Abstract: The classical sociological literature on Amhara hierarchy describes a society based on open relations of domination and an obsession with top-down power. This article asks how these accounts can be reconciled with the strong ethics of love and care that ground daily life in Amhara. We argue that love and care, like power, are understood in broadly asymmetrical terms rather than as egalitarian forms of relationship. As such, they play into wider discourses of hierarchy, but also serve to blur the distinction between legitimate authority and illegitimate power.
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
Abstract: In reflecting on a sharp scholarly exchange at a conference, this article explores issues of authority, representation, and offense in global Catholic and South Asian Studies. Focusing on the act of foot washing by Dalit Catholics, the article examines how scholarly offense is linked to particular claims of representational authority. The article also puts this discussion within the context of contemporary debates about Western portrayals of Indian culture and society.
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 essay discusses the relationship between the Vineyard and the various other apostolic networks. By comparing the Vineyard with C. Peter Wagner and the New Apostolic Revival, I contend that the chief difference between these two movements lies in a Vineyard interest in pedagogy over a New Apostolic Revival interest in governance, and in the Vineyard’s use of the figure of John Wimber as an exemplar for practice rather than as a figure of authority.
Abstract: The article makes a contribution to the study of religion by developing the analytical concept of sacralisation as the process whereby individual religious actors and groups construct religious tradition by attributing value to single ideas and practices. The concept of sacralisation helps us understand how religious actors engage with their religious tradition and participate in constructing it by legitimising its single elements. The sacred is thus understood as constructed by religious actors as that which is of value for them and distinctive of their specific tradition. This concept has been developed from a three-year long ethnographic research in a Christian evangelical church and is illustrated through an analysis of the research data.
Luehrmann, Sonja. 2015. The politics of prayer books: Delegated intercession, names, and community boundaries in the Russian Orthodox Church. Journal of Religious and Political Practice. Early online publication.
Abstract: Prayer is most easily conceived of as political speech when it is a spontaneous practice showing individual and group reactions to current events. Where prayer is a routinized activity involving the recitation of canonical texts, interpreters locate politics in the disciplining of bodies and acts of claiming space. This paper takes inspiration from ethnographies of oral ritual performance and Quranic recitation to include texts and the delegation of speech roles in the analysis of recited prayer. Most Russian Orthodox Christians either pray from a prayer book or order such prayers to be said by specialists. Focusing on the use of baptismal names as indexical elements in intercessory prayer, I argue that Orthodox Christian textual practices sustain a particular form of fractal social authority. Standardized prayer texts synchronize lay and delegated clerical voices, while individualizing responsibility for non-Orthodox kin and acquaintances. Through analyzing canonical and non-canonical intercessory formulae, one can see that part of the political force of prayer lies in constructing community boundaries while dynamically readjusting them.
Abstract: In this essay I review three important volumes for the field of secular studies: Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age, Rethinking Secularism, and The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere. All three volumes explore the nature of the secular and the status, role, and possible futures of religion in our late modern, globalized world. The volumes present 34 essays by 30 authors representing seven disciplines, and at least six end games. For some, questions of religion-secular entanglement are a historical matter and the task is to map intellectual and ideological trajectories. A second purpose is to empirically document the complexities of particular religion-secular entanglements in particular socio-cultural locations. For others, the remit is theoretical, to discern a conceptual agenda for the ongoing study of religion-secular entanglements. Others are more philosophical, chasing the existential consequences of secularity. A fifth end game is applied in nature: reflections on how political actors might best engage the religious and the secular in acts of governance and international relations. Finally, there are normative voices, those seeking to name what a good, productive religion-secular entanglement ought to look like. Taken together, the volumes mark a thriving, mature field of scholarly inquiry: secular studies has come of age.
Kirsch, Thomas G. 2014. The Precarious Center: Religious Leadership among African Christians. Religion and Society: Advances in Research 5.