The Celebration of Beliefs. Cultural Policies and Religious Diversity in a Public Cultural Center in the City of Buenos Aires (Argentina)

Receipt: April 9, 2021

Acceptance: July 9, 2021


The purpose behind this article is to analyze the way in which the diversity of beliefs was defined and rebuilt in a cycle organized by a public cultural center in the city of Buenos Aires. For this, we will study the uses of the category of belief and the spiritual references created by participating state agents, artists and religious and spiritual specialists. We ask ourselves the definitions of all that is religious, spiritual and the diversity of beliefs that move outside institutions traditionally linked to religion. Likewise, we set out to show, using a specific case, the way in which the concern over diversity in the design of Latin American cultural public policies can coexist with the selection of specific cultural expressions which, in this case, represent only a part of the existing religious diversity. The data were built from a qualitative strategy that included participatory observations, in-depth interviews and the analysis of documents.

Keywords: , , , ,

the celebration of beliefs. cultural policies and religious diversity in a public cultural center in the city of buenos aires (argentina)

Abstract: The purpose behind this article is to analyze the way in which the diversity of beliefs was defined and rebuilt in a cycle organized by a public cultural center in the city of Buenos Aires. For this, we will study the uses of the category of belief and the spiritual references created by participating state agents, artists and religious and spiritual specialists. We ask ourselves the definitions of all that is religious, spiritual and the diversity of beliefs that move outside institutions traditionally linked to religion. Likewise, we set out to show, using a specific case, the way in which the concern over diversity in the design of Latin American cultural public policies can coexist with the selection of specific cultural expressions which, in this case, represent only a part of the existing religious diversity. The data were built from a qualitative strategy that included participatory observations, in-depth interviews and the analysis of documents.

Keywords: New Age Spirituality, public space, cultural policies, religious diversity, Argentina.

The purpose of this article is to analyze the way in which diversity of beliefs was defined and reconstructed in a series of lectures and art exhibitions organized by a public cultural center in the city of Buenos Aires. This cycle was part of a broader program aimed at young people and the celebration of diversity and included workshops, lectures, art exhibitions and concerts by artists and referents linked in various ways to some form of religiosity. In this way, we are interested in contributing to the question of the definitions of the religious, the spiritual and the diversity of beliefs that are mobilized outside the institutions traditionally linked to religion. Likewise, we intend to show, from the analysis of a specific case (Yin, 2014), the way in which the concern for diversity in the design of Latin American cultural policies can coexist with the selection of specific cultural expressions that, as we will see throughout the article, represent only a part of the religious diversity existing in the country.

In recent years, a certain consensus has emerged in the social sciences about the need to look beyond traditional religious institutions in order to understand the multiple forms through which religious and spiritual life is expressed in contemporary societies (Algranti, Mosqueira and Setton, 2019). This perspective, which takes the gaze from religious specialists to the production of the sacred in the experiences of believers and practitioners, was crystallized in categories such as lived religion (Orsi, 2006; Da Costa, Pereira Arena, & Brusoni, 2019; Rabbia, 2017), everyday religiosity (Ammerman, 2007) and sacralization practices (Martin, 2010). Likewise, numerous investigations showed the central role that apparently secular practices, such as producing and consuming music and books, have in the diffusion and actualization of religious and spiritual sensibilities (Semán, 2017; Semán and Battaglia, 2012; Algranti, 2014; Mosqueira, 2013); and several investigations emphasized the centrality of public space in the expression of religious and spiritual life (Carbonelli and Mosqueira, 2008; Giumbelli, 2008; Vargas and Viotti, 2013).

The article will be developed in three parts. First, we frame the concern for diversity of beliefs in the processes of diversification of the Argentine religious field and in the emergence of cultural diversity as a discursive matrix from which Latin American cultural policies were built during the last decades. Then, we describe the selection of beliefs as a central theme by the agents of the cultural center within the framework of a broader agenda linked to youth and respect for diversity. Third, we analyze the uses of the category of belief mobilized by officials, agents, artists and specialists.1 linked to the cycle during its design and execution. Finally, we identified the types of religiosity referred to in the presentations of the artists and specialists who were summoned for the cycle. The data presented here were constructed from a qualitative research strategy (Vasilachis de Gialdino, 2006) that included participant observations in different activities of the cycle, in-depth interviews with agents of the cultural center and analysis of publicity and journalistic documents produced by the institution as well as by the artists and exhibitors who were part of the cycle.

