Power and Religiosity in a Post-Colonial Setting: Sinhala Catholics in Contemporary Sri Lanka

Overview

Over the past few decades a series of Catholic shrines have sprung up in Sri Lanka which draw hundreds of pilgrims. Although best known as centres for the exorcism of the demonically possessed, their miraculous efficacy also extends to helping people find jobs and preferment, and to alleviating suffering. R.L. Stirrat, who has worked in Sri Lanka over a long period, is interested both in how people behave at the shrines, and in the historical and social contexts in which the shrines have appeared. He argues that ...
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Overview

Over the past few decades a series of Catholic shrines have sprung up in Sri Lanka which draw hundreds of pilgrims. Although best known as centres for the exorcism of the demonically possessed, their miraculous efficacy also extends to helping people find jobs and preferment, and to alleviating suffering. R.L. Stirrat, who has worked in Sri Lanka over a long period, is interested both in how people behave at the shrines, and in the historical and social contexts in which the shrines have appeared. He argues that an understanding of their religious importance is intricately connected with power, religious and political. This view challenges the conventional distinction between 'religion' and 'politics'. Accordingly, religious suffering is seen as a complex metaphor linking together various social domains and a means through which conflicts over power and authority can be expressed. The author treats the development of these shrines, the discourses used, and the goals of the devotees as commentaries on changing power relations as well as attempts by the faithful to gain access to divine power.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This excellent monograph on contemporary Sinhala Catholicism, a subject long neglected by students of world Catholicism and historians of Sri Lankan religion, does more than fill the obvious substantive gap: its theoretically sophisticated analysis of how a fragmented modern religious community has adjusted to changing forms of power and domination promises wide-ranging implications for how we conceptualize religious practice....rich in detail...provocative." The Journal of Religion

"...imaginative, powerful, and sophisticated study. For its exquisite lucidity alone it deserves to be widely read. For anthropologists, South Asianists, students of religion and Church historians, this is essential reading. It establishes Stirrat as one of the leading exponents of British Social Anthropology and crowns his excellent previous writings on Sri Lanka to make him a major chronicler of Sri Lankan society." The Journal of Asian Studies

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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of maps and figures
List of tables
Acknowledgements
List of abbreviations
Glossary
1 Introduction 1
2 The colonial Church 13
3 The Church in crisis 37
4 The rise of Kudagama 58
5 Demonic possession and the battle against evil 78
6 Suffering and sacrifice 99
7 Holy men and power 122
8 Patronage and religion 150
9 On the borders 176
10 Conclusion 195
Notes 204
List of references 215
Index 221
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