"The craziness reached my head, I will go to Fátima by foot": gendered reflections about male pilgrims' experiences
(CRIA, University Institute of Lisbon)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on ethnographic data about male Portuguese pilgrims walking to Fátima, this paper reflects upon possible changes in the 'gendered division of religious labor' among Catholic pilgrims, comparing current findings with those of previous studies focusing on pilgrimage and gender
Paper long abstract:
Based on fieldwork at the Marian shrine of Fátima in Portugal, this paper explores the experiences of Portuguese pilgrims walking from their hometown to Fátima, to attend the massive celebrations of the apparitions on the 13th of May and the 13th of October. Drawing on ethnographic data and especially on the life stories of the pilgrims, I will analyze the experiences of men walking in organized groups. Referring to previous research about pilgrimage and gender I will argue that these pilgrims confirm but often also challenge the traditional gender roles they received from their parents that are influenced by Catholic ideas about what it means to be a good woman and mother or a good man and father. Since women tend to predominate at Christian but also at other pilgrimage shrines, so far men have often been seen by scholars as somewhat marginal figures and little attention has been paid to their experiences. This paper represents an effort to start filling this gap and to assess how pilgrimage can reshape men's gender identities, norms and practices at a historical moment when the Vatican is experiencing a growing pressure to allow women to become priests. In Fatima the 'gendered division of religious labor' is slowly changing because girls and women acting as acolytes or serving at the mass during the Holy Communion are increasingly visible during important ceremonies and in this context men's attitudes and roles are also shifting.
Travelling religion, religious travel. Gender challenges in theory and ethnography [Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality Network]