Occasions of Faith

An Anthropology of Irish Catholics

By: Lawrence J. Taylor

Publication Date: January 1995

(2 customer reviews)


Occasions of Faith: An Anthropology of Irish Catholics by Lawrence J. Taylor

Devotional “occasions” or experiences by Irish Catholics form the foundation of this consummate anthropological study of Irish Catholicism. Lawrence Taylor’s twenty years of field work in Banagh in south-west Donegal have yielded rich ethnographic material that is illuminated by wide-ranging archival sources, vivid renderings of individual experiences, and sympathetic scrutiny of religious questions and theories.

In answering questions central to the study of religion (What is it? How do official and popular religions differ? What is the relation between power and meaning, and the roles of political and religious “regimes” in the social construction of religion?), Taylor draws upon two major theoretical traditions: that of Geertz, Durkheim and Turner, and that of Marx, Foucault and Asad. Basic fears and needs propel the people of south-west Donegal – and all of us, Taylor contends – to respond creatively to strong personal religious experiences and to invent forms to express them.

‘A marvellous book – thoughtful, insightful and inspiring: we are greatly in Lawrence Taylor’s debt for this compelling, comprehensive, yet highly sympathetic study.’ Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill

‘The world of Occasions of Faith is the world of Synge’s The Well of the Saints and Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa and Wonderful Tennessee, the world that provides the central axis for Seamus Heaney’s Station Island. If for no other reason, read it for the light it sheds on those works and others. But read it too for its own distinctive pleasures.’ – Katherine McKenna, The Recorder

‘A delight… Moving with remarkable ease from vivid descriptive accounts of both landscape and individual action to a syncretistic mode of analysis that accords importance to local discourse, social context and historical process, the reader is taken on a voyage of discovery through some of the principal dimensions of Irish Catholic religious experience. This is a book that should be read by all those interested in the anthropological study of religion, in the role of religion in Irish society, in Catholicism, and in the anthropological study of Europe.’ Michael Allen, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

‘A work of major importance. Informed by a deep knowledge of anthropological writings on religion and a wide-ranging and thorough engagement with Ireland, it furnishes a compelling and perceptive exploration of Irish Catholicism.’- Irish Review

‘I love this book. It’s a great view into SW Donegal before it was all modernized. It describes the deep faith and Catholic customs ingrained in the culture.’ Customer review


LAWRENCE J. TAYLOR is Professor of Anthropology at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

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2 reviews for Occasions of Faith

  1. Lilliput Press

    “Was assigned this for an Anthropology of Global Catholicism class – absolutely loved it! I’ll be keeping & rereading this one! The writing style was much more reader-friendly than the average book in this field. At the same time, the content is not wanting in order to appeal to its A.D.D. readers. As an orthodox/orthoprax Roman Catholic, I might not agree with everything he says but gosh-darn-it I love this book nonetheless. It was pleasant to read & as I might have already said – I plan on keeping & rereading this one in the near future.”

  2. Lilliput Press

    “I love this book. It’s a great view into SW Donegal before it was all modernized. It describes the deep faith and Catholic customs ingrained in the culture. Some of the rituals are still practiced; however, not as much as when he wrote the book. Many of the people he interviewed have passed on and he was able to extract valuable historical information from them. This area is one of the most beautiful and interesting places in the world and I highly recommend this book.” MAJOR TOM

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 150 × 225 mm
Publication Date

January 1995


Paperback, 296pp