Minorities' situation in a majority Catholic society: A case study of a Polish rural area
II Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Halle/Saale, Germany
The idea of this paper arose thanks to my current research project, held in the Southern Poland, in a rural area that is both ethnically and religiously heterogeneous. The commune I am focusing on is inhabited by Poles and Lemkos, representing seven different religious denominations, what in Poland - in majority Catholic society - makes quite a particular case. Although the relations between members of different communities seem to be "correct" at the surface, a deeper investigation shows that the reality is quite more complex and rather far from harmonious.
Drawing a picture of this commune, I would like to emphasize three issues. Firstly, I would like to remark a process which consists in both a tendency of the Roman Catholic Church to dominate over other (minority) religions and a "tacit" acceptance of this situation by members of other denominations. This process leads to treating the Roman Catholic Church as a norm and, subsequently, to negotiation of minorities´identity in the relation to this norm. Secondly, I would like to present the dynamics of minorities´status in different contexts, i.e. to show its constant redefinition while moving from private to public sphere. And finally, I would like to ask how the status of a religious minority relates to other dimensions of people´s status - such as ethnic, gender, or economic one.
Concluding, I would like to reflect on whether such a case study can reveal some universal patterns of majority - minority relations.