Abstract: This paper focuses on contemporary charismatic Christian practices of spiritual warfare and its techniques of warfare prayer. The paradigm of “global spiritual warfare” with its apocalyptic visions, violent language and its obsession with enemies, appears as a particularly polemical instance of Christian supersessionism and expansionism. Drawing on material from Nigeria and the United States, I briefly explore two related axes in order to bring to light the centrality of prayer conceived as a form of political praxis. First, the ways in which charismatic Christianity self-consciously and antagonistically constructs itself as a global force. In this global expansion, prayer as an embodied form of inspired speech is central both to the construction of militant subjects and the occupation of public space. Secondly, since the violence of spiritual warriors is mostly effected through their prayers and testimonies, we are led to question the place of an activist, pragmatist, or even performative model of truth for a political problematics of emancipation and democratization.
By: Jörg Haustein (SOAS, University of London)
Wariboko’s book is an important contribution to the by now substantial array of studies on Nigerian Pentecostalism, and yet it is one of a kind. Instead of providing another historical, political, or socio-economic analysis of the “Pentecostal explosion” in Africa’s most populous country, Wariboko seeks to unlock its secrets from within, by producing a philosophical analysis of Nigerian Pentecostal spirituality and theology. His closest conversation partner is Ruth Marshall, whose influence is acknowledged at the outset and implicitly or explicitly engaged throughout the book.
Part IV: Review Forum, The Anthropology of Christianity: Unity, Diversity, New Directions
Christianity in a world of normative entanglements: reflexivity, conversion, and materiality
By Bruno Reinhardt (Utrecht University)
The three articles here under review are part of the subsection entitled “Key topics” of the recently released special issue of Current Anthropology – “The Anthropology of Christianity: Unity, Diversity, New Directions” – edited by Joel Robbins and Naomi Haynes. More than extensive overviews of some of the central themes animating the Anthropology of Christianity since its inception – reflexivity, conversion, and materiality – these articles allow three leading scholars in this field to clarify and produce new input into their long-term research projects. Albeit challenging, the very possibility of producing a joint review of such rich and singular works by unearthing not only disagreements, but also potential complementarities, testifies to the success and vitality of the Anthropology of Christianity as a comparative field of inquiry whose questions have resonated across highly diverse theoretical canons, scholarly trajectories, and field sites.
Abstract: In this article I engage with the conceptual difficulties that studying Christianity poses for anthropology, revisiting and expanding on the critical moves made in the development of the subfield, especially in debates among Robbins, Haynes, Cannell, Garriott, and O’Neill. In particular, I consider the theoretical challenges and the political implications involved in elaborating an adequate concept of Christianity or the Christian. I argue that studying Christianity as a “tradition” implicates the anthropologist in much more than the study of “a religion,” and while Asad’s approach to the study of Islam is methodologically sound, applying it to the case of Christianity involves specific challenges. I use my reading of these methodological and conceptual challenges to critically consider the ways in which anthropology engages with alterity as an epistemological or ethical ground and the political implications of this engagement. Finally, I offer some methodological insights drawn from my study of Pentecostal Christianity that might assist the researcher in studying these specific forms of Christian practice today.