The Sacred in a Global Age

Joe Webster (Invited speaker)

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course


    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 Order. But how is it, exactly, that the Orange Order seeks to promote their ‘Protestant Christian’ faith? And with what effects? This paper takes as its ethnographic point of departure the ‘Orange Parade’ – a ritual ‘celebration’ and ‘demonstration’ of the victory of Protestantism over Catholicism in Britain since the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688. 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 calendars of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This paper considers how attempts are made to revive the sacred history of British Protestant ascendency by bringing it into Scotland’s present via Orange parades. By examining the ‘embodied semiotics’ of these ritual processions – through sound, colour, heat, smell etc. – I consider 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 always momentary, even fleeting. Here, the ‘distributed person’ is not only capable of a powerful agentive drift, but also remains subject to it limits. In Scotland, the Orangeman is king (and Edinburgh or Glasgow, Protestant) for only a moment or two. Moreover, with an independence referendum only months away, Scotland’s political present and near future – as located within the UK – can no longer be taken for granted. What happens when political events threaten the possibility of even a momentary imposition of Orange sacrality? Attending to these questions ethnographically locates the Order within a politically changing Scotland, while also locating (emic and etic) notions of the sacred within much wider political theologies and philosophies of victimhood, sacrifice, and sectarianism.
    Event typeWorkshop
    LocationCambridge, United Kingdom