The (regulated) religious diversity in Argentina

The specialized literature usually identifies the diversification of the Argentine religious field as part of a broader process of political and cultural democratization that took place after the end of the last military dictatorship and the return of democracy in 1983.2 The diversification of the religious offer was expressed, fundamentally, in the growth and visibility of religious heterodoxies (Wright and Ceriani, 2011), present in the country since the beginning of the 20th century (Wright and Ceriani, 2011). xxand what at the time were called the New Religious Movements (Soneira, 2005). These included groups that incorporated religious disciplines from other geographical contexts, such as Buddhism (Carini, 2009), Neo-Hinduism (Saizar, 2015; D'Angelo, 2018) and Afro-Brazilian religions (Frigerio and Lamborghini, 2011); developed new ways of linking with pre-existing worldviews, as in charismatic Catholicism and evangelical movements (Giménez Béliveau and Martínez, 2013), or adopted therapeutic practices based on holistic conceptions of the person. According to Mallimaci (2011) this context was defined by a "breakdown of the Catholic monopoly", which until then had been projected from the State and had hegemonized the public space, especially during the successive dictatorial periods that characterized the political life of the country until the 1980s (Mallimaci, 2015).

The growth of the local religious offer did not mean, however, a situation of equality for all religious minorities in terms of state and social recognition. In some cases it even gave rise to reactive positions, as was the case of the anti-sect movements (Soneira, 2005; Frigerio and Wynarczyk, 2008). Argentina's religious diversity is characterized by differential regimes of visibility and social legitimacy between the majority religion, Catholicism, and minority religious and spiritual collectives and beliefs (Frigerio, 2018).

In Argentina, the State plays a complex role in this process. On the one hand, at the national level, the Catholic Church enjoys a preferential legal status, crystallized in the National Constitution and in the Civil and Commercial Code (Mallimaci, 2015). Likewise, religious minorities are regulated by the National Registry of Cults, where non-Catholic religious groups must register to be recognized by the State. This body was created during the last military dictatorship and is based on what Catoggio (2008) called "an engineering of tolerance" of diversity, which requires religious minorities to register as "others", different from Catholicism, before the State.3 Likewise, as García Bossio (2020) shows, during the last decades subnational agencies were created that have a prominent role in enabling or hiding the institutional presence of religions in the public space through their activities and alliances. In this context, the current General Directorate of Entities and Cults of the city of Buenos Aires mobilizes a conception of religious diversity as part of the cultural heritage of the city since its creation in 2002. This notion is put into play in a wide range of activities, such as regular visits to temples and an annual Night of the Temples, where inhabitants and tourists are proposed to come into contact with the wide range of places of worship and religious festivities present in the city of Buenos Aires. Thus, the regulation of religious diversity by the State is not limited to the normative sphere, but includes the actions of a large number of actors who perform different functions and represent different levels of the State, ranging from the security forces to, as we will see here, public agencies responsible for the design and implementation of cultural policies (Frigerio and Wynarczyk, 2008). But although the State is one of the great secular regulators of religious minorities, these processes also involve the actions of other social actors, such as the media and cultural industries that, through their discourses and content, contribute to legitimize and delegitimize specific religious ideas and practices (Fidanza and Galera, 2014; Viotti, 2015).

On the other hand, the growing place given to religious diversity in the public policies of the city of Buenos Aires takes place in a general context of incorporation of diversity in Latin American social and cultural policies that impacts the way in which the city is represented to its inhabitants and visitors (Nivón Bolán, 2013). Since the 1990s, the traditional image of a white, European and homogeneous city has been replaced by a multicultural narrative that encourages and exalts its ethnic diversity in different official discourses (Lacarrieu, 2001). The valorization of cultural diversity was in fact incorporated in the 1996 constitution of the city of Buenos Aires, where the guidelines established by different international organizations that promote the recognition of Latin American cities as multicultural places are taken up (Lacarrieu, 2001; García Canclini and Martinell, 2009; Frigerio and Lamborghini, 2011). As Burity (2007) shows, the valuing of multiculturalism on the international agenda led to a transformation in the relationship between the religious and the political. However, this growing affirmation of diversity and multiculturalism by different actors does not necessarily translate, "into the development of policies that achieve an equal valuation among the different social actors that make up the existing configurations" (Camarotti, 2014: 167).

The "I Believe" cycle as part of a "youth agenda".

