Mikeshin, “How Jesus Changes Lives”

Mikeshin, Igor. 2016. How Jesus Changes Lives: Christian Rehabilitation in the Russian Baptist Ministry. Research Series in Anthropology (University of Helsinki). Doctoral Dissertation. Helsinki: Unigrafia.

Abstract: This thesis is the study of a rehabilitation ministry for the addicted people called Good Samaritan, run by the Russian Baptist Church. The study scrutinizes a two-dimensional process of Christian Rehabilitation. This process consists of two aspects: bodily detoxication through prolonged isolation, and radical moral transformation through conversion to Christianity. This twofold process corresponds to the twofold nature of substance use dependence: biochemical and psychological. The narrative of conversion is constructed upon the literalist reading of the particular translation of Scripture Russian Synodal Bible impacted by the 16th (Martin Luther) and 17th century (Jacobus Arminius and the Remonstrants) Protestant dogmatics and Russian historical and sociocultural context. The narrative of rehabilitation is also impacted by the street, junkie, and prison experience of the rehabilitants and their elders, who hold the authority to interpret Scripture. My research contributes to the study of Russian Evangelical Christianity and substance use dependence, both of which are unique and substantially influenced by contemporary Russian historical, sociocultural, political, economic, and linguistic context. At the same time, both Russian Evangelicalism and substance abuse share global features of Evangelical Christianity and drug epidemics. My analysis is based on the ethnographic fieldwork conducted from January 2014 to January 2015 in St. Petersburg and Leningradskaia oblast’, Russia. The participant observation included prolonged stays in three rehab facilities, guest and missionary visits, church services, seminars, festivities, and extensive study of Protestant Christianity and substance abuse.

Roberts, “To Be Cared For: The Power of Conversion and Foreignness of Belonging in an Indian Slum”

Roberts, Nathaniel. 2016. To be cared for: the power of conversion and foreignness of belonging in an Indian slum. Oakland, California : University of California Press.

Publisher’s Description: To Be Cared For offers a unique view into the conceptual and moral world of slum-bound Dalits (“untouchables”) in the South Indian city of Chennai. Focusing on the decision by many women to embrace locally specific forms of Pentecostal Christianity, Nathaniel Roberts challenges dominant anthropological understandings of religion as a matter of culture and identity, as well as Indian nationalist narratives of Christianity as a “foreign” ideology that disrupts local communities. Far from being a divisive force, conversion integrates the slum community—Christians and Hindus alike—by addressing hidden moral fault lines that subtly pit residents against one another in a national context that renders Dalits outsiders in their own land.

Marina, “Becoming a God Hunter”

Marina, Peter. J.  2015. Becoming a God hunter towards conversion in a Brooklyn tongue-speaking church.  Social Compass.  Early online publication.

Abstract: Based on over four years of ethnographic research in an Afro-Caribbean Pentecostal Church in Brooklyn, this article focuses on the process of becoming a religious seeker, or what I call a God hunter, towards conversion to a Pentecostal tongue-speaking church. Becoming a God hunter requires knowing the causes that explain religious seekership, the invariable sequence of interrelated events that are part of the process. It also requires gaining insight into motives at each stage in the process where potential converts arrive at their final decision to search for a religious group. This requires moving beyond a single set of essential variables, like crisis, or providing normative explanations to the motivation to become a religious seeker. Rather, this work explains the series of steps in a sequence of events that have a long and complex story in which individuals arrive at a point of convergence and decide to embark on a religious search. This article challenges the concept of crisis, used in both old and new scholarly models, to explain why someone decides to become a religious seeker. Final attention is given to the relevancy of continued academic debates on whether active or passive forces drive these individual decisions towards seekership.

Galonnier and de los Rios, “Teaching and Learning to Be Religious”

Galonnier, Juliette and Diego de los Rios.  2015. Teaching and Learning to Be Religious: Pedagogies of Conversion to Islam and Christianity.  Sociology of Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract: Drawing on in-depth interviews and ethnographic data, this article provides one of the first empirical analyses of religious classes for converts in the United States. Focusing on “new member classes” in two religious communities (a Muslim association and an evangelical Christian church), we introduce the concept of “pedagogies of conversion” to describe how religious organizations teach converts about their new religion and set up guidelines to frame the conversion process. By examining the pedagogical tools that religious instructors use on a daily basis to foster spirituality among new members, we investigate how converts learn to become religious people. We demonstrate that while there are significant differences in the doctrines (know-what) being taught in the Muslim and evangelical classrooms, the tips and pieces of advice delivered by instructors on how to be religious (know-how) are strikingly similar.

