Hardin, “Spiritual Etiologies”

Hardin, Jessica. 2014. Spiritual Etiologies: Metabolic Disorders, Evangelical Christianity, and Well-Being in Samoa. Doctoral Dissertation, Dept. of Anthropology. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University. 

Abstract: This dissertation examines how rising rates of metabolic disorders are interpreted by evangelical Christians in Samoa as evidence of the need for (re)Christianization. Evangelical Christians critique mainline Christianity as a source of suffering, and posit a relationship between church-based exchange and metabolic disorders. Metabolic  disorders are particularly difficult to heal in the cultural context of Samoa because they require individuals to change their everyday lives in ways that challenge common Samoan practices of well-being, including food-sharing and feeding. Metabolic disorders also require Samoans to reformulate the associations power and potency have with large body size. This dissertation explores the ways medicalized ideas of food, fat, and fitness travel into evangelical Christian contexts in order to examine the generative intersection of religion and medicalization. While the medicalization of food, fat, and fitness is readily accepted, many Samoans struggle with how to actualize changes to their health behaviors (i.e., to eat differently, to exercise) because of the constraints of church and family obligations, and cash-poverty. Evangelical churches offer new ways to participate in church-based exchange, which are explicitly directed at alleviating cash-poverty, and evangelical Christianity has, through the linking of salvation and healing, developed ways for born-again Samoans to change health behaviors. Through conversion and healing practices, many born-again people also examine the relationships that may be a source of suffering. Data was collected over two years of ethnographic fieldwork between 2008 and 2012; fieldwork included participant observation in biomedical facilities (hospitals and clinics), in churches (Sunday services, healing ministries, Bible study, and prayer groups), and in two households. In-depth interviews were also conducted with a range of Christians and health practitioners. In a time of deepening socio-economic inequalities and increased dependence on cash, this dissertation argues that evangelical notions of well-being, in conversation with medicalization, bring into focus the socio-economic inequalities that cause metabolic disorders––inequalities that medicalization alone tends to eschew. In turn, evangelical Christians come to examine the embodied evidence of disease (e.g., stress, anger, high blood pressure) as evidence of those inequalities.

Alvare, “Haile Selasse and the Gospel of Development”

Alvare, Bretton. 2014. Haile Selasse and the Gospel of Development: Hegemony and Faith-Based Development in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies. The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 19(1): 126-147.

AbstractThis article explores the process by which faith-based nongovernmental organizations (FBOs) incorporate, reproduce, and contest hegemonic constructions of development as they attempt to bring the fruits of development to their local communities. The analysis focuses on the National Rastafari Organization (NRO) of Trinidad and Tobago—a small, grassroots FBO, whose leaders designed and implemented a localcommunity development program that, despite being modeled on the Rastafari principles contained in Haile Selassie’s “gospel of development,“ had more in common with the neoliberal national development program being promoted by the Trinidadian government than with the development programs typical of other formal Rastafari organizations in the wider Caribbean region. The NRO did not hold all of the themes, logics, or recommended practices of this gospel of development in the same regard. Instead, their immersion in hegemonic fields led them to seize on those aspects that resonated most with the state discourses of neoliberal participatory development in circulation at the time.

Huff, “Pentecostalized Development”

Huff, James G. Jr.  2014. Pentecostalized Development and Novel Social Imaginaries in Rural El Salvador. The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 19(1): 22-40.

Abstract: The number of churches associated with Pentecostal Christianity has increased rapidly in El Salvador in the decades following the end of the civil war, and these organizations are gradually playing a role in shaping Salvadorans’ vision of the social good. This article examines a case in which the congregants of one rural Pentecostal church mobilize their neighbors and other nonchurch institutions to carry out community development initiatives. In particular, the article describes how the church emerged as a key public in the local development arena and, accordingly, became a site wherein previously segmented social networks in the community were bridged in novel ways. By documenting how change occurs incrementally and relationally at the level of local social networks, the discussion offers a better vantage point from which to assess the impact of the Pentecostal movement upon social life in rural El Salvador and elsewhere in Latin America.

