Skip to main content

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Skip banner

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Web Content Display Web Content Display

In the Blog/Varia section we publish project-related news, such as information about conferences, workshops, information about our publications and organised events, curiosities. It is also a place where short notes prepared by students cooperating with us appear.

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Doing fieldwork as a foreigner in Krakow

Doing fieldwork as a foreigner in Krakow

As a student from Germany, before I came to Cracow and before I started paying attention to visible religion in the city through which I walk, I expected that the dominant visible religious materialities during the project would be churches and other Catholic items. While it might be true that Catholic semantics are the most obvious ones, we have found a great variety of items associated with religion or displaying religious imagery. The existence of religious diversity even in places with one dominant religion is nothing new of course, and studying materialities can illustrate it well. In fact, we have found many items featuring South Asian and East Asian religion that are often used in an economic context, e.g. in restaurants or yoga and massage studios. Examples are Indian, Chinese, or Vietnamese restaurants that have a small shrine inside as part of their interior design. We also found instances of political symbolism in combination with religious semantics. One example would be a sticker displaying a traditional image of Holy Mary that is not holding a baby Jesus but abortion pills instead. Underneath it is a phone number. A few weeks after we found it, somebody used a black marker to hide the pills and phone number. This is a clear example of the ephemerality of some materialities. As someone who speaks no Polish, I have to consider that some religious aspects will escape my attention, e.g. inscriptions or cultural references that I do not understand. This is where cooperation in an international team is crucial, as we can discuss and compare our different interpretations of local aesthetics. We did so for example with the dragon that can be found a lot in Cracow, e.g. as a statue or a stuffed animal, and which made little sense to me until I learned about the local legend of the Wawel dragon. On the other hand, it was surprising that the omnipresence of East Asian and South Asian religious aesthetics in connection to spirituality and religious branding is so similar to what can be found in Germany. After returning to Heidelberg, I have become much more aware of religious items there, among them statues of Catholic saints that are part of houses in Heidelberg’s old town center, street names, and shop window decorations.

Author: Sophie Stolberg