The power and the glory : belief, sacramentality and native Andean Catholic priests in Talavera, Peru
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In Talavera, a small town in the rural south-central Peruvian Andes, Catholicism is deeply rooted in local institutions, society and history. I explore Talaveran Catholicism primarily through the eyes of the priests and the core parish community, and in doing so seek to contribute to the anthropology of Christianity, including the anthropology of Catholicism, and the anthropology of the Andes. Engaging with dominant models in the anthropology of Christianity of Christianity as a religion of conversion and radical discontinuity, I argue that in Talavera, such models no longer ring true for local Catholics: instead, Christian conversion is long forgotten and taken for granted, while Christianity is an important source of continuity with the past. This is related to the activities of the current generation of Catholic priests in Talavera, who are locally native and who by and large tend to be more sympathetic to local Andean Catholic traditions as a result—but without subscribing to dominant anthropological framings for pro-Andean sentiment. Instead, I draw on David Brown’s formulation of Christian tradition to argue for a new anthropological model views the ‘syncretic’ aspects of Andean Catholicism as simply part of Catholicism in general. Following the emphasis on incorporating theology, I subsequently argue that we need to take seriously Catholic notions of sacramentality as an ontological transformation—a theme throughout the majority of the thesis. I argue that sacramentality underlies how Catholic priests can be simultaneously divine and human through the sacrament of ordination; structures clerical-lay relations in Catholic parishes by creating the space for lay assistants to carry out the work of priests without becoming priests themselves; and causes membership of the Catholic Church, thereby leaving belief to carry out the work of improving, rather than effecting, one’s Catholic-ness.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2023-11-21
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 21st November 2023
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