Thomas, et al, eds, “New Directions in Spiritual Kinship”

Thomas, Todne, Asiya Malik, and Rose Wellman, eds.  2017. New Directions in Spiritual Kinship: Sacred Ties across the Abrahamic Religions.  New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 

Publisher’s Description: This volume examines the significance of spiritual kinship—or kinship reckoned in relation to the divine—in creating myriad forms of affiliations among Christians, Jews, and Muslims.  Rather than confining the study of spiritual kinship to Christian godparenthood or presuming its disappearance in light of secularism, the authors investigate how religious practitioners create and contest sacred solidarities through ritual, discursive, and ethical practices across social domains, networks, and transnational collectives.  This book’s theoretical conversations and rich case studies hold value for scholars of anthropology, kinship, and religion.

Contents:

Introduction: Re-sacralizing the Social: Spiritual Kinship at the Crossroads of the Abrahamic Religions, Thomas, Todne (et al.)

Spiritual Kinship Between Formal Norms and Actual Practice: A Comparative Analysis in the Long Run (from the Early Middle Ages Until Today), Alfani, Guido

Spiritual Kinship in an Age of Dissent: Pigeon Fanciers in Darwin’s England, Feeley-Harnik, Gillian

Kinship as Ethical Relation: A Critique of the Spiritual Kinship Paradigm, Seeman, Don

Kinship in Historical Consciousness: A French Jewish Perspective, Bahloul, Joëlle

“We All Ask Together”: Intercession and Composition as Models for Spiritual Kinship, Klaits, Frederick

“Forever Families”; Christian Individualism, Mormonism and Collective Salvation, Cannell, Fenella

Substance, Spirit, and Sociality Among Shi‘i Muslims in Iran, Wellman, Rose

Expanding Familial Ties: From the Umma to New Constructions of Relatedness Among East African Indians in Canada, Malik, Asiya

Rebuking the Ethnic Frame: Afro Caribbean and African American Evangelicals and Spiritual Kinship, Thomas, Todne

The Seeds of Kinship Theory in the Abrahamic Religions, Delaney, Carol

 

 

Olsson, “Jesus for Zanzibar”

Olsson, Hans. 2016. Jesus for Zanzibar: Narratives of Pentecostal Belonging, Islam, and Nation. Doctoral Dissertation, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies. Lund: Lund University.

Excerpt: The study focuses on the City Christian Center, Zanzibar’s largest Pentecostal church and a major outreach of the Tanzania Assemblies of God in the archipelago, which was founded, and is growing, in conjunction with increased flows of labor migration, primarily from Mainland Tanzania to Zanzibar, over the past decades. In relation to the Zanzibar setting in general, and vis-a-vis political projects of creating a Zanzibari national identity in particular, the CCC congregation has become a locus of tension for several reasons. First and foremost, with an outspoken mission to expand Christianity – captured in the slogan “Jesus for Zanzibar” – the CCC brings a narrative of religious change to Zanzibar society.

Marti, “‘I was a Muslim, but now I am a Christian'”

Marti, Gerardo.  2016. “I Was a Muslim, But Now I Am a Christian”: Preaching, Legitimation, and Identity Management in a Southern Evangelical Church.  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract: Established in 2005, “Life” is a suburban, nondenominational, evangelical church in Charlotte, North Carolina, with an almost entirely white membership, yet the lead pastor is an immigrant from the Middle East. As an ex-Muslim ethnic Pakistani who was born and raised in Kuwait, Pastor Sameer Khalid does not “fit” into southern culture, and he did not convert to Christianity until he was enrolled in college in the United States. Ethnographic data from 14 months of fieldwork reveal how Pastor Sameer uses weekly sermons to negotiate racialized stigmas, emphasize his common religious identity with the congregation, and make his immigrant background a distinctive religious resource for the church. More specifically, while all pastors require legitimation of their charismatic authority, this research focuses on the dynamics of performance through preaching within the Sunday morning services of this congregation, a performance that negotiates this lead pastor’s ethnic and religious identities and accentuates his strategic use of institutionalized evangelical narratives to subvert Islamophobic threats and buttress legitimation of his pastoral identity.

Peel, “Time and difference in the anthropology of religion (The 2000 Frazer Lecture)”

Peel, J.D.Y. 2016. Time and difference in the anthropology of religion (The 2000 Frazer Lecture). HAU 6(1):533-551.

