High, “A Little Bit Christian”

High, Casey. 2016. “A Little Bit Christian”: Memories of Conversion and Community in Post-Christian Amazonia. American AnthropologistDOI: 10.1111/aman.12526

Abstract: Conversion to Christianity in Amazonia is often described in terms of collective action rather than radically new beliefs interior to the individual. I describe how Waorani people in Ecuador remember the conversion of specific elders as a time of civilization that brought Waorani into a wider social order after a period of violence and isolation. Despite having largely abandoned Christianity since their mass conversion in the 1960s, Waorani today embrace past conversion as a catalyst of social transformation that they say made the present ideal of living in a “community” possible. The individual experiences evoked in memories of collective “civilization” and an insistence on personal autonomy in Waorani visions of community illustrate why the moral commentaries of Waorani Christians remain highly valued in communities where Christianity has ceased to be a dominant social identity.

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.

Harkness, “Basic Kinship Terms: Christian Relations, Chronotopic Formulations, and a Korean Confrontation of Language”

Harkness, Nicholas. 2015.” Basic Kinship Terms: Christian Relations, Chronotopic Formulations, and a Korean Confrontation of Language.” Anthropological Quarterly 88(2):305-336.

Abstract: This ethnographic analysis of the pragmatic links among forms of address, honorifics, and narratives of spiritual maturity clarifies a conflict between two Christian models of social change in South Korea: absolute social rupture and transcendence, and progressive shifts in social orientation and institutional self-location. The focus is on a Protestant proposal for all Korean Christians to address one another with the terms hyŏngje-nim (brother) and chamae-nim (sister). While these terms promised to combine the intimacy of siblinghood with the clear marking of Christian status, they generally had the interactional effect of establishing distance where there was to be closeness and lowering where there was to be esteem. Furthermore, a simplification of address to these two basic kinship terms threatened to establish an ascetic mode of pragmatics that would override the intricate formal coding and indexing of status differentiation by the enregistered honorifics of Korean. Combined, these limited forms of address and the severe restriction of social deixis generated yet further conflict between different chronotopic formulations of social relations, namely between the narrative timespace internal to specific kinds of Korean social relations, and the generalized external narrative timespace of modern Korean Christian society at large.

Hunt (ed.), “Handbook of Global Contemporary Christianity”

Hunt, Stephen (ed).  2015. Handbook of Global Contemporary Christianity: Themes and Developments in Culture, Politics, and Society.  Leiden: Brill.

Publisher’s Description: The Handbook of Global Contemporary Christianity: Themes and Developments in Culture, Politics, and Society maps the transformations, as well as the continuities, of the largest of the major religions – engaging with the critical global issues which relate to the faith in a fast changing world. International experts in the area offer contributions focusing on global movements; regional trends and developments; Christianity, the state, politics and polity; and Christianity and social diversity. Collectively the contributors provide a comprehensive treatment of health of the religion as Christianity enters its third millennium in existence and details the challenges and dilemmas facing its various expressions, both old and new. The volume is a companion to the Handbook of Contemporary Global Christianity: Movements, Institutions, and Allegiance.

Occasional Paper: Mikeshin, “Russian Evangelicalism Glocalized”

Russian Evangelicalism Glocalized
Igor Mikeshin (University of Helsinki)

This paper echoes the idea of glocalization of Evangelical Christianity, suggested by Joel Robbins (2004). Robbins marks two simultaneous processes in Pentecostalism and Charismatic (P/C) Christianity as Westernizing homogenization and indigenizing differentiation. I suggest that Russian Evangelicalism’s relation to the Russian culture is glocal in a similar way: “a relationship of both rejection and preservation.” (Robbins 2004: 137) Russian Evangelical congregations, as well as P/C, are also to a great extent autonomous, egalitarian, and focused on evangelism.

Although I place Russian Evangelicalism in the Robbins’ model, there are remarkable differences between those two phenomena, constructing a distinct narrative of glocalization. These differences go beyond denominational features, or even explicit display of the Holy Spirit by P/C, and they rise from the dogmatics. Firstly, the emphasis on the direct interaction with God was spread through the vast activity of P/C missionaries. Initially it took form of planting and growing churches by the Western ministers, which can be also seen in Russia after 1991. However, Russian Evangelical groups, even Pentecostals, originated from the spiritual endeavors of certain Russian intellectuals, most remarkably Ivan Voronaev (Pentecostal) and Ivan Prokhanov (Evangelical Christian). They brought Western teachings to Russia, interpreted and transformed them on the basis of the Russian Bible, and constructed the narrative of response to the Orthodox spiritual monopoly and Russian sociocultural context.

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Daswani, “Looking Back, Moving Forward: Transformation and Ethical Practice in the Ghanaian Church of Pentecost “

Daswani, GIrish. 2015. Looking Back, Moving Forward: Transformation and Ethical Practice in the Ghanaian Church of Pentecost. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Publisher’s Description: How do Ghanaian Pentecostals resolve the contradictions of their own faith while remaining faithful to their religious identity? Bringing together the anthropology of Christianity and the anthropology of ethics, Girish Daswani’s Looking Back, Moving Forward investigates the compromises with the past that members of Ghana’s Church of Pentecost make in order to remain committed Christians.