The Recoleta Cultural Center (hereinafter ccr) is one of the two major public cultural centers of the city of Buenos Aires. It is currently managed, along with other cultural spaces and programs, by the Undersecretary of Cultural Policies and New Audiences of the Ministry of Culture of the Government of the City of Buenos Aires. Located in a tourist, leisure and consumer area, at the confluence of residential neighborhoods historically inhabited by the upper classes of Buenos Aires society and with a large green area made up of numerous spaces, the ccr is composed of a series of places dedicated to the exhibition of works of art. It is located in a former convent built by the Franciscan order at the beginning of the century. xix. After being expropriated by the then government of Buenos Aires headed by Martin Rodriguez, the property was used in various ways: as an agricultural school, botanical garden, prison, barracks, hospital, asylum for the mentally ill, homeless and elderly until, in 1980, it was converted into the current cultural center. The fact that it was originally a convent gives the building a particular aesthetic: in addition to the typical bare rooms that are usually found in spaces dedicated to the exhibition of art exhibitions, it has several dry patios with fruit trees and a chapel that has been refunctionalized as a theater.

Currently, "the Recoleta", as it is often referred to by users and state agents, is defined as "a symbol of Argentine culture" (Centro Cultural Recoleta, 2017), a space historically inhabited by the avant-garde and a "home of the new" in which different artists can "freely reflect concerns and searches far from a conservative gaze" (Centro Cultural Recoleta, 2021).. These stories link the institution to processes and collectives typically associated with Argentina's democratic culture, such as Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo),4 and highlight the fact that during the last military dictatorship it was considered a "dangerous" site (Centro Cultural Recoleta, 2021). In fact, during 2004 the ccr exhibited a retrospective of the artist León Ferrari, which caused one of the greatest public controversies between Catholic leaders and faithful, who considered the exhibition an attack on their values and identity, and a group of artists and public entities that expressed themselves in favor of artistic freedom.5

Over the course of its four decades of existence, the style and agenda of the ccr underwent modifications linked to changes in their management and financing. The current administration, which took office in 2015 during a period in which the coalition Cambiemos6 dominated the executive powers of the city and the nation, carried out a major renovation of the building and radically transformed the form and content of the center's programming.

According to Federico, one of the agents working at the cultural center in 2019, the new management set out to recover its "identity" through the transformation of its style and programming as well as a quest to diversify its audience from the attraction of young people and inhabitants of the south of the city, where lower-income neighborhoods with high levels of social and environmental vulnerability are spread (interview conducted on September 20, 2019). For her part, Eleonora, another official, considers that these transformations aimed to "revive the identity of the center" based on campaigns that "echoed the voices of young people..." (interview conducted in September 2019).7 and promote the expression and realization of new trends in art and culture" (interview conducted on February 28, 2020). Likewise, these officials oppose this new orientation of the cultural offerings of the ccr The center was described as a "museum" or "location" for art exhibitions, which, in turn, would explain why its audience was limited to an elite from the wealthy neighborhoods of Recoleta, Palermo and Belgrano.

Currently, the selection of the artists presented at the center is in charge of a content department made up of ten people, many of whom are in contact with different national art "scenes". The department is mostly made up of art producers, curators and art critics between the ages of thirty and fifty, with degrees in journalism, the arts, economics and design. They work as part of a network and frequently draw on their own areas of sociability and work ties to compose the agenda of the cultural center. In addition, the ccr seeks to promote a participatory management model through the articulation with the public, cultural organizations and artists' collectives for the creation and programming of its contents.

In line with these transformations, the current management of the ccr proposed to make cross-cutting issues visible, which is defined as a "youth agenda". Thus, during the last few years, campaigns have been organized around issues and controversies that have become central in public debates and that have shown a striking youth participation.8 (Elizalde, 2018; Felitti, 2019): love (in the cycle "Summer Love"), gender violence and the feminist movement (in the cycle "No va más"), ecology (in the cycle "Visiting Inhabitants"), immigration (in the cycle "Inmigrantes sí") and gender diversity (in the cycle "Diversxs e iguales"). It is within this framework that the center's agents selected the issue of diversity of beliefs to organize the programming of the activities offered during May and June 2019.9 Thus, the issue of plurality of beliefs was part of a broader agenda of concerns from which those who manage the center define the city's young people.

