Abstract: In Gamrie (a Scottish fishing village of 700 people and 6 Protestant churches), local experiences of ‘divine providence’ and ‘demonic attack’ abound. Bodily fluids, scraps of paper, video cassettes and prawn trawlers were immanent carriers of divine and demonic activity. Viewed through the lens of Weberian social theory, the experiences of Scottish fisher families show how the life of the Christian resembles an enchanted struggle between God and the Devil with the Christian placed awkwardly in-between. Because, locally, ‘there is no such thing as coincidence’, these Christians expected to experience both the transcendent ordering of life by divine providence through God’s immanence and the transcendent disordering of life by demonic attack through the Devil’s immanence. Where this ordering and disordering frequently occurred through everyday objects, seemingly mundane events – being given a washing machine or feeling sleepy in church – were experienced as material indexes of spiritual reality. Drawing on the work of Cannell (on transcendence), Keane (on indexicality) and Wagner (on symbolic obviation), this paper argues that attending to the materiality of Scottish Protestantism better equips the anthropology of religion to understand Christian experience by positing immanence as a kind of transcendence and transcendence as a kind of immanence.
Abstract: Based on data from the Danish part of the European Values Study 1981–2008, this article explores the validity of the claim for a spiritual revolution as proposed by Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead. The article suggests an operationalisation of spirituality. The results of the analyses are that religious values—Christian faith as well as spirituality—tend to be stable over an individual’s life course. This suggests that, if there is a spiritual revolution, it must be the product of cohort replacement. If a spiritual revolution is taking place, Christian faith would be expected to decline in younger cohorts while spirituality would increase, but an analysis of cohort support for Christian faith and spirituality from 1981 to 2008 shows that both were constant across cohorts. Thus Danish data contain no indication that a spiritual revolution is taking place or will take place. Finally, we show that, contrary to theoretical expectations, spirituality and Christian faith are strongly correlated. A closer analysis reveals an indirect and more complicated support for parts of the theory since the two variables are explained by different factors and it shows that Christian faith, but not spirituality, is correlated with morality.
Hein, Emily Jane Carter. 2013. The Semiotics of Diaspora: Language Ideologies and Coptic Orthodox Christianity in Berlin, Germany. Doctoral Dissertation, Dept. of Anthropology. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan.
Abstract: The dissertation is based on field research in Coptic Orthodox Church congregations in Germany, where Copts are living after emigration from Egypt. The data for the study are drawn from participant-observation, interviews, and recordings in these communities and include analysis of texts collected during fieldwork. The focus is on Copts’ ideologies of language in the diaspora, where their linguistic repertoires – Coptic (sacred language of religious texts), Arabic (most community members’ first language, spoken within the home or with other Copts), and German (language of the new location) – are being reconfigured. The dissertation has these main arguments: (1) in the liturgy and in its textual representations, the three languages are being interpreted as in a temporal progression, in which Arabic – devalued for its association with Islam and Arabs– is to be replaced by German, although there are some tensions surrounding this as yet incomplete process; (2) Copts are making a rhetorical effort, and (in effect) sociological project, to be identified with whites, Europe, and Christendom (seen as overlapping categories), thus evading German anti-immigrant prejudice and becoming part of the majority. This identification entails a semiotics of temporality as well, in the assertion that Christ came “out of Egypt” (as, more recently, did the Copts) – thus Egypt is to be included as the root domain of Christianity, rather than excluded from it because of its Muslim majority. This narrated past is part of Copts’ claim to inclusion in the (future) ecumene of Christianity. The author contends that the temporal progression implicit in the language shift in progress (1) can be seen as part of this wider semiotics of temporality (2). The present work contributes to debates on diaspora and the narrative construction of time and space. Its central themes of language ideologies, code repertoires, and textuality and performance are important topics in linguistic anthropology, the anthropology of Christianity and the anthropology of the Middle East and Europe. Detailing how Copts in the diaspora bring to life a dead language, while enthusiastically shifting to German, the dissertation is an ethnography of language contact and language shift.
Haladewicz-Grzelak, Malgorzata and Joanna Lubos-Koziel (2012) “Semiotic value in advertisements in Silesian Catholic Periodicals from the second half of the nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. Semiotica vol. 2012 no. 192 pp. 381-425.
Abstract: The paper studies semiotic values in advertisements appearing in German Catholic periodicals in Silesia in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The study is grounded in the Tartu School of Semiotics and shows shifts and hierarchies in the semiotic valuations of particular commodities. Collected advertisements were classified into four main groups: (1) books, (2) church art, (3) church and devotional accessories, (4) everyday life commodities. We motivate the claim that the group (2) of the advertisements in the Catholic press we analyzed was the driver for the introduction of the remaining two categories of ads, hence the study of this group is pivotal for our analysis. The parameters of center, periphery, and “border,” as between the sacred and the profane are also taken into account, within the structural interrelation of Sr (religious system) (cf. Zaliźniak et al. 1975 ) and Sc (commercial code). Assuming the usefulness of explanatory mechanisms, in conclusion a heuristic interpretation is provided in terms of the relations of semiotic primes.
Opening Paragraphs: Few recent legislative enactments in the United Kingdom have wrought so much controversy as the Equality Act 2010.1 The far-ranging legislation, aiming to enhance civil rights and social inclusion, provides a unique opportunity to analyze how equality is perceived by UK governments and the implications this has for Christian constituencies, given that the right to religious freedom may, in some instances, be at variance with the right to object on moral and theological grounds to the liberties and citizenship of individuals designated to have “protected characteristics.” The Act, therefore, provides the subject of a searching examination of the issues between church and state in balancing these competing freedoms.
Although this article offers such an examination, it also considers how Christian groupings, which are by no means homogeneous in their views and sometimes have differing interpretations of religious liberties, have responded to controversies generated by the legislation. It is evident that many of the core issues relate to matters of sexual rights and the potential conflict between these rights and religious rights to oppose them; this is evidenced by inclusion of religious conscience clauses in UK legislation. The article outlines viewpoints of Christian members of the UK Parliament, Christian churches, and lobbying groups. It considers their response during the passage of the Act through Parliament and since its enactment. Finally, the article raises issues of church-state relationships connecting with rights in a Western secular environment and considers the implications of contradictory rights and the possible emergence of a hierarchy of rights.
Abstract: Based upon qualitative research in Glasgow, Scotland, this article examines transformations in religious identity and practices of young socially and economically included Christians, aged 16–27. The authors argue that young people’s religiosity has been shaped by large-scale social trends in the West, including secularisation and pluralisation. They argue that these influences have promoted a religiosity that de-emphasises propositional belief systems in favour of what they call ‘performance Christianity’, which highlights religious action in the everyday or secular, combined with a discourse of authenticity and a pluralistic approach to institutions and religious spaces. Finally, the authors consider the ways in which young people’s performance Christianity destabilises traditional ideas about belief and what it means to be Christian.