Border Landscapes: Religion, Space and Movement on the Polish Belarusian Frontier

Joyce, Aimée Edith. 2014. Border Landscapes: Religion, Space and Movement on the Polish Belarusian Frontier. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Based on fieldwork carried out in a small town on the Polish border with Belarus, this thesis is concerned with the negotiation of a sense of place in a multi-religious municipality. My fieldsite was a well-known local Roman Catholic Mariological cult site and pilgrimage centre, yet many of the town’s residents were Eastern Orthodox Christians. The wider area also contained a number of important Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic religious sites. The negotiation of the pluralistic religious nature of my fieldsite is also influenced by representations of the area as a “frontier”. The idea of the borderland plays an important role in shaping regional attitudes to place, the EU, Belarus, Ukraine and the Polish state. The margin is conceptually important in this region and the shifting of state borders, the residues of socialism, changes to international border policies, and the presence and absence of diverse religious groups form multiple border landscapes. I argue that these landscapes are produced through the careful management of plurality. Plurality must be managed as it is constantly threatening to come apart. The relation between the periphery and the margin, or the inside and the outside, is constantly shifting through what I have called everyday religion, approaches to the border, and incorporation of visitors. A sense of place is messy, contradictory, and fragile, as the shape of the place is by no means fixed, and this thesis aims to explore how it is created, maintained, and recreated.

This thesis starts by exploring the dominant religious landscape of my fieldsite, excavating underlying religious tensions and contradictions by paying close attention to Church buildings and cemeteries. I then turn to the forest, the river and the border to examine these tensions in light of attempts to link religious differences to ethnicity and larger EU boundary projects. In the final two chapters I draw out the hegemonic position of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland, and the ongoing silencing of the Eastern Orthodox population through a “heritagisation” of their spaces, looking specifically at pilgrimage, household religious objects and religious events.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Anthropology, Religion, Place, Borders, Poland, Pilgrimage, Material Religion

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



10 September 2014

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

12 Sep 2014 08:35

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 09:03


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