Montemaggi, “The making of the relational Christian self”

Montemaggi, Francesca. 2017. “The making of the relational Christian self of New Monastics in the UK, US, and Canada.” In Monasticism in Modern Times, Isabelle Jonveaux and Stefania Palmisano, eds. 209-227.  London: Routledge.

Abstract: The chapter presents an overview of Anglo-American new monasticism based on ethnographic research in the UK, US, and Canada. New monastics are lay members of grass-roots communities, who do not belong to an established Monastic order; rather each community is autonomous and agrees a ‘rule’, a set of moral values and aspirations on how to live one’s life. The cross-national sample of communities points to the inclusivity as the overarching value for new monastics. This refers to inclusivity inside the group of fellow monastics and people attending monastic activities, but also to inclusivity of people at the margin of society, in particular in urban areas. This is expressed through the notion of hospitality. Taking as inspiration old monastic practices of the monastery as a safe haven, New monastic communities seek to ‘welcome the stranger’ in their midst. However, in contrast with old monastic communities, they choose to be located in inner-city areas to have a transformative impact on neighbourhoods facing socio-economic inequality. The chapter argues that inclusivity directs the formation of a Christian self that is relational and in dialectical opposition to – what they feel to be – the individualism of mainstream society.

Irvine,”The Everyday Life of Monks”

Irvine, Richard D.G. 2017. “The Everyday Life of Monks: English Benedictine identity and the performance of proximity.” In Monasticism in Modern Times, Isabelle Jonveaux and Stefania Palmisano, eds. 191-208. London: Routledge.

Excerpt: This chapter sets out to explore the identity of contemporary Catholic English Benedictine monasticism in relation to the wider society of which it is part. Contrary to the characterisation of monasteries as an anti-social ‘flight from the world’, I focus on the many ways in which monastic communities exist in continuity with wider society and secular norms. This performance of proximity – grounding monastic identity in the continuity between the monastic and lay life, rather than the sharp contrasts – is illustrated in three domains: food, kinship, and work.

Forbess, “Paradoxical Paradigms”

Forbess, Alice. 2015. Paradoxical Paradigms: moral reasoning, inspiration, and problems of knowing among Orthodox Christian monastics. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 21(s1):113-128.

Abstract: Whilst anthropological discussions of morality tend to be rooted in Aristotelian ethical theory, this paper highlights an alternative Christian moral reasoning rooted in Neoplatonist/Christian hybrids and visible in contemporary Eastern Orthodox monastic practice. The analytical move proposed here is to focus on the disjunctures between different ethical traditions within Christianity in order to show how they produce diverse forms of moral reasoning that rely on particular uses of exemplarity and exemplification. It is argued that the Aristotelian lens, with its stress on compliance, piety, obedience, and the daily practice of self-perfection, can produce impoverished accounts of ascetic life by excluding the more anarchic and idiosyncratic forms of spiritual training. Christianity has a long tradition of deploying paradox and perplexity to explode facile certainties, thereby carving out a space, at the limits of human knowing, where a divinity conceived as radically alter to the created world can be directly engaged with.

Markofski, “New Monasticism and the transformation of American Evangelicalism.”

Markofski, Wes. 2015. New monasticism and the transformation of American evangelicalism. New York : Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: For most of the last century, popular and scholarly common sense has equated American evangelicalism with across-the-board social, economic, and political conservatism. However, if a growing chorus of evangelical leaders, media pundits, and religious scholars is to be believed, the era of uncontested evangelical conservatism is on the brink of collapse-if it hasn’t collapsed already. Combining vivid ethnographic storytelling and incisive theoretical analysis, New Monasticism and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism introduces readers to the fascinating and unexplored terrain of neo-monastic evangelicalism. Often located in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods, new monastic communities pursue religiously inspired visions of racial, social, and economic justice-alongside personal spiritual transformation-through diverse and creative expressions of radical community. In this account, Wes Markofski has immersed himself in the paradoxical world of evangelical neo-monasticism, focusing on the Urban Monastery-an influential neo-monastic community located in a gritty, racially diverse neighborhood in a major Midwestern American city. The resulting account of the way in which this movement reflects and is contributing to the transformation of American evangelicalism challenges entrenched stereotypes and calls attention to the dynamic diversity of religious and political points of view which vie for supremacy in the American evangelical subculture. New Monasticism and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism is the first sociological analysis of new monastic evangelicalism and the first major work to theorize the growing theological and political diversity within twenty-first-century American evangelicalism.

