Hovland, “Christianity, place/space, and anthropology”

Hovland, Ingie. 2016. Christianity, place/space, and anthropology: thinking across recent research on evangelical place-making. Religion. DOI: 10.1080/0048721X.2016.1143054 [Pre-publication release]

Abstract: Place-making is a central activity for Christian groups. Yet the scholarly literature contains little comparative conversation on local Christian theories of place. This article ‘thinks across’ ten ethnographic descriptions of evangelical communities in order to pay attention to what these Christians pay attention to in their everyday place-making. It discusses seven problematics that commonly recur in evangelical place-work (namely linguistic, material, temporal, personhood, translocal, transcendent, and worldly concerns). This analysis nuances current anthropological debates on Protestant materiality, temporality, and personhood. The article argues that a central tenet of evangelicals’ place- making is a simultaneous taking apart and bringing together of faith and place. This results in a simultaneous fusing and ‘unfusing’ of situation and setting, which cannot be labeled either displacement or thorough emplacement. More broadly, evangelical place-making provides a modern example of deterritorialization that is different from placelessness. It also speaks to the complex interplay between ideals, intentionality, and agency.

Formenti, “Going for God”

Formenti, Ambra. 2014. Going for God: Mobility, Place and Temporality among Evangelical Guineans in Lisbon. Doctoral Dissertation, Dept. of Anthropology. Lisbon, Portugal: University of Lisbon.

Abstract: In the last decades the intensification of migratory flows has led to a gradual pluralisation of urban religious landscapes in Europe. One of the most relevant aspects of this process is the spreading of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches founded by African migrants, a phenomenon that contributed to the emergence of new configurations of Christianity in Europe. The town of Lisbon (Portugal), a place where different experiences of spirituality and distinct worldviews meet and interact, is an emblematic case of religious encounter between deep-rooted Catholicism and imported forms of Christianity. This dissertation provides an ethnography of Guinean Evangelical Christianity in Lisbon, focusing on the case of the Missão Evangélica Lusófona (MEL), a church settled in the outskirts of Lisbon and attended mostly by migrants from Guinea-Bissau.

Taking the MEL as a case-study of African Churches in the diaspora, I try to describe
and analyse the centrality of religion in the lives of Evangelical Guinean migrants in Lisbon.
My central argument is that, in this context, religious faith appears as a way to make sense of the experiences of dislocation and re-location of believers. Accordingly, in the following
pages I portray MEL as an emblematic example of how Evangelical Christianity sustains
migrants in their transnational movements while concurringly enables them to create a sense of place in the localities in which they chose to dwell.

Furthermore, by examining the experiences and life stories of MEL’s members, I
address a series of issues, such as: the meaning of conversion for individuals and
communities; the connection between religious faith and the condition of stranger; the
relationship between global/universal and local/particular dimensions of religious identity; the ways in which religious actors appropriate and transform the urban space where they live in; the emergence and transformation of peculiar visions of space and time, including the ways how human groups produce their past, present and future.

Elisha, “Time and Place for Prayer”

Elisha, Omri. 2013. The Time and Place for Prayer: evangelical urbanism and citywide prayer movements. Religion 43(3): 312-330.

Abstract: This article explores a recent trend in evangelical revivalism known as ‘citywide prayer,’ a movement organized around prayer networks and public rituals that highlight religious concerns deemed specific to cities and metropolitan regions. Building on research that includes ethnographic fieldwork in Knoxville, Tennessee, and focusing on the discourse and practical strategies of citywide prayer, the article argues that advocates of this movement promote a style of evangelical urbanism in which prayer serves as a key medium for reimagining one’s sense of place, against the disorientation and alienation associated with urban life. Moreover, prayer is presented as a medium for marking time in non-secular terms, as is demonstrated in the use of technologies of religious discipline such as annotated prayer calendars, which invite participants to inhabit multiple coexisting temporalities. It is further suggested that when enacted this evangelical urbanism constitutes a form of urban praxis, enabling projects of emplacement that respond to larger forces that are seen otherwise to limit grassroots agency. Among the wider implications of this discussion is the observation that evangelical revivals, despite their well-known emphasis on individual salvation and millennialist fervor, are oriented toward and engaged with situated social realities of the ‘here and now,’ including the rhythms of daily life in modern cities.

Bielo, “Place-making in late modernity”

Bielo, James S. 2013. Urban Christianities: Place-making in late modernity. Religion 43(3): 301-311.

Seitz, “No Closure”

Seitz, John (2011) No Closure: Catholic Practice and Boston’s Parish Shutdowns. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Publisher’s Description: In 2004 the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston announced plans to close or merge more than eighty parish churches. Scores of Catholics—28,000, by the archdiocese’s count—would be asked to leave their parishes. The closures came just two years after the first major revelations of clergy sexual abuse and its cover up. Wounds from this profound betrayal of trust had not healed.

In the months that followed, distraught parishioners occupied several churches in opposition to the closure decrees. Why did these accidental activists resist the parish closures, and what do their actions and reactions tell us about modern American Catholicism? Drawing on extensive fieldwork and with careful attention to Boston’s Catholic history, Seitz tells the stories of resisting Catholics in their own words, and illuminates how they were drawn to reconsider the past and its meanings. We hear them reflect on their parishes and the sacred objects and memories they hold, on the way their personal histories connect with the history of their neighborhood churches, and on the structures of authority in Catholicism.

Resisters describe how they took their parishes and religious lives into their own hands, and how they struggled with everyday theological questions of respect and memory; with relationships among religion, community, place, and comfort; and with the meaning of the local church. No Closure is a story of local drama and pathos, but also a path of inquiry into broader questions of tradition and change as they shape Catholics’ ability to make sense of their lives in a secular world.

O’Neill, “Hands of Love”

O’Neill, Kevin Lewis. 2011. Hands of Love: Christian Outreach and the Spatialization of Ethnicity. In Securing the City: Neoliberalism, Space, and Insecurity in Postwar Guatemala. Edited by, Kevin Lewis O’Neill and Kedron Thomas. pp.165-192. Durham: Duke University Press.

Bielo, “Purity, Danger, and Redemption”

Bielo, James S. 2011. Purity, Danger, and Redemption: notes on urban missional Evangelicals. American Ethnologist 38(2):267-280.

Abstract: In this article, I examine how urban missional evangelicals in the United States cultivate a sense of place. Being “missional” refers to the desire to be a missionary in one’s own society, an idea that has spread widely through the Emerging Church movement. Proceeding from an ethnographic analysis of two urban pastors, I argue that being an urban missional evangelical means having an intricate, nuanced, but ultimately mediate sense of place. Grounded in a cultural logic that seeks distance from suburban evangelicalism, the urban missional sense of place exists as a lived critique of modernity, which I explore through Mary Douglas’s classic analysis of purity and danger.