Agreeing to disagree

Change log

In 2012 the Bologna chapter of We Are Church, a group of lay liberal Catholics who lobby the Vatican to adopt a more progressive position on various issues, including homosexuality, sought to pursue a dialogue with the city’s LGBTQ community. The relative success of those conversations depended upon We Are Church persuading their anticlerical interlocutors, whose antipathy toward the Vatican runs deep, that they were an entirely different entity to the Catholic “hierarchy.” But in prevailing in this endeavor, they created a further obstacle for themselves: the more convincingly they distinguished themselves from orthodox Catholicism, the less convincing was their eponymous declaration of “We Are Church”; the further they traveled toward the positions held by their LGBTQ activist counterparts, the more likely they were to be dismissed as unrepresentative of Catholicism, and thus irrelevant. Thus in this case ethics across borders depends not only upon finding affinities and sustaining differences but also upon finding affinities over how to sustain differences. Similarly, I suggest that debates in anthropology surrounding radical difference may benefit from attending to the ways in which such difference itself can be the subject of agreement or disagreement.

ethics, activism, sexuality, Catholicism, Italy, incommensurability
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HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory
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University of Chicago Press
Research for this article was funded in part by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council in the United Kingdom.