According to the team members, these issues were approached on the basis of two values that they consider characteristic of both the ccr as well as its target audience: respect for diversity and autonomy. As a staff member who collaborates with the content department pointed out,

This is very characteristic of the Generation Z we work with, where the uniqueness of people and respect is the most important thing. No matter what sex you are, no matter what gender you are, you perceive yourself the way you want to, and no more meddling in the autonomy of others. This also crossed the issue of how to approach the subject of spirituality, of beliefs. What we believe in as a tool to be in life. So, one is as valid as the other (interview conducted on February 28, 2020).

The concern for respect for diversity and individual autonomy, understood as characteristic concerns of the "young" generation, were, then, the starting point from which these agents sifted the artistic expressions linked to the question of beliefs.10 In tune with the general trends in cultural public policies mentioned above, the Undersecretary of Cultural Policies and New Audiences of the government of the city of Buenos Aires explains this concern for diversity as part of a broader political agenda that seeks to "echo" the "specificity" characteristic of a large city:

This is a public cultural organization and has the obligation to rethink itself in this context of a large city in Latin America, where it is important to generate spaces where people who are different, all different, meet on equal terms (Abiuso, 2019).

In the same vein, another of the staff members emphasized the intention of creating spaces for dialogue between different people and thus justified not having incorporated "sectarian" expressions into the programming that could generate discomfort among the center's regular public and that would go against the values promoted by the institution:

It was a campaign, well, like all campaigns, which are based on agendas or values, [...] they are not expulsive agendas. It does not mean that they are fine with everyone, but that the format we give it has the widest possible scope and that they are not so sectarian that there is another group of people who feel uncomfortable with what is going on here. Again, because of the public nature of this place and because the intention is that there is an opportunity for reflection, exchange, meeting with others, which, if the proposal itself is very closed or expulsive, that is why it will not happen. And that is the ultimate goal (Interview conducted on February 28, 2020).

The concern for diversity was, then, at the core of the design of the "I Believe" cycle, defined in different media as "a celebration of beliefs" (Para ti, 2019; Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, 2019). In fact, this key was present in a large mural made specifically for the cycle that, according to its author, showed "a diversity of beings in search of meaning", for which an attempt was made to "rescue all kinds of beliefs, diverse ways of seeing the world and explaining it: science, spirituality, astrology, superstition" (Centro Cultural Recoleta, 2019a). However, a careful analysis of the cycle's activities shows us that they were designed from specific conceptions of belief, spirituality and religion that influenced the selection of the spiritual expressions that were finally included.

In the first place, the design of the cycle's agenda presented a conception of beliefs as a sphere for the expression of individuality and the formation of collective bonds. The centrality of the individual was expressed in the very title of the cycle ("I Believe") and in the promotion of several activities in which spirituality was defined as a form of contact with one's own interiority. This was the case of a home altar workshop that included "practical exercises for participants to engage in a daily relationship with a home altar built in relation to one's particular universe" (León, 2019), of a mandala painting workshop defined as "a sacred practice of self-knowledge in India" (Merchensky, 2019) or the artist Pablo Robles, who proposed the concert he performed as "a meditative sound-musical journey with singing bowls, harmonic chants, nature sounds and mantras" for "the awakening of consciousness and the power of self-healing that resides in every human being" (Centro Cultural Recoleta, 2019b).

For their part, the organizers of the cycle considered that this identification of belief as something proper to the individual constituted a guarantee of respect for what was different. In the words of one of the center's staff members: "the slogan of I Believe speaks of what each person believes. That is not debatable" (interview conducted on February 28, 2020) or, as observed in the following description of the performative conference by Paloma del Cerro: "Through music and collective singing, she will make the meeting a ritual (...) respecting all beliefs and taking as a premise that faith is something that starts from the human and transcends it" (Alarcia, 2019). At the same time, some of the proposals aimed at generating spiritual experiences from different artistic stimuli. The singer Paloma del Cerro referred to her performance as a "ritual encounter" that allows the public to enter "into the intimacy and depth of the heart" and establish "a connection between all dimensions". There were also references to spirituality as a plane of existence that has practical effects on collective life (Viotti and Funes, 2015). During her lecture, astrologer Ludovica Squirru defended the need to "spiritually re-found" Argentina in order to "heal" the lost connection with indigenous cosmovisions and the natural world. For his part, the musician of Nación Ekeko made reference to the spirituality and territorial claims of the indigenous communities by including in the lyrics of his songs recitations such as:

I am Wichi. Our life began on this soil. Only in us live our ancestors. This territory is our home, we must protect it. The whites said we were savages, they did not understand our prayers. When we danced to the sun, the moon or the wind, they condemned us as lost souls.

