Carroll, “Theology as an Ethnographic Object”

Carroll, Timothy.  2017.  Theology as an Ethnographic Object: An Anthropology of Eastern Christian Rupture.  Religions 8(7): 114.

Abstract: This paper draws upon over three years’ research among Eastern Orthodox (principally Antiochian and Greek) communities in London and Mount Athos, Greece. This research came to engage theology quite heavily as part of the ethnographic facts of the fieldsites. This paper reviews some of the existing ways that theology (as both discipline and practice) relate to ethnographic enquiry, particularly as it has arisen in the dialogue with the Anthropology of Christianity and frames this in light of the historical development of Anthropology and its relationship to theology and Christianity. The paper then advances a methodological argument, in favour of further means of relation, specifically in terms of theology as a cultural artefact. Drawing on local practices of liturgical theology and Eastern Orthodox forms of allegorical interpretation, I argue for the inclusion of theological insight and practice within the social scientific study of religion. Working in an Orthodox setting requires the investigation of liturgical theology and brings to light important aspects of the relationship between temporal and sempiternal domains of action. Particularly as it relates to liturgical theology and the practices of interpretation, ethnographic enquiry into Orthodox theology asks for a reconsideration of social scientific methods of analysis and representation.

Merz and Merz, “Occupying the Ontological Penumbra”

Merz, Johannes and Sharon Merz. 2017. Occupying the Ontological Penumbra: Towards a Postsecular and Theologically Minded Anthropology. Religions 8(5):80-97.

Abstract: In the wake of the postsecular turn, we propose to reappraise both the religious as studied in anthropology and how anthropologists who have religious or spiritual interests can contribute to an emerging postsecular anthropology. Such an anthropology recognizes the failure of secularization theory to dissolve the dichotomy between the religious and the secular. We propose that as anthropologists we consciously occupy the ontological penumbra, an ambiguous and plural space in which we engage with various counterparts, both human and nonhuman. This means that we have to be open to the real possibility of the existence of gods, spirits, and other nonhuman entities. These should not only be treated as subjects of study, but also recognized as valid counterparts with whom we can engage in the ethnographic encounter. While this necessitates relinquishing the former privileged position of secular and Western epistemology, it opens up the discipline to a potentially unprecedented ethnographic productivity that is epistemologically and ontologically innovative. Without neglecting its secular heritage, such a theologically minded postsecular anthropology places anthropology in a better position to explore what it is to be human, especially in terms of understanding religious and spiritual experiences.

Thomas, “Strangers, Friends, and Kin: Negotiated Recognition in Ethnographic Relationships”

Thomas, Todne. 2016. Strangers, Friends, and Kin: Negotiated Recognition in Ethnographic Relationships. Anthropology and Humanism 41(1):66-85.

Abstract: Anthropologists have framed ethnographers as participant-observers, strangers, and friends and have written about ethnographic research encounters in terms of the productive spaces between researchers and research collaborators. Informed by my review of research literature on ethnographic relationships, my application of de-colonial, feminist, and postmodern research methodologies, and my experience of being reconstituted as a “[church] sister” by the members of an Afro-West Indian and African American evangelical church association, I argue that characterizations of research encounters by research collaborators hold important implications for ethnographic research and writing.

Bielo, “Materializing the Bible”

Bielo James. 2016. Materializing the Bible: Ethnographic Methods for the Consumption Process. Practical Matters 9. 

Abstract: Throughout the world there are over 200 sites that materialize the Bible, that is, sites that transform the written words of biblical scripture into physical, experiential attractions. These sites are definitively hybrid, integrating religion and entertainment, piety and play, fun and faith, commerce and devotion, pleasure and education. Religious studies scholars and anthropologists have published insightful works about selected sites, but no genre-wide analytical appraisal exists. In this article, I focus on how religiously committed visitors approach and experience these sites. Framed in a comparative register with research in religious tourism and pilgrimage studies, I propose analytical and methodological frameworks for the ethnographic study of Bible-based attractions.

Droogers, “The Cultural Dimensions of Pentecostalism”

Droogers, André. 2014. The Cultural Dimension of Pentecostalism. In The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism, edited by Cecil M. Robeck Jr. and Amos Young, 195-214, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Excerpt: “The scope of this chapter is to draw the map of the pentecostal cultural landscape and make an inventory of actors and factors, patterns and processes. The expansion of Pentecostalism amid profound changes in the world will first lead to a discussion of two recent trends in the world cultural situation: a chance in perspective and a recognition of the human capacity for meaning-making. Subsequently four aspects of the relationship between Pentecostalism and culture receive attention: that Pentecostalism appears to offer a ‘portable identity,’ the question of the degree to which continuity and rupture with the surrounding culture occur, the conversion process, and a repertoire model of a church 0r community. A section on the methodology of the study of the cultural dimension of Pentecostalism appears before the concluding summary …..”

Naidu and Nzuza, “When God Beckons: Stories of the ‘Call’ in a Pentecostal Church”

Nzuza, Maheshvari and Nokwanda Nzuza. 2013. “When God Beckons: Stories of the ‘Call’ in a Pentecostal Church.” Journal of Social Science 36(2): 153-163. 

Abstract: The biblical narratives are inspired texts to the Pentecostals, as they are to many other Christians. Most Pentecostals accept that these biblical narratives offer the guiding templates through which a religious worldview is constructed. This paper is informed by how ‘narratives’ are positioned within Pentecostalism, and similarly adopts ‘narrative’ as a methodological heuristic mechanism. To this end the narratives of a small group of individuals are used as a heuristic device to understand the ‘call’ to ministry, as received and understood by them as they go on to assume pastoral duties within the Church that they belong to. It is felt that such calls to ministry offer a rare window into a decidedly understudied phenomenon within black ministry.

Magolda and Gross, “Misinterpreting the Spirit and Heart: Religious and Paradigmatic Tensions in Ethnographic Research”

Magolda, Peter and Kelsey Ebben Gross (2012) “Misinterpreting the Spirit and Heart: Religious and Paradigmatic Tensions in Ethnographic Research.” Religion & Education 39(3):235-256.

Abstract: This article discusses the unique methodological challenges that 2 secular researchers encountered while studying an evangelical collegiate enclave. The article showcases the researchers’ retrospec- tive sense making of their fieldwork and offers insights for qualitat- ive researchers interested in studying faith-based organizations.