Accepted Paper:

Localizing the sacred in a contemporary African Catholic community  


Anna Niedźwiedź (Jagiellonian University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses an example of Catholic community from central Ghana and reveals how European-based concept of the sacred is adopted and adapted to local circumstances. Specific practices will be analyzed problematizing the concept of inculturation as perceived by clergy and experienced by people

Paper long abstract:

Catholic idea of the sacred (and of religion, and spirituality) originally was being constructed within the framework of European cultures and traditions, as well as European-grounded philosophy. However, recent centuries brought expansion of new, significant non-European developments within Catholicism. As one of the global religious denominations Catholicism is widespread and lived in various continents, adapting and being adopted to local traditions, symbols, myths, concepts and worldviews.

This paper seeks an answer for the question how exemplary contemporary African Catholic community adapts, transforms, and adjusts the Catholic concept of the sacred (as well as religion and spirituality) to its local circumstances, cosmological and anthropological concepts, living conditions, local landscape, worldview, ritual patterns, bodily expressions etc. On one hand I will discuss the concept of inculturation as perceived and implemented by missionary and local (Ghanaian) clergy. On the other hand I will present how on the ground ideas conceived within a framework of inculturation are additionally reframed, redefined, and reinterpreted or even misunderstood and rejected.

The data used in this paper are based on ethnographic field research among Catholics from Brong Ahafo region in Ghana. I will focus on specific examples representing various ways of reframing the sacred, including the spatial localization of the sacred (e.g. creation of the local grotto as a new sacred space), ritualistic encounters with the sacred (combining traditional festivals with Christian feast and rites), as well as bodily practices modeling spiritual experiences.

Panel P20
Fluidity, mobility and versatility of the sacred