Abstract: In this article I discuss ‘the Pentecostal gender paradox’, famously coined by Bernice Martin. I do so by comparing Melanesian and Pentecostal forms of egalitarianism. My argument centers on the contention that in order for this paradox to emerge, specific concepts of equality and gender have to be kept fixed across contexts where they may not necessarily be stable. Pentecostalism has a specific effect on the role of women in the church, such as giving them access to the spirit, while also impacting on the notion of equality and ideas about the nature of gender. I conclude that in Pentecostalism gender is seen as an individual quality and that gender relations are viewed as power relations.
Redden, Jason. 2016. “‘‘Boil them Hearts’’: The Role of Methodist Revivalist Piety in Indigenous Conversion and Evangelization in Late Nineteenth-century Coastal British Columbia.” Studies in Religion / Sciences Religieuses DOI: 10.1177/0008429816660883
Abstract: This paper addresses the academic conversation on Protestant missions to the Indigenous peoples of coastal British Columbia during the second half of the nine- teenth century through a consideration of the role of revivalist piety in the conversion of some of the better known Indigenous Methodist evangelists identified in the scholarly literature. The paper introduces the work of existing scholars critically illuminating the reasons (religious convergence and/or the want of symbolic and material resources) typically given for Indigenous, namely, Ts’msyen, conversion. It also introduces Methodist revivalist piety and its instantiation in British Columbia. And, finally, it offers a critical exploration of revivalist piety and its role in conversion as set within a broader theoretical inquiry into the academic study of ritual and religion.
Bielo, James S. 2016. Creationist History-Making: Producing a Heterodox Past. In Lost City, Found Pyramid: Understanding Alternative Archaeologies and Pseudoscientific Practices, 81-101. Edited by Jeb J. Card and David S. Anderson. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
Excerpt: The past, though quite real, is forever and densely mediated by this production of histories. As a cultural process, history-making is a social and ideological accomplishment that is achieved through material means and infrastructure. In turn, the anthropology and ethnography of history-making confronts important questions: how are different relationships to the past cultivated? What strategies and resources are marshaled to perform history-making? And, what is up for grabs in competing acts of history-making? A key contribution of this volume is to develop better ways of thinking about how non-professional historians and scientists perform the work of history-making (cf. Beisaw this volume). The Answers in Genesis creative team reminds us with little subtlety that the past is ideologically contested and that even the most scientifically established historical claims can be actively challenged. As the historian Raphael Samuel writes: “History is not the prerogative of the historian, nor even, as postmodernism contends, a historian’s ‘invention.’ It is, rather, a social form of knowledge; the work, in any given instance, of a thousand different hands” (1994: 8). Moreover, those thousand hands are not working in concert, which means the present hosts multiple historical narratives vying for cultural authority. Anthropologically, our remit is to understand whose hands are doing what and to seek a full ethnographic account of all history-making projects, including those of creationists. To aim for any less is to shrug off our most profound scholarly responsibility.
Excerpt: It makes good sense then that scholars of Christianity are now studying contemporary ritual practices, using participant observation and interview as methods. Unlike biblical scholars, who must infer or imagine the rituals they study, ethnographers of Christianity can study actual rituals. This set of essays, “Ritual Risk and Emergent Efficacy: Ethnographic Studies in Christian Ritual,” focuses specifically on infelicitous aspects of observed contemporary rituals.
Abstract: Many scholars have debated the potential results of pilgrimage, but few have tracked how pre-trip goals actually relate to post-trip outcomes. Based on research with US evangelicals, this article argues that, despite being confronted with the possibility of disrupted meaning, nearly every pilgrim comes to see the trip as a success. To understand why, I draw on studies that frame Christian rituals as processes that are partial and in flux. Firstly, I explore how gendered notions of relationality affect perceptions of efficacy and lead to multiple goal-setting. Secondly, I show how the journey is couched within broader epistemologies that define a Christian life as incremental improvements, where one ‘grows’ with God. Thus the meaning making associated with pilgrimage is never fully complete, but is compelled into a future where further interpretations and presumed successes are inchoate. Ultimately, the belief in future meaning is as important—perhaps more so—than immediate ritual success.
