Gidal, “Catholic Music in Lusophone New Jersey”

Gidal, Marc Meistrich Gidal. 2016. Catholic Music in Lusophone New Jersey: Circum-Atlantic Music, Intergroup Dynamics, and Immigrant Struggles in Transnational Communities. American Music 34(2): 180-217.

Excerpt: In this article I explain three main points about music, religion, group dynamics, and transnationalism in this setting. First, the Roman Catholic parishes that serve Portuguese and Brazilians in Newark foster heterogeneous communities shaped by circum-Atlantic movements of people, religious trends, media, and music. Hence, the diverse backgrounds, customs, and tastes of the clergy and parishioners have influenced the musical activities in the parishes with regard to repertories of music, styles of performance, attitudes toward participation, and processes of dissemination. Second, music in worship services can accentuate or mitigate nationalist rivalries and other distinctions among lusophone people in the United States. This musical perspective contributes to social- scientific findings that although relations are tense between Portuguese and Brazilians, and among Brazilians, in Newark and elsewhere, churches provide unique centers for solidarity, social aid, and community building for lusophone immigrants. Third, parish leaders use music, sermons, and special events to support the personal struggles of parishioners, particularly immigrants who face limited opportunities for work and governmental actions against undocumented residents.

Negotiating Marian Apparitions: Book Review

Halemba, Agnieszka. 2015. Negotiating Marian Apparitions: The Politics of Religion in Transcarpathian Ukraine. Budapest: Central European University Press.

By: Sonja Luehrmann (Simon Fraser University)

Catholic believers have been seeing the Virgin Mary appear for centuries, especially at times of crisis and social and ecclesiastical upheaval. In her book, Agnieszka Halemba argues that what is remarkable about these visions is not that they occur, but how some of them are embraced by a Church organization while others are not. Her ethnographic study deals with apparitions of Mary to two girls in Dzhublyk in Transcarpathian Ukraine that began in 2002. As with many apparitions, the official investigation about these has not yet been concluded, but local Greek Catholic communities have embraced the site and made it into a pilgrimage destination. Rather than focusing on the visionaries or pilgrims, Halemba looks at the organizational agents and processes in relation to which the apparitions gain lasting meaning and renown. In so doing, she creates a fascinating institutional ethnography of the Greek Catholic Church and its place in wider Christendom. Continue reading

Golomski and Nyawo,”Christians’ cut”

Casey Golomski and Sonene Nyawo, 2017. “Christians’ cut: popular religion and the global health campaign for medical male circumcision in Swaziland,” Culture, Health & Sexuality. Early online publication: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13691058.2016.1267409

abstract: Swaziland faces one of the worst HIV epidemics in the world and is a site for the current global health campaign in sub-Saharan Africa to medically circumcise the majority of the male population. Given that Swaziland is also majority Christian, how does the most popular religion influence acceptance, rejection or understandings of medical male circumcision? This article considers interpretive differences by Christians across the Kingdom’s three ecumenical organisations, showing how a diverse group people singly glossed as ‘Christian’ in most public health acceptability studies critically rejected the procedure in unity, but not uniformly. Participants saw medical male circumcision’s promotion and messaging as offensive and circumspect, and medical male circumcision as confounding gendered expectations and sexualised ideas of the body in Swazi Culture. Pentecostal-charismatic churches were seen as more likely to accept medical male circumcision, while traditionalist African Independent Churches rejected the operation. The procedure was widely understood to be a personal choice, in line with New Testament-inspired commitments to metaphorical circumcision as a way of receiving God’s grace.

