Lauterbach, Karen and Vähäkangas, Mika (eds.). (2020) Faith in African Lived Christianity: Bridging Anthropological and Theological Perspectives. Leidin: Brill.
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.
Malara, Diego Maria. (2019) “Exorcizing the Spirit of Protestantism: Ambiguity and Spirit Possession in an Ethiopian Orthodox Ritual.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.16 31871.
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.
Bratrud, Tom. (2019) “Ambiguity in a Charismatic Revival: Inverting Gender, Age and Power Relations in Vanuatu.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1696855.
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.
Remme, Jon Henrik Ziegle. (2019) “The Problem with Presence: The Ambiguity of Mediating Forms in Ifugao Pentecostal Rituals.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.16 50791.
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.
Webster, Joseph. (2019) “Whose Sins Do the Brethren Confess? The Problem of Sin as the Problem of Expiation.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1582547.
Abstract: Among Brethren fisher-families in Gamrie, confession of sin is a private and pointedly interior affair. Yet, much of Brethren worship is given over to ritualised acts of confession. So whose sins do the Brethren confess? In Gamrie, such acts involve confessing not one’s own sin, but the sins of ‘fallen’ world. By attending to the anthropological and theological processes of confessing the sins of another, we see a collapse in the distinction between confiteor and credo that has so dogged anthropological studies of Christianity. In Brethren prayer, bible study, and everyday gossip, the ‘I confess’ of the confiteor and the ‘I believe’ of credo co-constitute one another as evidences of the ‘lostness’ of ‘this present age’. With the ritual gaze of confession turned radically outward, Brethren announcements of global wickedness enact (in a deliberate tautology) both a totalising call for repentance from sin, and a millenarian creed of the imminent apocalypse.
Dugan, Katherine. (2019) ‘iPrayer: Catholic Prayer Apps and Twenty-First Century Catholic Subjectivities’. In: Fewkes, J. (ed.) Anthropological Perspectives on the Religious Use of Apps. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Abstract: In this chapter, Dugan investigates what happens when mobile technology mediates Catholic prayer. How does the experience of prayer shift when mediated through mobile technology? In what ways does the technology affect the formation of Catholic subjectivities? Drawing on ethnographic work among app developers and users, this chapter examines three Catholic prayer apps. These apps instruct Catholics in correct performance of prayer and attune Catholics to daily requirements of religious practice. Prayer apps contribute to twenty-first-century Catholic subjectivity by drawing Catholics into contested spaces between the laity and hierarchy, rote and spontaneous prayer, and between the sacred and profane. These apps participate in prayer-based Catholic discipline in—and for—the iPhone era.
Williams Green, Leanne. (2019) ‘Sin and Sovereignty in the Lives of Urban Baptists in Zimbabwe’. Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1640263.
Abstract: What is the relation between divine and human action in the world? To understand how a certain group of Christians reckon human capacity and divine authority, I explore articulations of two theological concepts – sin and sovereignty – as they played out in the concerns of a congregation of Baptists in Zimbabwe’s capital city. This paper is situated within emerging conversations between anthropologists and theologians, and from my ethnographic case I argue that contemporary readings of Calvin and of Augustinian notions of original sin offer the anthropologist alternatives to the analytic category of ‘agency’. Beliefs about the limits of human capacity and about God’s control among urban Zimbabwean Baptists shape their engagement with the political realm, and their case contributes to ethnographic explorations of theological and political conceptions of sovereignty.
Ulmonen, Paula. (2019) “#MeToo in Sweden: Museum Collections, Digital Archiving and Hashtag Visuality.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1640264.
Abstract: In October 2017, the Nordic Museum in Stockholm launched its #metoocollection. The aim was to capture the viral #MeToo campaign that in Sweden has been likened to a (feminist) revolution. Based on archival research, interviews and media analysis, this article explores public submissions to the #metoo collection and analyses the museum’s rationale for collecting what is considered to be difficult cultural heritage. Noting the absence of images in the collection, the article argues that the iconic hashtag #MeToo constitutes an alternative form of digital visuality, here termed hashtag visuality. Hashtag visuality, the article suggests, is an emerging form of visual representation that captures the multimodal logic of social media, blurring distinctions between texts and images. In Sweden, #MeToo hashtag visuality reveals the contradictory prevalence of structural sexism and sexual violence in a country with a national self-image of gender equality and a self-proclaimed feminist government, while affirming feminist agency.
Rose, Lena. (2019) “Palestinian Evangelicals – A Theologically Engaged Anthropological Approach.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1641534.
Abstract: Christian theologians have grappled for centuries with the fact that they are not Jews, yet embedded in Jewish history. Situated in the context of a Jewish-centric State that has been welcomed by a majority of evangelicals worldwide as fulfilment of biblical prophecy (and supported by their financial, spiritual, and political investment), Palestinian evangelicals are an anomaly. While they share an evangelical commitment, they have a complex and difficult relationship with the Israeli state. This paper argues that the population of Palestinian evangelicals is most productively explored through a combined interdisciplinary approach of Theology and Anthropology: it reveals the historical theologies that have shaped Palestinian evangelical engagement with the Israeli state and their global faith family. The article argues that theologically engaged Anthropology can aid in uncovering the power relationships within a transnational religious movement.
Loustau, Marc Roscoe. (2019) “Belief Beyond the Bugbear: Propositional Theology and Intellectual Authority in a Transylvanian Catholic Ethnographic Memoir.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1640262.
Abstract: By overlooking the history of Catholic thought, anthropologists have made contemporary processes for negotiating intellectual authority in the Catholic Church into a lacuna in the anthropology of Christianity. I develop this claim by examining an ethnographic memoir called The Secret of Csíksomlyó by Árpád Daczó, a widely known contemporary Transylvanian Hungarian Catholic intellectual. Daczó blends autobiography and ethnography to argue that the Hungarian Virgin Mary is a Christianized pagan moon goddess. Halfway through, Daczó switches genres to propositional theology and defends himself to the magisterium, the Church’s institutional guarantor of orthodoxy. I situate Daczó’s effort to anticipate his critics in the history of Catholic-Protestant theological polemics, which helped make propositional theology into the Catholic Church’s privileged language for investigating heresy. By placing Daczó’s use of propositional theology against the backdrop of contemporary Catholic theologians’ debates about the magisterium’s authority, I challenge anthropological assumptions about the social significance of propositional belief.