Werbner, “Grassroots Ecumenism in Conflict – Introduction.”

Richard Werbner, “Grassroots Ecumenism in Conflict – Introduction” Journal of Southern African Studies, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057070.2018.1416978Excerpt: This Special Issue of JSAS explores the little-recognised, shifting importance of grassroots ecumenism in religious experience and public life. The cases that we present come from across southern Africa, from Rwanda to Angola, to Zambia and Botswana, to South Africa and Swaziland. We match this breadth with arguments that also draw widely, for an emerging area of interest in popular religious change, with contributions from anthropology, social history, theology and religious studies. Among the ecumenical changes we discuss are, perhaps most surprisingly, ones in which counterpublics are anti-establishment, transgressive, even disruptive, as they bring strangers together, with religious motives and moral passion, and oppose dominant publics in the making of public cultures.

Other articles in the special issue are relevant to anthropologists of Christianity. Follow the link above.

Moving by the Spirit: Pentecostal Social Life on the Zambian Copperbelt: Book Review

Haynes, Naomi. 2016. Moving by the Spirit: Pentecostal Social Life on the Zambian Copperbelt. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Reviewed by: Casey Golomski (University of New Hampshire)

The key values Haynes describes in her innovative book about Pentecostals in a Zambian town are “moving” (ukusela in Bemba) and “moving by the spirit.” Moving means to be visibly, recognizably improving one’s lot, and it can be materialized or realized in growing up, having children, gaining weight, getting an education, or advancing professionally. Things move in a positive sense, and stagnate or regress in a negative sense. “Moving by the spirit” is the newer, Pentecostalized version of ukusela, with the religion offering new evaluative metrics and modalities of relating to others in the Copperbelt. Haynes’s use of vernacular concepts to illuminate anthropological theory was one of my favorite things about the book overall. I can easily envision, when teaching this book, writing the different concepts of “moving” and “moving by the spirit” on the board to illustrate Bantu (Bemba) grammatical structures and show students how local values are religiously reframed. Continue reading

Tomlinson, “Try the Spirits.”

Tomlinson, Matt. 2017. “Try the Spirits: power encounters and anti-wonder in Christian missions,” Journal of Religious and Political Practices 3(3): 168-182.

Abstract: Missionaries who attempted to convert Pacific Islanders to Protestant Christianity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries often engaged in public contests meant to demonstrate the power of Jehovah and the weakness of indigenous gods. These ‘power encounters’, as they came to be called, depended on a relationship between wonder and anti-wonder: missionaries were fully invested in the concept of wonder as radical alterity, as the success of their efforts depended on local populations’ willingness and capacity to open up to the previously unimaginable; but to make new encounters with wonder possible, missionaries had to challenge local expectations of spiritual efficacy, denying local sites’ original potential to evoke wonder. In this article, I begin by examining several cases of power encounters in Oceania, including Fiji, Tonga, and Solomon Islands. I then turn specifically to trees as spiritual sites that were prominent in old Fiji – and therefore the target of ax-wielding missionaries – but remain today as sites of a perceived fundamental, indigenous, land-based spiritual efficacy.

Bond and Timmer, “Wondrous Geographies and Historicity”

Bond, Nathan and Jaap Timmer. 2017. Wondrous Geographies and Historicity for State-Building on Malaita, Solomon Islands. Journal of Religious and Political Change 3(3): 136-151.

Abstract: Contemporary anthropological debates over the political implications of the global explosion of Evangelical and Pentecostal forms of Christianity frequently center on a ‘break with the past’ and reliance on the working of divine power. In this article, we intervene in this debate by exploring people’s wonder about new global geography and historicity and the ways in which this wonder is opening up a space for local state building by an Evangelical/Pentecostal movement on the island of Malaita, Solomon Islands. We present and discuss the origins of a particular theocratic impulse of this movement to show how the movement’s theology evokes and supports the institution of a form of governance. This challenges the widespread observation that Evangelical/Pentecostal believers are politically quiet.

 

Ikeuchi, “From ethnic religion to generative selves”

Ikeuchi, Suma. 2017. “From ethnic religion to generative selves: Pentecostalism among Nikkei Brazilian migrants in Japan,” Contemporary Japan, 1-16. Early online publication. DOI: 10.1080/18692729.2017.1351046

Abstract: Starting in the early 1990s, Brazil-derived Pentecostal denominations have flourished among Nikkei Brazilian migrant communities in Japan. While some researchers have characterized the phenomenon of Pentecostal conversion in this ethnographic context as a formation of ‘ethnic religion,’ the individuals often characterize themselves as primarily Christian. This article takes this apparent disconnect as the point of departure to investigate the relationship between ethnicity and religious identity. The concept of ethnic religion indicates an overlap between ethnic group and religious community, oftentimes prioritizing ethnic categories as the basic units of analysis. My ethnographic findings based on 14 months of fieldwork in Toyota, Japan, however, suggest that the very boundary of ‘ethnic group’ is fluid and unstable, which in turn shows that ethnicity cannot be taken as an analytical given. By tracing the varying narratives of four migrant converts, I detail the ways in which Pentecostalism in fact contributes to the proliferation of identities, both ethnic and non-ethnic. For example, migrant converts speak of Pentecostal ideas, practices, and networks as ‘Brazilian,’ ‘Japanese,’ and/or ‘just Christian,’ depending on the context. In conclusion, I argue that Pentecostal churches in this ethnographic context seem to give rise to generative selves rather than an ethnic religion.

de la Cruz, “To Which Earthly Categories Do Not Apply”

de la Cruz, Deirdre. 2017.”To Which Earthly Categories Do Not Apply: Spirit Photography, Filipino Ghosts, and the Global Occult at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” Material Religion, 13(3): 301-328 .

