Abstract: This article explores the tension between Pope Francis as a ‘trickster’ and as a much-needed reformer of the Catholic Church at large. He is an exemplar of the longue durée of an embodied ‘ Atlantic Return’ from the Americas to the ‘heart’ of Catholicism (Rome and the Vatican), with its ambivalent, racialized history. Through the mobilization of material religion, sensuous mediations, and the case of the Lampedusa crosses in particular, I engage with an anthropological analysis of Francis as a Criollo and the first-ever Jesuit pope. Examining Francis’s papacy overlapping racial and ethico-political dimensions, I identify coordinates around which the rhetorical, affective, and charismatic force of Francis as a Criollo has been actualized-between, most crucially, proximity and distance, as well as pastoral versus theological impulses. This article advances an understanding of Francis that emerges from a study of the conjuncture of affective fields, political theology, racialized aesthetics, and mediatic interface.
Abstract: African Americans regularly join Eastern Orthodox churches in the United States. By focusing on what practitioners do with Orthodox icons, this case study explores the processes through which specific experiences and expressions of being an Orthodox Christian become possible and meaningful for African American practitioners. This article suggests that saint veneration became a compelling Orthodox practice to practitioners because it provided a unique way to connect to the divine and to resist continuing racial discrimination in the United States. With the help of icons, African American men and women demonstrated that African people were saints, that African women contributed significantly to the history of Christianity, and that African Americans performed saintly acts. In this way, practitioners aimed to cultivate a reconciled Christian community where the full and equal membership of people of African descent is taken for granted. In following how Orthodox Christians put the materiality of their icons to work to deconstruct the assumption that whiteness is a universal default for religious experience, this article urges scholars of African American religions to make room for Eastern Orthodoxy as yet another tradition that supplies African Americans with creative tools to craft a compelling way of being a religious person.
Steinert, Isidora Urrutia and Eduardo Valenzuela Carvallo. 2019. “Religiosity at the Roadside: Memorials, Animitas, and Shrines on a Chilean Highway.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 34(3): 447-468.
Abstract: Roadside memorials devoted to vehicle-related deaths are increasingly common across the globe. Scholars have generally emphasised their commemorative status—as sites where a private memory is publicly displayed—underestimating, however, their religious dimension. This article is based on research which involved the content analysis of photographs taken during multiple visits to the 94 roadside memorials existing in 2015 on Route 78, a major Chilean highway connecting Santiago (Chile’s capital city) and San Antonio (one of the country’s main sea ports). We argue that Chilean roadside memorials are not solely commemorative sites but primarily animitas that have a core (popular) religious component: they are privileged locations where salvific grace is dispensed, acting as mediators between the living and the divinity and connecting the sacred and profane worlds. Furthermore, we suggest that the tragic nature of the deaths they commemorate confers on them a miraculous efficacy which may transform the sites into shrines and the victims into folk saints.
Abstract: Although dance is a common religious expression, its place in the Christian tradition has been contested. In modern Protestant Norway, dance has mostly been considered irrelevant to church life or even sinful. In recent decades, however, dance has become increasingly common in Norwegian churches. The present analysis of empirical data on dance in Christian settings in contemporary Norway is based on participant observation and interviews. While younger dancers (born after 1990) consider it natural to dance in church, and are usually welcome to do so, older participants have met significant resistance. When dancing, dancers find personal meaning (wellbeing, processing emotions and life events), social meaning (communication, belonging), and religious meaning (contact with God, prayer, growth). Dance emerges as a part of lived religion that clearly highlights how bodies matter, and how spiritualities are gendered, in this contribution to understanding the embodied dimensions of religion.
Abstract: This article examines a series of spatial practices called ‘cross walks’ and ‘cross vigils’ undertaken by a Pentecostal Christian church in West Belfast, Northern Ireland. It discusses the ways in which cross walk and vigil participants used imitative practices to bring divine power to bear on the urban spaces and place-specific issues of the church’s local area. The article begins by discussing the church itself, and the ways in which participants understand themselves as situated within the ethno-political designations of ‘Protestant’ and ‘Catholic’ in Northern Ireland. It studies the various exemplars set up for the spatial practices in official discourse, and the ways in which these exemplars created a gendered narrative. Finally, it examines the links to Northern Ireland’s parading tradition and the church pastor’s suggested response to a local dispute over parade routes.