On the other hand, at various times, beliefs were defined in an ambiguous manner and detached from the religious sphere. In the advertisements of the cycle it was stated that "artists and referents of current thought" would answer the questions "What is the meaning of our life? Why are we here?" from their own experience (Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, 2019). For her part, one official described the activities as "human tools to go through this human experience" that were not associated with "one religion or another." In addition, several agents and specialists updated a negative conception of religion,11 which they associated with dogmatic forms of knowledge and coercive practices of individual freedom. This was the case of Dario Sztajnszrajber, a renowned philosopher and popularizer who is usually present in most of the center's cycles, who stated during his lecture: "God has been monopolized by the power practices of institutional religions, denying the possibility of accessing him from any other narrative".

These different ways of defining beliefs were, then, the starting point from which we sought to generate a space for expression and respect for diversity. Below we analyze the ways in which artists and specialists were presented in the promotional discourses of the cycle and identify the types of religiosity that were included in the programming. We will show that, although the agents sought to show the diversity of beliefs, the activities that made up the program only showed a part of the religious and spiritual traditions and practices present in Argentine society, mainly those linked to New Age spiritualities (Amaral, 2003).

Diversity screened

Despite the strong insistence on diversity, the presentations of themselves (Goffman, 2009) and the way in which most of the artists and specialists were described in the promotional discourses of the cycle involved specific therapeutic and spiritual references. This was the case of several of the musicians and artists who performed in concerts and performative lectures, such as So What Project and VibrA Project. So What Project is a male duo in their forties who are part of the neo-Hindu movement. The Art of Living (D'Angelo, 2018). The band calls their concerts "Yoga Raves," as they include live music, yoga postures and guided meditations. Their songs, in an electronic-pop style, incorporate mantras, Sanskrit words and reference Hinduism deities for their "purifying potential" and "high energetic level" (Yoga Rave, 2013). For its part, the presentation of VibrA Project consisted of a concert of singing bowls led by a musician, yoga teacher, reiki master and vibrational therapist named Pablo Robles, who defines his presentations as an "Itinerant Peace Embassy" dedicated "to the awakening of consciousness" through sound therapy, "energy channeling" and aromatherapy (Bulzomi, 2019). Finally, within this group we can mention Ludovica Squirru, a seventy-four year old renowned Argentinean astrologer who since 1984 has published annually books with Chinese horoscope predictions that were bestsellers since its first publication.

Secondly, many of the artists' presentations included reference to processes of "spiritual search" through travels in Latin America and Eastern countries, which were later integrated into their cultural productions. This was the case of Hugo Mujica, Adán Jodorowsky, Nación Ekeko and Uji. The first was presented as an Argentine priest, writer and essayist, summoned by his long journey of "spiritual search", which included living in temples of the neo-Hindu Hare Krishna movement and the adoption of the "spiritual master" Swami Satchidananda in India and the practice of the vow of silence in monasteries of the Trappist Order for seven years. For his part, Adán Jodorowsky was introduced as "musician, actor, French-Mexican film director and son of Alejandro Jodorowsky," a Chilean writer, filmmaker and psychomagician generally recognized within the field of New Age spirituality (Centro Cultural Recoleta, 2019c). He currently posits that his artistic career took a turn inspired by his process of "spiritual search" and describes his recent musical productions as "a bridge between the soul and the earth" (Barbero, 2018).

Nación Ekeko and Uji are the names of the solo projects of two musicians and producers in their forties, who are part of the digital folklore "scene".12 The organizers of the cycle presented the proposal of the former as "a musical journey through Latin America with ancestral songs and melodies, shamanic voices, pre-Columbian instruments and new technologies" that "is born from travels, from the encounter with Latin American characters, from collected songs and recitals". The second was presented as a "nomadic" producer and electronic musician who has lived in different parts of the "American continent" and who integrates "music of indigenous, African and folkloric roots in electronic form for the dance floor". His presentations are characterized by the combination of recordings of nature sounds (insects, rivers, birds); instruments such as drums, maracas and Andean winds, electronic music bases mixed with recorded recitations, lyrics in Spanish and, in the case of Uji, songs that evoke indigenous languages, accompanied by psychedelic style visuals, some more abstract and others with images of mountains, animals and plants.

