The project explores the transreligious ways in which contemporary religion, spirituality and wellbeing are practised in three southern European countries (Portugal, Spain and Greece), which have been affected significantly by socioeconomic and political challenges and transnational flows in the last decade, and by a crucial healthcare crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, very recently. The choice of this comparative context stems, firstly, from the fact that what binds it is the degree of the ‘crisis’, one of the highest among European countries, and its intimate link with the subsequent health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic (and possible further complications in society, culture and economy, due to the Russian-Ukrainian warfare). Secondly, the comparison is particularly pertinent in countries that have been academically and publicly understood as stereotypically not only socioeconomically underdeveloped (in European standards), but also as permeated by their respective established religiosity, that is, the dominant forms of Christianity (Catholicism and Orthodoxy), with scarce investigation on their ascending new forms of religious, spiritual, and therapeutic manifestation. So far, no significant research has been conducted, neither in terms of comparative context nor in terms of the intimate links between religion, spirituality and wellbeing, especially in relation to the pandemic. Placing the ‘wellbeing’ as our main ethnographic theme, rather than focusing (only) on transcendental experiences of the sacred, will seek to understand how the different levels of crisis have affected our ethnographic subjects and how, in turn, through their religio-spiritual practices, they view and tackle with their personal health crises. The project’s suitability lies in its intention to overthrow previously established stereotypes and fill the research gap, by placing emphasis on the therapeutic character of everyday religious practice in seemingly diverse religio-spiritual, well-being and therapeutic enclaves, within a social context of socioeconomic, political, and healthcare crisis. As contemporary vernacular religion and spirituality is largely, up to now, a rather individualized, decentralized, non- or semi-institutional phenomenon, not having found its way to more public recognition and statistical representation, the project has two basic objectives: firstly, to offer an ethnographic, anthropological and sociological approach and acquire more elaborated analytical perspectives; secondly, to diffuse and establish these perspectives in the wider academic and public sphere, so that more research is directed towards such issues, with the aim to also contribute in converting qualitative data into quantitative indicators for future surveys. The team members shall confront the key question of how vernacular religion and spirituality transcend strict frontiers of what is considered as sacred, national, political, economic, civil, medical. Focus will be placed on the therapeutic dimension of physical, mental, psychological and spiritual healthcare, through the critical lens of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will permeate all case-studies. It will be examined how the pandemic crisis has affected the practices under study in terms of contact, communication, spatial congregation and general socio-political positioning. At the same time, the research will concentrate on how such practices influence the way people experience, react towards, and view the pandemic itself – for instance, stances towards vaccination and their relation to religion, spirituality and well-being. Such objectives will be guided by a novel term introduced through the project, that of ‘transreligiosity’, which offers an analytical condensation of the elasticity and transgression of borders of vernacular religion and contemporary spirituality, in relation to but also beyond more established forms of religion and healthcare. The study of transreligious practices shall contribute substantially to the understanding of how current and recent migration flows, multicultural influences and global crises trans/form the southern European society and culture at the level of religious, spiritual and healing practice from below. As part of the project’s results, data collection and conceptual analysis, the diffusion will be mostly materialized through peer-reviewed publications, conferences, workshops and seminars, academic networks and virtual means, among others. All actions will be organized with the aim to establish a strong link between academia and society at large, permitting the research team to work towards the inclusive and equal religio-spiritual and healthcare opportunities which, given the urgency of the pandemic, are more necessary than ever before.
Diana Riboli (Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences)
Emily Pierini (Sapienza University of Rome
Circulation and Place-Making
Practices and Politics of Culture
Luis Muñoz Villalón (University of Seville)