Opas and Haapalainen, eds, “Christianity and the Limits of Materiality”

Opas, Minna and Anna Haapalainen, eds.  2017.  Christianity and the Limits of Materiality.  London: Bloomsbury.

Publisher’s Description: Despite the fact that Christianity is understood to be thoroughly intertwined with matter, objects, and things, Christians struggle to cope with this materiality in their daily lives. This volume argues that the ambivalent relationships many Christians have with materiality is a driving force that contributes to the way people in different Christian traditions and in different parts of the world understand and live out their religion.

By placing the questions of limits and boundary-work to the fore, the volume addresses the question of exactly how Christianity takes place materially, addressing a gap in studies to date. Christianity and the Limits of Materiality presents ground-breaking research on the frameworks and contexts in relation to and within which Christian logics of materiality operate. The volume places the negotiations at the limits of materiality within the larger framework of Christian identities and politics of belonging.
The chapters discuss case studies from North and South America, Europe, and Africa, and demonstrate that the limits preoccupying Christians delimit their lives but also enable many things. Ultimately, Christianity and the Limits of Materiality demonstrates that it is at the interfaces of materiality and the transcendent that Christians create and legitimise their religion.
Contents:
Foreword, David Morgan (Duke University, USA)
Acknowledgements
Introduction, Minna Opas & Anna Haapalainen (University of Turku, Finland)
Part 1: Doubting
1. Spirit Media and the Spectre of the Fake, Marleen de Witte (Unviersity of Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
2. Organic Faith in Amazonia: De-indexification, doubt and Christian corporeality, Minna Opas (University of Turku, Finland)
3. Things not for themselves: idolatry and consecration in Orthodox Ethiopia, Tom Boylston (University of Edinburgh)
Part 2: Sufficing
4. The Bible in the Digital Age: Negotiating the Limits of ‘Bibleness’ of Different Bible Media, Katja Rakow(Heidelberg University, Germany)
5. The Plausibility of Immersion: limits and creativity in materializing the Bible, James Bielo (Miami University, USA)
6.Humanizing the Bible: Limits of materiality in a passion play, Anna Haapalainen (University of Turku, Finland)
7. Semana Santa processions in Granada – Religion or Spectacle? Sari Kuuva (University of Jyväskylä, Finland)
8. The death and rebirth of a crucifix: Materiality and the sacred in Andean vernacular Catholicism, Diego Alonso Huerta (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú / University of Helsinki, Finland)
Part 3: Unbinding
9. Proving the Inner Word: (De)materializing the Spirit in Radical Pietism Elisa Heinämäki (University of Helsinki, Finland)
10. The Return of the Unclean Spirit: Collapse and Relapse in the Baptist rehab ministry Igor Mikeshin (University of Helsinki, Finland)
11. Mimesis and Mediation in the Semana Santa Processions of Granada, Sari Kuuva, University of Jyväskylä
Afterword: Diana Espirito Santo (London School of Economics, UK)

Opas, “Dreaming Faith into Being”

Opas, Minna. 2016. Dreaming Faith Into Being: Indigenous Evangelicals and co-acted experiences of the divine. Temenos 52(2): 239-260.

Abstract: This article examines the role of socio-moral space in people’s experiences of divine presence. More specifically, it addresses the questions of how social others influence people’s experiences of God and Satan among the indigenous evangelical Yine people of Peruvian Amazonia, and the consequences these interactions have for the individual believer and the collectivity. For the Yine dreams are a privileged site of human encounter with other-than-human beings, and they also feature centrally in their Christian lives. It is in dreams that they interact with angels and sometimes with the devil. By examining Yine evangelical dreams as mimetic points of encounter involving not only the dreamer but also transcendent beings and fellow believers as active agents, the article shows that Yine experiences of God’s presence cannot be conceptualised as an individual matter, but are highly dependent on the social other: they come to be as co-acted experiences of the divine.

Opas and Haapalainen, “Connected with God”

Opas, Minna and Anna Haapalainen. 2016. Connected with God: body, the social, and the transcendent. Temenos 52(2): 179-192.

Abstract: The special issue Connected with God: Body, the Social, and the Transcendent addresses the very topical question of the architecture of religious, especially Christian, experiences. Specifically, it examines the processes in which Christians experience the connection with, and gain knowledge of, God in and through the body, and, in particular, the role of social relatedness and morality in generating and informing these experiences. The issue challenges the view of an individual subjective relationship with God, and argues that Christian experiences of God’s presence are not solely a matter of an individual’s relationship with the divine but are very much made possible, guided, and conceptualised through corporeal relationships with social others – believers and other fellow-humans. Through detailed ethnographic and historical examination, the issue also addresses the question of whether and how the form of Christianity practised influences people’s experiences of divine presence.

“Is there such a thing as religious language?”

FORUM: 2015. “Is there such a thing as religious language? Is there such a thing as religion? Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society 40(4): 37-51.

Bialecki, Jon. 2015. Protestant Language, Christian Problems, and Religious Realism. Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society 40(4): 37-42.

Excerpt: If there is one thing that can be ticked off as ‘accomplished’ by the nascent anthropology of Christianity, it is cementing the idea that in multiple and disparate ethnographic locales featuring self-designated Protestant and Post-Protestant Christians, there are often shared and religiously inflected ideas about what constitutes effective and ethical language. In places as physically distant as Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea, Northern Europe and the United States, ethnographers have found patterns in language use and in speech ethics; again and again, we see that the referential aspects of language are celebrated, and that linguistics agency and responsibility is properly placed directly with the ‘sincere’ speaker.

 

Opas, Minnas. 2015. Religion, Christianity and the Question of Generative Problems: Comment to Jon Bialecki. Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society 40(4): 43-47.

Excerpt: The idea of looking at religion through the notion of the generative problem is, I think, a prolific point of departure for comparative work. Nevertheless, instead of looking at religion only through one specific problem, we could ask, what different kinds of generative problems motivate religious traditions?

 

Utriainen, Terhi. 2015. Language, Presence and Transforming Christianities through the Anthropology and Sociology of Religion: Comment to Jon Bialecki. Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society 40(4): 47-51.

Excerpt:  The anthropology and sociology of religion make an interesting couple—a couple that could perhaps have even more conversation and family-life than they have today. From the perspective of the academic study of religion (or ‘religious studies’ as it is often called), which is my home base, anthropology and sociology are often considered two alternative approaches for the empirical study of contemporary religion—approaches to religion as a presence as well as to the presence (or absence) of religion in modernity. Even if they share some classics, Durkheim anyway, these two disciplines are sometimes considered to differ both in their methods (ethnography for anthropology and predominantly quantitative methods for sociology) and their fields and respective theories (non-Western others for anthropology and the religious and secularizing people in the West for sociology). This is, however, changing.