McCloud, “American Possessions”

McCloud, Sean. 2015. American Possessions: Fighting Demons in the Contemporary United States. New York: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: Stories of contemporary exorcisms are largely met with ridicule, or even hostility. Sean McCloud argues, however, that there are important themes to consider within these narratives of seemingly well-adjusted people who attend school, go shopping, watch movies, and also happen to fight demons. American Possessions examines Third Wave spiritual warfare, a late twentieth-, early twenty-first century movement of evangelicals focused on banishing demons from human bodies, material objects, land, regions, political parties, and nation states. While Third Wave beliefs may seem far removed from what many scholars view as mainstream religious practice, McCloud argues that the movement provides an ideal case study for identifying some of the most prominent tropes within the contemporary American religious landscape. Drawing on interviews, television shows, documentaries, websites, and dozens of spiritual warfare handbooks, McCloud examines Third Wave practices such deliverance rituals (a uniquely Protestant form of exorcism), spiritual housekeeping (the removal of demons from everyday objects), and spiritual mapping (searching for the demonic in the physical landscape). Demons, he shows, are the central fact of life in the Third Wave imagination. McCloud provides the first book-length study of this influential movement, highlighting the important ways that it reflects and diverts from the larger, neo-liberal culture from which it originates.

Maggi, “Christian Demonology in Contemporary American Popular Culture”

Maggi, Armando.  2014.  Christian Demonology in Contemporary American Popular Culture.  Social Research 81(4): 769-793.

Abstract: This essay investigates the pervasive presence of Christian demonology in contemporary American culture. After discussing the concept of demonic possession according to Catholic and Protestant theology, Maggi explores the crucial role played by the ritual of exorcism in modern popular culture, especially cinema. After the collapse of traditional historical categories due to the 9/11 tragedy, popular culture has interpreted the early-modern ritual of exorcism as the locus of a nostalgic return to a hypothetical past. However, the ritual meant to bring order to the chaos created by evil is now a performance leading to troublesome and even pernicious consequences.

Krause, “Space in Pentecostal Healing”

Krause, Kristine. 2014. Space in Pentecostal Healing Practices among Ghanian Migrants in London. Medical Anthropology 33(1): 37-51.

Abstract: In this article I analyze different spatial practices related to Pentecostal healing, drawing on fieldwork with Pentecostal believers who have migrated from Ghana to London, UK. I explore the relationship between space and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit by looking at how points of contact with the divine are created in the personal life of people and at the sites where the casting out of demons takes place. Unlike in other spirit-centered healing traditions, the Christian Holy Spirit is not conceived of as embodied in specific places, but rather is spatially unbound. To manifest, however, the Holy Spirit requires specific spatial qualities and esthetics.

Werbner, “Holy Hustlers, Schism, and Prophecy”

Werbner, Richard (2011) Holy Hustlers, Schism, and Prophecy: Apostolic Reformation in Botswana. Berkeley, UC Press.

Publisher’s Description: This book examines the charismatic Christian reformation presently underway in Botswana’s time of AIDS and the moral crisis that divides the church between the elders and the young, apostolic faith healers. Richard Werbner focuses on Eloyi, an Apostolic faith-healing church in Botswana’s capital. Werbner shows how charismatic “prophets”–holy hustlers–diagnose, hustle, and shock patients during violent and destructive exorcisms. He also shows how these healers enter into prayer and meditation and take on their patients’ pain and how their ecstatic devotions create an aesthetic in which beauty beckons God. Werbner challenges theoretical assumptions about mimesis and empathy, the power of the word, and personhood. With its accompanying DVD, Holy Hustlers, Schism, and Prophecy integrates textual and filmed ethnography and provides a fresh perspective on ritual performance and the cinematic.