existential potentiality put at risk. Studying transcendentally oriented improvisation draws attention to risk and indeterminacy as central aspects of the lived experience of canonization and other divine mediations. Transylvanian Charismatic Catholics’ involvement in canonization is also evidence that the global Charismatic movement is now integrating into mainstream Catholicism. Movement, memorialization, authority, and religious experience are the central points of contention shaping the outcome of this process.