 

Guazon, Wellbeing in Caring

Guazon, Hector. 2013. Wellbeing in Caring: The Alaga System Among Filipino Catholics in Brussels, Belgium. UGAT (Journal of the Anthropological Association of the Philippines) 22: 1-21.

This study examines a caring system among Filipino Catholics in Brussels, Belgium. By ‘caring system’, I refer to relations involving ‘carers’ (taga-alaga) manifesting concern for and acting upon the needs of their ‘care-receivers’ or alaga, [literally: ‘the taken care of’] who are either newcomers to Belgium, or undocumented migrants, or workers that had been abused by their employers. Implicit in this system are Roman Catholic-associated moral values (as stipulated in the Scriptures, Church doctrines and mission statements, reinforced through rituals, using local habits) that Filipino Catholics appropriate as they handle their life-experiences in Brussels, Belgium. The article is divided into three parts: first, the constitution of the Filipino Catholics’ understanding of wellbeing; second. a description of the caring system and duties and responsibilities of the taga-alagas; and, third, a consideration of the making and remaking of parameters of the relations among taga-alagas and alagas. Following Kleinman (2009), I argue that in their pursuit of wellbeing within the shifting conditions of the diasporic context, caring practices transform subjectivities, rework life-relations, and reframe the religious meanings that accommodate and enliven local values.

Wilfred (ed), “The Oxford Handbook of Christianity in Asia”

Wilfred, Felix.  2014. The Oxford Handbook of Christianity in Asia.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: Despite the ongoing global expansion of Christianity, there remains a lack of comprehensive scholarship on its development in Asia. This volume fills the gap by exploring the world of Asian Christianity and its manifold expressions, including worship, theology, spirituality, inter-religious relations, interventions in society, and mission. The contributors, from over twenty countries, deconstruct many of the widespread misconceptions and interpretations of Christianity in Asia. They analyze how the growth of Christian beliefs throughout the continent is linked with the socio-political and cultural processes of colonization, decolonization, modernization, democratization, identity construction of social groups, and various social movements. With a particular focus on inter-religious encounters and emerging theological and spiritual paradigms, the volume provides alternative frames for understanding the phenomenon of conversion and studies how the scriptures of other religious traditions are used in the practice of Christianity within Asia.
The Oxford Handbook of Christianity in Asia draws insightful conclusions on the historical, contemporary, and future trajectory of its subject by combining the contributions of scholars in a wide variety of disciplines, including theology, sociology, history, political science, and cultural studies. It will be an invaluable resource for understanding Christianity in a global context.

Table of Contents:

General introduction
Part I: Mapping of Asian Christianity
1. Christianity in West Asia – H. Teule
2. South Asian Christianity in Context – Felix Wilfred
3. Christian Minorities on the Central Asian Silk Roads – Sebastien Peyrouse
4. On the Trail of Spices: Christianity in Southeast Asia – Georg Evers
5. Identity and Marginality – Christianity in East Asia – Edmond Tang

Part II: Cross Cultural Flows and Pan-Asian Movements of Asian Christianity
6. Asian Theological Trends – Michael Amaladoss
7. Scriptural Translations and Cross-textual Hermeneutics – Archie C. C. Lee
8. The Contributions of the Asian Ecumenical Movements to World Ecumenism – Aruna Gnanadason
9. Inter-Asia Mission and Global Missionary Movements from Asia – Sebastian Kim
10. Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements in Asia – Allan Anderson
11. Forms of Asian Indigenous Christianities – Paul Joshua
12. Gender, Sexuality, and Christian Feminist Movements – Sharon A. Bong