Finally, in addition to this first group of specialists who refer to the figure of the "spiritual seeker" identified in studies on New Age spirituality (Carozzi, 2000), the center's agents selected two women whom they presented as part of local indigenous peoples:13 Beatriz Pichi Malen, a singer who self-identifies as Mapuche and defines her music as a way of spreading her language and culture (Vasconcellos, 2019), and Rosalía Gutiérrez, who was in charge of the workshop "Cosmology of Indigenous Peoples" and was introduced as an activist of the Indigenous Movement and part of the Kolla people, a sociology graduate from the University of Buenos Aires and coordinator of the Community of First Nations Students of America (Gutiérrez, 2019).

Only two of the cycle's activities were not linked to New Age spirituality or indigenous issues: the presentations of the Afro Sound Gospel Choir and the brass band. klezmer (Fischman, 2013) Mohel trembles. Both were linked to exoticized minorities in terms of time and space, and their link to religiosity was more blurred. In the case of the choir gospelThe cycle's publicity stated that it interprets "the best of this genre born in the African-American Protestant churches of the United States in the 20th century". xviii" (Centro Cultural Recoleta, 2019d). For its part, Tiembla el Mohel was presented as "a band dedicated to the traditional music of the Ashkenazi Jewish people of Europe" (Centro Cultural Recoleta, 2019b). The choir gospelThe choir, formed by about sixty adult men and women, presented an aesthetic typical of this style of choirs in the tone in which religious praises are sung in English, the clapping and snapping of fingers, coordinated dance steps, the songs structured from calls and responses and a costume of wide orange tunics with brown puffed sleeves and large earrings in the case of the women. In addition, during the performances the lead singer would invite the audience to participate by imitating the clapping and singing refrains such as "Thank-you, Jesus"in a loud voice. In this case, although the ensemble is led by two evangelical women, one of whom is of African descent, the rest of the members are not linked to Protestantism.

In the case of Tiembla el Mohel, reference was made to the "folkloric" character of the music. klezmer and its connection to Jewish migration in Argentina, but without making explicit references to the Jewish religion. The band was composed of seven men, dressed in shirts, dress pants, ties or bow ties and, in some cases, vests and hats. Assuming that most of the audience was unfamiliar with the musical genre and Jewish celebrations, before starting to play, the singer explained that the music was not Jewish. klezmer represents the Jewish community and is usually the most joyful moment of weddings. Then, he detailed some particularities of Jewish weddings, differentiating them from Catholic weddings: the role of the rabbi, the vows of the bride and groom, the breaking of a glass by the groom and the celebration of the rite of passage through the expression "...".Mazel tov". Likewise, throughout their presentation, the musicians insisted that the spectators get up from their seats in order to teach them the "proper" way to dance to this music. While some followed the indications, making rounds holding arms around the room, others remained in their seats, distancing themselves from the proposal. In this sense, the presentation was marked by the band's demarcation of its "otherness" with respect to the audience and the space in which it took place: a Catholic chapel.

The analysis of the activities and of the specialists called upon by the agents of the ccr shows that, beyond the fact that they may have thought of the cycle as a way of making visible diverse ways of explaining and experiencing the world, the programming only included some types of religiosity. Although in the spiritual orientations of the artists and specialists we found a variety of traditions linked to oriental and, to a lesser extent, indigenous cultures, which show a multicultural and cosmopolitan sensitivity characteristic of the middle sectors oriented to this type of spirituality (Carozzi, 2000), there was almost no reference to other religious manifestations present in Argentine society, such as traditional Catholicism, popular Catholicism, Pentecostalism, religions of Afro matrix and other Christian religious minorities. The diversity of beliefs present in the cycle was mainly composed of techniques, disciplines and spiritual traditions such as yoga, astrology or neo-Hinduism, as well as references to indigenous cosmovisions. Moreover, although these may produce an image of heterogeneity (Frigerio, 2013) most appeared resemanticized under the interpretative framework of New Age spirituality (De la Torre, 2013), characterized by the conception of the sacred as housed in the interiority of each individual with which it is necessary to come into contact through different techniques to achieve spiritual development. For their part, artists linked to other types of religiosity, such as Protestantism or Judaism, did not present a direct relationship with that kind of religiosity.

