Becoming Pachamama: a controversy between traditionalist and ecologist Catholics

FBK-ISR International Seminar 2022

The intervention will focus on the conflict over the “pachamama”: three statues, depicting a mother with a child in her womb, presented as a symbol of Mother Earth and placed at the center of a mandala (sic) by the Amazon delegation at the opening ceremony of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region (4 October 2019). Subsequently, the statues were stolen and thrown into the Tiber. The perpetrator, a right-wing activist, claimed responsibility for the action in a video, posted on Youtube and disseminated by traditionalist channels. This generated a controversy: conservatives regarded the statues as Inca idols; others suggested that the statues represented the Blessed Virgin Mary (“Our Lady of the Amazon”); Vatican spokesmen said the statues are a simple representation of “life”. Media, which labelled the statuettes “pachamama”, played a decisive role in the identification of the idols.

Several concatenations of figures seem relevant to frame the conflict in semiotic terms. There emerges an interesting overlap of religious and political semantic trends, which can be read on the background of a recent controversy between Bruno Latour and Edoardo Viveiros de Castro. These “isotopes” are manifested by as many figurative paths: the first, feminine, is associated with life and creation; the second, masculine, by death and eschatology.

Scientific coordination
Massimo Leone, Director FBK-ISR


Cycle of seminars: “De-Polarization in Religion and Ethics”


The event will be held in Italian

The presentation will take place online

To connect to the event, registration is required by Thursday 19 April 2022 at 12.00 noon

During the meeting, the webcam and microphone will be disabled to avoid network overloads



Fresco by Schweitzer

Guest Speakers

  • Francesco Galofaro, PhD in semiotics, is part of the ERC NeMoSanctI research group of the University of Turin. His research focuses on the changes in the models of holiness subsequent to the Second Vatican Council. He is a member of the scientific committee of the Ethnosemiotic Centre of the University of Bologna (CUBE). He has published the monographs Eluana Englaro (Meltemi, 2009); Dopo Gerico: I nuovi spazi della psichiatria (2015); Apprendisti mistici: Padre Pio e Ludwig Wittgenstein (Meltemi, in press). He co-edited the volumes Morphogenesis and Individuation (with F. Montanari and A. Sarti, 2014) dedicated to René Thom and Gilbert Simondon, and Il senso della tecnica. Saggi su Bachelard (with Paola Donatiello and Gerardo Ienna, 2017).


Registration to this event is mandatory.

Registration closed on 19/04/2022.



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