chapter  9
14 Pages

‘A merely private activity’

Spiritual consumerism as a way to transform gendered relationships to secular and religious authorities
WithKim E. Knibbe

This contribution explores how women, and some men, reshape the ways they relate to both religious and secular authorities through their engagements of the spiritual domain and their development as spiritual practitioners. It will also discuss how the often maligned ‘consumerism’ is an integral part of this reshaping of the ways individuals relate to authority. This is based on several years of ethnographic fieldwork among people who identify as spiritual in the Netherlands, and how they have gradually come to view themselves as guided by divine powers, spirits and deceased relatives. Like Sointu and Woodhead (2008), I found that much of what women and men do in the spiritual domain is aimed at reshaping their relationships (Knibbe 2013). Building on this insight, this chapter will explore how the domain of the spiritual, in this case dominated by spiritualist ideas and practices, forms a resource through which women reconstitute themselves and find authority to process and resist the ways they are authoritatively approached by both religious and secular authorities. Through a discussion of these practices in terms of ‘emotional labour’, I will highlight how ‘being spiritual’ is a private activity, although certainly not insignificant, and how this privacy is crucial to the ways it strengthens women to face authority.