Abstract: This introductory essay seeks to reintroduce character to anthropological inquiry. Although it has long been out of favour due to its historical associations with accounts that attempt to describe national or ethnic character, we argue that a return of the under‐theorised concept may be in order. The essay invites socio‐cultural anthropologists to describe the diverse contexts in which character is recognised or enacted, out‐there‐in‐the‐world, and to become far more reflective about the ways in which characterization is deployed in our ethnographic writing. At the same time, it asks how the concept might be fruitfully operationalized at a meta‐language level to reorient current fields of anthropological study, without necessarily resorting to any collective or individual essentialisms. To illustrate the utility of re‐interrogating the concept, the question is addressed to two specific fields in which one might expect a concept such as character to already feature strongly: the anthropology of ethics and the anthropology of Christianity. What does an ethnographic attention to the ways in which character gets attributed reveal? How differently might these and other fields look if anthropologists embraced the concept of character or rejected it more knowingly? Finally, the essay asks what kinds of recombination of insights an anthropology and character approach might enable.
Abstract: Based on fieldwork in the Danish protestant movement Tidehverv, this article explores what it means to try to live one’s life according to a neo- orthodox Lutheran and explicitly Kierkegaard- inspired theology, whose overarching existential, social and political ideal is always to be true to oneself. Departing from the seemingly paradoxical notion that the essence of living a genuinely Christian life is ‘to become what you are’, as a Tidehverv priest put it, I seek to pin down the distinct concept of character, and wider concepts of personhood and temporality, upon which this ‘fundamentalist existentialist’ theology and ethics rest. This will involve discussing in some detail a number of core Kierkegaardian concepts such as ‘the moment’ (øjeblikket), the ‘decision’ (afgørelsen) and ‘the leap’ (springet), and making a preliminary attempt to contextualise Tidehverv’s existentialist project within the wider political, religious and cultural history of the modern Danish nation state. In doing so, the article offers an exploration of the relationships between Lutheran concepts of character and political expression, and between the concept of Christian individual character and Danish national character.
Abstract: This article discusses the contribution of the chronotope as an analytic category in studies of Christian conversion, applying it to postsocialist religious changes in the Russian Arctic. Looking through basic categories of human experience—space and time—the article focuses on the comparative analysis of the two missionary movements working in northwestern Siberia—neo-Pentecostalism and Baptism. The article examines postsocialist Evangelical missionary movement among the Nenets people who live in the Polar Ural tundra. The Nenets tried out multiple faiths on the emerging religious spectrum, choosing in the end fundamentalist Baptism. The article elaborates on possible conditions that made Christian fundamentalism appealing in this part of the Arctic. I suggest that Nenets historical experience as a colonized periphery of the Russian state, particularly the Soviet experiments with space and time, have bridged Nenets social expectations and a radical form of Evangelical Christianity.