The conception of beliefs that they mobilized, as well as the cosmovisions and spiritual practices that the agents selected for this program, can be understood as part of a broader process of visibilization of New Age religious and spiritual expressions. Although these usually enjoy differential degrees of legitimacy in relation to other religious minorities, their presence in certain public spaces and discourses has also been the object of accusations by certain journalistic media (Viotti, 2015). Thus, the almost exclusive reference to New Age spiritual disciplines, practices and discourses in the framework of a public policy that promotes respect for diversity and autonomy contributes to the processes of visibilization and legitimization that this type of religiosity has gone through during the last decades (Semán and Viotti, 2015). In this way, agents and artists operated as secular agents of religious diversity (Frigerio, 2018).


In this article we analyze the way in which diversity of beliefs was reconstructed and defined in a cycle of lectures and artistic exhibitions organized by a public cultural center in the city of Buenos Aires. Characterized by a tradition that its agents define as democratic and plural, this cultural center selected the "question of beliefs" as part of a broader agenda of vindication of cultural diversity oriented to youth. But even though those in charge of programming sought to bring the public into contact with different worldviews, most of the disciplines and practices that were actually exhibited in the program were framed within New Age spirituality. Thus, the series left out a large number of expressions that make up the local religious diversity, such as Catholicism, new expressions of Protestantism and Afro-matrix religions. We consider that this exclusion may be due to different reasons. On the one hand, we can distinguish historical factors of exclusion and stigma and a national identity imagined as white, Catholic and European. On the other hand, it also responds to the subjectivities, religious practices and sociability networks of those who think about programming. This case shows us that, although agents and officials had an effective concern and intention to promote respect for diversity of beliefs, their conceptions of spirituality and religion, their networks of sociability and the type of religiosity with which many of the artists who usually perform in this center are linked, meant that much of the effective religious practices and traditions that characterize Argentine society were left out.

On the other hand, this case suggests new lines of research for understanding the current dissemination of New Age spirituality by showing us two ways in which the artistic and spiritual worlds are in dialogue. First, several of the artists and exhibitors in the program are part of a repertoire that is frequently called upon for programming at the Centro Cultural Recoleta. Taking into account the networking work done by the content team in charge of designing the program, this shows us the presence of this type of religiosity in the sociabilities of those who design cultural public policies in the city of Buenos Aires. The frequent presence of these artists in the cultural center shows, in turn, the relevance of the artistic medium for the dissemination and production of sensibilities related to these forms of spirituality. Future research is expected to investigate the presence of this type of spirituality in other cultural territories and activities. Secondly, several of the artists mobilized during their presentations spiritualized conceptions of art as a vehicle for the development and production of spiritual experiences. These intersections between spirituality and art worlds invite us to continue investigating the multiple ways in which cultural industries contribute to the dissemination and practice of religion outside traditional institutions.


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María Eugenia Funes D. in Social Sciences (Universidad de Buenos Aires) and in Sociology (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales - École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales - ESS).ehess), Master in Social Anthropology (ides-idaes/Universidad de San Martín) and a degree in Sociology (Universidad del Salvador). She has taught in the Sociology of Religion seminar and is currently Professor of the Thesis Workshop, both in the Sociology program at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Universidad del Salvador. She also directs the research project "Spirituality and new economies. Towards an understanding of the relationships between spiritual sociabilities and new economic organizations in Argentina", funded by the National Agency for the Promotion of Research, Technological Development and Innovation (2021-2022). She is currently researching the articulations between cosmovisions and spiritual practices with the emergence of business models that aim to solve social and environmental problems.

Mercedes Nachón Ramírez holds a degree in Sociology (Universidad de Buenos Aires), a doctoral fellowship from conicet based in the Society, Culture and Religion program of the Center for Labor Studies and Research (ceil- conicet). She is currently a first assistant professor of General Sociology at the Sociology Department of the University of Buenos Aires. Her doctoral research is oriented to the understanding of the processes of professionalization in neo-shamanism in the city of Buenos Aires, focusing on the articulations that neo-shamanism establishes with different social worlds, spaces and institutions related to health, spirituality and the supply of cultural goods.

Mercedes Máspero holds a degree in Sociology (Universidad del Salvador) and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Social Anthropology (Universidad del Salvador).ides-idaes/University of San Martín). Assistant Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology in the Social Service career and Research Methodology in the Psychology career at Universidad del Salvador. Her undergraduate research dealt with economic practices informed by spiritual practices, particularly astrology.


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