Abstract: In this introduction the theme of prayer is brought into an anthropological discussion. Attending to prayers and how they are performed and seen to intervene in a social world is a significant way to engage with matters close to people. As argued in this introduction, prayers are a way to map affect and affective relationships people hold in what they are oriented towards and care about. Here a social perspective on prayer taking its cue from Marcel Mauss is particularly relevant as it invites us to go beyond the individual and see how prayers always point to a broader landscape. The reason for honing in on the social life of prayers is that it entices a particular form of situated comparison of diverse forms of Christianity that thereby pushes the anthropology of Christianity to consider central questions of agency, responsibility and subjectivity. This introduction argues that attending to the social life of prayers can be seen as a way of mapping affect. Prayers in different ways attest to the implicatedness of human beings in a social world. Furthermore, prayer works as a didactic tool and is in itself an internal scale of comparison and evaluation in various Christian formulations
Abstract:This article examines how religious beliefs and practices influence the reception of international relief and development aid in impoverished communities. Specifically, I explain how Nicaraguan recipients’ prayers both enhance and constrain their ability to assert themselves as “empowered” actors during aid interactions. Data come from observations and interviews over a two-year period with 81 Nicaraguans in communities that receive aid from Christian development organizations. Compared to secular constructions of aid interactions, prayers provide space for Nicaraguans to position themselves as influential actors effecting change for themselves or their families. Through prayers, recipients portray themselves as influencing the actions of more powerful parties, including God and potential donors. They also pray for donors’ well-being, thereby offering spiritual reciprocity for material gifts. However, the same prayers that empower individuals at the interpersonal level constrain their ability to envision transformation of social structures. These findings shape understandings of prayer as aligning actions, of the moral and social dimensions of receiving care from strangers, and of the complex and contradictory ways religious practices influence discourses of empowerment and development.
Abstract: Within public health and medical anthropology research, the study of women’s agency in reproductive decision making often neglects the role of religion and women’s spirituality. This article is based on ethnographic research conducted at a shelter for homeless (mostly African American) mothers in the southeastern United States. We explore the inadequacy of rational choice models that emphasize intentionality and planning, which our research shows are in tension with the vernacular religious and moral ethos of pregnancy as a ‘blessing’ or unplanned gift. Our findings confirm that young and disadvantaged women may view pregnancy and motherhood as opportunities to improve their lives in ways that mediate against their acceptance of family planning models. For these women, the notion of ‘blessing’ also reflects an acceptance of contingency and indeterminacy as central to the reproductive experience. We also question the increasingly popular distinction between ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’ in contemporary public health.
Abstract: The neo-Pentecostal Oodlání movement is on the rise among Diné (Navajo) of the US South-West, characterized by independent Navajo-led churches and charismatic worship. In this article, I focus on the experiential nature of neo-Pentecostalism to argue that its growth, over and above other forms of Navajo Christianity, capitalizes on a type of resonant rupture with traditional Navajo spirituality. Specifically, I focus on the Oodlání relationship with non-human (supernatural) actors. While experientiality provides an avenue for deeply felt continuity, a close look at Oodlání non-human actors (and the options for interacting with them) demonstrates that neoPentecostalism fundamentally forges cultural rupture.
Abstract: Women’s autonomy has frequently been linked with women’s opportunities and investments, such as education, employment, and reproductive control. The association between women’s autonomy and religion in the developing world, however, has received less attention, and the few existing studies make comparisons across major religious traditions. In this study, we focus on variations in levels of female decision-making autonomy within a single religious tradition—Christianity. Using unique survey data from a predominantly Christian area in Mozambique, we devise an autonomy scale and apply it to compare women affiliated with different Christian denominations as well as unaffiliated women. In addition to affiliation, we examine the relationship between autonomy and women’s religious agency both within and outside their churches. Multivariate analyses show that women belonging to more liberal religious traditions (such as Catholicism and mainline Protestantism) tend to have higher autonomy levels, regardless of other factors. These results are situated within the cross-national scholarship on religion and women’s empowerment and are interpreted in the context of gendered religious dynamics in Mozambique and similar developing settings.