Pritchard, Pilgrimages and publics: The case of Taizé

Pritchard, Elizabeth. 2015. Pilgrimages and publics: The case of Taize. Anthropological Theory 15(1): 68–91.

Abstract: Applying Michael Warner’s definition of a public as an organized body capable of being addressed in discourse, this essay argues that the mission and associated practices of Taizé pilgrimage are a public formation. The argument draws from visits to the Taizé community in France, to a Taizé youth group in Rotterdam, interviews with pilgrims, writings by community leaders and members, as well as numerous addresses to the European pilgrimages on the part of religious and political leaders. The aims of this argument are to bring pilgrimage research into broader conversations with other strata of cultural theory and to challenge prevailing understandings of the ‘public’ and the relationship between publicness and religion.

Irvine, “Stability, Continuity, Place”

Irvine, Richard D. G. 2013. Stability, Continuity, Place: An English Benedictine Monastery as a Case Study in Counterfactual Architecture. In Religious Architecture: Anthropological Perspectives edited by Oskar Verkaaik. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp.25-45

Abstract:

Taking as its focus Downside Abbey, a Catholic English Benedictine monastery in Somerset, England, this paper explores what kind of home a monastery is. The call to monastic stability is expressed within the architecture of the Abbey in two ways: Firstly, by shaping the monk’s movement throughout his daily routine and his life cycle, the monastery makes possible a radical commitment to place. Secondly, by expressing the continuity of monasticism in English history, the Abbey creates a sense of historical stability in place of rupture – a visible sign of the monastic family as an enduring unit. In this sense, the Abbey puts forward an English vision of Catholicism and monasticism running counter to claims that Catholicism was Roman and thus fundamentally foreign. The Abbey thus serves as a piece of counterfactual architecture: a building which asks provocative “what if” questions, inviting aesthetic and moral comparisons and showing a possibility of what might have been – and what could still be.

Naumescu, “Learning the ‘Science of Feelings'”

Naumescu, Vlad. 2012. Learning the ‘Science of Feelings’: Religious Training in Eastern Christian Monasticism. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, Volume 77: Issue 2. Special Issue: Learning Possession

Abstract:

In Eastern Christianity novitiate is a period of learning to experience the presence of God in one’s life and the world. Novices follow the hesychast prayer, a mystical tradition that leads them to an experiential knowledge of God. In this paper, I argue that novitiate should be regarded as a complex learning process involving specific assemblages of contextual, cognitive, body-sensory and emotional aspects. By educating their attention and emotion novices learn to see beyond and within reality and thus discover the potentiality of people and things ‘in the likeness of God’. Religious transmission happens not only through embodied practice and the active acquisition of religious knowledge but, more importantly, through the work of the imagination. Novices’ orientation towards the transcendent requires an expansion of the imaginative capacities beyond their ‘routine’ functioning. Imagination could be thus seen as a key cognitive capacity through which they learn to experience God.

Naumescu, Vlad (2012). “Learning the ‘Science of Feelings’: Religious Training in Eastern Christian Monasticism”

Naumescu, Vlad. 2012. Learning the ‘Science of Feelings’: Religious Training in Eastern Christian Monasticism. Ethnos Journal of Anthropology 77(2):227-251.

Abstract

In Eastern Christianity novitiate is a period of learning to experience the presence of God in one’s life and the world. Novices follow the hesychast prayer, a mystical tradition that leads them to an experiential knowledge of God. In this paper, I argue that novitiate should be regarded as a complex learning process involving specific assemblages of contextual, cognitive, body-sensory and emotional aspects. By educating their attention and emotion novices learn to see beyond and within reality and thus discover the potentiality of people and things ‘in the likeness of God’. Religious transmission happens not only through embodied practice and the active acquisition of religious knowledge but, more importantly, through the work of the imagination. Novices’ orientation towards the transcendent requires an expansion of the imaginative capacities beyond their ‘routine’ functioning. Imagination could be thus seen as a key cognitive capacity through which they learn to experience God.