For January 2015 reading...
The Spirit's Tether by Mary Ellen Konieczny
Cultural conflicts about the family - including those surrounding women's social roles, abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception - have intensified over the last few decades among Catholics, as well as among Americans generally. In fact, they are the source of much of the political polarization we see. But how do individuals in local settings and cultures - especially religious ones - experience and participate in these conflicts? Why are they so resonant?
By exploring how religion and family life are intertwined in local parish settings, Mary Ellen Konieczny seeks to explain how and why Catholics are divided about the family. The Spirit's Tether presents a detailed comparative ethnographic analysis of the families and local religious cultures in two Catholic parishes, one conservative and one progressive. Through an examination of the activities of parish life and the faith stories of parishioners, this book reveals how parishes support and shape the ways in which Catholics work out the routines of marriage, childrearing, and work-family balance, as well as how they connect these everyday challenges to public politics. Local parishes, Konieczny argues, promote polarization through practices that unintentionally fragment the Catholic tradition.
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Mary Ellen Konieczny’s research interests revolve around the broad themes of religion and family life, and religion in American democracy. She is particularly interested in exploring how culture and social processes in local contexts intersect with discourse and politics in the public sphere. Her current work includes transforming her dissertation study, an ethnography of liberal and conservative Catholic parishes, into a book entitled, The Spirit’s Tether: Family, Work and Religion among American Catholics. Her second book project is an historical and qualitative study of religion at the US Air Force Academy in which she explores religion in the military, and the historical changes in and tensions between the disestablishment of religion and its free exercise.