Abstract: The relationship between Christianity and anthropology is complex. At one level, Christianity has deeply affected anthropology, both through the wider intellectual tradition from which anthropology developed and through the religious practices and imaginations of particular leading historical figures. At the same time, there has been animus both toward Christian anthropologists and toward the study of avowedly Christian populations qua Christians. Anxiety over this reluctance to focus on Christian populations has led some anthropologists to establish a self‐consciously comparative “anthropology of Christianity”; the resulting conversation has made contributions to anthropological debates about temporality, language use, economy and exchange, and personhood. While scholars working in this area have tended to focus on Pentecostalisms outside Euro‐America, and on politically conservative activist religion in Euro‐America, increasingly other forms of Christianity, such as Catholicism and Orthodoxy, are receiving attention as part of an “anthropology of Christianity” as well.
Abstract: Lighthouse Chapel International (LCI) is a Ghanaian Pentecostal-charismatic organization with a transnational reach. In this article, I analyze the pedagogical system whereby this denomination has introduced converts into its ‘church planting’ mission. LCI leaders are keenly aware of both the necessity and the perils of discipline to the Christian life, exemplifying two stances of Pentecostal-charismatic ethics and politics: its quantitative concern with accessibility, and its qualitative concern with piety. Attempts to balance these relatively autonomous trends engender a gradational and distributive approach to discipline and leniency in LCI, which calibrates disciplinary demands according to converts’ level of ‘spiritual maturity’. This article takes the dialectics of discipline and lenience that characterizes LCI’s ecclesiology as an opportunity to reconsider religious subject formation beyond the dominant problem of ‘self-fashioning’.
Kormina, Jeanne, and Sonja Luehrmann. 2018. “The Social Nature of Prayer in a Church of the Unchurched: Russian Orthodox Christianity from Its Edges.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 86 (2): 394-424.
Abstract: The Russian Orthodox Church portrays itself as a hierarchically ordered and socially influential “public religion,” but occupies quite a tenuous position in contemporary Russian society. Following Marcel Mauss’s idea of prayer as a social phenomenon, we argue that lay intercessory prayer as a way of assuming social responsibility is key to extending the Church’s reach into the lives of casual believers (so-called zakhozhane). Although individualization of religious practice does occur in post-Soviet Russia, contemporary Russian Orthodox prayer is less about personal self-culti- vation than about claiming and exercising competence within interper- sonal networks. The notion of prayer as practical competence helps to understand the role of lay prayer in a clerically dominated church, and explains the enduring role of established, mainstream denominations as ambient faith in a secular society.
Abstract: This article attends to the central role of video and projection screens in transnational multisite churches based in South Korea. Drawing on field research in Seoul and in Los Angeles, this article illustrates how the relationship between congregants and the screens themselves is a condition for the emergence of a particular configuration of Christian community, which I will peirastically call “screen Christianity.” The place of screens and their related practices undergird theological conceptions of contact and community, such that screens are said to transmit healing touches and pastors are understood to be present through the proliferation of their screened image. Considering these Christian churches as engaging in screen Christianity highlights how particular material configurations animate these church bodies and ultimately make such transnational communities imaginable
Melissa Wilcox’s recent book, Queer Nuns: Religion, Activism, and Serious Parody, explores the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an order of queer activists devoted to community-based activism. The Sisters both spoof nuns and argue that they are nuns, adopting an innovative form of engagement that Wilcox dubs “serious parody.”
Participants: Melissa M. Wilcox (University of California, Riverside) and Hillary Kaell (Concordia University)
HK: Tell us a bit about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence: who are they and what was the context for the order’s creation in the late 1970s?
MW: The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are a religiously-unaffiliated, international order of self-described “queer nuns” with houses (non-residential chapters) on four continents around the world today. They were founded rather unintentionally at first, on Easter Saturday of 1979, when three bored gay men put on retired Roman Catholic nuns’ habits left over from an Iowa City drag show and walked through some of the gay areas of San Francisco. They “manifested” a few more times because they thought they’d hit on something powerful and the group gelled around four founding members who were steeped in Catholicism (one had attended seminary from the ninth grade until well into university, and another had been raised Catholic), spirituality (one was a Transcendental Meditation teacher), radical activism (two had been the founders of the University of Iowa chapter of the Gay Liberation Front, and one of those was a former Mennonite who’d cut his activist teeth in high school organizing a Vietnam War protest), and the arts (one was a choreographer and dance therapist, another had a graduate degree in radio and television broadcasting, and one was strongly drawn to the arts despite having no formal training). So between them they had all of the influences that initially shaped the order. Within a few years, public health nurses like AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell, also known as Sister Florence Nightmare, became important influences too. Continue reading
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In order to support the scholars who submitted their research to Hau in good faith that their work would benefit others through an open access platform, we will continue to post bibliographic entries from Hau. We hope our decision to continue posting will be understood as a practice of support for the authors who publish in the journal and for open access publishing, not a complicit endorsement of any alleged abuse of power.
