Huang and Hu, “Becoming Christians”

Huang, Jianbo and Mengyin Hu.  2017. Becoming Christians: Prayers and subject formation in an urban church in China.  Approaching Religion 1(7): 46-54.

Abstract: Prayers in Christianity are often considered to be a theological or pastoral topic; while social scientific studies generally tend to reduce them, like prayers in other religious contexts, to the status of psychological responses bringing comfort to the practitioner, or a collective construction connected with social and cultural institutions. However, what prayer actually is, and what it means to Christians who practise it remains an open issue for further, more intensive and thorough study. Based on fieldwork in an urban church in China, this article provides some perspectives on contemporary Chinese Christians and their prayer life, attempting to elaborate its possible significance, especially in terms of subject-formation processes within these Christians. Meanwhile, this article argues that, in working towards a better understanding of Christians, it is more efficacious to take ‘Christians’ as those who are, rather than a given or acquired identity, or a status of being, engaged in a process of becoming through a practice, or set of practices, which in this case is prayer,. Moreover, in the case of this Chinese Christian church, the practise of prayer also indicates some reflections on the cultural and religious diversity of contemporary Chinese society.

Huang, “Symbolic Representation of Rural Christianity”

Huang, Jianbo.  2015. Symbolic Representation of Rural Christianity and the Inventiveness of Faith Traditions. Cultural Diversity in China 1(1): 101-114.

Abstract: There are two dominant perceptions on the relationship between Christianity and rural society and culture in China. One is more concerned about the authenticity of Christianity from the church’s perspective, while the other talks about ‘cultural security’ from the view of the local tradition of China. These seemingly contradictory views are in fact based on the same historical model known as impact response. It is a welldeveloped model in that it could explain the “mission church” (church in China), while it seems less or less likely to help us grasp the nature and reality of the “local church” (China’s Church). Hence, this article deals with the following questions, taking Huanan church (South China Church, or SCC) as a case study. Is it plausible for us to consider this kind of local church and its believers as a sort of Christian faith tradition de facto? In light of the assumption, how do we understand the diversified symbolic representations and even inventions? Furthermore, how do we understand the continuity and discontinuity of tradition, if we consider the faith tradition as a cultural tradition?

Review: Katja Rakow on “Christianity, Space, and Place”

Part III: Review Forum, “The Anthropology of Christianity: Unity, Diversity, New Directions”

Christianity, Space, and Place

Schieffelin, Bambi B. 2014. Christianizing Language and the Dis-Placement of Culture in Bosavi, Papua New Guinea. Current Anthropology 55(s10): s226-s237.

Huang, Jianbo. 2014. Being Christians in Urbanizing China: The Epistemological Tensions of the Rural Churches in the City. Current Anthropology 55(s10): s238-s247.

Bandak, Andreas. 2014. Of Refrains and Rhythms in Contemporary Damascus: Urban Space and Christian-Muslim Coexistence. Current Anthropology 55(s10): s248-s261.

By: Katja Rakow (Heidelberg University)

The three articles in the section “Christianity, Space, and Place” assemble ethnographic studies concerned with different space-place relations in various geographical settings, ranging from urban spaces in Beijing (China) and Damascus (Syria) to rural settings in Bosavi (Papua New Guinea). I will give a brief overview of each essay before I draw a comparison and point out similarities, shared themes and insights. Further, I will discuss each article’s contribution to broader discussions in the Anthropology of Christianity and to what research desiderata these articles point us in terms of future studies. Continue reading

Huang, “Being Christian in Urbanizing China”

Huang, Jianbo.  2014. Being Christians in Urbanizing China: The Epistemological Tensions of the Rural Churches in the City.  Current Anthropology.  Early online publication.

Abstract: With the rapid urbanization of China in the last 20 years, hundreds of millions of rural residents surged into the cities searching for better livelihoods. Hundreds of thousands of these urban migrants have been Christians. The Christian migrants not only found themselves confronted by the same overwhelming city life and culture as other new rural-urban migrants, they also found a new church setting marked by unfamiliar expressions of their familiar faith and different ways of understanding, approaching, and experiencing God as well as new ways of understanding self and the world. Besides the “moral torment” and identity tension between being “Chinese Christian” and “Christian Chinese,” they are struggling with at least two distinct Christian epistemological styles, one of which is more inward, emotional, and practice centered and the other of which is more outward, intellectual, and text centered.