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The Making of Saints

Contesting Sacred Ground

Edited by James F Hopgood, with contributions from Yoram Bilu, Irene Stengs, Jun

Publication Year: 2005

Celebrities and popular icons are increasingly ubiquitous figures of a 21st century postmodern world. Some, in death, blur age-old distinctions of sanctification and trespass on sacred ground long held exclusively by religious saints. An emerging continuum is transforming that sacred arena and raising a number of important issues, including the nature of the relationships between the worshipped and the worshipful and the types of institutions that sustain them.

The Making of Saints: Contesting Sacred Ground investigates a number of religious leaders, healers, folk saints, and popular icons in seeking to identify their commonalities and discover how they speak to the same inner yearnings of human beings for gods and heroes. Issues of social relations, love, emotion, charisma, power, and sanctification are addressed by the contributors. Analyses of hagiographies, biographies, media, control of space, pilgrimage, and acts of devotion provide the bases for the authors' explorations of these issues. Among the sanctified included for analysis are the folk saints El Nino Fidencio and Teresa Urrea; the charismatic rabbis Baba Sali, Baba Baruch, and Ifargan; King Chulalongkorn of Thailand; two political figures, Evita Peron and Che Guevara; and three celebrities: James Dean, Elvis Presley, and Japanese rock star HIDE.

The contributors challenge notions of what is sacred and who may be sanctified, and argue that a broadening of views is needed to accommodate and appreciate emerging contemporary realities.



Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

This book is concerned with the miscellanea of personages who, under certain circumstances, are selected for devotion and worship—whether formally named “saints” or something else. The beginnings of this book lie in a session I organized for the 1999 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association entitled “The Making of Saints: Secular, Folk, Sacred.” Those presenting...

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Introduction: Saints and Saints in the Making

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pp. xi-xxi

With the predictions of 19th-century evolutionists regarding the demise of religion in the 20th now discarded, will a postmodernist 21st century see anything other than a reformulation in time and space of key concepts of the sacred? From a vast array of those concepts, the saint holds a special place in many cultural traditions. During the current millennium, the saint and human conditions...

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1. Saints and Near-Saints in Transition: The Sacred, the Secular, and the Popular

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pp. 1-22

Forty years ago, the prescient Orrin E. Klapp surveyed American society in Heroes, Villains, and Fools: The Changing American Character (1962) and arrived, inductively, at various social types that serve prominently as our major role models. Reflecting the cultural ideals of American society, they were and are both models of and models for human behavior. His still-valid “hero” types now...

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2. The Making of Saints and the Vicissitudes of Charisma in Netivot, Israel

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pp. 23-41

In recent years Israel has witnessed an astonishing revival of hagiolatric traditions. Old-time saints’ sanctuaries are glowing with renewed popularity, new ones are being added to the native “sacred geography,” and the list of contemporary charismatic rabbis acknowledged as tzaddikim (sing. tzaddik, a pious man, endowed with holiness) is constantly growing (Gonen 1998). The cult of the...

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3. Presence of the King: The Vitality of the Image of King Chulalongkorn for Modern Urban Thailand

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pp. 42-58

The mass production of objects is inextricably linked to present-day saints. These objects include such items as photographs, posters, badges, and statuettes with the image of the venerated person. Regardless of the secular or religious background of the cult, portraits clearly have a potential that meets a very fundamental need of devotees. However, the common appearance of a person’s portrait...

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4. Evita: A Case of Political Canonization

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pp. 59-74

Eva Perón incarnated one of the most fraught and important mythical icons of Latin American political history during the past century. As such, she surpassed even the prestige of her husband, Juan Perón, then president of Argentina (1946– 1955). Here I neither describe Evita’s personality (already sufficiently treated in the political literature) nor analyze her role in the relations between...

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5. Desperately Seeking Something: Che Guevara as Secular Saint

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pp. 75-89

Though human beings are always social and collective, individuals often emerge as leaders, guides, or organizers for a group. Similarly, but not in an exactly parallel manner, heroes emerge from human groups and subgroups. These heroes, who may become icons, or perhaps saints, must in some way express a part of an ethos or value system or template for a code of conduct for the group they...

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6. Teresa Urrea, Santa de Cabora and Early Chicana? The Politics of Representation, Identity, and Social Memory

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pp. 90-106

The Chicano movement developed in the 1960s from an extremely varied, temporally and spatially, Mexican American experience.1 Teresa Urrea, a Mexican healer and popular saint of the 19th century, was one of many figures who appealed to Chicano writers during the emergence of the movement. Parts of her life story were taken and re-presented to construct a history and social memory...

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7. Spirits of a Holy Land: Place and Time in a Modern Mexican Religious Movement

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pp. 107-123

Followers of the popular folk saint El Ni

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8. Saints and Stars: Sainthood for the 21st Century

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pp. 124-142

What could a folk saint and a movie star possibly have in common? In the present case, what could two people so clearly different in background and culture as the Mexican curer and folk saint José Fidencio de Jesús Síntora Constantino (1898–1938) and the American actor James Byron Dean (1931–1955) have in common? Despite apparent differences I believe there is much to be learned from...

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9. I Quit My Job for a Funeral: The Mourning and Empowering of a Japanese Rock Star

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pp. 143-151

Death changes the way we view life. Science has increased our potential to live longer and increasingly pain free; in the modern and postmodern era, the “key notion is fulfilment” (Huntington and Metcalf 1979:205). Many argue that because of this, our ability to deal with death is diminished. Anthony Elliott (1999), in his book on John Lennon, hypothesizes that the cultural field se...

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10. Popular Culture Canonization: Elvis Presley as Saint and Savior

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pp. 152-168

August 16, 2002, marked the 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. Despite pouring rain, some 40,000 Elvis fans gathered at Graceland, Presley’s home and grave site in Memphis, Tennessee, and paid their respects in an all-night ceremony called the “Candlelight Vigil.” Presley’s tomb in Graceland’s Meditation Gardens, a small plot of land where Elvis, his parents, and his paternal grandmother...

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11. Saints and Health: A Micro-Macro Interaction Perspective

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pp. 169-185

The primary purpose of a concluding chapter is to reduce the information provided in the preceding chapters to a coherent framework. From this vantage, it is important to state two perspectives I bring to the assignment. The first is derived from micro-macro interaction theory. While this approach is most often associated with the relationship of some locality to a larger system, I believe it...

References Cited

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pp. 187-211


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pp. 213-216


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pp. 217-228

E-ISBN-13: 9780817380885
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817351793

Publication Year: 2005