NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

(The) Missing Kin

Helena Kupari

Since the mid 20th century, the rate of interfaith marriages within the Finnish Orthodox community has been high. My interest lies in the religiosity, or religious agency, of Orthodox women (of evacuee Karelian backgrounds) with a Lutheran husband and children – that is, women that form a religious minority both within the wider society and their own homes.
I advance from a theoretical base that underlines the importance of home and family to the religiosity of women – a focus tied together with modern social arrangements and the myth of the nuclear family – and aim to trace some of the contours of women’s agency in a situation where the interests of a personal religious project and those of the family do not come together. More precisely, I explore the religious kin work of Orthodox Karelian women. Work of kinship (Micaela di Leonardo) refers to the maintenance of kin ties done largely by women in the modern context. However, I also look into another kind of kinwork: the reinforcing and active creation of kin and quasi kin networks through remembrance and participation in religious and ethnic communities. Ancestors have an important place within Orthodox traditions. For the women I have studied they gain in importance as links to an Orthodox “us” have to be searched outside the immediate family. This search leads also to the wider community, where Orthodox women’s groups have been an important place for Orthodox Karelian women to experience a "home away from home". So, as the women are missing their kin within the Orthodox community, they also actively recreate and replace this missing kin – and this "kinwork" is the focus of my paper.