Ex-votos in Lourdes: Contested materiality of miraculous healings
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SourceMaterial Religion, 7, 2, (2011), pp. 168-192
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ RSCR CAOS
FSW_Institute for Gender Studies (IGS)
SubjectAnthropology and Development Studies; Dynamics of gender
The modern Marian shrine in Lourdes (southern France) attracts six million pilgrims every year. While the site is known worldwide for the miracles that occur there, the dominant official discourse hardly recognizes people's miraculous experiences. This ethnographic study focuses on ex-votos, the religious objects by which pilgrims offer their thanks to Mary for working a miracle. These are situated on the contested boundary between pilgrims' lived religion and officially prescribed religion at the Lourdes site. The article aims to understand what power politics are at stake in the handling of ex-votos as well as what motives pilgrims have to leave offerings at the site. This is illustrated by the in-depth analysis of the story of one ex-voto that also shows that the bonds within families, and between families and Mary, are crucial elements of the stories told. By offering an ex-voto, pilgrims not only remember Mary, but also their family and ancestors.
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