Second Scottish Religious Cultures Network conference: 'Scotland’s Religious Traditions at Home and Abroad'

Joe Webster (Invited speaker)

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


    The Sacred Power of the Parade: Orange Domination, for a Moment or Two “The Orange Order is the oldest and biggest Protestant Christian fraternity in Scotland. We are an organisation of people bonded together to promote the ideals of our faith”. So says Henry Dunbar, Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland. But how is it, exactly, that the Orange Order seeks to promote their ‘Protestant Christian’ faith? This paper takes as its ethnographic point of departure an Orange Parade in Edinburgh and Bathgate, just months before the 2014 Independence Referendum. How does a ritual ‘celebration’ and ‘demonstration’ of the victory of Protestantism over Catholicism in Britain since the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 speak into the rapidly changing political context of contemporary Scotland? Hundreds of such parades take place across Scotland’s Central Belt every year as a way of marking the various high points of the Protestant, unionist and loyalist calendar – but with what effects? This paper considers how attempts are made to revive the history of British Protestant ascendency by bringing it into Scotland’s present via Orange parades. Thus, it considers what happens when aspirational ascendency becomes actual domination, as inscribed upon a cityscape, neighborhood, or parade route. Yet, what we learn from the Scottish context (and what differentiates it from that of Northern Ireland) is that the achievement of ‘Orange domination’ is never permanent, but is instead always transitory, momentary, even fleeting. Theoretically, this paper draws upon Alfred Gell’s (1998) notion of ‘distributed personhood’, and brings it into conversation with Durkheim’s (1912) work on the contagiousness of the sacred. Here, the ‘distributed person’ is not only shown to be capable of a powerful agentive drift, but also remains subject to it limits. The Orangeman is king (and Edinburgh or Bathgate, Protestant) for only a moment or two.
    Event typeConference
    LocationBelfast, United Kingdom