Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Anthropology of CatholicismA Reader$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Kristin Norget, Valentina Napolitano, and Maya Mayblin

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520288423

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520288423.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 24 June 2022

Excerpt from “Iconophily and Iconoclasm in Marian Pilgrimage”

Excerpt from “Iconophily and Iconoclasm in Marian Pilgrimage”

(p.71) 5 Excerpt from “Iconophily and Iconoclasm in Marian Pilgrimage”
Anthropology of Catholicism

Victor Turner

Edith Turner

University of California Press

Before he died, the well-known anthropologist of African religion Victor Turner (1920–83) turned his attention to Catholic forms of pilgrimage and, with Edith Turner, traveled across the world visiting Marian shrines. Victor and Edith Turner were themselves Catholic. The book that resulted is a classic of early anthropological writing about Catholicism and has done much to lay down an analytical “grammar” for thinking about it. In this chapter the Turners draw attention to the long-standing tension in Christianity between iconoclasm and iconophily—a topic that resonates deeply with contemporary debates about semiotics.1 In this chapter the Turners explore the potent affordances of material form through an analysis of shrines, images, and statues. Of interest here are the multiple and sometimes contradictory layers of personification and signification that accrue to devotional objects and places over time, through repeated human interaction. The shrine’s semantic field has a diachronic axis as a well as a synchronic one—both axes further layered with political and historic events that inscribe themselves upon the place. Both in and out of structure and time, shrines condense symbols, practices, histories, and culturally specific influences and affordances. An analytical question running through this chapter is thus whether the power of the divine is compressed within and hence generated by the image or whether the image simply represents the power of the divine. This, of course, is something of an age-old theological problem in Christianity, which the Turners as Catholics themselves are eminently aware of. In their treatment of this issue, however, they remain steadfastly anthropological, taking seriously the sensorial plasticity of devotional objects and their inherent capacity to exceed the roles intended of them by official theology. Rather than “materiality” or “aesthetic formations,” the Turners describe devotional objects as “outward vehicles” for symbols. “Outward vehicles,” they argue, have a tendency to become more bound up with the orectic pole of signification than the normative pole. Here the “orectic” encompasses the emotional, sensorial, and affective field of semantics, whereas the “normative” encompasses the abstract, ideational field. The Turners see this as a basic religious structure common to all religious traditions, although the respective stability of each pole is reversed in different cultures. Thus in non-Christian “tribal” societies the orectic pole is more stable than the normative one, whereas in hierarchically organized, scripturally complex religions such as Christianity the normative is more stable than the orectic. Although the language the Turners employ is reflective of the structuralist and symbolic-humanist fields they were very much embedded within, their work is relevant to a renewed anthropology of Catholicism for the way it helps to make sense of the relationship of parts to wholes, and for the creative attention it draws to the circulation of ideas and affects within Catholic institutional territories.

Keywords:   Turner-Victor-Edith, Marian Devotion, Iconoclasm, Structural-anthropology, Religious-Aesthetic-formations, Symbolic-Anthropology, Materiality, Pilgrimage, Catholic shrines, Image

California Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.