Abstract: This article explores how prayer group leaders manage and interpret risk-in-ritual during a home-based Pentecostal intercession. The group was formed in an office setting and led by three female managers. They interceded together during their lunch hour for over a year. The intercession was the one time the prayer group moved from the office to the home of one of the female leaders. This transition sparked a number of problems associated with group unity, which indicated risks-in-ritual. Managing risk was focused on managing forms of social difference such as age, gender, rank, and denomination. I draw from the feminist theory of intersectionality to argue that in the process of translating social differences of gender, age, rank, and denomination into spiritual differences in ritual, future ritual agendas are created. This future-creating capacity of ritual reinforced the authority of those who adjudicated and interpreted those risks-in-ritual. My example is taken from 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Samoa between 2011 and 2012.
Abstract: Although Q’eqchi’-Maya Mainstream Catholics and Charismatic Catholics in the Guatemala highlands share many of the same physical and social spaces, the relationship between them is a tense one due to their differing modes of ritual practice. Although this conflict rarely comes to a head directly, on one particular occasion a highly ranked member of a Mainstream congregation, and indeed an outspoken critic of the Charismatics, entered the village chapel during the latter’s weekly service and proceeded openly to criticize their ritual practices, leaders’ religious knowledge, and relationship to the larger institutional Catholic Church. This article analyzes this event as a means of furthering our understanding of what happens when unexpected circumstances threaten the integrity of a religious group’s ritual. How do participants try to circumvent, mitigate or otherwise manage such an occurrence? Examining the spoken and embodied actions taken by both the speaker criticizing the congregation and his intended audience sheds light on the interactive strategies each used to manage their social and ethical standing during the uneasy interaction. This article draws critical attention to the way adherents to two related but distinct forms of Christianity establish and contest their modes of religious authority through language, discourse, and bodily behavior. By investigating an episode in which two modes of Christian practice came into direct confrontation with each other, we can better understand how differing ways of being Christian are dialogically constituted.
Abstract: This article situates an approach to ritual efficacy and risk by focusing on bodily rituals of the Swazi Zionist Jerikho church in socio-historical context. The Jerikho church distinguishes itself by the use of purgative hallucinogenics and a circular march-run, both of which are meant to invoke the embodiment of holy spirits. This article analyzes the risk inherent in the procedures of rituals and how risk manifested in two cases in 2010 and 2011, which challenged bodily and social wellbeing and ritual knowledge for both church members and the broader public. I show how harmful ritual mistakes were explained away and enveloped within co-existing systems of religious and socio-medical knowledge by way of the intergenerational social relations through which the rituals were produced. Church elders attributed mistakes to youthful incompetence, which reaffirmed the organizational and cultural practice of the Jerikho church and elided with a public moral discourse about risky youth and HIV/AIDS.
Loustau, Marc. 2016. Risking a Miracle: Transcendentally Oriented Improvisation and Catholic Charismatics’ Involvement in a Transylvanian Canonization. Journal of Contemporary Religion 31(3): 335-350.
Abstract: Anthropologists have begun to challenge the consensus that sainthood is not an operative factor in Charismatic Christianity, opening up space to re-examine how ritual and narrative shape habitual religious sensibilities. Through an ethnographic study of Transylvanian Catholic Charismatics’ search for miracles to aid a deceased Bishop’s canonization, I argue that canonization is driven by a form of adaptive ritualization and storytelling, which I call ‘transcendentally oriented improvisation’. In this mode, ritualization and storytelling are existential strategies by which subjects extrapolate styles of action and discourse into new situations to transcend disordered being-in-the-world. By engaging in improvisation, my acquaintances renewed a sense of existential potentiality put at risk. Studying transcendentally oriented improvisation draws attention to risk and indeterminacy as central aspects of the lived experience of canonization and other divine mediations. Transylvanian Charismatic Catholics’ involvement in canonization is also evidence that the global Charismatic movement is now integrating into mainstream Catholicism. Movement, memorialization, authority, and religious experience are the central points of contention shaping the outcome of this process.
Abstract: In this article I examine the practice of Bible translation and the underlying sets of Christian ideologies regarding the commensurability of linguistic forms. Based on ethnographic research conducted at a biannual Bible translation workshop in Mindoro, Philippines, in 2013, during which the Bible was translated into three Mangyan languages, I argue that the degree to which the actual linguistic forms in the scriptures are divinely inspired often exists as an irresolvable semiotic problem for Bible translators. To this end, I discuss the means through which the Holy Spirit is taken as an essential mediator between the fallible work of Christian translators and the Bible as a language-instantiated form of God’s presence. I show how the employment of “generic” language by Christian translators enables them to mirror and circulate the divine universality of scriptural meaning in earthly form. I propose that generic language can be viewed as a site in which multiple and often conflicting claims of language universality and purity are present.