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Vernacular Knowledge

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Vernacular knowledge is a realm of discourses and beliefs that challenge institutional authorities and official truths, defying regulation and eluding monovocal expressions of the status quo. Unlike monolithic ‘truths’, religious or secular, vernacular knowledge tends to be dynamic, fluid, ambivalent, controversial, appearing in multiple forms and open to alternatives.

Ranging through culturally, religiously, geographically, politically, and socially varied contexts, Vernacular Knowledge examines heteroglot expressions of knowledge revealed in various genres: traditional tales and personal experience narratives, rumours and jokes, alternative histories and material culture, placelore and ritual. Transmitted through multiple communication strategies (face to face, social media, online forums, publications, etc.) vernacular knowledge is shared and shaped communally but individually articulated and actualised.

Covering various realms of the supernatural, such as ghosts, saints, spirits, magic, energy lines, and divination, vernacular knowledge also underpins beliefs and assertions such as those expressed in conspiracy theories, challenges to politically and ideologically determined creeds, and other socially compelling ideas that undermine prevailing wisdom. Vernacular religion operates in creative tension not only in relation to institutional forms of religion but also to secularism, state sponsored atheism and scientific rationalism.

Both vernacular knowledge and vernacular religion consistently (though often invisibly) challenge the homogeneity of dominant discourses and the hegemony of institutionalised authorities in myriad contexts.

This volume is dedicated to Leonard Norman Primiano (1957–2021).

Published: Oct 24, 2022

Book Contributors

Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgements Ülo Valk, Marion Bowman
An Introduction to Vernacular Knowledge Ülo Valk
Politics and Vernacular Strategies of Resistance
1. In Quest of Lost Heritage, Ethnic Identity, and Democracy: The Belarusian Case Anastasiya Astapova
2. Humour and Resistance in Russia’s Ecological Utopia: A Look at the Anastasia Movement Irina Sadovina
3. Visual Media and the Reconfiguration of Divinity in Moldovan Radical Religion James Kapaló
Narrating and Creating the Past
4. Blessings beyond Time and Place: The Fluid Nature of Narrative Tradition in Contemporary Hinduism Martin Wood
5. Truth, Variation and the Legendry: The Case of Saint Madhavadeva’s Birth Place in Assam Ülo Valk
6. Unearthing the Narratives of the Róngkups of Sikkim: From Vernacular Alternatives to Institutionalised Beliefs Reep Lepcha
Renegotiating Tradition and Authority
7. When a Cosmic Shift Fails: The Power of Vernacular Authority in a New Age Internet Forum Robert Howard
8. Making Sense: The Body as a Medium to Supernatural Reality Kristel Kivari
9. Seeking as a Late Modern Tradition: Three Vernacular Biographies Steven Sutcliffe
10. Practices of Niggunim: Contemporary Jewish Song in a Vernacular Religion Perspective Ruth Illman
Vernacular Knowledge and Christianity
11. Feminist Folk, Christian Folk and Black Madonnas Melanie Landman
12. Negotiating Vernacular Authority, Legitimacy and Power: Creativity, Ambiguity and Materiality in Devotion to Gauchito Gil Marion Bowman
13. The Upper Room: Domestic Space, Vernacular Religion, and the Observant University Catholic Leonard Primiano
Afterlife and Afterdeath
14. Dealing with the Dead: Vernacular Belief Negotiations Among the Khasi of North Eastern India Margaret Lyngdoh
15. An Immured Soul: Contested Ritual Traditions and Demonological Narratives in Contemporary Mongolia Alevtina Solovyova
16. Ghosts in Belief, Practice and Metaphor Paul Cowdell
25 Years of Vernacular Religion Scholarship Marion Bowman
End Matter
Index Ülo Valk, Marion Bowman