Abstract: Prayers in Christianity are often considered to be a theological or pastoral topic; while social scientific studies generally tend to reduce them, like prayers in other religious contexts, to the status of psychological responses bringing comfort to the practitioner, or a collective construction connected with social and cultural institutions. However, what prayer actually is, and what it means to Christians who practise it remains an open issue for further, more intensive and thorough study. Based on fieldwork in an urban church in China, this article provides some perspectives on contemporary Chinese Christians and their prayer life, attempting to elaborate its possible significance, especially in terms of subject-formation processes within these Christians. Meanwhile, this article argues that, in working towards a better understanding of Christians, it is more efficacious to take ‘Christians’ as those who are, rather than a given or acquired identity, or a status of being, engaged in a process of becoming through a practice, or set of practices, which in this case is prayer,. Moreover, in the case of this Chinese Christian church, the practise of prayer also indicates some reflections on the cultural and religious diversity of contemporary Chinese society.
Koosa, Piret. 2017. Negotiating Faith and Identity in a Komi Village: Protestant Christians in a pro-Orthodox sociocultural environment. Doctoral Dissertation, Institute for Cultural Research and Fine Arts. Tartu: University of Tartu.
Excerpt: This study explores the dynamics of post-Soviet religious life in the Komi Republic, in Northern Russia. After the demise of communism and the Soviet Union, the question of identity has been a central concern in Russia as well as in the Komi Republic. Consequently, religion has acquired an important social role as it is a means of creating and sustaining identity and culture. Religions which are perceived as “new” or “foreign”, however, have gained more and more negative attention since the mid 1990’s. Following the religious freedom law in 1990, numerous (locally) “new” religious groups began appearing. These faiths were introduced and promoted by foreign missionaries. One Russian peculiarity is that some of these religious groups, which are quite mainstream in other parts of the world, are termed “new”, despite their often actually having had a considerable history within Russia as well. Protestant Christianity and especially its evangelical offshoots are probably most notable examples of religions holding this peculiar position and being surrounded by popular controversies.
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.
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)
Abstract: This article highlights an aspiration specific to Seoul that is projected onto, experienced, and contested by North Korean refugee-migrants who have recently arrived by way of China in this capitalist city of a divided Korea. I pay particular attention to the role of the evangelical Protestant Church in the process of subjectification of these migrant individuals and the performative rituals by which they negotiate religious-political aspirations toward the future. The bodily-spiritual transformation of individual North Korean migrants into Christians is not strictly teleological and is more complicated, ambivalent, and diversified. By comparing two distinctive North Korean migrant activities—the balloon leaflet campaigns and the With-U music concerts and activities—this article discusses the efficacies of the performative rituals of violence and peace that contest and constitute the particular religious-political aspirations in the context of late-Cold War Seoul.
Abstract: This article is based on fieldwork in a Chinese Protestant house-church in Beijing—more specifically, it focuses on a form of group therapy, which took place in the vicinity of the church. It combines two phenomena usually studied separately, namely the popularity of Chinese underground churches and China’s so-called “psycho-boom.” Drawing on attachment theory, I focus on the psychic conflicts that draw certain people, in this case a young woman, Lin, to this kind of therapeutic/ritual context. Filial piety, the moral value that children should respect and honor their parents, who have sacrificed so much for them, remains a strong social norm in Chinese society. I argue that forbidden feelings such as anger directed at parents found expression in this Chinese house-church. The ritual and therapeutic context can be understood as a cultural defense mechanism, which celebrates an inversion of dominant societal norms.
By: Anna Eisenstein (University of Virginia)
Lydia Boyd’s Preaching Prevention charts two moments in Uganda’s recent history: the roll-out of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Asking what these two cases have in common, Boyd explores Ugandan born again Christians’ engagement with discourses on sexuality and health in the midst of rapid urbanization, neoliberal global health policies, and the international sexual rights movement. In classic anthropological fashion, she finds that “indigenous moral logics” animate and valorize specific sexual practices in this particular historical and cultural context. Far from a unidirectional “export” of American approaches to care and treatment, Ugandan born-again Christians re-oriented and re-purposed US-directed messages about sexuality and personal agency in light of longstanding, locally relevant models of hierarchal interdependence. By documenting the distinctive motivations of Ugandan Christians, the book forms an important corrective to assumptions that Ugandan Christian attitudes and activisms merely parrot American Christianity, or that the beliefs and interests of American and Ugandan Christians are interchangeable.
Abstract: This article examines a Fijian kindergarten using Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), a curriculum produced by an American corporation for Christian homeschoolers, which combines academic and emotion pedagogies. Pedagogies prompting children to label, reflect on, and control their emotions are popular in American schools and said to develop skills necessary to be self-directed, risk-taking entrepreneurs under neoliberalism. In contrast, in Fiji, children educated with the ACE curriculum are told that feeling the correct emotions is a “commitment” and that submitting to authority will benefit everyone. The ACE curriculum appears to turn working-class American children and children in peripheral countries like Fiji into submissive workers in corporations while middle-class Euro-American children are socialized to become innovative entrepreneurs. But further examination shows that Fijian parents and teachers see the curriculum as giving their children the proper skills to succeed in a world outside of Fiji.
Abstract: How are objects used differently within different types of Protestantism? Proceeding from this question, this short anthropological essay takes as its ethnographic point of departure two apparently contrasting deployments of the Bible within contemporary Scotland, one as observed among Brethren and Presbyterian fisher-families in Gamrie, coastal Aberdeenshire, and the other as observed among the Orange Order, a Protestant marching fraternity, in Airdrie and Glasgow. By examining how and with what effects the Bible (as text and object) enters into and extends beyond the everyday practices of fishermen and Orangemen, I sketch some aspects of the material life of Scottish Protestantism that have hitherto been overlooked. The tendency to downplay the role of objects within Protestantism seems, in part, to be the result of an ideal-typical insistence that this religion—especially in Scotland and the Global North—remains transfixed by a thoroughly anti-material asceticism.1 This tacit assumption, which emerged within anthropology as the result of an overly hasty reading of Max Weber, continues to haunt ethnographic and theoretical framings of both Protestantism and modernity, either through their relative silence on the subject, or by treating (modern, Protestant) objects as somehow exceptional and novel.
Abstract: This paper discusses the relationship between religious affiliation and the ways that the notion of ‘respect’ (respeto) is used in common discourse in rural Oaxaca. Drawing on the ethnographic example of indigenous Zapotec villages in the Sierra Juárez, I examine how Protestants and Catholics employ the term to justify their attitudes towards each other and towards the norms of communal life. Both consider ‘respect’ an important value in social relations, but in significantly different ways. Catholics conceptualise ‘respect’ mainly as a hierarchical value central to which is the villagers’ subordination to the authority of customs and communal leaders. For most Protestants, however, respect is a horizontal notion that is associated with freedom of religion and the right of individuals to distance themselves from local traditions without being socially excluded or marginalised. The differences between these two perspectives are reconciled by a mutual acknowledgement of the need to ‘reciprocate’ respect.
Abstract: This essay investigates the pervasive presence of Christian demonology in contemporary American culture. After discussing the concept of demonic possession according to Catholic and Protestant theology, Maggi explores the crucial role played by the ritual of exorcism in modern popular culture, especially cinema. After the collapse of traditional historical categories due to the 9/11 tragedy, popular culture has interpreted the early-modern ritual of exorcism as the locus of a nostalgic return to a hypothetical past. However, the ritual meant to bring order to the chaos created by evil is now a performance leading to troublesome and even pernicious consequences.