Abstract: Although human rights are often framed as the result of centuries of Western Christian thought, many English evangelicals are wary of the U.K.’s recent embrace of rights-based law. Yet this wariness does not preclude their use of human rights instruments in the courts. Drawing upon fieldwork with Christian lobbyists and lawyers in London, I argue that evangelical activists instrumentalise rights-based law so as to undermine the universalist claims on which they rest. By constructing themselves as a marginalised counterpublic whose rights are frequently ‘trumped’ by the competing claims of others, they hope to convince their fellow Britons that a society built upon the logic of equal rights cannot hope to deliver the human flourishing it promises. Given the salience of contemporary political conservatism, I call for further ethnographic research into counterpublic movements, and offer my interlocutors’ instrumentalisation of human rights as a critique of the inconsistencies of secular law.
Irvine, Richard D.G. 2017. “The Everyday Life of Monks: English Benedictine identity and the performance of proximity.” In Monasticism in Modern Times, Isabelle Jonveaux and Stefania Palmisano, eds. 191-208. London: Routledge.
Excerpt: This chapter sets out to explore the identity of contemporary Catholic English Benedictine monasticism in relation to the wider society of which it is part. Contrary to the characterisation of monasteries as an anti-social ‘flight from the world’, I focus on the many ways in which monastic communities exist in continuity with wider society and secular norms. This performance of proximity – grounding monastic identity in the continuity between the monastic and lay life, rather than the sharp contrasts – is illustrated in three domains: food, kinship, and work.
Publisher’s Description: Young evangelicals in Britain often find themselves at odds with an increasingly secular society, and yet the tradition persists and in some places flourishes. Sociological studies into the faith of this demographic group are rare, yet there is much to be explored as to how their faith functions and how it compares to other groups globally. Similarly, given the privilege evangelicals afford the biblical text, how young believers engage with the ancient Scriptures they understand to be “the word of God” is particularly significant. This work addresses that core question. How do young evangelicals make sense of the Bible today? Based on qualitative data gathered from three diverse evangelical churches it compares the reading priorities, ordinary hermeneutics, and theological concerns of young adults. Presenting age-related focus groups with challenging biblical narratives, the study compares strategies for negotiating the texts based on age, gender, and churchmanship. It provides a unique insight into the realities of Bible reading and the faith of “Generation Y” and gives food for thought not only to those with scholarly interests, but also those with a pastoral concern to shape and sustain the Christian faith of young adults in Britain and beyond.
Abstract: I explore the implications of example-making for both informants and ethnographers through an analysis of the history of the refoundation of the Anglican shrine at Walsingham during the twentieth century. I argue for an appreciation of distinctions between examples as ‘models’ and ‘instances’, but also for a focus on relations between the inchoate and the specific in processes of exemplification. The paper shows how an examination of the making of examples by actors in the field can speak to the creation of examples in writing and analysis, and may introduce elements of ‘serendipity’ more normally associated with encounters in the field.
Abstract: This paper explores the concept of the post-secular city by examining the growing presence of Street-Pastors in the night-time economy of British cities. Street-Pastors are Christian volunteers who work to ensure the safety of people on a ‘night out’. We contribute to work that has called for greater attention to be placed on the ways in which religious faith and ethics are performed to create liminal spaces of understanding in urban areas. Drawing upon in-depth ethnographic research conducted in a range of UK towns and cities, we consider this distinct form of faith-based patrolling in relation to the spatial processes and practices of urban-nightscapes. By exploring the geographies of Street-Pastors, we not only contribute to more nuanced accounts of ‘drinking spaces’ but provide an empirical engagement with the growing body of work on urban rhythms and encounters.
