Carmen Kuhling – From the Parish Hall to the Shopping Mall: Consumption and Re-enchantment in Post-Celtic Tiger Ireland

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Sacred Modernities: Rethinking Modernity in a Post-Secular Age

18 September 2009

speaker_carmenkuhlingCarmen Kuhling (University of Limerick)
From the Parish Hall to the Shopping Mall: Consumption and Re-enchantment in Post-Celtic Tiger Ireland

Ireland has been experiencing major social and cultural change, which in some ways have secularised, liberalised, and cosmopolitanised Ireland: emigration was reversed, which facilitated a ‘new multiculturalism’, and the shift from rural to urban patterns of living accelerated.  Most significantly, Ireland was transformed from a pre-modern, peasant rural community to a modern, technologised, urbanized society, although these changes have been experienced profoundly unevenly within Ireland.  These transformations which have accompanied Ireland’s experience of globalisation and accelerated modernisation have produced a variety of cultural and social collisions between different, and often incompatible forms of life, collisions between local and global, between “traditional” and “modern”, between Catholic and secular, and between rural and urban, and the peculiar nature of Irish modernity involves multiple modernities, and multiple invented ‘traditions’, and multiple processes of modernerisation. In common parlance, there is a belief that the locus of community, identity and spirituality has shifted from ‘from the parish hall to the shopping mall’.

The coexistence of increasing number of individuals who deny any religious affiliation alongside high numbers of self- proclaimed Catholics (as well members of a range of New Religions) demonstrates how Ireland simultaneously inhabits pre- secular, secular and post-secular modernities. Even for this ‘non-religious’ group, the unquestioned faith in the texts, apostles, cathedrals and rituals associated with Catholicism have simply been superceded by unquestioned faith in texts, apostles, cathedrals and rituals associated with consumption, and which are bound to the mythologies of economism and neo-liberalism; myths which could potentially accentuate rather than ‘solve’ the global economic crises. The question then is:  how do you use myth against myth, or formulate an ideal in the face of the new mythologies that have the power to dissipate or turn around the mythologies of neo-liberalism, or to creating the preconditions of a more utopian non-determinist political imaginary?

Dr. Carmen Kuhling is Senior Lecturer in the Dept. of Sociology, University of Limerick. Her research interests are globalisation and neo-liberalism, feminist epistemology and the philosophy of the social sciences, transformations in Irish society, modernism and new religions. She is the author of The New Age Ethic and the Spirit of Postmodernity (2004), Collision Culture:  Transformations in Everyday Life in Ireland.  (2004). and Cosmopolitan Ireland?  Globalisation and Quality of Life.  (2007) (with K. Keohane), and is currently writing a manuscript entitled Modernism and New Religions as well as a co-authored book entitled ‘This Rough Beast’: Irish Modernity and the Crisis of Global Capitalism’.


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