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Accepted Paper:

Converting spaces, converting authenticity: the dynamics of recreating of Maya sites  
Jan Kapusta (University of West Bohemia)

Paper short abstract:

The paper describes the way in which Maya mountains, caves or pre-Columbian ruins are appropriated and recreated by their traditionalist and New Age visitors. It suggests that converting spaces implies converting authenticity, imbedded in the interaction with the nonhuman entities.

Paper long abstract:

Maya traditionalists today believe that mountains, caves or pre-Columbian ruins are vitally important beings, endowed with life and agency. These nonhuman entities are regularly visited and sustained by prayers and sacrifices. In the contemporary religiously pluralistic, transnationalized and glocalized world, however, some of these places become meaningful for other sorts of visitors - not only Maya Protestants and cultural revivalists, but also Euro-American tourists and spiritual seekers. These places are in a process of ongoing transformation, which is expressed both in the narratives of materiality/spirituality and in the ritual practices, ranging from rigorous, continual and community based ceremonies to very flexible, flash and individual performances.

In this paper, drawing on my ethnographic fieldwork, I will describe how these natural/cultural shrines are converted and recreated by the given groups, particularly by their traditionalist and New Age visitors. Contrary to the well-established stress on social construction of sacred space and competing discourses, I will emphasise the phenomenological and experiential dimension of the human-nonhuman encounter. Here, I will argue, the theme of a sense of authenticity comes to the fore. Although authenticity is socially contextual, it is also a very personal matter, embedded in a particular existential situation and embodied in a particular phenomenal experience of the divine. Converting spaces thus implies converting authenticity, which is anchored not only to the meaning imposed on the nonhuman entities, but also to the very interaction with them. In such a context, the converted spaces may indeed result in the conversion of individuals involved.

Panel P148
Converting spaces and religious transformation: exploring the potential of human and material interactions
  Session 1 Friday 17 August, 2018, -