Lindhardt, “New ways of being Pentecostal in Latin America”

Lindhardt, Martin. ed. 2016. New ways of being Pentecostal in Latin America. Lanham: Lexington. 

Publisher’s Description: The explosive growth of Pentecostalism has radically transformed Latin America’s religious landscape within the last half century or so. In a region where Catholicism reigned hegemonic for centuries, the expansion of Pentecostalism has now resulted in a situation of religious pluralism and competition, bearing much more resemblance to the United States than to the Iberian motherlands. Furthermore, the fierce competition from Pentecostal churches has inspired significant renewals of Latin American Catholicism, most notably the growth of a Catholic Charismatic movement. However, another and more recent source of religious pluralism and diversity in Latin America is an increasing pluralization and diversification of Pentecostalism itself and of the ways in which individual Pentecostals exercise their faith. By carefully exploring this diversification, the book at hand breaks new ground in the literature on Latin American Christianity. Particular attention is focused on new ways of being Pentecostal and on the consequences of recent transformations of Christianity for individuals, faith communities and societies.

More specifically, the chapters of the book look into certain transformations of Pentecostalism such as: theological renewals and new kinds of religious competition between Pentecostal churches; a growing political and civic engagement of Pentecostals; an observed de-institutionalization of Pentecostal religious life and the negotiation individual Pentecostal identities, composed of multiple intra- and extra-ecclesial points of identification; and the emergence of new generations of Pentecostals (children of Pentecostal parents), many of whom have higher levels of education and higher incomes than the previous generations within their churches. In addition, Catholic responses to Pentecostal competition are also addressed in several chapters of the book.

Robbins, “Religious Pluralism and Values Pluralism”

Robbins, Joel. 2015 [2014]. Religious Pluralism and Values Pluralism: Ritual and the Management of Intercultural Diversity. Debates do NER 2(26): 15-41. [English Translation]

[Link to Original Portuguese Language Version, including responses by Aparecida Vilaça, Cecília L. Mariz, Johanna Sumiala, Luiz Fernando Diaz Duarte, Maria Laura Viveiros de Castro Cavalcanti, Pablo Semán, Thomas J. Csordas, & Ramon Sarro, and a reply by Joel Robbins] 

Excerpt: I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to present this talk at a meeting on the theme of “Pluralism and Interculturality: Flows and Religious Itineraries.” The topic is a timely and important one in a world where a heightened concern with the public role of religion is rooted in, among other things, a realization that almost everywhere more than one religion is vying for the chance to influence social and political life. But I should confess at the outset that where religious pluralism is concerned, I feel myself to be at something of a comparative disadvantage in present company. In the introduction to a 1995 volume of essays that took on the relationship between ritual and pluralism, one of my key themes here, Jan Platvoet and Karel van der Toorn (1995: 10) note that Brazil “may serve, as perhaps no other [society], as a laboratory for the study of plurality and pluralism.” Discussions of the nature of religious pluralism, the way it is lived out by religious practitioners, and the problems it raises for social scientific analysis are arguably more developed in scholarship in and about Brazil than in any other body of literature. As a scholar of global Pentecostalism, I have been stimulated by a good deal of this scholarship, but I know that what I have read is only the tip of a huge iceberg of important literature, much of it more conceptually sharp than my own present work on this subject, which is at a very early stage of development. I fear, then, that in talking about religious pluralism here today, I run the risk of not only of carrying coals to Newcastle, but of carrying coals of a quality decidedly inferior to the local varieties as well.

Faced with what I am quite sure is a justified sense of inferiority in my understanding of the contemporary literature on religious diversity, I am going to rely on two time honored scholarly strategies for maneuvering out of tight spots of this kind. One of these is quite general in nature and involves somewhat subtly changing the subject in ways that bring it on to ground I have some experience in covering. I deploy this strategy here by shifting our focus first from religious pluralism as it is most often understood to value pluralism, which I want to suggest ought to be seen as a closely related issue, and also by directing our attention away from religion in general to ritual, which I will argue is an aspect of religion that is centrally involved in the expression of values. My second strategy is a more specialized anthropological one, and involves developing my theoretical argument about value pluralism and ritual not through an analysis of the religious situation in Brazil or in any other large, religiously and culturally diverse nation state, but rather in a very small Papua New Guinea community in which everyone insists that they are members of the same religion and where I happen to have carried out anthropological fieldwork. Toward the end of the paper, once I have worked through the kind of analysis of pluralism I am proposing in this Papua New Guinea setting, I will try to bring my account back to more familiar social terrain for the discussion of religious pluralism, but that is not where I will start.