Abstract: J. D. Y. Peel’s Frazer Lecture of 2000, published here posthumously, presented his early thoughts about the three-sided comparison that would culminate his trilogy of works on Yoruba religion. Working through these arguments would occupy another decade and a half until the publication of Christianity, Islam, and Orisa religion: Three traditions in comparison and interaction (2016, University of California Press). As a historian and sociologist, John was by turns stimulated and exasperated by anthropologists. An ethnographic method was essential to comparison he accepted, but anthropologists were poor at temporality in a number of senses: when locating their own researches, the lives of those they met, the sources they used, their own notes; and when delineating what they meant by context, what it meant to their subjects, and where it came from; and most germane here, in recognizing the historical trajectories imparted to religions by their histories, discourses and practices. In short, for all they wrote a deal about it, anthropologists were practically poor when describing the consequences of humans being beings in time. The lecture proposes solutions to these lacks.

van Klinken and Chitando (eds), “Public Religion and the Politics of Homosexuality in Africa”

van Klinken, Adriaan, and Ezra Chitando, eds. 2016. Public Religion and the Politics of Homosexuality in Africa. Oxford: Routledge.

Publisher’s Description: Issues of same-sex relationships and gay and lesbian rights are the subject of public and political controversy in many African societies today. Frequently, these controversies receive widespread attention both locally and globally, such as with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. In the international media, these cases tend to be presented as revealing a deeply-rooted homophobia in Africa fuelled by religious and cultural traditions. But so far little energy is expended in understanding these controversies in all their complexity and the critical role religion plays in them. This is the first book with multidisciplinary perspectives on religion and homosexuality in Africa. It presents case studies from across the continent, from Egypt to Zimbabwe and from Senegal to Kenya, and covers religious traditions such as Islam, Christianity and Rastafarianism. The contributors explore the role of religion in the politicisation of homosexuality, investigate local and global mobilisations of power, critically examine dominant religious discourses, and highlight the emergence of counter-discourses. Hence they reveal the crucial yet ambivalent public role of religion in matters of sexuality, social justice and human rights in contemporary Africa.

Contents:

Introduction: Public Religion, Homophobia and the Politics of Homosexuality in Africa Adriaan van Klinken and Ezra Chitando

I The Politicisation of Homosexuality

1. ‘For God and For My Country’: Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches and the Framing of a New Political Discourse in Uganda Barbara Bompani

2. Uniting a Divided Nation? Nigerian Muslim and Christian Responses to the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act Danoye Oguntola-Laguda and Adriaan van Klinken

3. Discourses on Homosexuality in Egypt: When Religion and the State Cooperate Serena Tolino

4. ‘We Will Chop Their heads Off’: Homosexuality versus Religio-political Grandstanding in Zimbabwe Molly Manyonganise

5. ‘Un-natural, ‘un-African’ and ‘un-Islamic’: The Three Pronged Onslaught Undermining Homosexual Freedom in Kenya Hassan J. Ndzovu

6. Côte d’Ivoire and the New Homophobia: The Autochthonous Ethic and the Spirit of Neo-Liberalism Joseph Hellweg

II Global and Local Mobilisations

7. An African or Un-African Sexual Identity? Religion, Globalisation and Sexual Politics in sub-Saharan Africa Kapya Kaoma

8. The Extraversion of Homophobia: Global Politics and Sexuality in Uganda Jia Hui Lee

9. Religious Inspiration: Indigenous Mobilisation against LGBTI Rights in Post-conflict Liberia Ashley Currier and Joëlle M. Cruz

10. Islamic Movements against Homosexuality in Senegal: The Fight against AIDS as Catalyst Christophe Broqua

11. One Love or Chanting Down Same-Sex Relations? Queering Zimbabwean Rastafari Perspectives on Homosexuality Fortune Sibanda

12. Narratives of ‘Saints’ and ‘Sinners’ in Uganda: Contemporary (Re)presentations of the 1886 Story of ‘Queer’ Mwanga and Ganda ‘Martyrs’ Prince Karakire Guma III Contestation, Subversion and Resistance

13. Critique and Alternative Imaginations: Homosexuality and Religion in Contemporary Zimbabwean Literature Pauline Mateveke

14. Christianity, Human Rights and LGBTI Advocacy: The Case of Dette Resources Foundation in Zambia Adriaan van Klinken

15. ‘I Was On Fire’: The Challenge of Counter-intimacies within Zimbabwean Christianity Nathanael Homewood

16. Critical Realism and LGBTIQ Rights in Africa Richard McCarty and Jay Breneman

Appendix: African LGBTI Manifesto

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.

