Voicing Souls

Embodying Uncertainty in a Portuguese Borderland Village

in Ethnologia Europaea
Pedro Antunes ISCTE-IUL/ NOVA-FCSH, CRIA, Lisboa. pedro.pereira.antunes@gmail.com

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Focusing on the ritual of the Commending of the Souls in Penha Garcia (Portugal), this article analyzes how its recasting as heritage is re-inventing a declining rurality and aiding an uncertain future. A renewed vernacular engagement with the ritual, along with the local use of heritage policy to render it intangible heritage is 1) generating a vernacularization of Portuguese Catholicism (analogous to “religious pluralization”), and 2) construing heritage-making as an efficacious technique of religious belief. This article argues that the collective engagement of local actors in the processes of vernacularization and transforming of this ritual into heritage is (re-)enchanting the virtuosity of their local religiosity, which embodies and suspends a structural uncertainty.

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