Review Essay: Orienting the East

Orienting the East: Notes on Anthropology and Orthodox Christianities

Tom Boylston (London School of Economics)

If this blog testifies to the efflorescence of the anthropology of Christianity, anthropological and ethnographic work on Eastern and, especially, Oriental Orthodoxies remains somewhat sparse and scattered at the time of writing. To some extent this is a matter of academic time lag: anthropologists have recognised a lacuna and a good amount of research is now underway and beginning to show fruit. Since a majority of anthropologists working on Orthodox Christianities are now at PhD or early career level, we can expect a substantial growth in the literature in the coming years. Rather than lament the lack of anthropological attention to Orthodoxy, people are getting on with the work of producing it.

With this in mind, I would like to use this post to begin asking: what can Orthodox Christianities do for the anthropology of Christianity, and what can an anthropology of Christianity do for the study of Orthodox Christianities? In the spirit of starting a conversation rather than a systematic review, I will suggest some areas of particular interest emerging from existing work, and outline some conceptual challenges that an anthropology of Orthodoxy raises for a broader anthropology of Christianity.

Continue reading

Knibbe, “Nigerian Missionaries in Europe”

Knibbe, Kim (2011) Nigerian Missionaries in Europe: History Repeating Itself or a Meeting of Modernities? Journal of Religion in Europe, 4(3): 471-487

Abstract: This article discusses the question how to construct a vantage point from which to study the phenomenon of Nigerian missionaries in Europe. When theoretical frameworks extrapolating from the history of religion in western Europe are used to understand a religious network that originated in Nigeria, Nigerian missionaries and missionaries from the Global South inevitably appear as a case of history repeating itself and even as ‘premodern.’ In contrast, Africanist literature provides an understanding of the ways in which oppositions between tradition and modernity are constructed and used in Nigerian Pentecostalism that is very different. This literature however, does not provide ways to engage with the European contexts in which Nigerian missionaries operate. Therefore the article suggests that the encounter between Nigerian missionaries and European contexts might be most fruitfully conceptualized as a ‘meeting of modernities’ (inspired by Eisenstadt’s notion of ‘multiple modernities’), each implying a ‘denial of coevalness.’