Kirby, Benjamin. 2019. “Pentecostalism, Economics, Capitalism: Putting The Protestant Ethic to Work.” Religion 49(4): 571-591.
Abstract: In recent years, academic interest in the nexus between Pentecostalism, economics, and capitalism has grown significantly. Notably, the vast majority of publications that have addressed this interface are to some degree conceptually framed by Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. In this article I consider what The Protestant Ethic might contribute to our understanding of the relationship between Pentecostalism and capitalism. First, I assess a particularly noteworthy attempt to draw Pentecostalism into Weber’s genealogical account which draws a series of parallels between Pentecostalism and ascetic Protestantism. Second, I discuss the merits of an approach that is not primarily genealogical but remains indebted to the concepts that Weber introduces, elaborating a new affinity between Pentecostalism and capitalism in its present iteration. With this article, I seek to comprehensively extend the scope and sharpen the conceptual underpinnings of future analysis and empirical work in this area.
Publisher’s description: Faith in African Lived Christianity – Bridging Anthropological and Theological Perspectives offers a comprehensive, empirically rich and interdisciplinary approach to the study of faith in African Christianity. The book brings together anthropology and theology in the study of how faith and religious experiences shape the understanding of social life in Africa. The volume is a collection of chapters by prominent Africanist theologians, anthropologists and social scientists, who take people’s faith as their starting point and analyze it in a contextually sensitive way. It covers discussions of positionality in the study of African Christianity, interdisciplinary methods and approaches and a number of case studies on political, social and ecological aspects of African Christian spirituality.
Abstract: This article discusses the exorcism of Protestant spirits from Ethiopian Orthodox hosts in Addis Ababa. This controversial ritual is animated by injunctions to draw essential distinctions and boundaries between Protestantism and Orthodoxy, at a time of religious liberalisation. The expulsion of Protestant spirits provides an occasion to reaffirm the centrality of local Orthodoxy to Ethiopian identity, construing Protestantism as a foreign religion at odds with the country’s ancient Orthodox history. However, this ritual project is marked by profound ambiguities, as exorcism’s means, aesthetics and themes are suspiciously similar to those characteristic of Protestantism. By foregrounding ritual ambiguity, I argue that exorcism publically exposes and vividly magnifies the irreparable permeability of the very inter-religious boundaries that it seeks to demarcate. In contrast to classic understandings of ritual as an ordering process, exorcism rituals become hazardous events that balance uncertainly on the edge of the ever-present risk of becoming the other.
Abstract: During a Christian revival movement on Ahamb Island in Vanuatu in 2014, gender- and age-based hierarchies were inverted as women and children were given divine authority and men were positioned as threats to sociopolitical renewal. In analysing these events, I develop Kapferer’s insights on the inherent openness and unpredictability of ritual dynamics. However, I argue that such openness and unpredictability can also be tied to external factors including participants’ multiple and sometimes incompatible values and interests. Attempts to resolve ambiguities in ritual may eventually feed back into ritual ideology and practice in ways that make participants’ experiences disturbing and problematic rather than orderly and supportive.
Abstract: For members of the Pentecostal congregation Christ is the Answer Church in the highland province of Ifugao, the Philippines, Sunday services are important rituals with which they address societal and environmental problems. Through mediating forms such as testimony, singing praise and worship songs and praying, they attempt to make God present and thus bring about societal transformations. However, as I show in this article, these mediating forms contain also the possibility for the presence of Satan, and in many cases, the actual outcome of these mediating forms remains uncertain. While many have debated the ‘problem of presence’, this article draws on the ambiguity of mediating forms and demonstrates the problems that presence potentially creates. I use this case further for developing an approach to rituals that goes beyond the instrumental view on rituals that has often dominated anthropology and which emphasises their hazardous character.