Publisher’s Description: Preaching Prevention examines the controversial U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) initiative to “abstain and be faithful” as a primary prevention strategy in Africa. This ethnography of the born-again Christians who led the new anti-AIDS push in Uganda provides insight into both what it means for foreign governments to “export” approaches to care and treatment and the ways communities respond to and repurpose such projects. By examining born-again Christians’ support of Uganda’s controversial 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the book’s final chapter explores the enduring tensions surrounding the message of personal accountability heralded by U.S. policy makers.
Preaching Prevention is the first to examine the cultural reception of PEPFAR in Africa. Lydia Boyd asks, What are the consequences when individual responsibility and autonomy are valorized in public health initiatives and those values are at odds with the existing cultural context? Her book investigates the cultures of the U.S. and Ugandan evangelical communities and how the flow of U.S.-directed monies influenced Ugandan discourses about sexuality and personal agency. It is a pioneering examination of a global health policy whose legacies are still unfolding.
Kupari, Helena. 2015.Lifelong minority religion: routines and reflexivity: A Bourdieuan perspective on the habitus of elderly Finnish Orthodox Christian women. Religion DOI:10.1080/0048721X.2015.1104397
Abstract: Applications of the concept of habitus to research on religion have increased in recent decades. At present, Pierre Bourdieu’s interpretation of the concept is perhaps the most well known. Nevertheless, it has also met with criticism. This article utilizes Bourdieuan theorizations to discuss the habitus of elderly Finnish Orthodox Christian women. The author examines the women’s dispositions in relation to their changing minority position within Finnish society, and identifies the dynamic between reflexivity and routine practice as being central to their religion. The analysis demonstrates the value of Bourdieu’s understanding of habitus when studying the long-term effects of social power on subjectivity – as reflected, for instance, in lifelong minority religion. The author argues, moreover, that contrary to the claims of many critics, Bourdieu’s approach is suitable for inquiries into the conscious dimensions of practicing, in so far as these are conceived of as grounded in individuals’ past and present conditions of religious practice.
Abstract: On the basis of a study of a group of Zambian men identifying both as gay and as Christian, this article explores the negotiation of sexual and religious identity and critically addresses the “surprise” some scholars have expressed about the general religiosity of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) people in Africa. The study demonstrates that participants are not just victims subjected to homophobic religious and political discourses but have agency: resisting discourses of demonization, they humanize themselves by making claims toward the universal category of love—both their own inclination to loving relationships and their share in God’s love. Hence, they claim space for themselves as full citizens of Zambia as a “Christian nation.” This article particularly highlights how some aspects of Pentecostalism appear to contribute to “queer empowerment,” and argues that the religiosity of African LGBTIs critically interrogates Euro-American secular models of LGBTI liberation.
Contributors: Richard Fox Young, Jonathan A. Seitz, Nola Cooke, Richard Burden, Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, La Seng Dingrin, Erik de Maaker, Sipra Mukherjee, Gregory Vanderbilt, Jonas Adelin Jorgensen, Chad M. Bauman, Franklin Rausch, Rhonda Semple, Matthias Frenz, Edwin Zehner
Publisher’s Description: Drawing on first person accounts, Asia in the Making of Christianity studies conversion in the lives of Christians throughout Asia, past and present. Fifteen contributors treat perennial questions about conversion: continuity and discontinuity, conversion and communal conflict, and the politics of conversion. Some study individuals (An Chunggŭn of Korea, Liang Fa of China, Nehemiah Goreh of India), while others treat ethnolinguistic groups or large-scale movements. Converts sometimes appear as proto-nationalists, while others are suspected of cultural treason. Some transition effortlessly from leadership in one religious community into Christian ministry, while others re-convert to new forms of Christianity. The accounts collected here underscore the complexity of conversion, balancing individual agency with broader social trends and combining micro- with macrocontextual approaches