Accepted paper:

Pilgrimage souvenirs as religious remittances: the circulation of power between Europe and Africa

Authors:

Catrien Notermans (Radboud University Nijmegen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on the pilgrimage souvenirs that African migrants circulate between Europe and Africa to maintain and create their transnational social fields. It argues that the souvenirs become tools of empowerment in women’s relationships with their social network back home.

Paper long abstract:

This paper focuses on the power of tiny, cheap, mass-produced and easy to transport pilgrimage souvenirs that African migrant women circulate between Europe and Africa to maintain and create their transnational social fields. The mobility of African women living in the French capital does not stop with migration; frequent travelling on the pilgrimage routes to various European Marian sites has become part of women's life style and vital in framing their new lives. During their intense programme of religious travel, women buy huge quantities of religious souvenirs, develop specific skills to imbue them with Mary's power and subsequently remit them to their social network back home. Through women's capacity to turn the souvenirs from commodities into religious remittances the objects gain the power to intervene across borders. Besides the power to heal and protect they also have the agency to kill or destroy; in both ways they convey the message that their senders are successful migrants, generous remitters and powerful kinswomen. By zooming in on the qualities of some site-specific souvenirs and the multiple effects these symbolically loaded objects have, the paper highlights a less known though highly gendered way of remitting and argues that the religious souvenirs become tools of empowerment in women's relationships with their social network back home. The paper is based on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork between 2009 and 2015. African migrant women were followed in their daily routines in Paris and on their routes to the favourite Marian sites of Lourdes (France) and San Damiano (Italy).

panel P102
The power of mobile materialities: human movement, objects and the worlds they create [ANTHROMOB]