Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Karl Kitching;
Sociological Association of Ireland
Making Communion: A preliminary analysis of childhood, family, home, school and market discourses
University College Cork
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields

The social and religious ritual of First Holy Communion deserves special attention contemporarily, as many families question whether to maintain certain institutional allegiances (e.g. school type, church, financial, political) in the midst of several crises. Other emergent and enduring issues socially include the potential recognition and protection of children as legal subjects with individual rights, and the positioning of certain Traveller and other minority ethnic children outside of narratives which may regulate `respectable¿ or `mainstream¿ child and/or family life.


This paper provides media and empirical analyses of key discourses circumscribing First Holy Communion-making. With respect to the media, there is a clear need for critical interrogation of quite explicitly racist, class-based and gendered judgements of certain children (particularly girls) and their families on `how they (should) conduct themselves¿ in the lead up to and during Communion Ceremonies. The following example is one of many:


o       ¿Parents of little girls making their First Holy Communion can breathe a sigh of relief.  The frothy meringues of the boom years are out ¿ and the more affordable and simple communion dresses have made a comeback.  This year reasonably priced dresses and boys suits are back in stores.  Not only are this year¿s styles cheaper but they are also deemed a lot more tasteful than the garb in the Celtic Tiger years¿. Irish Independent, 13th January 2010.


This brief example is notable also in terms of the agency that is largely not extended to children by adults (journalists, parents, schools, etc.) in this key event in their cultural and religious identity formation. Analyses of pilot interview data with 2nd class (7-8 year old) boys in a Catholic primary school in Cork will be offered, focusing on their active constructions of First Holy Communion in the context of their places and group memberships. This analysis will elicit key themes in terms of how overtly and tacitly gendered, classed, racialized and religioned identities are offered, taken up and refuted by the boys via the ritual of Communion in this particular setting.