Accepted paper:

"The upper room": the fluidity of vernacular religiosity in a university dormitory space


Leonard Norman Primiano (Cabrini University)

Paper short abstract:

An American university student has constructed in his dormitory room a sacred space compatible with his conservative Roman Catholic spirituality. This single room has been religiously re-imagined as a soothing and supportive shrine-like sanctuary, which also contests the peers living around him.

Paper long abstract:

The study of vernacular religion (Primiano 1995; 2012) has assisted a switch in emphasis from former scholarly concentrations on polarities of "official" and "unofficial" religion and their conflicts and influences to reflections on the centrality and relationship between the individual and community in the fluid and transformative creation, recreation, and negotiation of religious beliefs and practices in everyday life. This paper is centered on that fluid relationship and tension within the life of a contemporary conservatively religious American Roman Catholic undergraduate university student who resists what he sees is the secularizing, non-devout, non-observant, and irreligious life styles and personal choices of same-age peers residing in community around him. Responding to his perception of the non-traditionalist dimensions of twenty-first century post Vatican II Catholicism, this student has constructed in his dormitory room a sacred space conforming to and compatible with his lifestyle and spirituality, what one friend responding to its preponderance of saintly religious imagery and objects has deemed "the Upper Room." This student's single dorm room accommodation in the midst of a traditional American collegiate residence has been religiously re-imagined as a sacred monastic or shrine-like sanctuary which soothes and supports with Catholic iconography from a personal heavenly pantheon while also protesting and contesting the behaviors and sinful choices of his peers living around him. Images of the space will accompany this ethnographic study and interview perspectives of my consultant.

panel Reli04
Fluidity and transformation in contemporary religiosity: re-tracking the sacred in a changing world