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Title: Lifeblood of the Parish: Men and Catholic Practice in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Authors: Maldonado-Estrada, Alyssa
Advisors: Weisenfeld, Judith
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: Catholic
Material Culture
Subjects: Religion
Gender studies
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation is an ethnographic study of a contemporary Italian-American Catholic parish in a rapidly developing, post-gentrification neighborhood in Brooklyn. I examine how Catholic lay men participate in devotional rituals and enact their faith in gendered, material, and embodied ways. Throughout four years of fieldwork at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (OLMC), I explored how men are central to the production of the parish’s annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and San Paolino (Saint Paulinus, the patron saint of Nola, Italy). OLMC is an ethnoreligious community that offers a case study for examining the persistence of the white ethnic Catholic parish facing internal changes, gentrification, and shifting racial and ethnic landscapes. I argue that public performances of devotion are sites of intra-Catholic boundary work, where people judge, produce, and enact what I term Catholic propriety and construct racialized discourses of difference. As an exercise in embodied ethnography, this study works to expand conceptions of what constitutes religious practice and devotion to include labor, money-making activities, and male camaraderie. Men enact their love for the saints and the parish together in homosocial spaces, often in the backstages and peripheries of devotional ritual. I argue that embodied religious practices and material culture create and maintain gendered bodies. Through adornment and tattoos, men commemorate homosocial bonds and their bodies becomes sites where social networks and devotional commitments are simultaneously inscribed. Processions, rituals, and the constellation of backstage practices that sustain devotional communities are gender performances: sites to broadcast and inculcate values of manhood and masculinity. Fundraising, manual labor, displays of strength, and public glorification of heterosexuality and family are practices that construct and sustain masculinities at the feast. The feast unites men of all ages, and this study complicates monolithic conceptions of masculinity and demonstrates the importance of studying masculinities across life stage. To study the routine and relational ways men interact with their religious communities is to understand the everyday ways men construct authority and enact and maintain their power in religious institutions
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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