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Impact of Globalization on Syncretic Processes in Contemporary Religiosity Exemplified by Mexican Folk Catholicism and Cuban Santeria

The project is financed by Narodowe Centrum Nauki (SONATA 7 program)

Project Coordinator: Dr Piotr Grzegorz Michalik

Executives: -

Project duration: January 2015 – January 2018


The aim of the project is:

1. To develop a model that adequately describes impact of factors associated with globalisation (such as migration, influence of new media, commercialising of religious practices) on changes occurring in selected ritual and belief systems.

2. To utilize the model to define, coordinate, and reduce part of terminology applied to analysis of transformations occurring in contemporary religious phenomena, particularly to assess scope and adequacy of the term "hybridity".

The model will be developed on the basis of research on interactions between the cult of Mexican folk Saints and the cult of orishas – mythical beings originating from Cuban santería. Both cults have been presented in studies of religion and anthropology of religion as showcases of syncretism and hybridity.

The project is interdisciplinary. It is grounded in the field of studies of religion, at the same time utilising methods of data collection characteristic of anthropology (interviews and observations) and theoretical tools provided by semiotics. The model of transformation processes occurring in investigated ritual and belief systems under the impact of globalisation is developed on the basis of data acquired through fieldwork, supplemented with ethnographic literature. Fieldwork targets the practitioners of Mexican folk Saint cult and the cult of Cuban orishas identified with these Saints, dwelling on both sides of the Gulf of Mexico: in Havana, Cuba and Mérida, Mexico. The expeditions take place at approximately one year intervals.

The outcomes of the project are supposed to contribute to academic debate on fundamental issues for studies of religion and anthropology, such as the extent of autonomy of religious phenomena in comparison to other cultural phenomena, the impact of globalisation on dynamics of contemporary syncretic processes, and the validity of terms such as hybridity, or transculturation as tools of research on current religious phenomena. Additionally, studies on interactions between Cuba Santeria and Mexican folk Catholicism, considerably scarce to date, might fill a huge gap in Latin American studies. The project also stresses the importance of fieldwork among the research methods of current studies of religion