Abstract: In this article I examine an album of spirit photographs published in Barcelona circa 1903. The album comprises two photograph collections, one of photos taken in a studio in Manila, the Philippines, another belonging to Dr. Theodore Hansmann, a German immigrant to the USA who was one of the country’s most ardent advocates and researchers of spirit photography. Apart from their overt share in a genre, it is unclear what connects these two collections and who exactly brought them together. I draw from this ambiguity in order to explore the tension between spiritism as a philosophy and practice that traveled via historically specific colonial routes and were localized to particular political and cultural contexts, and spiritism as a global occult movement founded precisely on the promise of transcending metaphysical and spatial boundaries.

 

Klaits, ed. The Request and the Gift in Religious and Humanitarian Endeavors

Klaits, Frederick, ed. The Request and the Gift in Religious and Humanitarian Endeavors (New York: Palgave Macmillan, 2017)

Publisher’s Description: This collection revisits classical anthropological treatments of the gift by documenting how people may be valued both through the requests they make and through what they give. Many humanitarian practitioners, the authors propose, regard giving to those in need as the epitome of moral action but are liable to view those people’s requests for charity as merely utilitarian. Yet in many religious discourses, prayers and requests for alms are highly valued as moral acts, obligatory for establishing relationships with the divine. Framing the moral qualities of asking and giving in conjunction with each other, the contributors explore the generation of trust and mistrust, the politics of charity and accountability, and tensions between universalism and particularism in religious philanthropy.

Tomlinson and Millie, eds. The Monologic Imagination

Tomlinson, Matt and Julian Millie, eds. The Monologic Imagination (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 2017).

Publisher’s Description: The pioneering and hugely influential work of Mikhail Bakhtin has led scholars in recent decades to see all discourse and social life as inherently “dialogical.” No speaker speaks alone, because our words are always partly shaped by our interactions with others, past and future. Moreover, we never fashion ourselves entirely by ourselves, but always do so in concert with others. Bakhtin thus decisively reshaped modern understandings of language and subjectivity. And yet, the contributors to this volume argue that something is potentially overlooked with too close a focus on dialogism: many speakers, especially in charged political and religious contexts, work energetically at crafting monologues, single-voiced statements to which the only expected response is agreement or faithful replication. Drawing on ethnographic case studies from the United States, Iran, Cuba, Indonesia, Algeria, and Papua New Guinea, the authors argue that a focus on “the monologic imagination” gives us new insights into languages’ political design and religious force, and deepens our understandings of the necessary interplay between monological and dialogical tendencies.

Martin, “Loyal to god”

Martin, Dominic A. (2017), “Loyal to god: Old Believers, oaths and orders,”History and Anthropology, 28 (4): 477-496.

Abstract: Since the reign of Peter the Great, the Russian sovereign, be it Tsar, Soviet or Putin, has required demonstrations of ‘loyalty’ that evidence subjects’ interior as well as exterior states. This article explores, through historical and current ethnographic examples, how Old Believers, a dissenting movement of Russian Orthodox Christians, have sought to reconcile this worldly demand with their overarching allegiance to the Kingdom of God, and their refusal to acknowledge a separation between the spiritual and the temporal. This dichotomy is particularly problematized around the swearing of oaths of fealty and the giving and receiving of decorations and orders that vouchsafe loyalty to state or sovereign.

 

Kraybill, “Non-ordained”

Kraybill, Jeanine E. 2016. “Non-ordained: Examining the Level of Female Religious Political Engagement and Social Policy Influence within the American Catholic Church.” Fieldwork in Religion 11(2): DOI: 10.1558/firn.32964

Abstract: The Catholic Church, constructed on an all-male clerical model, is a hierarchical and gendered institution, creating barriers to female leadership. In interviewing members of the clergy and women religious of the faith, this article examines how female non-ordained and male clerical religious leaders engage and influence social policy. It specifically addresses how women religious maneuver around the institutional constraints of the Church, in order to take action on social issues and effect change. In adding to the scholarship on this topic, I argue that part of the strategy of women religious in navigating barriers of the institutional Church is not only knowing when to act outside of the formal hierarchy, but realizing when it is in the benefit of their social policy objectives to collaborate with it. This maneuvering may not always safeguard women religious from institutional scrutiny, as seen by the 2012 Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, but instead captures the tension between female religious and the clergy. It also highlights how situations of institutional scrutiny can have positive implications for female religious leaders, their policy goals and congregations. Finally, this examination shows how even when women are appointed to leadership posts within the institutional Church, they can face limitations of acceptance and other constraints that are different from their female religious counterparts working within their own respective religious congregations or outside organizations.