Even as church members embrace the break with the past that comes from being  “born-again,” many are less concerned with the boundaries of Christian practice than with interpersonal questions – the continuity of suffering after conversion, the causes of unhealthy relationships, the changes brought about by migration – and how to deal with them. By paying ethnographic attention to the embodied practices, interpersonal relationships, and moments of self-reflection in the lives of members of the Church of Pentecost in Ghana and amongst the Ghanaian diaspora in London, Looking Back, Moving Forwardexplores ethical practice as it emerges out of the questions that church members and other Ghanaian Pentecostals ask themselves.

Telban, “The power of place: Spatio-temporality of a Melanesian religious movement”

Telban, Borut. 2013.  The power of place: Spatio-temporality of a Melanesian religious movement. Anthropological Notebooks 19(3):81–100.

Abstract: Over the years, several different renewal movements within Christianity have had a significant impact on Melanesian societies and cultures. In people’s aspirations for total transformation, however, there has often appeared one insurmountable obstacle: a firm bond between being and place. The Ambonwari people of the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea have faced the same problem since the Catholic charismatic movement reached the village in December 1994. Their cosmology and social organization have always been inseparable from their paths (journeys, marriages, exchanges, adoptions) and places (places of mythological ancestors, old and new villages, places of other groups, places for processing sago, fishing places, taboo places, camps), and their historicity was primarily perceived and defined in terms of place. The adherents of the Catholic charismatic movement attempt to abolish their emplaced past, transcend their territorial boundaries, and simultaneously modify their places. Because Ambonwari cosmology dealt with multiple spatio-temporalities, however, Catholic charismatic leaders find it difficult to undermine this diversity. It is this multiplicity of emplaced historicities that troubles them most and not simply time per se.

Engelhardt, “Singing the Right Way: Orthodox Christians and Secular Enchantment in Estonia”

Engelhardt, Jeffers. 2014. Singing the Right Way: Orthodox Christians and Secular Enchantment in Estonia. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s description: Singing the Right Way enters the world of Orthodox Christianity in Estonia to explore musical style in worship, cultural identity, and social imagination. Through both ethnographic and historical chapters, author Jeffers Engelhardt reveals how Orthodox Estonians give voice to the religious absolute in secular society. Based on a decade of fieldwork, Singing the Right Way traces the sounds of Orthodoxy in Estonia through the Russian Empire, interwar national independence, the Soviet-era, and post-Soviet integration into the European Union. Approaching Orthodoxy through local understandings of correct practice and correct belief, Engelhardt shows how religious knowledge, national identity, and social transformation illuminate how to “sing the right way” and thereby realize the fullness of Estonians’ Orthodox Christian faith in context of everyday, secular surroundings. Singing the Right Way is an innovative model of how the musical poetics of contemporary religious forms are rooted in both consistent sacred tradition and contingent secular experience. This landmark study is sure to be an essential text for scholars studying the ethnomusicology of religion.

Macdonald, “Always Been Christian”

Fraser Macdonald. 2014.. ‘Always been Christian’: Mythic Conflation among the Oksapmin of Papua New Guinea, Anthropological Forum: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Comparative Sociology, DOI: 10.1080/00664677.2014.886997. Early Online Publication.

Abstract:  Across the world and throughout history, people have negotiated religious and social change by marshalling the mythological resources at their disposal. In cases of conversion to Christianity, this dynamic has often taken the form of constructing an isomorphism between traditional mythical narratives and those learned from the Bible, a manifestation of the process I here call ‘mythic conflation’. In this article I explore how the Oksapmin of the West Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, have conflated aspects of Bible stories with two of their traditional narratives in an attempt to overcome cosmological contradiction. From the etic perspective, this has partially collapsed difference in the construction of syncretic religious forms. From the emic perspective, by constructing for themselves an ancestral precedent of this kind, the Oksapmin support a claim of having revealed the mystery of Christianity’s local origin.

Lindhardt, “Pentecostalism and politics in neoliberal Chile”

Lindhardt, Martin. 2012. Pentecostalism and politics in neoliberal Chile. Ibero Americana (Stockholm) 42(1-2): 59-84. 

Abstract: This article explores historical and contemporary relationships between Pentecostalism and politics in Chile. The first part of the article provides an historical account of the growth and consolidation of Pentecostal religion within changing political environments and sheds light on Pentecostal stances to and involvements with the political sphere. In particular, it focuses on how a culture of political disenchantment has emerged in post- dictatorial neo-liberal Chile, creating a symbolic void that can be filled by religious movements. The second part of the article discusses possible affinities between Pentecostalism as a religious culture and democratic principles and values. It argues that although Pentecostalism may contain certain democratic qualities, there is also a striking compatibility between, on the one hand, Pentecostal theistic understandings of politics and social change, and, on the other, a neo-liberal social order, where political apathy is widespread and where a privatised rather than a communal and associative sense of progress predominates