Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

The dug-up heart: becoming a nun in the company of others

Donnelly, Meghan Rose (2022) The dug-up heart: becoming a nun in the company of others. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

[img] Text - Submitted Version
Download (16MB)
Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004528


This thesis explores the self-making journeys of Indonesian Catholic nuns as they unfold in the company of others. In its intimate, performative, and institutional capacities, being in company, I argue, is the method by which nuns are made, both as united, interchangeable subjects, and as vibrant individuals. Regularly reassigned to convents throughout the world, encouraged to adapt to diverse communities, and tasked with bearing joy to others, women learn that the path to sisterhood requires strong self-knowledge and a powerful reckoning with the heart. This reckoning can only be accomplished through the embodied participation of other people, especially the small cast of characters who share a convent. Through traditional ethnographic and experimental performance methods conducted during two years of fieldwork in Flores Timur, I explore how the sociality of company elicits the layered, mutable, and mysterious dimensions of personhood. While close participant-observation revealed the everyday intimacies and agonies of convent life, experimental performance ethnography workshops harnessed skills widely in evidence in the convent to illuminate nuns’ embodied, intersubjective strategies of attention and mutual becoming. Hailing from kin-centric, mobile, and impoverished eastern Indonesia, nuns learn early in their formation that all people are endowed by God with special talents, bear the wounds of childhood trauma, and inhabit a unique style: three elements that constitute their characters. In the convent, nuns play off and into each other’s characters as they attempt to maintain a moral mood of calm and joy. They hope to carry this mood on their visits to Indonesia’s multi-religious communities, where they aim, amidst all their development and missionary projects, to just be present. Company, they feel, is an act of service and a crucial part of what makes them who they are. Ultimately, I suggest, their example may expand our own horizons of the social dynamics of self-becoming.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Meghan Rose Donnelly
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Allerton, Catherine and Long, Nicholas J.

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics