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Title: The Art of Building Paradise: How a Catholic Community Experiences the Utopic in Everyday Life
Authors: Carey, Grace Anne
Advisors: Greenhouse, Carol J
Oushakine, Serguei A
Contributors: Anthropology Department
Keywords: Catholicism
urban studies
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
American studies
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The Art of Building Paradise: How a Catholic Community Experiences the Utopic in Everyday Life is an ethnography based on 18 months of participant-observation field research conducted between 2016-2019 in the town of Ave Maria, Florida. This study takes seriously Ave Maria as a utopic project manifesting from the collective efforts of thousands of Catholics being called by God to build a more moral, Catholic centered community together. A product of both neoliberal privatization and the cosmological context of Catholicism, Ave Maria is a unique space where contemporary capitalism and religion meet in a generative, if tendentious, capacity. This study argues that the anthropology of placemaking and utopia studies can be greatly enriched by shifting emphasis away from ‘utopia’ as an object situated in the imaginary and deferred to an ever unachievable future to the ‘utopic’ as everyday practices that make utopia an experience in the present. For my interlocutors in Ave Maria, the utopic community they worked toward wasn’t necessarily a perfect society but one as close to saintliness as is humanly possible. The utopic was in part a goal situated in the near future, something to aspire to, but also partly manifest in the here and now made real by their actions, the presence of immaterial beings (both good and evil), and their adherence to God’s will. Therefore, this study follows three threads of everyday practice – discernment, right action, and hegemony – that coalesce to manifest, regulate, and reproduce the utopic through the development of particular habitus and subjectivities. The ethnography opens with issues of power and control between the development company that owns and governs the town and the Catholic community. Even without access to governing power, the study demonstrates how the town is made “Catholic” and utopic through the population of immaterial beings (saints, angels, demons, Mary, etc.), the establishment of a hierarchy based in Catholic traditionalism, and the production of a utopic hegemony. This study concludes with an open-ended discussion, situating Ave Maria as a utopic project in a macro socio-economic context, asking what types of utopic projects globalized hypermobility and liquid modernity make possible.
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:Anthropology

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