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Accepted Paper:

Marian devotion and maternal identities in contemporary Ireland.  
Attracta Brownlee (National University of Ireland Maynooth)

Paper short abstract:

The aim of this paper is to explore how traditional Marian devotion in Ireland has been embedded in maternal ideologies and practices and how these maternal identities are now challenged in the context of religious and social upheaval and the growth in modern biomedical healthcare systems.

Paper long abstract:

Traditionally, Marian devotion has held a central place in the expression of Catholicism in Ireland. This devotion to the Mother of God was embedded in religious beliefs and practices and informed not only individual maternal identities, but also public social policy as it impacted on sexuality, motherhood and gender relations in society. In the past few decades the dramatic religious, social and economic changes that have occurred in Ireland have contributed to the sharp decline in the influence of the Catholic Church in both the public and private spheres of life. These developments have implications for wider aspects of maternal identities such as gender relations, the socioeconomic status of women, and personal autonomy within religious and social institutions.

Based on ethnographic fieldwork this research presents two narratives of the interrelation of religion and maternal identities and practices. The first study, focusing of women's home altars, explores the shifting power relations of mothers in the private sphere of everyday domestic life. It will be argued that home altars symbolise not only the religious power wielded by motherhood in familial relations, but also underline the lack of agency of mothers in controlling social and cultural threats to the family unit. The second study explores how grave markers may be interpreted in the context of the subverting and reinventing of traditional religious discourses of motherhood. These memorials symbolise, for some women, a challenge to the power and authority of the traditional religious and social institutions of the State.

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