The power of the Psalms: evaluating their meaning in postsecular society

H. Vogel



    In postsecular society, secularization and the blurring of religious and secular domains are simulteneous processes. My research on the psalms in Dutch and Flemish culture shows how, in such a context, performed psalms cannot solely be understood with a strict dichotomy between ‘world’ and ‘liturgy’. Rather, in the performance of these psalms, religious and secular meanings are (playfully) negotiated. I studied this meaning-making process with regard to claims of authenticity, nostalgia and utopia, community and spirituality. Until, my social constructionist approach regarded the psalms as more or less passively appropriated objects, open to all possible signification. However, appropriation is a mutual process: those who appropriate are resignified as well. This raises (theological, hermeneutical) questions about the ‘authority of the psalms’. Which meanings appear to be unavoidable, and which are emphasized or avoided? How to evaluate this powerplay?

    My research shows a dialogue between artists, organizations and visitors of concerts and poetry recitals, who all share their views on religious, secular, spiritual and other dimensions of the ritual performance of psalms. It challenges dichotomies between the arts and liturgy, and between 'secular' contexts and 'religious' content. Thus, it invites critical evaluation and improvement of our own liturgical practices, how diverse they may be.

    The research for this paper was conducted using different ethnographic techniques: participant observation, interviews, and textual and visual analysis. This study is embedded in a research project concerning the ritual-musical appropriation of Psalms, and builds on theory from practical theology, ritual and liturgical studies, ethnomusicology, and heritage studies.
    Originele taal-2English
    StatusPublished - 27 jul. 2021
    EvenementChristian Congregational Music Conference - Cuddesdon, Oxford
    Duur: 2 aug. 20217 aug. 2021


    ConferenceChristian Congregational Music Conference
    Land/RegioUnited Kingdom

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