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Leonard Norman Primiano Book Prize on Vernacular Catholicism

Sponsored by the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section of the American Folklore Society.

The Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section of the American Folklore Society invites submissions for the annual Leonard Norman Primiano Book Prize on Vernacular Catholicism. The purpose of the Prize is to recognize and stimulate new work in vernacular Catholicism and to commemorate the life and work of distinguished scholar Leonard Norman Primiano (1957-2021).

Primiano was a folklorist, religious studies scholar, and educator who published widely on the religious traditions of American Catholics and others from the methodological perspective of what he termed “vernacular religion.” He defined vernacular religion as, “religion as it is lived: as human beings encounter, understand, interpret, and practice it.” The definition was a departure from the terms “lay,” “folk,” or “unofficial” religion which were often contrasted with “institutional” or “official” religion. Primiano sought to unify these disparate discourses into one framework that invited scholars to engage deeply in the lives of their fieldwork collaborators. He challenged scholars to take seriously the minutiae of how people live their religion in particular contexts, their interaction with material culture, their often-flexible attitude to and use of tradition, their frequently complex relationships and negotiations with institutional forms of religiosity, and above all their agency. In the spirit of this method, the work should be interdisciplinary with attention to the religious life of the individual as well verbal, customary, and/or material expressions of religious believers.

Submission guidelines

  • All submissions must be focused on vernacular Catholicism, broadly construed.
  • Works submitted must be book-length monographs in English published in the 16 months prior to the annual submission deadline of May 1. 
  • Articles, dissertations, reissues of older works (unless they have been substantially revised and rewritten), editions of works by others, or works-in-progress will not be considered for the prize.
  • A cash award is made to the winner or winners of the prize. 
  • If no entry is deemed worthy, no prize will be awarded. 
  • AFS requires that publishers submit hard copies of all books, with the exception of books that are only available in electronic formats.
  • The winner/s will be announced at the American Folklore Society’s annual meeting in October or November each year. 
  • Publishers should mail four copies (clothbound or paperback) to American Folklore Society, “attention: Leonard Norman Primiano Book Prize,” 800 East Third Street, Bloomington, IN 47405 USA. Email questions to [email protected].
  • Publishers of books available in electronic formats only should email a PDF of the book, or download instructions, to [email protected].

Please see the following resources 

Vernacular Religion:  Collected Essays of Leonard Norman Primiano. ed., Deborah Dash Moore (New York: New York University Press, 2022)

Primiano, Leonard Norman (2012). Afterword: Manifestations of the Religious Vernacular: Ambiguity, Power, and Creativity. In M. Bowman and Ülo Valk (Eds.), Vernacular Religion in Everyday Life: Expressions of Belief (pp. 382-394). Sheffield, UK: Equinox Publishing.

Primiano, Leonard Norman (2022).  The Upper Room: Domestic Space, Vernacular Religion, and the Observant University Catholic.  In M. Bowman and Ülo Valk (Eds.).  Vernacular Knowledge: Contesting Authority, Expressing Beliefs (pp. 309-335) Sheffield, UK: Equinox Publishing.

Learn more about the Leonard Norman Primiano Fund

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