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Accepted Paper:

Reclaiming sisterhood and the maternal body in women's circles and the red tent temple movement: post-secular femininities in contemporary well-being culture  
Chia Longman (Ghent University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper draws on ethnographic research on the way the ‘maternal body’ is approached discursively, ritually and symbolically in the growing phenomenon of 'women’s circles' and gatherings of the Red Tent Temple movement.

Paper long abstract:

This paper draws on the results of ongoing ethnographic research on the phenomenon of 'women's circles' including the Red Tent Temple movement. Launched in the US in 2007 and now having spread to numerous countries throughout the world, Red Tent circles are spontaneous, non-institutionalized, monthly gatherings exclusively for women who come together to foster the growth of a 'woman honouring culture'. Based on fieldwork and interviews with founders and 'keepers' of women's circles in Belgium and the Netherlands, I show how they appear to offer a growing number of women from diverse backgrounds in secular-liberal societies a space out of a desire for 'reconnecting' - religare - with each other, with their inner selves, their bodies, and sometimes, the 'otherworldly'. I argue that this phenomenon draws on elements, yet also diverts from various traditions in feminist thought such as Goddess spirituality, radical second-wave feminist consciousness raising, maternalism, and also third wave and post feminist individualism. Far from a marginal phenomenon in the sphere of alternative spirituality and NRMs, women's circles aim to engage with and impact mainstream culture in which the boundaries between (gendered) physical, mental and spiritual well-being and its commodification, are being challenged. In this paper I focus on the way the 'maternal' is approached discursively, ritually and symbolically in women's circles and question to what extent it can be understood as an element of a new type of post-secular femininity.

Panel P139
Religion, maternal identities and practices [Anthropology of Religion network] [NAGS]
  Session 1