Part III: Asian Christianities and the Social-Cultural Processes
13. Modernity and Change of Values: Asian Christian Negotiations and Resistance – Angela Wai Ching Wong
14. Caveats to Christianization: Colonialism, Nationalism and Christian – Julius Bautista
15. Socio-Political developments in the Middle-East and Their Impact on Christian – Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid
16. Asian Christianity and Politics of Conversion – Rudi Heradia
17. Political Democratization and Asian Churches: The Case of Taiwan – Po Ho Huang
18. The Role of Christianity in Peace and Conflict in Asia – Liyanage Anthony Jude Lal Fernando
19. Christianity and the cause of Asian Women – Gemma Cruz
20. Education in Asia – Lun-Li
21. Christian Social Engagement in Asia – Felix Wilfred

Part IV: Asian Christianity in its Interaction with Asian Religious Traditions
22. Changing Paradigms of Asian Christian Attitude to Other Religions – Wesley Ariarajah
23. Jewish – Christian relationships in the West Asia – History, Major Issues, Challenges – David M. Neuhaus
24. Muslim Perceptions of Asian Christianity: A survey – Ataullah Siddiqui
25. The Multiverse of Hindu Engagement with Christianity – Ananta K. Giri
26. Christian Tradition in the Eyes of Asian Buddhists: The Case of Japan – Dennis Hirota
27. Encounter between Confucianism and Christianity – Jonatha Tan
28. Asian Christianity and Religious Conversion: Issues and Debates – Richard Fox Young
29. Asian Christian Art and Architecture – Gudrun Löwner

Part V: Some Future Trajectories of Asian Christianity
30. Christians in Asia Read Sacred Books of the East – George Gispert-Sauch
31. Multiple Religious Belonging or Complex Identity – An Asian Way – Bagus Laksana
32. Asian Christian Spirituality – Peter Phan C.
33. Asian Christian Forms of Worship and Music – Swee Hong
34. Revisiting Historiographies: New Directions – Daniel Pilario
35. Asian Christianity and Public Life -The Interplay – Felix Wilfred
36. Migration and New Cosmopolitanism in Asian Christianity – Mario Francisco
37. Western Christianity in the Light of Christianity in Asia: A Western Christian’s Reflection – Francis Clooney

Tarango, “Choosing the Jesus Way”

Tarango, Angela.  2014. Choosing the Jesus Way: American Indian Pentecostals and the Fight for the Indigenous Principle.  Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Publisher’s Description: Choosing the Jesus Way uncovers the history and religious experiences of the first American Indian converts to Pentecostalism. Focusing on the Assemblies of God denomination, the story begins in 1918, when white missionaries fanned out from the South and Midwest to convert Native Americans in the West and other parts of the country. Drawing on new approaches to the global history of Pentecostalism, Angela Tarango shows how converted indigenous leaders eventually transformed a standard Pentecostal theology of missions in ways that reflected their own religious struggles and advanced their sovereignty within the denomination.

Key to the story is the Pentecostal “indigenous principle,” which encourages missionaries to train local leadership in hopes of creating an indigenous church rooted in the culture of the missionized. In Tarango’s analysis, the indigenous principle itself was appropriated by the first generation of Native American Pentecostals, who transformed it to critique aspects of the missionary project and to argue for greater religious autonomy. More broadly, Tarango scrutinizes simplistic views of religious imperialism and demonstrates how religious forms and practices are often mutually influenced in the American experience.

Selka, “Black Catholicism in Brazil”

Selka, Stephen.  2014.  Black Catholicism in Brazil.  Journal of Africana Religions 2(2): 287-295.

Abstract: Studies of Afro-Brazilian religion have tended to focus on Candomblé and other African-derived religions, and this is especially true in studies focused on the northeastern state of Bahia. Indeed, Bahia has long been imagined as a kind of living museum where African culture has been preserved in the Americas, a place where Christianity appears only as a thin veneer. This article focuses on my work on the intersection of Candomblé and Catholicism and more specifically on the Afro-Catholic Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death (Irmandade de Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte, or simply Boa Morte), whose members are women of African descent involved with Candomblé. Because of its grounding in African-derived religion, observers often wonder whether the sisterhood’s yearly festival is actually Candomblé ritual masquerading as a Catholic celebration. I argue that behind this question is the questionable presumption that Catholicism is somehow epiphenomenal in Afro-Brazilian religious life, a view that I contend is rooted in specific racial ideologies and cultural nationalisms and stems from certain ideas concerning the relationship between religion and belief.

