Mkallyah, “Indigenous Tanzanian Music in Christian Worship”

Mkallyah, Kassomo. 2016. Affects and Effects of Indigenous Tanzanian Music Traditions in Christian Worship in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Ethnomusicology 60(2): 300-328.

Abstract: This paper explores specific musical and cultural attributes that make indigenous Tanzanian music traditions effective in church worship in Dar es Salaam, the foremost metropolis in this East African nation. Based in empirical evidence, it argues that the power of indigenous Tanzanian music traditions, in heightening the religious experience of believers, is inherent in musical attributes – melody, harmony, and rhythms – as well as cultural aesthetics that facilitate the believers’ identification with such local music. Specifically, the article shows how the power of indigenous Tanzanian music to arouse deep and demonstrable emotions among church members is attributable to the characteristics of traditional music and its cultural usage. Indeed, as the article affirms, the strength of these culturally-rich indigenous Tanzanian music traditions can be traced to their African origins and the traditional attributes and aesthetics that make them deeply religious and powerful in generating emotions.

Liahona: Film review

Sanders, Talena. 2013. Liahona. Watertown, Massachusetts: Documentary Educational Resources.

By: Jon Bialecki (University of Edinburgh)

Liahona is not an ethnographic film. It is not even a documentary, or, at least, a documentary of the standard type. Consisting of images shot on scratchy 16 millimeter film using a hand camera, mixed with a wealth of found footage (much of it originally filmed by the Church of the Latter Day Saints, for either missionary or apologetic purposes), and shot through with decontextualized voice-overs, it is not concerned with clear explication, or at least with granting immediate clarity. Rather, it has more of the sense of a piece of symphonic music, with images or scenes briefly introduced, which are returned to again and again in different ways as the film proceeds. Again and again, we are shown shots of the stark landscape and expansive skies of Northern Utah, both of which are presented as sublime (in the Kantian sense of the word). This landscape is repeatedly juxtaposed with vintage shots of quotidian Mormon life, as well as with views of prominent Mormon temples in the region, scenes from the Days of ’47 Parade down Salt Lake City or the Manti Mormon Miracle Pageant. Some of these scenes are eventually given the necessary context to become readable as the film progresses. Other elements, such as the repeated and unexplained use of characters from the desert alphabet, a column of smoke from a scrub wildfire, or the haunting image of a feathered headdress, worn at either dawn or sunset, shrouded in shadow as it is juxtaposed against the Manti Temple, remain unexplained even at the film’s close. (Similarly, the source of the movie’s title goes unexplained for those not familiar with it). The soundtrack is equally jarring; we shunt between thundering church organs, atonal droning, and acapella renditions of iconic Mormon hymns such as “If You Could Hie to Kolob” and “Called to Serve.” Continue reading

de Abreu, “Worldings”

de Abreu, Mari Joé A.  2015. Worldings: the aesthetics of authority among Catholic Charismatics in Brazil.  Culture and Religion.  Early online publication. 

Abstract: In this article, I show how conceptions of religious authority among Catholic Charismatics in Brazil relate to particular aesthetic regimes. By aesthetic regime I mean the processes of decision-making by which a particular economy of the visible is negotiated and situated, the underlying forces that constitute what is sensory apprehensible and what remains latent, one might say, unworlded. Focusing on the relation Catholic Charismatics have with the statue of Christ Redeemer standing at the Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, the text engages with the material politics of this religious movement and the theological domains that undergird it.

de Abreu, “Worldings: the aesthetics of authority among Catholic Charismatics in Brazil”

Abstract: In this article, I show how conceptions of religious authority among Catholic Charismatics in Brazil relate to particular aesthetic regimes. By aesthetic regime I mean the processes of decision-making by which a particular economy of the visible is negotiated and situated, the underlying forces that constitute what is sensory apprehensible and what remains latent, one might say, unworlded. Focusing on the relation Catholic Charismatics have with the statue of Christ Redeemer standing at the Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, the text engages with the material politics of this religious movement and the theological domains that undergird it.

Stewart, “Quiet beauty: problems of agency and appearance in evangelical Christianity”

Stewart, Anna. 2015. “Quiet beauty: problems of agency and appearance in evangelical Christianity.” Religion DOI:10.1080/0048721X.2015.1042990

Abstract: How does the cultivation of beauty interact with agency? In this article the author discusses the religious value of beauty for conservative evangelical Christians in the English town of Brighton. Building on the anthropological approach to art and agency developed by Alfred Gell, the author considers the manner in which the everyday of bodies, relationships and personal testimonies become implicated in a deferential semiotics in which meaning resides in the self but is not owned by it. Through this work, women engage with an on-going project of visibility and objectification that is often tenuous and difficult but is nevertheless compelling, as they seek to mediate the agency of God.

Oliphant, “Beyond blasphemy or devotion: art, the secular, and Catholicism in Paris”

Oliphant, Elayne. 2015. Beyond blasphemy or devotion: art, the secular, and Catholicism in Paris. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 21(2):352-373.

Abstract: In this article I explore the relationship between the secular and ‘cultural’ Catholicism in France through the lens of a contemporary art exhibit displayed at a new project of the French Catholic Church. Visitors’ varied responses to the exhibit, I argue, ultimately reinforced the organizers’ claim that the activities that occur within this ‘non-religious’ space of the French church are self-evident aspects of a broadly recognizable and ‘secular’ French or European culture.

Hancock, “Short-term Youth Mission Practice and the Visualization of Global Christianity”

Hancock, Mary. 2014. Short-term Youth Mission Practice and the Visualization of Global Christianity. Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief 10(2): 154-180. 

Abstract: This article examines the visual mediation of evangelical short-term mission and the theologically inflected global imaginary that these forms engender. Recent decades have seen the resurgence of long-term mission and the emergence of short-term mission among US Christians. The latter, combining evangelization, service, and tourism, is a staple within evangelical youth culture. I argue that it is used by Christians to constitute themselves as global formations, while also offering theological frames for global Christianity. Central to this global theological imaginary are visual representations of mission encounters with ethnic, sectarian, and racial Others, which illustrate the global scope of mission and missionaries’ understandings of their own efforts to engage and overcome those differences. Through an analysis of the visual content of four short-term mission agencies’ websites, I examine the mediation of global Christianity in contemporary mission and its recruitment of global Christian subjects.