Placing the “Eternal Child”
Studies of Catholic material culture often describe how holy objects “reduce social distance between people” (McDannell 2005). It is a truism: relics, shrines, and various ampullae suture communities together across time and space. This paper is about a set of objects that, in addition to fostering human relationships, have also worked to sever them. It focuses on a cluster of shrines and chapels at Catholic institutions for people with cognitive disabilities in the mid-twentieth century U.S. and analyzes these objects as previously unexplored technologies of institutionalization. It asks how these media worked to justify the social segregation of disabled persons while simultaneously spurring what the anthropologists Faye Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp have dubbed “new kinship imaginaries” (Rapp and Ginsburg 2011) in the postwar era.
Respondent: Jack Downey, University of Rochester
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About the Religion and Culture in the Americas Seminar
The Religion and Culture in the Americas Seminar explores topics in religion and culture including social history, biography, cultural studies, visual and material culture, urban studies, and the history of ideas. We are interested in how religious belief has affected society, rather than creedal or theological focused studies. Seminars are conversational and free and open to faculty, graduate students, and members of the public, who register in advance to request papers.