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Contesting Authority

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This volume presents vernacular religion as contesting and reformulating in pragmatic ways institutional formulations of religion and loci of authority. It draws attention to genres as expressions of belief/alternative knowledge in relation to ‘authority’, including personal experience narratives, ditties, and jokes. These are transmitted through a wide range of vehicles of expression including online, face to face, social media, forums, networks, and conferences, which are shared and shaped communally but individually articulated and actualised.

The volume covers various realms of the supernatural, such as ghosts, spirits, mediumship, magic, energy lines, divinations and previous lives. However, it also discusses beliefs which do not involve the supernatural such as conspiracy theories, politically and ideologically determined creeds, stereotypes and other cases where beliefs appear as socially compelling ideas and challenge prevailing received wisdom. Vernacular religion is therefore examined not only in relation to institutional religion but also to secularism, state sponsored atheism, scientific rationalism and official medicine. Contesting Authority proceeds from the premise that in contrast to institutionally established discourses with monological voicing, the expressive field of vernacular religion is always heteroglot.

Published: Oct 1, 2022

Book Contributors

Section Chapter Authors
Contesting Authorities: Vernacular Challenges, Strategies and Counterpower Marion Bowman
Politics and Vernacular Strategies of Resistance
In-between the national narratives: Vernacular Victory Day celebrations in Tallinn Elo-Hanna Seljamaa
“…With Six Fingers and Beast’s Teeth”: Soviet and Post-Soviet Ideology and Alternative Beliefs around Stalin Alexandra Arkhipova
In Search of the Lost masterpieces, Ethnic Identity, and Democracy: the Belarusian Case Anastasiya Astapova
Humour and Resistance in Russia’s Ecological Utopia (A Look at the Anastasia Movement) Irina Sadovina
Imagined Alterities
Discourses of Authenticity in Contemporary Jewish Practices of Niggunim Singing Ruth Illman
“And the Archangel Michael looked just like me!”: Visual Media and the Re-presentation of Divinity in Moldovan Radical Religion James Kapaló
Feminist Folk, Christian Folk and Black Madonnas Melanie Landman
Beyond the Ideal Wife: Virbai Ma and a different vernacular knowledge in the Jalaram Bapa tradition Martin Wood
Narrating and Creating Space and Place
“The Upper Room”: Domestic Space, Vernacular Religion, and the Observant Catholic Leonard Primiano
Dreams, Miracles and Institutional Authority: Narratives of the Contested Birth Place of Saint Mādhavadeva in Assam Ülo Valk
“Dying Mongol and Reborn Tibetan”: Otherness and Integration of Foreigners in the Landscape of Amdo Valentina Punzi
Vernacular Knowledge and New Spirituality
When a Cosmic Shift Fails: The Power of Vernacular Authority in a New Age Internet Robert Howard
The Construction and Contesting of Vernacular Authority within an Alternative World View Kirsi Hänninen
Making Invisible Visible: Body as a Medium to Supernatural Reality Kristel Kivari
“Herding Cats”: Vernacular Knowledge, Epistemological Relativism and the Problem of “New Age Spirituality” Steven Sutcliffe
Afterlife and Afterdeath
At home with the dead: Spiritualism, domesticity and the quiet contestation of authority Marion Bowman
Ghosts in Belief, Practice and Metaphor: What People Believe, What People Do, and How some Scholars Avoid Both Paul Cowdell
After-life Belief and Death Ritual among the Khasis of North Eastern India: Contested Beliefs? Margaret Lyngdoh
An immured soul: demonological narratives as a reflection of contesting ritual traditions (a case from Mongolian culture) Alevtina Solovyova