Willenbrink, “The Act of Being Saved”

Willenbrink, Hank.  2014.  The Act of Being Saved: Hell House and the Salvific Performative.  Theatre Journal 66(1): 73-92.

Excerpt: …Can a ritual designed to convert take the form of a theatrical performance? Moreover, can we take these conversions to be sincere, given their birth in an amateur performance with a predilection for excessive, violent theatrics? Whether or not one agrees with how conversions are brought about, Hell Houses are triggering changes in their audiences—people are being “saved” by theatre. While performance theory explains how Hell House works, the performance’s ability to alter faith exposes the limits of our contemporary theoretical foundations with regard to performances espousing religious belief.

This essay analyzes how Hell House performances operate and theorizes how conversions can occur within theatrical representation. As religious rhetoric continually fuels our political climate, an examination of Hell House offers the opportunity to understand how an audience member can change through representation. I have coined the term salvific performative to refer to the embodied act connected to religious conversion. The utterance “I take Jesus Christ to be my personal Lord and Savior” is this act. It is salvific because these are words concerning salvation, and a performative because the utterance is “doing something rather than merely saying something.” The performative alters the biography and identity of one enacting a new faith. In Hell House, because of the reliance upon theatrical mechanisms, the salvific performative is intricately tied to the production. Given the salvific performative’s scope, by virtue of its connection to conversion, its usefulness as a theoretical term has far-reaching potential. My goal is not to describe all conversions, but to show, through a thorough interrogation of the salvific performative in Hell House, how a conversion is tied to its context; that is to say, a convert does not change his or her faith apropos of nothing. To understand conversion, we must understand the context from which a change of religious faith emerges. In the case of Hell House, the salvific performative is one way by which a spectator changes from a passive observer of theatrically represented reality into a participant in the reality articulated through the representation. Thus, a spectator turned convert in Hell House sees theatrical artifice as “truth.”

Blanes, A Prophetic Trajectory

Blanes, Ruy Llera. 2014. A Prophetic Trajectory: Ideologies of Place, Time, and Belonging in an Angolan Religious Movement. New York: Berghahn. 

Publisher’s DescriptionCombining ethnographic and historical research conducted in Angola, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, A Prophetic Trajectory tells the story of Simão Toko, the founder and leader of one of the most important contemporary Angolan religious movements. The book explains the historical, ethnic, spiritual, and identity transformations observed within the movement, and debates the politics of remembrance and heritage left behind after Toko’s passing in 1984. Ultimately, it questions the categories of prophetism and charisma, as well as the intersections between mobility, memory, and belonging in the Atlantic Lusophone sphere.

van Wyk, “The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in South Africa”

van Wyk, Ilana.  2014. The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in South Africa: A Church of Strangers.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Publisher’s Description: The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), a church of Brazilian origin, has been enormously successful in establishing branches and attracting followers in post-apartheid South Africa. Unlike other Pentecostal Charismatic Churches (PCC), the UCKG insists that relationships with God be devoid of ’emotions’, that socialisation between members be kept to a minimum and that charity and fellowship are ‘useless’ in materialising God’s blessings. Instead, the UCKG urges members to sacrifice large sums of money to God for delivering wealth, health, social harmony and happiness. While outsiders condemn these rituals as empty or manipulative, this book shows that they are locally meaningful, demand sincerity to work, have limits and are informed by local ideas about human bodies, agency and ontological balance. As an ethnography of people rather than of institutions, this book offers fresh insights into the mass PCC movement that has swept across Africa since the early 1990s.