Hardin, “Faith and the Pursuit of Health”

Hardin, Jessica. 2018. Faith and the Pursuit of Health: Cardiometabolic Disorders in Samoa. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. 

Publisher’s DescriptionFaith and the Pursuit of Health explores how Pentecostal Christians manage chronic illness in ways that sheds light on health disparities and social suffering in Samoa, a place where rates of obesity and related cardiometabolic disorders have reached population-wide levels. Pentecostals grapple with how to maintain the health of their congregants in an environment that fosters cardiometabolic disorders. They find ways to manage these forms of sickness and inequality through their churches and the friendships developed within these institutions. Examining how Pentecostal Christianity provides many Samoans with tools to manage day-to-day issues around health and sickness, Jessica Hardin argues for understanding the synergies between how Christianity and biomedicine practice chronicity.

Golomski, “Funeral Culture”

Golomski, Casey. 2018. Funeral Culture: AIDS, Work, and Cultural Change in an African Kingdom. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 

Publisher’s Description: Contemporary forms of living and dying in Swaziland cannot be understood apart from the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, according to anthropologist Casey Golomski. In Africa’s last absolute monarchy, the story of 15 years of global collaboration in treatment and intervention is also one of ordinary people facing the work of caring for the sick and dying and burying the dead. Golomski’s ethnography shows how AIDS posed challenging questions about the value of life, culture, and materiality to drive new forms and practices for funerals. Many of these forms and practices―newly catered funeral feasts, an expanded market for life insurance, and the kingdom’s first crematorium―are now conspicuous across the landscape and culturally disruptive in a highly traditionalist setting. This powerful and original account details how these new matters of death, dying, and funerals have become entrenched in peoples’ everyday lives and become part of a quest to create dignity in the wake of a devastating epidemic.

Tomlinson, “Repetition in the work of a Samoan Christian theologian”

Tomlinson, Matt. “Repetition in the work of a Samoan Christian theologian: Or, what does it mean to speak of the Perfect Pig of God?” History and Anthropology

Abstract: The Samoan Christian theologian Ama’amalele Tofaeono draws on diverse intellectual sources to articulate an ecological theology both distinctively Samoan and self-consciously Oceanic. I examine Tofaeono’s writings through the lens of recent work in linguistic anthropology on repetition and replication. By paying close attention to the ways texts and their original contexts, authorship, and intentions can be brought forward into new contexts, such anthropological work offers a useful perspective on Tofaeono’s theological arguments about creation and salvation. Tofaeono frames creation and salvation as actions that are necessarily ongoing—matters of repetition rather than rupture, a kind of continuity that depends not on fundamental durability but on repeated reengagement. An appreciation of Tofaeono’s articulation of time and repetition can in turn illuminate the anthropological study of social transformation and help develop productive interdisciplinary dialogue between anthropology and theology.

Lubanska, “‘We do it for health (za zdrave)’. Sensational Forms Related to the Cult of Healing Springs (ayazma) in Orthodox Christian Shrines in South-Western Bulgaria”

Lubanska, Magdalena. 2017.”We do it for health (za zdrave)”. Sensational Forms Related to the Cult of Healing Springs (ayazma) in Orthodox Christian Shrines in South-Western Bulgaria. Anthropology of East Europe Review 35(1): 19-38.  

Abstract: The article describes sensational forms connected with the cult of healing waters, as found in Orthodox Christian religious communities of southwestern Bulgaria. Referring to the concept of the porous self, I analyze how and why Orthodox Christian devotees in Bulgaria attribute a life-giving force (zhivonosna/zhivotvorna) to the healing springs (ayazma) found in the monastery, and how they use those for ablutions and drinking, thereby hoping to increase their personal vitality. The data is discussed from synchronic and diachronic perspectives. This is done to draw distinct cultural parallels between current practices at the healing springs at the monastery, the iconography of Bogoroditsa the Life-Giving Spring, and the cult established at the monastery of the Mother of God of the Spring (Zoodohos Pege) in Constantinople, attested since the medieval period. Rooted in an emic Orthodox Christian understanding of the concept of life-giving forces, this analysis is anthropologically significant in its demonstration that life- giving force is viewed as an underlying concept that manifests itself as divine power, grace or energy, all of which are key terms in the Orthodox Christian religious lexicon.

Verheyden & Kloppenborg, “The Gospels and Their Stories in Anthro Perspective”

Verheyden, Joseph & John S. Kloppenborg, eds. 2018. “The Gospels and their Stories in Anthropological Perspective.” Germany: Mohr Siebeck Tübingen.

Over the past decades, biblical scholars have gradually become more aware of the importance of the social sciences for their own field. This has produced a steady flow of studies informed by work that was done in the fields of group formation psychology, the sociology of emerging movements and the sociology of religion, and historical anthropology. This volume offers the proceedings of a conference that brought together a number of expert biblical scholars, specialists of ancient religious practices, and proponents of an anthropological approach to ancient Christian and Greco-Roman religious tradition. It was the explicit purpose not to focus exclusively on purely methodological reflections, but to explore and evaluate how methodological concepts and constructs can be developed and then also checked in applying them on specific cases and topics that are typical for understanding earliest Christianity.

