Klaits, Frederick, ed. The Request and the Gift in Religious and Humanitarian Endeavors (New York: Palgave Macmillan, 2017)
Publisher’s Description: This collection revisits classical anthropological treatments of the gift by documenting how people may be valued both through the requests they make and through what they give. Many humanitarian practitioners, the authors propose, regard giving to those in need as the epitome of moral action but are liable to view those people’s requests for charity as merely utilitarian. Yet in many religious discourses, prayers and requests for alms are highly valued as moral acts, obligatory for establishing relationships with the divine. Framing the moral qualities of asking and giving in conjunction with each other, the contributors explore the generation of trust and mistrust, the politics of charity and accountability, and tensions between universalism and particularism in religious philanthropy.
Tomlinson, Matt and Julian Millie, eds. The Monologic Imagination (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 2017).
Publisher’s Description: The pioneering and hugely influential work of Mikhail Bakhtin has led scholars in recent decades to see all discourse and social life as inherently “dialogical.” No speaker speaks alone, because our words are always partly shaped by our interactions with others, past and future. Moreover, we never fashion ourselves entirely by ourselves, but always do so in concert with others. Bakhtin thus decisively reshaped modern understandings of language and subjectivity. And yet, the contributors to this volume argue that something is potentially overlooked with too close a focus on dialogism: many speakers, especially in charged political and religious contexts, work energetically at crafting monologues, single-voiced statements to which the only expected response is agreement or faithful replication. Drawing on ethnographic case studies from the United States, Iran, Cuba, Indonesia, Algeria, and Papua New Guinea, the authors argue that a focus on “the monologic imagination” gives us new insights into languages’ political design and religious force, and deepens our understandings of the necessary interplay between monological and dialogical tendencies.
Martin, Dominic A. (2017), “Loyal to god: Old Believers, oaths and orders,”History and Anthropology, 28 (4): 477-496.
Abstract: Since the reign of Peter the Great, the Russian sovereign, be it Tsar, Soviet or Putin, has required demonstrations of ‘loyalty’ that evidence subjects’ interior as well as exterior states. This article explores, through historical and current ethnographic examples, how Old Believers, a dissenting movement of Russian Orthodox Christians, have sought to reconcile this worldly demand with their overarching allegiance to the Kingdom of God, and their refusal to acknowledge a separation between the spiritual and the temporal. This dichotomy is particularly problematized around the swearing of oaths of fealty and the giving and receiving of decorations and orders that vouchsafe loyalty to state or sovereign.
Kraybill, Jeanine E. 2016. “Non-ordained: Examining the Level of Female Religious Political Engagement and Social Policy Influence within the American Catholic Church.” Fieldwork in Religion 11(2): DOI: 10.1558/firn.32964
Abstract: The Catholic Church, constructed on an all-male clerical model, is a hierarchical and gendered institution, creating barriers to female leadership. In interviewing members of the clergy and women religious of the faith, this article examines how female non-ordained and male clerical religious leaders engage and influence social policy. It specifically addresses how women religious maneuver around the institutional constraints of the Church, in order to take action on social issues and effect change. In adding to the scholarship on this topic, I argue that part of the strategy of women religious in navigating barriers of the institutional Church is not only knowing when to act outside of the formal hierarchy, but realizing when it is in the benefit of their social policy objectives to collaborate with it. This maneuvering may not always safeguard women religious from institutional scrutiny, as seen by the 2012 Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, but instead captures the tension between female religious and the clergy. It also highlights how situations of institutional scrutiny can have positive implications for female religious leaders, their policy goals and congregations. Finally, this examination shows how even when women are appointed to leadership posts within the institutional Church, they can face limitations of acceptance and other constraints that are different from their female religious counterparts working within their own respective religious congregations or outside organizations.
Klaver, Miranda, Johan Roeland, Peter Versteeg, Hijme Stoffels and Remco van Mulligen. 2017. “God changes people: modes of authentication in Evangelical conversion narratives,” Journal of Contemporary Religion, 32(2): 237-251.
Abstract: One of the distinguishing characteristics of Evangelicalism is the conversion story. In this article we focus on the conversion stories of interviewees within the setting of several related Evangelical television programs broadcast in the Netherlands since the 1980s. We argue that the conversion story is construed through a particular view on and practice of authenticity. Thus we see that, in the televised conversion story, modes of authentication are at work in what we analytically distinguish as frames, narratives, and strategies of authentication. We argue that the idea of an authentic transformation has changed from a more fundamentalist mode of authentication, emphasizing the subjection of the self to a particular religious narrative, to a more expressive mode of authentication that emphasizes the exploration of the inner, unique self of the interviewee.
Montemaggi, Francesca E. S. 2017. “The authenticity of Christian Evangelicals: between individuality and obedience,” Journal of Contemporary Religion, 32(2): 253-268.