Abstract: Anthropological insights are not produced or constructed through reasoned discourse alone. Often they appear to be given in “leaps of faith” as the anthropologist’s conceptual grasp upon the world is lost. To understand these peculiar moments, we adopt the Kierkegaardian concept of religious faith, not as certitude in some transcendental principle, but as a deeply paradoxical mode of knowing, whose paths bend and twist through glimpses of understanding, doubt, and existential resignation. Pointing to the ways in which such revelatory and disruptive experiences have influenced the work of many anthropologists, we argue that anthropology is not simply a social science, but also a theology of sorts, whose ultimate foundation might not simply be reason but faith.
Abstract: Praise dance is a Christian movement genre, popular among churchgoing women of color in the United States, characterized by the use of interpretive dances as vehicles of liturgical worship, testimony, and evangelism. Combining spiritual and artistic disciplines, including techniques derived from ballet and modern dance, black female praise dancers embody the gospel and cultivate religious authority in ways that reinforce orthodox norms while elevating creative skills and aesthetic sensibilities normally found outside the purview of religious tradition. Such efforts, and the challenges and opportunities they entail, demonstrate how the movement of cultural forms between secular and religious domains inﬂuences ritual innovations and the terms in which they are authorized. They also show how gendered conceptions of embodiment and power may be reimagined.
Abstract: This article analyses the historical course of the Evangelical minority in Guinea-Bissau, its transformations, its recent expansion and its current engagement with the public sphere. First, I trace the trajectory of the Guinean Evangelical movement from the 1940s to the present, against the background of the process of decolonization and the post-Independence history of the country. Second, I examine the recent impact of Pentecostal and Charismatic forms of Christianity on local Evangelical churches, following the transnational circulation of believers and missionaries, on the one hand, and the arrival of new international churches, mostly from Brazil and other African countries, on the other. Third, I place the current flowering of Evangelical and Pentecostal denominations in the broader context of a general shift to universal religions throughout the country. Within this framework, I argue, this success can be read as expression of a widespread craving for modernity and mobility, both in rural and urban Guinea-Bissau.
Kalkun, Andreas, Kupari, Helena, and Vuola, Elina. 2018. “Coping with Loss of Homeland through Orthodox Christian Processions: Contemporary Practices among Setos, Karelians, and Skolt Sámi in Estonia and Finland.” Practical Matters Journal. 11.
Abstract: In this article, we focus on the coping, healing, and commemorative aspects of religious rituals, discussing three annual religious feasts that also have significance as expressions of ethnic culture. They are the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God of the PskovoPechersky Monastery, the Saarivaara Chapel temple feast in North Karelia, and the pilgrimage of Saint Tryphon in Finnish Lapland. All take the form of Orthodox Christian processions or pilgrimages and are situated in symbolically significant landscape in the historical home area of minority groups – Setos, (Border) Karelians, and Skolt Sámi. The article relies first and foremost on research material gathered through participant observation in these three religious feasts. We are interested in how the Orthodox religion, through the processions and pilgrimages that are our focus, functions as a coping mechanism for the loss of homeland and other traumas related to changing national borders. The issues of loss and trauma are present in all our case studies. The three religious feasts express hardships related to (forced) migration and minority identity in concrete and visible ways. Our analysis demonstrates that the Orthodox religion continues to function as an important source of ethno-religious identity among Setos, Karelians, and Skolt Sámi. All three feasts take place in symbolically significant locations and help members of these minority groups reconcile the traumatic events of their past with the present-day situation. In all three processions national and ethnic identity is emphasized through concrete means. These include traditional clothes, food, objects, and customs, use of the local language and colloquialisms, non-religious ethnically inspired program, and the presence of respected elders. Through these markers, the groups assign special meanings to the rituals, asserting their identities. Ultimately, these practices are precisely what turn the feasts into manifestations of Seto, Karelian, or Skolt Sámi Orthodoxy.
Hurley, Jill L. 2018. “Understanding Christian Conversion as a Post-Relational Ontological (Re)turn to Relations.” OKH Journal: Anthropological Ethnography and Analysis Through the Eyes of Christian Faith. 2(2).
Abstract: Since 1950, when Nepal opened its doors to Christianity, people have been converting in rapid pace. Anthropologists have theorized for decades that in the process of converting from any religion to Christianity, persons experience a relational rupture. By combining the set theory of Hiebert and post-relational ontological turn theory of Holbraad and Pedersen, I explore how the anthropological approach must change its starting point in order to understand how and why conversion happens. As we understand the motivations for conversion, we can see that relational rupture does not exist for Christian converts because of the core emphasis on relationality found within Christianity. Through ethnographic research, I was able to effectively show how conversion to Christianity should be considered a post-relational ontological re(turn) to relations.