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Book: Contesting Authority

Chapter: Contesting Authorities: Vernacular Challenges, Strategies and Counterpower

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.29205


Articles in the volume continue the trajectory of thinking of Vernacular Religion (as outlined by Primiano) as religion per se, religion/spiritual seeking as lived, highly individual, creative, polyphonic, context sensitive, dynamic, and ambiguous. This presents vernacular religion as contesting, expanding, reformulating in pragmatic ways institutional formulations of religion, and locus of authority. In addition, Vernacular Knowledge can be considered ‘other than’ mainstream/ institutional/ scientific/ political/ social/ secular ‘orthodoxy’. It appears in multiple genres and vehicles of expression that are shared and shaped communally but individually articulated and actualised. Vernacular religion/vernacular knowledge/ alternative beliefs emerge in many contexts – in relation to institutional religion, vis-à-vis secularism, state sponsored atheism, scientific rationalism, official medicine, etc. In contrast to institutionally established doctrines with monological voicing the expressive field of the vernacular is always heteroglot. Dominant discourses, with claims to hegemonic authority, generate dissent – a variety of alternative ideas, and therefore the notion of homogenous worldview, dominating any social groups and time periods, is misleading. The distinction between official and vernacular discourses is not absolute but relative, depending on the social positions of individuals, their goals and agendas. However, there is a major difference between prestigious and powerful institutionalised truths and vernacular discourses, as the latter do not form unitary systems nor centralised forces of opposition to official doctrines. Instead, folklore manifests endless variation and creativity.

Chapter Contributors

  • Marion Bowman ( - marionbowman) 'Open University'