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Project Presentation: “Can Indices Lie? Emic Interpretations of Catholic Rituals in the Polish Podhale Region”

Monday Meeting

CERES Palais, room "Ruhrpott" (4.13)

Picture: John Tuesday / Unsplash

Presented by Dorota Wójciak, CERES guest researcher


The Podhale highlanders (Górale podhalańscy) constitute the most recognizable ethnic group in Poland. They are known for their lively folklore, commitment to tradition and collective Catholic rituals celebrated with great splendour. During my field research in the Podhale region, I attended many religious ceremonies and conducted dozens of individual and group interviews with highlanders about their attitudes to various forms of celebrating religious rituals and holidays and the transformation of religiosity in their parishes. The focus of my interest was the attitude of Podhale highlanders towards the specific information communicated in the ritual: the information about its participants (both as individuals and as a group).  Although such information is not covered by the canon, it is an important part of any collective ritual. Inspired by Charles Sanders Peirce's concepts, American anthropologist Roy Rappaport called the messages in which the above-mentioned information is communicated self-referential messages and noted that they rely primarily on indices. In my presentation, I will outline what kind of self-referential messages are recognized and discussed by the Podhale highlanders and how they made an axiological assessment of such messages communicated in the ritual. I will also point out some differences in the assessments made by believers of different ages.

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