Irvine, Richard D. G. 2013. Stability, Continuity, Place: An English Benedictine Monastery as a Case Study in Counterfactual Architecture. In Religious Architecture: Anthropological Perspectives edited by Oskar Verkaaik. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp.25-45
Taking as its focus Downside Abbey, a Catholic English Benedictine monastery in Somerset, England, this paper explores what kind of home a monastery is. The call to monastic stability is expressed within the architecture of the Abbey in two ways: Firstly, by shaping the monk’s movement throughout his daily routine and his life cycle, the monastery makes possible a radical commitment to place. Secondly, by expressing the continuity of monasticism in English history, the Abbey creates a sense of historical stability in place of rupture – a visible sign of the monastic family as an enduring unit. In this sense, the Abbey puts forward an English vision of Catholicism and monasticism running counter to claims that Catholicism was Roman and thus fundamentally foreign. The Abbey thus serves as a piece of counterfactual architecture: a building which asks provocative “what if” questions, inviting aesthetic and moral comparisons and showing a possibility of what might have been – and what could still be.
Abstract: This article examines the interplay of different processes of cultural and subjective fragmentation experienced by conservative evangelical Anglicans, based on an ethnographic study of a congregation in central London. The author focuses on the evangelistic speaking practices of members of this church to explore how individuals negotiate contradictory norms of interaction as they move through different city spaces, and considers their response to tensions created by the demands of their workplace and their religious lives. Drawing on Georg Simmel’s ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’, the author argues that their faith provides a sense of coherence and unity that responds to experiences of cultural fragmentation characteristic of everyday life in the city, while simultaneously leading to a specific consciousness of moral fragmentation that is inherent to conservative evangelicalism.
Daswani, Girish (202) “Global Pentecostal Networks and the problem of Culture: The Church of Pentecost in Ghana and Abroad.” in Michael Wilinson, ed, Global Pentecostal Movements: Migration, Mission, and Public Religion. Leiden: Brill. Pp 71-92
First Paragraph: Many have written on how Pentecostalism travels the globe and how it has become a force to be reckoned with in our contemporary world. For example, Pentecostalism possesses what Thomas Csordas (2007) callas a “transposable message” of salvation, and “portable practices” that included prayer, speaking in tongues and prophecy – homogenizing forms that travel across space and time through processes of missionization, migration, mobility, and mediation. Joel Robbins (2004, 117) discussed how Pentecostalism successfully adapted itself to the range of cultures in which it is introduced through a processes of replication and indigenizing difference. He calls these two descriptions of global Pentecostalism, global homogenization adn indigenizing difference, contradictory assertions that are useful in explaining its success (119). Similarly, according to Simon Coleman (2010, 800), Pentecostalism in its global form constitutes what he calls “part cultures, presenting worldviews meant for export that are holistic in one sense but, as we have seen, also in tension with the values of any given host society.” While Pentecostalism can be described as both global in its reach and local in its application, adapting to the tensions between its own values and those of its host societies and cultures, I seek to revisit how we may understand the “global” in the globalization of Pentecostalism through one church’s expanding networks and the simultaneous tensions and limits that arise from its engagement with “culture.”
Abstract: This article explores forms of history and memory constructed around the Christian pilgrimage site of Walsingham, England. While exploring different ways of appropriating the past exhibited by pilgrims, ranging from “reliving,“ “remixing,“ and “reframing,“ the article argues that Walsingham’s powerful symbolic resonances emerge in part from its role as a context for “archeotheology,“ whereby a sacramental religious ideology is reinforced by the forms of ruination evident at key points of the site.
Abstract: this article, I introduce the idea of “ambient faith” in an effort to clarify the stakes in long-standing debates about public and private religion. I take as my starting point the increasingly common recognition that conceptual distinctions between publicity and privacy are difficult to maintain in the first place and that they are, in any case, always relative. The idea of “ambient faith,” which I connect to work on the turn to a materialist semiotics, can serve as both a critique of and supplement to the ideas of “public” and “private” religion. Introducing ambience—the sense of ambience—allows one to raise important questions about the processes through which faith comes to the foreground or stays in the background—the extent to which faith, in other words, goes public or stays private. I use my research on a Christian organization in England, the Bible Society of England and Wales, to illuminate these points, discussing the society’s campaign in 2006 to bring angels to Swindon and its promotion of Bible reading in coffee shops. I also consider Brian Eno’s music and recent advertising trends for additional insights into the notion of “ambience.”