Conference season

Like decorative gourd season, conference season is upon us again. This year it is odd for me to be planning on presenting papers at two, maybe three, conferences. I am not really any longer a student of geography at NUIM (but I wait for the viva date) and I am not an academic or researcher in a university. So, here are the abstracts for two forthcoming conferences. It was odd putting them together and at times it seemed like I was writing nonsense just to make a deadline. Oh right. That was the PhD. 


Conference the first: ISASR 2014 “Religion and remembering”, Belfast, late May.

Religion, place and memory in Ireland: the substitution of ordinary time for higher time.

Memory is a central part of how people make place. People draw upon recent and distant memories to create place and share the significance of places with others. This is particularly evident in the ways in which religious place is made. Memory is not just drawn upon in religious place making, it is often constitutive of the ‘right way’ to do religious place making. There is a longer duration of time (Taylor’s higher time) employed in the recreation of these religious places. In this paper, I want to examine how religious place, memory and time interact in an Irish context.

Arising from data conducted during my doctoral fieldwork, I propose that religious place making is often marginalised for being ‘out of time’. Where place making is contested between religious and secular meanings, religious places are relegated to a past. In this process, the higher time of religious place making is cut short, evacuating it of its other meanings. The paper presents a case for a more open-ended understanding of how religious places and secular places are co-produced.

Conference the second: CIG, Dublin, earlier in May. 

Contested landscapes of the sacred and the secular: three cases from Ireland. 

More than a decline of religious practice, secularisation is about how some places continue to be religious while others are made secular. Distinctions drawn between places as secular or religious place them in relation to each other. Secular meanings in place do not replace religious meanings but remain as sites of ongoing contestation. Place-making occurs through struggles over resources and symbols. This relational understanding of place foregrounds the continued contestations of religious and secular practices, sites and landscapes. These contestations about place-making allow geographers to go beyond the micropolitics of religious spatial expression. It enables geographers of religion to connect contestations over place to broader political processes.

In this paper, I explore three different contestations over religious and secular place-making in Ireland. The first of these is the maintenance practices at statues of the Virgin Mary sited on public land in Dublin city. The second set of place-making relations I examine are at sites of pilgrimage performance: a small island in a lake in the north west of Ireland called Lough Derg, a walk around a Norman castle in Wexford and an arduous climb up a sacred mountain where St Patrick preached. Thirdly, I examine Catholic primary schools, places where children are made both as faithful and as citizens. Together, these three contested landscapes make up a changing geography of religion in Ireland. However, in different ways, they connect with larger political processes. The paper concludes by examining these processes and proposes a new way in which the geography of religion can move beyond simple dichotomies to adequately represent place.

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