Napolitano, “Catholic Humanitas”

Napolitano, Valentina. 2017. “Catholic Humanitas: Notes on Critical Catholic Studies.” Immanent Frame. 9 January

Excerpt: “Contemporary engagement with embodied practices of Latin American transnational migrancy, as well as the long durée of the return of Catholic religious materialities, ideas, and fantasies from the Americas to Rome, shows the reignition of an old conflict within the Catholic Church and a lasting paradox within a Catholic Humanitas. This is the paradox growing from the Catholic fantasy of “full” conversion of the Other/Indian, with her imagined docile, childlike, as well as barbaric qualities—a fantasy that positions the Other/Indian as at once within and without a Catholic Humanitas. This constitutive dimension of Catholic Humanitas infuses the tension between Sameness and Otherness that still permeates Western cosmologies and, for better and worse, political practices toward migration and hospitality in Europe.”

Elisha, “Proximations of Public Religion: Worship, Spiritual Warfare, and the Ritualization of Christian Dance”

Elisha, Omri. 2017. “Proximations of Public Religion: Worship, Spiritual Warfare, and the Ritualization of Christian Dance.” American Anthropologist. DOI: 10.1111/aman.12819

Abstract: This essay is about a group of neo-Pentecostal evangelists who decided to represent their church in the New York Dance Parade, which they regarded as an opportunity to promote worship as the true purpose of art and engage in spiritual warfare. Their participation was predicated on a distinction between “performance” and “ministry,” privileging the latter. I argue that upholding this distinction in the immersive context of a secular festival required a process of intensive ritualization, involving physical and spiritual preparations and symbolic boundary maintenance. I further argue that anthropological perspectives on such instances of public religion should seek to account for how ritual forms produce and are shaped by the effects of what I call proximation, a condition of “closeness” between categories of activity otherwise regarded as separate and autonomous (e.g., religion and the arts). The concept is a means to explore how religious ministries are influenced by ostensibly external factors and the need to manage them, and by the various opportunities, tensions, and moral associations that arise when ritual strategies evoke comparisons with secular genres and domains. The proximations of religion highlight the ethnographic significance of ideal-typical categories and spheres, including their potential to intersect, which is a byproduct of how they have been differentiated.

Abdel-Fadil, “Conflict and Affect”

Abdel-Fadil, Mona. 2016. Conflict and Affect among Conservative Christians on Facebook. Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet 11:1-27.

Abstract: Drawing on the ethnographic study of the Norwegian Facebook group Yes to wearing the cross whenever and wherever I choose, this article focuses on the emotive performance of conflict. The author delves into the multitude of ways in which emotion appears to drive the conflict(s) in Yes to wearing the cross whenever and wherever I choose. This Facebook group, by virtue of dealing with religion and identity issues contains typical trigger themes, which may lead audiences to emotively enact conflict. Still, these modes of enactment of conflict cannot be understood as a characteristic of religious strife alone. Drawing on Papacharissi’s concept of ‘affective publics’ this article compares the modes of conflict performance, the most salient frames, trigger themes, and emotive cues in this Facebook group to findings from other studies about mediatized conflict. The analysis demonstrates that mediatized conflicts appear to be emotively performed in very similar, at times even identical ways, across a variety of themes and contexts. Participatory media audiences’ tendency to remediate conflicts in ways that draw on an abundance of emotional cues appears to be integral to the enactment of mediatized conflicts. It is argued that we ought to speak not only of affective publics but also of the politics of affect.

Montemaggi, “Belief, trust, and relationality”

Montemaggi, Francesa E. S.  2016. Belief, trust, and relationality: a Simmelian approach for the study of faith.  Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract: Religion has been conceptualised as personal belief in the transcendent. Anthropologists of religion have critiqued such a construct for decades for being based on a Christian Protestant model and one that reflected subsequently modern rationalist Western culture. This construct has increasingly been shown to fail to account for the religiosity of contemporary Christians. Drawing on the sociology of Georg Simmel and based on ethnographic research in a Christian evangelical church, the article proposes a reconceptualisation of religious belief that is experiential and relational. Evangelicals in this case study show that propositional belief plays increasingly a secondary role to belief intended as trust in God and forming a relationship with God and others. Relationships mediate personal religious experience and are shown to be essential to the conversion process, the life of faith, and Christian identity. The study thus bridges the separation between theoretical and empirical works by operationalising Simmel’s sociology.

