Klaits & McLean, “Valuing Black Lives: Pentecostalism, charismatic gifts, and human economies in a U.S. inner city”

Klaits, Frederick and Shenita A. McLean. 2015. Valuing Black lives: Pentecostalism, charismatic gifts, and human economies in a U.S. inner city. American Ethnologist 42(4): 610-623. 

Abstract: A common trope in recent Black popular literature compares pastors and pimps on the grounds that both collect money from their dependents. We frame this comparison in terms of regimes of value operating in U.S. inner cities, where the commercial economy and legal system commonly fail to affirm the personhood of the racialized poor. Drawing on fieldwork in Buffalo, New York, we show that in eliciting tithes and protection money, pastors and pimps combine care and exploitation in ways that assert the value of their own and others’ lives against heavy odds. We extend the concept of “human economy” developed by David Graeber to these transactions, arguing that pimps and pastors construe the money they gather in terms of its power to recognize the value of the lives of givers, askers, and receivers.

Jacobs, “‘Giving God his due?'”

Jacobs, Evan Carl Edward.  2015. “Giving God his due?” Understanding tithing and its function within the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.  Anthropology Southern Africa. Early online publication.

Abstract: This paper focuses on the practice of tithing as an extraordinary form of religious giving. Tithing involves habitually giving ten percent of one’s income to the church, and since this is such a significant portion of a person’s income, its giving should reflect that significance. The paper seeks to understand why people tithe, and whether they expect anything in return from the community to which they tithe. In an attempt to find answers, attention is placed on members of the South African division of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, as this denomination has exhibited an upward trend in tithe-giving behaviour over the last decade. The information gathered through participant-observation is analysed by placing it within an anthropological discourse of gift-exchange. Through this lens, the paper argues that tithing functions to produce group solidarity by maintaining the relationships between clergy, laity and their deity.

Premawardhana, “Transformational Tithing”

Premawardhana, Devaka. 2012. Transformational Tithing: Sacrifice and Reciprocity in a Neo-Pentecostal Church. Nova Religio 15(4):85-109.

Abstract: This article examines a controversy surrounding the theology of prosperity associated with neo-Pentecostalism: the aggressive soliciting of tithes from largely underclass worshippers, and the eagerness of those worshippers to respond beyond what seems financially sound. Drawing on ethnographic research among Cape Verdean immigrants in a Boston branch of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, I argue that a sense of empowerment often accompanies sacrificial tithing. This sense comes through the insertion of worshippers into multiple relations of reciprocity. Those whom I observed submitting to their pastor’s calls to tithe should not, therefore, be glibly dismissed as victims of alienation or brainwashing. Their expressions of devotion are active and creative strategies of self-transformation in response to the precariousness of the migrant’s life-world.