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Masculinity, Money, and Survival: Keeping a Parish Alive in Brooklyn

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Abstract for Online Program Book (maximum 1200 characters including spaces)

This ethnographic study is about money and masculinity, and how Catholic men imagine themselves and their labor as the engines by which their parishes stay alive amidst gentrification and neighborhood change. At the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a parish in the super-gentrified neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, survival always seems tenuous. Each year the church hosts its Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. While the feast is an occasion for devotion it is also an occasion to make money—as the largest fundraiser for the parish it raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and helps the parish stay alive. For men, to be devoted to the saints and the church is to help make money to sustain the parish. Fundraising is a masculinized devotional practice. Moving beyond assumptions that men are not active in devotionalism, this paper explores how they use conceptions of “productivity” and “dedication” to construct masculinity through working for the church. By “following the money,” we see how lay men imagine themselves as agents assuring the endurance of their churches, and how masculinity is made in the devotional economies of Catholicism.

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