Andrews and Otto, “Religion as capital”

Andrews, Robyn and Brent Howitt Otto.  2017. Religion as capital: Christianity in the lives of Anglo-Indian youth in India.  Journal of Contemporary Religion 32(1): 105-118.

Abstract: Religion is an important marker of identity for India’s Anglo-Indians. It distinguishes them within the principally non-Christian context and is integral to socializing youth to their distinct Anglo-Indian culture and heritage. This can be observed in Anglo-Indian practice—attending Christian schools, church-going, celebrating religious festivals, making pilgrimages—which forms a significant part of a matrix through which young Anglo-Indians learn how to perform their Anglo-Indianness. Our recent research (2013–2014) looked at the role of religion in the lives of Anglo-Indians intergenerationally and transnationally, through a survey, interviews, and participant observation. The results suggest that the performed religiosity of Anglo-Indian youth in India yields certain benefits for this group. It constitutes a capital which has the potential to make an enormous difference to their lives—socially, culturally, and otherwise. For example, Christian practice provides them with access to élite Christian educational institutions and the career possibilities that follow from such education. This article describes our research, focusing upon the findings related to Anglo-Indian youth in India. In particular, it argues that in various ways, the practice of Christianity both acts and is recognized by young Anglo-Indians as a source of capital in their lives, which is not to say that religion is practised for the purpose of acquiring capital. Rather, religious practice is a part of being Anglo-Indian that in India accrues capital.

Winter, “An activist religiosity?”

Winter, Emily.  2017. An activist religiosity? Exploring Christian support for the Occupy movement.  Journal of Contemporary Religion 32(1): 51-66.

Abstract: While Christian involvement in progressive social movements and activism is increasingly recognized, this literature has rarely gone beyond conceptualising religion as a resource to consider instead the ways in which individual activists may articulate their religious identity and how this intersects with the political. Based on ten in-depth interviews with Christian supporters of the London Occupy movement, this study offers an opportunity to respond to this gap by exploring the rich meaning-making processes of these activists. The article suggests that the location of the Occupy camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral was of central importance in bringing the Christian Occupiers’ religio-political identities to the foreground, their Christianity being defined in opposition to that represented by St Paul’s. The article then explores the religio-political meaning-making of the Christian Occupiers and introduces the term ‘activist religiosity’ as a way of understanding how religion and politics were articulated, and enacted, in similar ways. Indeed, religion and politics became considerably entangled and intertwined, rendering theoretical frameworks that conceptualise religion as a resource increasingly inappropriate. The features of this activist religiosity include post-institutional identities, a dislike of categorisation, and, centrally, the notion of ‘doings’—a predominant focus on engaged, active involvement.

Jennings, “Great Risk for the Kingdom”

Jennings, Mark Alan Charles.  2017. Great Risk for the Kingdom: Pentecostal-Charismatic Growth Churches, Pastorpreneurs, and Neoliberalism.  In, Multiculturalism and the Convergence of Faith and Practical Wisdom in Modern Society, Ana-Maria Pascal, ed.  Pp. 236-249.

Abstract: Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity (“PCC”) has successfully navigated the challenges modernity poses to religion, growing rapidly in the twentieth century. Toward the end of the twentieth century, however, neoliberalism began its ascent to its current hegemonic status. Neoliberalism reconfigures social institutions as marketized practices with a measurable ‘payoff’. PCC adapted to this challenge in the form of a “growth churches,” adopting many of the characteristics of neoliberalism. In adopting a homogenous model and method of ‘best practice’ in order to facilitate growth; offering a ‘prosperity’ theology that fits well with the development of human capital; and endorsing the universalization of risk through modelling “pastorpreneur” leadership, it is argued in this chapter that growth churches are a paradigmatic example of a late modern religious phenomenon accommodating neoliberalism in a largely uncritical manner. The chapter concludes with some observations that critique this association between neoliberalism and growth churches.