Seth Schermerhorn, 2016. “Walkers and their Staffs: O’odham Walking Sticks by Way of Calendar Sticks and Scraping Sticks,” Material Religion 12, 476-500.
Abstract: As archaeologist J. Andrew Darling and Akimel O’odham traditional singer and cultural preservation officer Barnaby V. Lewis have previously shown, scraping sticks encode geographical knowledge, while calendar sticks encode historical knowledge. Like these other sticks, the staffs of O’odham “walkers,” or pilgrims, to Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico, similarly contain both geographical and historical knowledge, evoking memories of past journeys in the present and the presence of Magdalena. Moreover, these staffs are spoken of and treated as people, or at least as an extension of O’odham walkers. For O’odham walkers with their staffs, or walking sticks, Magdalena, Saint Francis, and all of the blessings associated with them are never too far away. And the memories of these journeys that they have taken with their sticks and the stories that they together tell, inextricably link walkers and their sticks, sticks and stories, people and places, as well as the past and the present. Thus, Magdalena is palpably present in the everyday lives of the walkers who cannot help but be transported by their sticks to stories—whether told or untold—and memories made along the road to Magdalena as well as dreams of future journeys.
Abstract: Conversion to Christianity in Amazonia is often described in terms of collective action rather than radically new beliefs interior to the individual. I describe how Waorani people in Ecuador remember the conversion of specific elders as a time of civilization that brought Waorani into a wider social order after a period of violence and isolation. Despite having largely abandoned Christianity since their mass conversion in the 1960s, Waorani today embrace past conversion as a catalyst of social transformation that they say made the present ideal of living in a “community” possible. The individual experiences evoked in memories of collective “civilization” and an insistence on personal autonomy in Waorani visions of community illustrate why the moral commentaries of Waorani Christians remain highly valued in communities where Christianity has ceased to be a dominant social identity.
Abstract: This article situates a cultural phenomenon of women’s memory work through clothing in Swaziland. It explores clothing as both action and object of everyday, personalized practice that constitutes psychosocial well-being and material proximities between the living and the dead, namely, in how clothing of the deceased is privately possessed and ritually manipulated by the bereaved. While human and spiritual self-other relations are produced through clothing and its material efficacy, current global ideologies of immaterial mortuary ritual associated with Pentecostalism have emerged as contraries to this local, intersubjective grief work. This article describes how such contrarian ideologies paper over existing global aspects of people’s entangled relations with the dead – in three biographies of women and their objects – thus showing that memory work is not limited to people, goods, or ideas that flow between nations and expanding notions of the global and gendered practices of personhood.
Abstract: This paper examines how Utah’s 1947 This Is The Place Monument functioned in two contradictory ways: First, it confirmed the Mormon narrative of their entry into the Salt Lake Valley as a mythic narrative about a chosen people entering into their promised land. Second, it reinforced Mormonism as one among many traditions participating in the civil religion of Utah and the American West. In its exploration of these contradictory impulses, the paper examines the intersections of historical memory and the creation of sacred space.
Abstract: This ethnographic article discusses funerary practice, Orthodox Christian ideas of body and spirit, and the ways in which people make memorials for each other on the Zege Peninsula in northwest Ethiopia. I pay special attention to gravestones because, here as in many other places, physical memorials to the dead become locations where latent uncertainties and conflicts about the relationship between spirit and matter, body and soul, and this world and the next, tend to crystallize. I show that material memorials highlight ambiguities in Orthodox attitudes to human embodiment and challenge priestly monopolies over relations between the living and the dead. Because of material chains of mediation and memorialization, the disaggregating practices of Orthodox funerary ritual can never fully untangle the deceased from their worldly social entanglements.
Abstract: In August 2010, Côte d’Ivoire commemorated fifty years of independence. Local Pentecostal churches likewise celebrated the jubilee, marking the liberation of slaves after seven times seven years of servitude as promised in Leviticus 25: 8–10. This reading of independence was closely linked to the incumbent president’s political project of refondation based on a premillennial understanding of the interrelatedness of past, present and future. In this article, I explore Pentecostal political rhetoric and performances of the past during the jubilee celebrations, and the post-electoral crisis of 2010–2011. Drawing on empirical research into memory at work in Côte d’Ivoire, I question the instrumentalist paradigm used in analysis of religious ways of thinking about the world. By emphasizing performances of the past and collective memory, I explain how being born-again is enacted as politics and how politics are perceived in terms of faith.
Publisher’s Description: Combining ethnographic and historical research conducted in Angola, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, A Prophetic Trajectory tells the story of Simão Toko, the founder and leader of one of the most important contemporary Angolan religious movements. The book explains the historical, ethnic, spiritual, and identity transformations observed within the movement, and debates the politics of remembrance and heritage left behind after Toko’s passing in 1984. Ultimately, it questions the categories of prophetism and charisma, as well as the intersections between mobility, memory, and belonging in the Atlantic Lusophone sphere.
Abstract: This article explores the spiritual dimension of the Haitian earthquake of January 12, 2010, and argues that some of the quake’s most profound reverberations occurred at the level of the spirit. Drawing from oral histories with survivors of the disaster, it reveals that Protestantism and the Catholic-Vodou traditions, which are often seen as being diametrically opposed to each other, actually overlap and influence one another. The development of the Haiti Memory Project, an oral history initiative aimed at documenting the impact and implications of the earthquake among Haiti’s popular classes, is also described. Interviews for this project were conducted in Haitian Kreyòl, French, and English. This article features two embedded audio excerpts (one in French, the other in Haitian Kreyòl), as well as a hyperlink to supplementary audio excerpts, that allow readers to experience the multilingual nature of the project. Additionally, hyperlinks allowing online access to three full interviews from the collection appear at the end of the article.
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.