The Anthropology of Catholicism

Aimed at a wide audience of readers, The Anthropology of Catholicism is the first companion guide to this burgeoning field within the anthropology of Christianity. Bringing to light Catholicism’s long but comparatively ignored presence within the discipline of anthropology, the book introduces readers to key studies in the field, as well as to current analyses on the present and possible futures of Catholicism globally. This reader provides both ethnographic material and theoretical reflections on Catholicism around the world, demonstrating how a revised anthropology of Catholicism can generate new insights and analytical frameworks that will impact anthropology as well as other disciplines.

Migrant Hearts and the Atlantic Return: transnationalism and the Roman Catholic Church

In this book Napolitano shows the rendering of migration present at the heart of the 21C Roman Catholic Church and why this is a key battleground for a changing Europe. She shows how Catholic Latin American lay and religious migrants and their histories in Rome point to an Atlantic Return from the Americas that challenges an Euro-centric, Roman Catholic identity. She queries national, municipal histories and Vatican pastoral teachings through documented and undocumented migrants’ experiences and devotions and shows how multiple forms of being Catholic inform gender, labour and sexuality at the heart of Catholicism in Europe. By studying present celebrations of the Virgin of Guadalupe and El Señor de los Milagros, Papal Encyclicals, the Latin American Catholic Mission and the order of the Legionaries of Christ in Rome she bridges the long-standing divide between the study of popular and institutional Catholicism, and between current circulations of affects around migration in Italy and the Catholic Church’s historical anxieties and hopes of conversion since the early missionization of the Americas. Through an Atlantic and transnational perspective Napolitano shows how the Roman Catholic Church is a passionate machine, an ethical and political subject that reignites a passion for Catholicism based on one hand on Papal liturgy and the importance of the moral truth, and on the other on how diverse Catholic migrants can become an apostolic vessel for new blood in a Europe perceived as having cooled to the Catholic faith.

In Migrant Hearts and the Atlantic Return, Valentina Napolitano offers her readers a complex portrait of the diasporic world of trans-Atlantic Catholicism, told through the stories of particular Latin American immigrant communities in Rome. Napolitano is singularly positioned to perform the ethnographic work that underlies this study, and she has written a moving account that contributes to the growing field of the anthropology of Christianity and that will appeal to an interdisciplinary audience of anthropologists, religionists, students of migration and globalization, and women’s and gender studies scholars.
Elizabeth Castelli
Napolitano’s book is a rich ethnography of the historically fraught relationship between the Vatican and its Latin American flock. In this moment of heightened anxiety about immigration and shrinking church following in Europe, Napolitano deftly tracks the fissure between communitas and otherness that haunts European Catholicism today. Told through the lives of Latin American immigrants to Italy, this wonderful book shows us what it means to live a faith that is losing hold of its civilizational mission.
Saba Mahmood