Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Anthropological case studies of religious syncretism in Bolivia Public Deposited

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  • Religious histories have always appropriated pre-existing symbol systems of religion into newer forms, often with the goal in mind to acculturate a population into a new cultural setting to reach a desired status quo of society. The problem with acculturation theory is that it is filled with teleological and quantitative assumptions of purity or authenticity which often fail to explain that the process of adapting to a dominant culture is seldom done in a consistent logical progression. While many people undergoing culture change are faced with problems of communication that force them to make sense out of new discursive formations that exhibit new systems of cultural management, deviations from the invariant aspects of traditions are dependent upon how subjects have interpreted and given meaning to changes which have occurred in their environment rather than upon a mechanical assignation of cultural traits. This thesis seeks to better understand the nature and universal characteristics that embody ritual and religion through an ethnographic and historical investigation of two religious festivals that annually occur in a remote province located in the eastern valleys of Bolivia. Christian feast days in accordance with the Catholic calendar are predominant modes of ceremonial expression in the Latin American religious universe. In both the festivals that this thesis documents, ritual modes of exchange with divine figures/objects evidence forms of religious syncretism and the superimposition of Catholicism over Andean traditions. Using ethno-historical methods of documentation, this study shows the process of how meaning has been transformed from native Andean religious institutions and cultural practices to Spanish institutions largely influenced by Roman Catholicism. My research also confirms that while religious syncretism exists in both festivals, contrasting elements of orthodoxy against more idiosyncratic practices found in the festivals reveal two levels of Catholicism and the development of a more localized form of religious celebration detached from the church universal, a trend which also parallels religious developments in 16th century Spain.
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