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Religion, music and the site of ritual: Baptismal rites and the Irish citizenship referendum

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While ritual practice is not exclusive to religion, religious systems have always relied on rituals to act as their expressive voice. Ritual, by its very nature, is a performed event. Through music, movement, poetry, silence, art and proclaimed word, religions embody and express the beliefs, tensions and aspirations of the communities who perform them. Drawing on the works of Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Paul Tillich, John Caputo and Talal Asad, this paper probes understandings of religion, which push beyond fundamentalist and denominational definitions, to propose a view of religion as embodied not-knowing, rather than conceptual certainty. It is from this perspective that we can revisit the potential of ritual practice specifically musical practice as a space of community creation, challenge and reconciliation. This proposal is grounded with reference to my own experience of working with asylum seekers in a number of churches in Limerick city, with particular reference to the role of music in the rite of baptism for children, seen against the backdrop of the Irish citizenship referendum of 2004.
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Keywords: Ireland; asylum seekers; community music; religion; ritual

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Limerick.

Publication date: 2009-05-01

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