My intention in implementing these two strategies – redefining the problem of religious pluralism and enlarging the range of places in which it might make sense to study it – is not to displace or discredit more usual ways of discussing this topic. I have no interest in doing this, nor would I have the expertise needed to bring it off successfully. I simply want to suggest another angle from which it might make sense to look at problems of pluralism. This is not, then, a critical intervention into the existing discussion of religious pluralism. At best, it hopes simply to be a suggestive and perhaps somewhat novel one. With this in mind, we can start with what it might mean to set aside religious pluralism as it is usually understood in favor of a focus on value pluralism.


Mosse, “The Saint in the Banyan Tree”

Mosse, David.  2012.  The Saint in the Banyan Tree: Christianity and Caste Society in India.  Berkeley: University of California Press.

Publisher’s Description: The Saint in the Banyan Tree is a nuanced and historically persuasive exploration of Christianity’s remarkable trajectory as a social and cultural force in southern India. Starting in the seventeenth century, when the religion was integrated into Tamil institutions of caste and popular religiosity, this study moves into the twentieth century, when Christianity became an unexpected source of radical transformation for the country’s ‘untouchables’ (dalits). Mosse shows how caste was central to the way in which categories of ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ were formed and negotiated in missionary encounters, and how the social and semiotic possibilities of Christianity lead to a new politic of equal rights in South India. Skillfully combining archival research with anthropological fieldwork, this book examines the full cultural impact of Christianity on Indian religious, social and political life. Connecting historical ethnography to the preoccupations of priests and Jesuit social activists, Mosse throws new light on the contemporary nature of caste, conversion, religious synthesis, secularization, dalit politics, the inherent tensions of religious pluralism, and the struggle for recognition among subordinated people.

Etter, “‘Women With No One’: Community and Christianity in a Secular South Indian Homeless Shelter”

Etter, Connie, (2012) “”Women With No One”: Community and Christianity in a Secular South Indian Homeless Shelter.” Anthropology – Dissertations. Syracuse University, Susan Wadley, Advisor. Paper 96.

Abstract: This dissertation examines daily life and social service practices in a secular homeless shelter for women in Tamil Nadu, south India. The residents of the shelter have diverse backgrounds but local staff members and volunteers describe them collectively as “women with no one”: unwed mothers, orphans, widows, women abandoned or abused by husbands and lovers, former sex workers, prisoners’ wives, and women deemed mentally or physically unfit for marriage. Daily negotiations of belonging take place among this transient and diverse group of marginalized women and equally diverse and transnational care providers. The closed shelter campus provides an opportunity to query the everyday experience of secularism and pluralism. Shelter board members emphasize these concepts as guiding principles of the institution. Indeed, they are touted in many settings as a necessary and laudable framework for democratic life in globalized and increasingly diverse populations. But how do individuals and communities, in everyday life and interactions, understand and engage with such abstract ideals?

Ethnographic research, conducted between August 2008 and August 2009, revealed important insights regarding the ideals shaping the secular goals of the shelter, namely women’s social rehabilitation. First, the definition of secularism cannot be assumed and is not universal. Inline with commonsense equations of secularism and pluralism in India, the secular goals of the shelter involved passionate displays of religious conviction, continuous ethical deliberation, and reflection on cultural ideals of womanhood and family. Secularism, in other words, was a religious, cultural, and gendered idea and practice. Second, just as there were many secularisms, many Christianities were embodied and articulated within the shelter. The institution depended on various local and international Christian communities for donations of time and money. They each had different understandings of the relationship between Christianity and women’s social rehabilitation. Third, cultural ideals are fragile. The social stigma faced by women living outside of patriarchal family structures and the forced intimacy of women with diverse backgrounds living together on a closed campus emphasized this fact. Faced with the fragility of social and cultural ideals, women at the shelter took great risks to forge new terms of belonging, community, and womanhood.

Chao, “Blessed Fetishism”

Chao, En-Chieh (2011) “Blessed fetishism: Language ideology and embodied worship among Pentecostals in Java” Culture and Religion 12(4):373-399

Abstract: A prominent trend of late Christianity has been a cultivation of ‘unmediated’ inspiration realised in embodied worship, notably glossolalia, ecstasy and verbal exuberance. Speaking unfathomable language and embracing spontaneous feelings, Pentecostals in Java have relied on and reworked local language ideologies by passionately employing both the babbling and yelling forms of code-switching in Indonesian, English, Hebrew and glossolalia, in an aspiration to achieve ‘true worshiper-hood’. A closer scrutiny of some elements of this embodied worship against the larger religiously heterogeneous context, furthermore, reveals the salient impacts of cross-religious relations on the process of shaping Pentecostal Christianity. This article argues that specific forms of Pentecostal worship can be better understood when situated in Muslim–Christian relations. Specifically, they speak to a thriving form of religious fetishism that is locally primed for a distinct voice out of the flourishing movements of Islamic resurgence.