Geeks and twonks

I’m faced with a three week period where I will not be at work but not on holidays: a liminal space. Next week I am attending the Irish Social Science Platform’s summer school where we’ll be told lots of things about policy and the relevance of academic work to real work. You know: geeks and twonks forced into an economy that demands you comply with standardised, yet ultimately marketable forms of knowledge? I really am trying to look upon the summer school as a learning experience because this is one of the reasons I signed up to doing a Phd in the first place, learning alongside others.

For the two weeks after that there’s a vague plan that I’ll be writing papers for two deadlines at the end of July. They will feed into the first chapter that is a dark cloud over my enthusiasm. They will. It is not that writing is ever a problem for me but I think this is a matter of confidence: what if the ideas I have are not worthy of being read? I can have animated conversations about religion in the public sphere and get lyrical about secular practice but when I think about writing it down, it kind of frightens me.

There are several other things I want to do in the coming period: photographing and mapping Catholic grottos and Marian statues in the Dublin area is one of them. I have written here recently about Charles Duggan at Dublin City Council. I met Charles on Tuesday morning last and although we were both on a time deadline, we spent about 40 minutes exploring the database of almost 200 statues in Dublin. It was one of those conversations where the appeal of the subject helped us both to overcome an initial formal awkwardness about the situation. I am hoping to meet up with Charles again soon to leaf through the other paper records he has in the Planning and Economic Development department. And no Conor, I won’t placing the camera on Mary’s head to fulfil your ambition of capturing Ireland from her elevated position.

Below is the replaced Marian statue in the Timberyard development in Dublin 8. The statue was placed back into the same spot after the houses were built and as Charles noted, no one dared suggest that Mary be thrown into a skip.

Source and copyright: Dublin City Council.

Why no one could bring themselves to throw the statue of Mary into the skip is a story that I hope to learn about in the time off from work. There’s a politics to maintenance and part of that politics is class. Was the housing development to have taken place further south or east, there would have been little problem with placing it ‘out of sight’, not unlike what took place in Kerry a few weeks back. I suspect that very few residents of Adamstown would have asked that an informal space for religious worship be placed in and around their common areas. To suggest such a space means we do a double-take. “Sorry, you would like to do what now?”

Class is not just imposed on groups of people, it is lived out. Market researchers tend to group people into an AB group or a C1 segment of the market and this tends to get sedimented into public discussions about class. Class is something we all live out; it’s not just for the poor you know. I blog because I think what I have to write is important and worth reading: this too is a living out of my class, resourced and facilitated by my position in relation to others.

The trick over the next three weeks or so is to get behind why someone would place a jar with flowers in front of the statue, why the statue would be re-placed at all in the first place and why Adamstown residents do not want a Marian shrine. It is not that those residents are missing anything (I do not want to fall back on the model of ‘constant loss’) but how instead space is used differently. I guess Community Facilities no longer include spiritual spaces. Community facilities are schools, libraries and leisure centres it would seem.

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3 thoughts on “Geeks and twonks

  1. Maybe its because some us associate Marian Shrines as a place where a girl once went to give birth and die because of a lack of sex education or sexual abuse. We never really found out what happened to Ann Lovette.

    Maybe its because to be associated with a Marian Shrine is to be associated with a homophobic Catholic Church.

    Maybe we would prefer statutes which reflect human rights, respect and equality.

    But really its because the Marian Statutes represent the Catholic Church’s sexual and reproductive health teaching and hypocrisy.

    1. Ali Bracken wrote an article in the Tribune a while back: http://www.tribune.ie/news/article/2009/feb/01/vale-of-tears-veil-of-silence/ which draws out some of the things that changed and others that haven’t.
      Think of the association between a parking meter and a local authority. The council takes the revenue from the meter but the meter stands in relation to, a symbol of the authority of, the council. However, there’s one crucial difference: the shrine is a symbol to some of a significance beyond its physical presence. Maybe ‘we’ would prefer statues to reflect equality and human rights. Where are they? When they’re erected, I’ll undertake a four year study of that phenomenon as well. Perhaps the statues represent the teaching (and hypocrisy) of the Catholic Church as well but I’ve got some more work to do on that before I make up my own mind.

      As for the use of Sheila Hodgers name, don’t you think that’s a little insensitive? (Especially when I can see your email address?)

  2. My feeling about Marian shrines in (usually public) housing estates is that they were erected at the instigation of a few local “holy marys” with the blessing of the local PP. The general populace acquiesced because of apathy or a reluctance to object to a religious “event”. There probably won’t be many more erected into the future.

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