Abstract for the Conference of Irish Geographers 2011

This is the abstract for a paper to be delivered to the Conference of Irish Geographers 2011, Limerick in May. It was as much an exercise in writing as theoretical understanding. Paper will appear here in time.

Marian devotion: space and time. Submitted as part of the session Unfolding Presences: Landscape and Memory

For Brace et al. (2006) “religion is understood as a relational phenomenon with distinctive spatialities” in place-based identity formation. In Kong’s (2010) latest review of geographies of religion, she requests that we go beyond the micropolitical because in some places religions abide in political influence despite post-secularisation theses. In the literature on religious identity and the meaning of places, the representation of personal religious devotion and its ‘scaling up’ remain analytically elusive. The relational nature of much religious devotion is often misunderstood as existing outside of secular time. This misunderstanding obscures representations of spatial practice when it comes to seeing the political in the religious.

In this paper, I examine the Marian statues of Dublin city. Their continuity in (re)creating places of meaning for Catholics brings forward two temporal disjunctures. Firstly, they recall a time when popular devotion to Mary constituted particular forms of political action in Ireland. Secondly, present devotion to these places cuts across secular conceptions of time where the present was preceded by a past and is followed by a future. The paper proposes that understandings of scale should take account of time as well as space. In doing so, it attempts to fulfil Kong’s request to go beyond the micropolitical.