Abstract: Based on ethnographic data in a Christian Evangelical church in the UK, the article shows how Evangelical Christians construct their individual and group identity through appeals to authenticity. Authenticity, as it emerges from the local narratives, shares much with philosophical and sociological understandings of it, yet it is articulated within the framework of tradition. By grounding authenticity in Christian tradition, Evangelicals construct an identity which they understand as distinctive rather than morally superior to other moral traditions. Christian authenticity is a moral pursuit that requires obedience—the acceptance of God’s will. This is contrasted with the celebration of individual self-authority that is at the core of Western society. The tension between individuality and obedience to God is the motif that makes Christianity distinctive in the eyes of the informants in this study. It is also the basis for the formation of the Christian self.
Ritter, Christian S. and Vladimir Kmec. 2017. “Religious practices and networks of belonging in an immigrant congregation: the German-speaking Lutheran congregation in Dublin” Journal of Contemporary Religion, 32(2): 269-281.
Abstract: This article explores how members of the German-speaking Lutheran church in Dublin develop their networks of belonging by taking part in social practices in their congregation. The article addresses the intersection of religious life, migration experience, and belonging. Based on qualitative fieldwork, we assess how social practices embedded in religious activities and beliefs reshape the sense of belonging among members of this congregation. We study the congregation through a material approach while paying attention to its actual religious and social life. The study observes how participation in the social life of the congregation enables its members to create multiple senses of belonging—ethno-cultural, religious, and social belonging. The social life of the congregation aids the preservation of immigrants’ ethno-cultural particularities, societal adaptation, and sense of belonging to their religious community.
Longkumer, Arkotong. 2017. “The power of persuasion: Hindutva, Christianity, and the discourse of religion and culture in Northeast India” Religion 47(2): 203-227.
Abstract: The paper will examine the intersection between Sangh Parivar activities, Christianity, and indigenous religions in relation to the state of Nagaland. I will argue that the discourse of ‘religion and culture’ is used strategically by Sangh Parivar activists to assimilate disparate tribal groups and to envision a Hindu nation. In particular, I will show how Sangh activists attempt to encapsulate Christianity within the larger territorial and civilisational space of Hindutva (Hinduness). In this process, the idea of Hindutva is visualised as a nationalist concept, not a theocratic or religious one [Cohen 2002 “Why Study Indian Buddhism?” In The Invention of Religion, edited by Derek Peterson and Darren Walholf. Rutgers: Rutgers University Press, 26]. I will argue that the boundaries between Hindutva as cultural nationalism and its religious underpinnings are usefully maintained in the context of Nagaland because they allow Sangh activists to reconstitute the limits of Christianity and incorporate it into Hindu civilisation on their own terms.
Kołodziejska, Marta and Anna Neumaier. 2017. Between individualisation and tradition: transforming religious authority on German and Polish Christian online discussion forums,” Religion 47(2): 228-255
Abstract: The aim of this paper is to connect the debates on individualisation and mediatisation of religion and transformations of religious authority online on theoretical and empirical basis. The classical and contemporary concepts of individualisation of religion, rooted in the secularisation debate, will be connected with Campbell’s [2007. “Who’s Got the Power? Religious Authority and the Internet.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 12 (3): 1043–1062] concept of four layers of religious authority online. The empirical material consists of a joint analysis of German Christian and Polish Catholic Internet forums. In a transnational comparison, the findings show similar tendencies of individualisation and emerging communities of choice, as well as a lasting significance of textual religious authorities, although different levels of authority are negotiated and emphasised to a varying extent. However, in both cases critique of the Church and religion usually emerges offline, and is then expressed online. While the forums do not have a subversive potential, they facilitate adopting a more independent, informed, and reflexive approach to religion.
Casey Golomski and Sonene Nyawo, 2017. “Christians’ cut: popular religion and the global health campaign for medical male circumcision in Swaziland,” Culture, Health & Sexuality. Early online publication: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13691058.2016.1267409
abstract: Swaziland faces one of the worst HIV epidemics in the world and is a site for the current global health campaign in sub-Saharan Africa to medically circumcise the majority of the male population. Given that Swaziland is also majority Christian, how does the most popular religion influence acceptance, rejection or understandings of medical male circumcision? This article considers interpretive differences by Christians across the Kingdom’s three ecumenical organisations, showing how a diverse group people singly glossed as ‘Christian’ in most public health acceptability studies critically rejected the procedure in unity, but not uniformly. Participants saw medical male circumcision’s promotion and messaging as offensive and circumspect, and medical male circumcision as confounding gendered expectations and sexualised ideas of the body in Swazi Culture. Pentecostal-charismatic churches were seen as more likely to accept medical male circumcision, while traditionalist African Independent Churches rejected the operation. The procedure was widely understood to be a personal choice, in line with New Testament-inspired commitments to metaphorical circumcision as a way of receiving God’s grace.