The religion of Orange politics

Protestantism and fraternity in contemporary Scotland

Author: Joseph Webster

This book offers the first ever ethnography of the Orange Order in Scotland via an in-depth analysis of ‘The Good’ of exceptionalism. While stylistically similar to Freemasonry, the Orange Order differs in being a strictly Protestant-only fraternity committed to preserving the Reformation and the constitutional union of the United Kingdom. Established in late eighteenth-century Ulster, the Order today is not only ultra-Protestant and ultra-unionist, but, according to critics, is also deeply sectarian, viewing Roman Catholicism as a despotic religious-cum-political ‘menace’ dedicated to destroying Great Britain. Through a fine-grained anthropological account of Orangeism during the Scottish independence debate, this book takes readers inside Scotland’s most infamous fraternal organisation – an organisation which members refer to not as a secret society, but as a ‘society with secrets’. What, according to these Scottish Orangemen, should a good Protestant life look like? By drawing on new literature within the anthropology of ethics and morality, this book answers this central question by examining the culture of Scottish Orangeism in the widest possible sense, assessing the importance not only of loyalist marches and unionist political campaigning, but also Orange gossip and fraternal drinking, the performance of ritual and secrecy, celebrations of football fandom and sectarian hate, as well as the formation and sharing of anti-Catholic conspiracy narratives. Combining ethnographic depth with analytical breadth, this book argues that what makes the Order so compelling to members yet so repugnant to its critics is its steadfast refusal to separate religion from politics and fraternity from ethnicity.

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