(Re)inventions and (dis)continuations of the Catholic tradition: community-making in a Spanish village
Almudéver Chanzà, Josep
This thesis is an ethnographic portrait of the return and re-invention of religious traditions and festivities in a Spanish village. Through participant observation, interviews, and archival research, I explore the inventive return of public expressions of religion in the context of local and global geographies of religion, secularism and cultural representation. The thesis is framed by the oral histories and everyday experiences of villagers, which encompass memories of the country’s past, including the involvement of the Catholic Church in the Spanish Civil War (1935-1939) and the consequent dictatorship (1939-1975); the consequences of austerity policies born out of the 2008 global financial crisis; a preoccupation with the preservation of material practices against a new iconoclast movement that is gaining force in the village; and the quiet contestation of Church doctrine and democratisation of faith which go in parallel with the social changes undergone by Spanish society in the last few decades. The chapters examine the manifold and often contradictory attitudes and theologies that accompany changes in public religiosity, community dynamics that affect and are affected by the villager’s narratives of the present, past and future. Central to this account of laity-led religious innovation is gender: women are the majority of villagers intent in re-populating the streets, the marketplace and the village square through, effectively, a public re-sacralisation of space. Religious rituals adapt to the new and increasing demands made by sexual and gender minorities, precisely those who the Catholic Church has historically marginalised. Some of the questions the thesis answers are: what are the dynamics and nature of intra-religious co-existence? what is the socio-political impact of faith-based organisations in local economies of care in purportedly secular states? what role do religious leaders (both lay and ordained) play in these developments? what does the democratisation of sacraments entail for the secular spaces it infiltrates and for Catholic doctrine? Drawing from feminist scholarship, critical theory and theology, this thesis contributes innovatively to debates on the geopolitics of religion in 21st century societies.