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Lifeblood of the ParishMen and Catholic Devotion in Williamsburg, Brooklyn$
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Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479872244

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479872244.001.0001

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Manual Labor and the Artistry of Devotion in the Basement

Manual Labor and the Artistry of Devotion in the Basement

(p.75) 2 Manual Labor and the Artistry of Devotion in the Basement
Lifeblood of the Parish

Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada

NYU Press

This chapter explores masculinity and material culture in the backstage space of the church basement, where devotional and ritual objects are under construction. It argues that manual labor is devotional labor and examines the relationship between masculinity, embodiment, and religious transmission. In the basement men learn to embody masculine values and skills, like craft, creativity, and dedication. Through painting saints and building the giglio men enact their devotion and commitment to the parish and achieve belonging and status in the feast community. In this homosocial space, men demonstrate proficiency in Catholic iconography and negotiate questions of materiality and sacred presence as they repair the broken bodies of saints. This chapter explores the relationship between homosociality, Catholic practice, joking, and camaraderie among lay men. As embodied ethnography, this chapter centers reflexivity by examining the positionality of the female ethnographer in the male space and gender in fieldwork.

Keywords:   backstage, embodied ethnography, positionality, reflexivity, devotion, Catholic, material culture, masculinity, saints, homosociality

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