Negotiating Marian Apparitions: Book Review

Halemba, Agnieszka. 2015. Negotiating Marian Apparitions: The Politics of Religion in Transcarpathian Ukraine. Budapest: Central European University Press.

By: Sonja Luehrmann (Simon Fraser University)

Catholic believers have been seeing the Virgin Mary appear for centuries, especially at times of crisis and social and ecclesiastical upheaval. In her book, Agnieszka Halemba argues that what is remarkable about these visions is not that they occur, but how some of them are embraced by a Church organization while others are not. Her ethnographic study deals with apparitions of Mary to two girls in Dzhublyk in Transcarpathian Ukraine that began in 2002. As with many apparitions, the official investigation about these has not yet been concluded, but local Greek Catholic communities have embraced the site and made it into a pilgrimage destination. Rather than focusing on the visionaries or pilgrims, Halemba looks at the organizational agents and processes in relation to which the apparitions gain lasting meaning and renown. In so doing, she creates a fascinating institutional ethnography of the Greek Catholic Church and its place in wider Christendom. Continue reading

Halemba, “Negotiating Marian Apparitions.”

Halemba, Agnieszka, 2015. “Negotiating Marian Apparitions. The Politics of Religion in Transcarpathian Ukraine.” CEU Press, Budapest and New York

Abstract:

This book concerns the politics of religion as expressed through apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Dzhublyk in Transcarpathian Ukraine. The analysis provides insights into the present position of Transcarpathia in regional, Ukrainewide, and European struggles for identity and political belonging. The way in which the apparitions site has been conceived and managed raises questions concerning the fate of religious communities during and after socialism, the significance of national projects for religious organizations, and the politics of religious management in a situation in which local religious commitments are relatively strong and religious organizations are relatively weak. The analysis contributes to the ethnography and history of this particular region and of the post-socialist world in general. The changing status of the apparition site over the years allows investigation of the questions concerning authority, legitimacy, and power in religious organizations, especially in relation to management of religious experiences.

Wanner, “The city as promised land”

Wanner, Catherine. 2013. The city as promised land: moral reasoning, evil, and the dark side of capitalism in Ukraine. Religion 43(3): 365-384.

Abstract: The theological prescriptions of a believer’s burden preached at a large non-denominational Charismatic megachurch in Ukraine involve transforming the city in which one lives into a promised land. The means to do so involve making money and using that money to create ‘blessings’ for others. The actions of a group of entrepreneurs associated with this megachurch who have put this theology into practice have led to cross-cutting indictments of evil. The controversy that ensued over the proper response of a believer to suffering and urban plight reveals how the processes of moral reasoning to determine the sources of evil can be interpreted very differently when there is little agreement over the divine or demonic providence of money and what the public role of religion should be.

Naumescu, Vlad (2012). “Learning the ‘Science of Feelings’: Religious Training in Eastern Christian Monasticism”

Naumescu, Vlad. 2012. Learning the ‘Science of Feelings’: Religious Training in Eastern Christian Monasticism. Ethnos Journal of Anthropology 77(2):227-251.

Abstract

In Eastern Christianity novitiate is a period of learning to experience the presence of God in one’s life and the world. Novices follow the hesychast prayer, a mystical tradition that leads them to an experiential knowledge of God. In this paper, I argue that novitiate should be regarded as a complex learning process involving specific assemblages of contextual, cognitive, body-sensory and emotional aspects. By educating their attention and emotion novices learn to see beyond and within reality and thus discover the potentiality of people and things ‘in the likeness of God’. Religious transmission happens not only through embodied practice and the active acquisition of religious knowledge but, more importantly, through the work of the imagination. Novices’ orientation towards the transcendent requires an expansion of the imaginative capacities beyond their ‘routine’ functioning. Imagination could be thus seen as a key cognitive capacity through which they learn to experience God.