Thebault & Rose, “What kind of Christianity?”

Thebault, Deborah and Lena Rose. 2018. “What kind of Christianity? A v Switzerland.” Oxford Journal of Law and Religion.

Abstract: This comment explores how legal authorities understand religious identity and sets these understandings in a wider context. The comment questions whether the interpretation of the claimant’s conversion to Christianity by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Swiss Asylum authorities might not be too restricted to a particular Western European form of Christianity. The European Convention on Human Rights gives to the contracting States a certain margin of appreciation in assessing the risk of ill treatment undergone by a convert. In this case in its application of the Convention the ECtHR accepted the ruling of the Swiss authorities.

Malara & Mayblin, “Lenience in Systems of Religious Meaning and Practice”

Mayblin, Maya, and Diego Malara. “Introduction: Lenience in Systems of Religious Meaning and Practice.” Social Analysis 62.3 (2018): 1-20.

Questions of discipline are, today, no less ubiquitous than when under Foucault’s renowned scrutiny, but what does ‘discipline’ in diverse religious systems actually entail? In this article, we take ‘lenience’ rather than discipline as a starting point and compare its potential, both structural and ideological, in religious contexts where disciplinary flexibility shores up greater encompassing projects of moral perfectionism as opposed to those contexts in which disciplinary flexibility is a defining feature in its own right. We argue that lenience provides religious systems with a vital flexibility that is necessary to their reproduction and adaptation to the world. By taking a ‘systems’ perspective on ethnographic discussions of religious worlds, we proffer fresh observations on recent debates within the anthropology of religion on ‘ethics’, ‘failure’, and the nature of religious subjects.

Feller, “Portable Power, Religious Swag”

Feller, Gavin. “Portable Power, Religious Swag: Mediating Authority in Brazillian Neo-Pentecostalism.” Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief. 14(3). 

Abstract: This study is an ethnographic and conceptual analysis of religious objects, their uses, and mediation of authority within the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (Universal Church) in Brazil. Drawing on scholarship within media studies, religion and media, and material religion, I distinguish between artifacts used to cement implicit contracts between Universal Church followers and their church community, which I call contractual media, or swag, and those that followers bring to meetings to be blessed and then take home to mediate both good and evil forces in family, work, and social life—these I call portable media. While portable object media are seen by their owners as powerful tools, contractual media, on the other hand, create implicit power relations that keep followers tied to the institutional church in a reciprocal exchange predicated upon expected prosperity as evidence of faithful attendance, fidelity, and personal sacrifice. The physical exchange of material goods in religious spaces constitutes a perpetuation rather than a disruption of institutional religious authority. As infrastructure, contractual object media establish and maintain conditions for otherwise mundane materials to mediate power on a daily basis. Through attention toward portable and contract object media, as part of what I am calling material microstructure, we can further complicate religious authority as it is mediated through objects, not just in one-way flows but as dynamic exchanges and trade-offs between personal empowerment and institutional control.

Premawardhana, “Anthropology of Christianity”

Premawardhana, Devaka. 2018. “Anthropology of Christianity.” In Encyclopedia of Christianity in the Global South, edited by Mark A. Lamport, 22-24. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Christianity has transformed many times in its 2,000-year history, from its roots in the Middle East to its presence around the world today. From the mid-twentieth century onward the presence of Christianity has increased dramatically in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and the majority of the world’s Christians are now nonwhite and non-Western. The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the Global South traces both the historical evolution and contemporary themes in Christianity in more than 150 countries and regions. The volumes include maps, images, and a detailed timeline of key events.

The phrases “Global Christianity” and “World Christianity” are inadequate to convey the complexity of the countries and regions involved—this encyclopedia, with its more than 500 entries, aims to offer rich perspectives on the varieties of Christianity where it is growing, how the spread of Christianity shapes the faith in various regions, and how the faith is changing worldwide.

Malara, “The Alimentary Forms of Religious Life”

Malara, Diego. “The Alimentary Forms of Religious Life: Technologies of the Other, Lenience, and the Ethics of Ethiopian Orthodox Fasting.” Social Analysis: The International Journal of Anthropology. 62(3): 21-41. 

Abstract: Focusing on the practice of fasting, this article traces the ethical efforts and conundrums of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians who take their religion seriously, but do not necessarily see themselves as disciplined believers. I argue that the flexibility and lenience of the Orthodox system allow for morally ambivalent disciplinary projects that, in order to preserve their efficacy, must be sustained by an array of intimate relationships with more pious individuals who are fasting for others or on others’ behalf. By examining this relational economy of spiritual care, its temporalities and divisions of labor, I ask whether recent preoccupations with ‘technologies of the self’ in the anthropology of religion might have overlooked the relevance of ‘technologies of the other’.