Winchester, “Converting to Continuity”

Winchester, Daniel.  2015. Converting to Continuity: Temporality and Self in Eastern Orthodox Conversion Narratives.  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract: Based on interviews with converts to Eastern Orthodox Christianity in the United States, this article documents and analyzes a narrative form in which conversion is described as the progressive discovery of a latent religious self that was part of one’s life all along, or what I term a conversion to continuity. These findings contrast markedly with those of most contemporary conversion research, which emphasize the narration of a dramatic temporal break between converts’ past and present religious selves (epitomized by the evangelical “born-again” genre). I examine how and why temporal continuity was a characteristic feature of these conversion accounts and demonstrate how such narratives helped constitute forms of religious experience and self-identity that differ in important respects from those documented in previous studies. In light of these findings, I argue for a reconceptualization of continuity and discontinuity within processes of religious identity change as an institutionally anchored figure/ground relationship as opposed to an either/or dichotomy. I also highlight promising avenues for future comparative research on the relationships between time, narrative, and subjectivity across religious and secular contexts.

Echtler and Ukah (eds), “Bourdieu in Africa”

Echtler, Magnus and Asonzeh Ukah, eds.  2015.  Bourdieu in Africa: Exploring the Dynamics of Religious Fields.  Leiden: Brill.

Publisher’s Description: Bourdieu in Africa: Exploring the Dynamics of Religious Fields offers a view of religions as social games played by interested actors. Analyzing practices as strategic moves, this critical approach conceptualizes the religious field as relations of exchange and competition between experts and laity, and explores how the actors’ habitus, including religious beliefs, serve to misrecognize and thus legitimize relations of power within the religious sphere and beyond.

Hoskins, “Russification as a factor in religious conversion”

Hoskins, Daniel G.  2015. Russification as a factor in religious conversion: Making Lenin roll over in his grave.  Culture and Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract: The Soviet project was as thoroughly atheist as any geopolitical system seen on the world stage. Yet in a way that V.I. Lenin could have never imagined, one of the main objectives of Soviet authorities has now become a significant factor in Central Asian Muslims converting to Christianity. Russification is the term normally used to describe the social process, whereby non-Russian peoples of the Soviet Union became acculturated into Russian patterns of life, thought and worldview during the Soviet era. The result was that many Muslims inhabited both Soviet/Russian and Muslim cultural space, thus creating a new cultural identity that facilitated religious conversion away from Islam. This field research report uses the lens of personal conversion stories to examine some aspects of this phenomenon. Also, the range of personal experiences points towards the need to understand Russification as a spectrum of acculturation.

Ikeuchim, “Back to the Present”

Ikeuchim, Suma.  2015. Back to the Present: The ‘Temporal Tandem’ of Migration and Conversion among Pentecostal Nikkei Brazilians in Japan.  Ethnos.  Early online publication.

Abstract: This article contributes to the emerging area of research in the anthropology of Christianity that focuses on mobility and temporality. It does so by elaborating on the concept of ‘temporal tandem’, which is defined as a process of joint temporalization by which seemingly disparate projects of migration and conversion become interlocked. Pentecostal converts among Brazilians of Japanese descent (Nikkeis) in Japan will serve as a case study to delineate this concept. Temporality figures as a central theme in their stories of migration to the supposed ancestral homeland as well as in their narratives of conversion in Japan. I will illustrate the ways in which conversion addresses common concerns regarding time among the migrant converts, such as ‘putting aside living for the future’. The article concludes with an observation that Nikkeis often experience Pentecostal conversion as a ‘return to the present’, where life is no longer perceived to be suspended.

Chong, “Feminine Habitus”

Chong, Kelly H. 2015. “Feminine Habitus: Rhetoric and Rituals of Conversion and Commitment among Contemporary South Korean Evangelical Women.” In The Anthropology of Global Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism. Simon Coleman and Rosalind I.J. Hackett, eds. 109-128. New York: NYU Press.

Statham, “Teetotalism in Malawian Protestantism”

Statham, Todd.  2015. Teetotalism in Malawian Protestantism: Missionary Origins, African Appropriation.  Studies in World Christianity 21(2): 161-182.

Abstract: Although beer had a profound cultural, economic and religious significance among traditional societies in central Africa, teetotalism – in other words, abstinence from alcohol – has become widespread in Malawian Protestantism (as elsewhere in African Christianity), and in many churches it is regarded as a mark of true faith. This article examines the origins of the antipathy to alcohol in the Presbyterian missionaries who evangelised Malawi in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who drew a parallel between the ‘problem of drink’ among the working poor in their home culture and central Africans, to urge sobriety and its concomitant values of thrift and hard work among their converts. Yet research shows that it was new Christians in Malawi themselves (and not the missionaries) who took the lead in making temperance or teetotalism a criterion for church membership. By drawing upon the experiences of other socially and politically marginalised groups in the British Empire at this time, it is suggested that these new Christians were likely motivated to adopt temperance/teetotalism in order to assert to foreign missionaries their ability to lead and control their own churches and countries.