Abstract: This article explores the cultural change generated by Pentecostalism among Liberian refugees in Ghana, who fled from their nation’s civil wars to a refugee camp in Ghana’s Central Region. Anthropologists of religion have argued that Pentecostal conversions have in large parts become popular because they enable a “break with the past.” Liberian converts, as well, seek to distance themselves from a past that is mired in conflict. To this end, they connect to global Pentecostal networks in an attempt to overcome their marginal status. In so doing, many of them reject aspects of their past, which they associate with the Liberian civil wars, for example traditional belief systems, ethnic identity, and the Liberian gerontocracy. Yet, as the ethnographic examples illustrate, this “break with the past” is rarely complete. This study’s findings are related to debates on whether anthropology of religion should focus on “continuity” or “discontinuity” in exploring religious conversions. The author argues that the religious experiences of Liberians in exile can only be understood by paying attention to the interplay and tensions between continuity and discontinuity.
Abstract: This article is about the role of religion in contexts of displacement. The article looks at the role churches and church leaders play in the lives of refugees and more particularly the assistance that these actors provide. The analytical approach is to take into consideration both religious ideas and experiences as well as the everyday practices of people and the socio-economic structures within which they live. The empirical focus is on Congolese Christian congregations in Kampala, Uganda that for the most are founded and attended by refugees. I analyse the forms of assistance that are provided to refugees, how this is conceptualised as well as the practices in a perspective that includes the intersection between religious ideas (compassion and sacrifice) and ideas around social relationships, gift-giving and reciprocity.
Bakker, Sarah. 2013. Fragments of a Liturgical World: Syriac Christianity and the Dutch Multicultural Debates. Doctoral Dissertation, Dept. of Anthropology. Santa Cruz, CA: University of California-Santa Cruz.
Abstract: This dissertation explores the reconfiguration of Syriac Orthodox liturgical tradition among Aramaic-speaking Christian refugees in the Netherlands. Under the pressures of Dutch integration policy and the global politics of secular recognition, the Syriac liturgy is rapidly losing its significance as the central axis of social life and kinship-relations in the Syriac Orthodox diaspora. As such, it has become a site for debate over how to be religiously, culturally, and ethnically distinct despite the narrative binary of Christian Europe and the Muslim Middle East that dominates Dutch multiculturalism discourse. Every week, young Syriac Orthodox women and men congregate at their churches to practice singing the liturgy in classical Syriac. What they sing, and how they decide to sing it, mediates their experiments in religious and ethical reinvention, with implications for their efforts at political representation. Singers contend not only with conditions of inaudibility produced by histories of ethnic cleansing, migration, and assimilation, but also with the fragments of European Christianity that shape the sensory regime of secular modernity. Public debates over the integration of religious minorities illuminate this condition of fragmentation, as well as the contest over competing conceptions of ethical personhood inherent in the politics of pluralism in Europe.
Publisher’s Description: The Religious Society of Friends and its service organization, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), have long been known for their peace and justice activism. The abolitionist work of Friends during the antebellum era has been well documented, and their contemporary anti-war and anti-racism work is familiar to activists around the world. Quaker Brotherhood is the first extensive study of the AFSC’s interracial activism in the first half of the twentieth century, filling a major gap in scholarship on the Quakers’ race relations work from the AFSC’s founding in 1917 to the beginnings of the civil rights movement in the early 1950s.
Allan W. Austin tracks the evolution of key AFSC projects, such as the Interracial Section and the American Interracial Peace Committee, that demonstrate the tentativeness of the Friends’ activism in the 1920s, as well as efforts in the 1930s to make scholarly ideas and activist work more theologically relevant for Friends. Documenting the AFSC’s efforts to help European and Japanese American refugees during World War II, Austin shows that by 1950 Quakers in the AFSC had honed a distinctly Friendly approach to interracial relations that combined scholarly understandings of race with their religious views.
In tracing the transformation of one of the most influential social activist groups in the United States over the first half of the twentieth century, Quaker Brotherhood presents Friends in a thoughtful, thorough, and even-handed manner. Austin portrays the history of the AFSC and race–highlighting the organization’s boldness in some aspects and its timidity in others–as an ongoing struggle that provides a foundation for understanding how shared agency might function in an imperfect and often racist world.
Highlighting the complicated and sometimes controversial connections between Quakers and race during this era, Austin uncovers important aspects of the history of Friends, pacifism, feminism, American religion, immigration, ethnicity, and the early roots of multiculturalism.