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.

Lybarger, “How Far is too Far?”

Lybarger, Loren D.  2015. How Far is too Far? Defining Self and Other in Religious Studies and Christian Missiology.  Journal of the American Academy of Religion.  Early online publication. 

Abstract: This article explores the limits of the debate surrounding Robert A. Orsi’s call for a “third way” in scholar-practitioner encounters in religious studies research. It argues that the debate has reached an impasse and that, as Joel Robbins suggests, an alternative approach might exist within theology—particularly, theological discussions of how the Christian is to relate to the non-Christian other. The article tests this notion by probing the writings of A. Kenneth Cragg, an Anglican theologian and Islamic Studies specialist who proposed the possibility of expanding the Christian canon within the context of interfaith encounters. The article concludes that although religious studies remains, as a field, unprepared to countenance the kind of hybridization toward which Cragg’s conception of the interfaith situation leads, his notion of “bi-scripturalism” has the potential nevertheless of opening up new questions for religious studies scholars concerned with alterity.

Olsson, “With Jesus in Paradise? “

Olsson, Hans.  2015. With Jesus in Paradise?: Pentecostal Migrants in Contemporary Zanzibar.  Pneuma 37(1): 21-40.

Abstract: This article explores the quest among contemporary pentecostal migrants from mainland Tanzania in Zanzibar to become “saved” Christians. The analysis of a set of techniques and processes applied in developing and keeping faith reveals high levels of suspicion and doubt connected to the perceived presence of evil in the Zanzibari environment, which, in turn, is linked to a fear of losing salvation. With Christian minorities recently having their premises attacked in connection with sociopolitical hostilities in the predominantly Muslim setting of Zanzibar, the case in this article highlights how the context of violence is negotiated in pentecostal modes of suspicion toward the other while, at the same time, it bolsters spiritual growth. This illustrates how a pentecostal ethos intermingles with and provides migrants with ways of interpreting the contemporary setting in which religious belonging is at the fore in present-day calls for Zanzibari political sovereignty and inclusive Union politics.

Is Critique Secular? Blasphemy, Injury & Free Speech: Book Review

Asad, Talal, Wendy Brown, Judith Butler, & Saba Mahmood. 2013. Is Critique Secular? Blasphemy, Injury & Free Speech. Second Revised Edition. New York: Fordham University Press.

By Brian Howell (Wheaton College)

This past summer began with a United States news cycle dominated by a single story. The U.S. Supreme Court voted in a 5-4 decision in favor of Hobby Lobby and its evangelical owners, the Green Family, supporting their claim that to provide certain forms of contraception through their health insurance plan would violate their religious conscience. Conservatives and many religious groups declared the decision a victory for religious freedom. Progressives, many women’s advocacy groups, and many supporters of the Affordable Care Act decried this the inappropriate imposition of religious views on individuals, and a failure of the state to protect the rights of women to comprehensive health care.

While both sides generally argued their positions based on liberal principles of individual rights, there were more complex questions in the background: what is the legitimate role of religious views in the secular public sphere? What is properly a “religious” belief and what is its relationship to economic, social, and political actions? Where are the limits of religion in a secular state?

Working from a different set of conversations around global Islam and secular Europe, these questions are taken up in one of the more productive reads I have enjoyed this year. Beginning as a conference at the Townsend Center for the Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley in 2007, Is Critique Secular? lived for a time as a publication of that conference. After some years of reaction and discussion, the authors decided to re-frame the collection with a new preface by the authors, and published as a mutli-authored book by Fordham University Press in 2013. The book now consists of chapters from two anthropologists – long-time scholar of secularism Talal Asad and comparatively more recent voice Saba Mahmood – paired with an introduction by Berkeley Professor of Political Science Wendy Brown, and response from Judith Butler, a prominent feminist scholar and social theorist. Asad and Mahmood each provide short replies to Butler’s discussion, constituting the last two chapter of the book. Although the entire volume comes in at a slim 145 pages, the format provides for vigorous interaction. Going far beyond the cases on which the authors primarily rely, the questions of secular society and its relation to religion as practice and concept are taken up with vibrancy that will make this volume a key conversation for anyone interested in the nature of secularism and liberal society in a rapidly changing global context.

Continue reading