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Valentina Napolitano

This article analyses how otherness and a politics of affect emerge from the presence of a new Latino migration to Rome, Italy. Looking at processes around Catholic evangelisation and plural migrant itineraries, the paper argues that different and contradictory forces such as narratives of centrality and periphery are mirrored in the presence and history of the Sacred Heart. Exploring and counterposing de Certeau's ideas on migrations and mystics, and the urban as a space of enunciation, I suggest that we should explore a modality of ethnography that combines and mirrors revelatory and analytical apprehensions of the world.

Open access

Valentina Napolitano

Abstract

This article explores the tension between Pope Francis as a ‘trickster’ and as a much-needed reformer of the Catholic Church at large. He is an exemplar of the longue durée of an embodied ‘Atlantic Return’ from the Americas to the ‘heart’ of Catholicism (Rome and the Vatican), with its ambivalent, racialized history. Through the mobilization of material religion, sensuous mediations, and the case of the Lampedusa crosses in particular, I engage with an anthropological analysis of Francis as a Criollo and the first-ever Jesuit pope. Examining Francis's papacy overlapping racial and ethico-political dimensions, I identify coordinates around which the rhetorical, affective, and charismatic force of Francis as a Criollo has been actualized—between, most crucially, proximity and distance, as well as pastoral versus theological impulses. This article advances an understanding of Francis that emerges from a study of the conjuncture of affective fields, political theology, racialized aesthetics, and mediatic interface.

Open access

On the Touch-Event

Theopolitical Encounters

Valentina Napolitano

Abstract

This article addresses the ‘touch-event’ as a mediated affective encounter that pivots around a tension between intimacy and distance, seduction and sovereignty, investment and withdrawal. Through a rereading of the Pauline event of conversion to Christianity, it argues that an analysis of the evolving significance of touch-events for Catholic liturgy and a religious congregation shows the theopolitical as always already constituted within an economy of enfleshed virtues. Focusing on contemporary examples of touch-events from the life of Francis, the first pope from the Americas, as well as from fieldwork among a group of female Latin American Catholic migrants in Rome, I argue for a closer examination of touch-events in order to grasp some of their theopolitical, radical, emancipatory, and, in some contexts, subjugating effects.

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Michel de Certeau

Ethnography and the challenge of plurality

Valentina Napolitano and David Pratten

Open access

Introduction

Incarnate Politics beyond the Cross and the Sword

Carlota McAllister and Valentina Napolitano

Abstract

This introduction outlines an anthropological concept of ‘theopolitics’ emergent from ethnographic engagements with the oldest site of European colonialism—the (Latin) Americas. Defined as a query into the sensorial regimes enabling incarnate forms of power, theopolitics focuses on the sovereignties from below that are immanent in struggles between the universalisms of Christian imperialisms and the autochthonous forces they seek to police and unmake. The articles comprising this special issue advance this query by exploring processes of attunement to the prophetic voices of the dead and life itself, of the elasticity of incarnate forms of political charisma and crowds, and the potencies of precious matter and touch as domains for rethinking relationships among political anthropology, political economy, and political theology beyond a focus on the state.

Free access

Introduction

Materialities, Histories, and the Spatialization of State Sovereignty

Valentina Napolitano, Nimrod Luz, and Nurit Stadler

In the introduction to this special section of Religion and Society, we discuss existing and potentially new intersections of border theories and religious studies in relation to two contested regions—US-Mexico and Israel-Palestine (as part of the history of the Levant)—respectively. We argue for a recentering of borderland studies through an analysis of political theologies, affective labor, and differing configurations of religious heritage, traces, and materiality. We thus define 'borderlands' as translocal phenomena that emerge due to situated political/economic and affective junctures and that amplify not only translocal but also transnational prisms. To explore these issues, we put into dialogue studies on religion, borderlands, walls, and historical/contemporary conditions in the context of US-Mexico and Israel-Palestine borders. In particular, we argue for recentering analyses in light of intensifications of state control and growing militarization in contested areas.