Abstract: This article explores the tension between Pope Francis as a ‘trickster’ and as a much-needed reformer of the Catholic Church at large. He is an exemplar of the longue durée of an embodied ‘ Atlantic Return’ from the Americas to the ‘heart’ of Catholicism (Rome and the Vatican), with its ambivalent, racialized history. Through the mobilization of material religion, sensuous mediations, and the case of the Lampedusa crosses in particular, I engage with an anthropological analysis of Francis as a Criollo and the first-ever Jesuit pope. Examining Francis’s papacy overlapping racial and ethico-political dimensions, I identify coordinates around which the rhetorical, affective, and charismatic force of Francis as a Criollo has been actualized-between, most crucially, proximity and distance, as well as pastoral versus theological impulses. This article advances an understanding of Francis that emerges from a study of the conjuncture of affective fields, political theology, racialized aesthetics, and mediatic interface.
Steinert, Isidora Urrutia and Eduardo Valenzuela Carvallo. 2019. “Religiosity at the Roadside: Memorials, Animitas, and Shrines on a Chilean Highway.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 34(3): 447-468.
Abstract: Roadside memorials devoted to vehicle-related deaths are increasingly common across the globe. Scholars have generally emphasised their commemorative status—as sites where a private memory is publicly displayed—underestimating, however, their religious dimension. This article is based on research which involved the content analysis of photographs taken during multiple visits to the 94 roadside memorials existing in 2015 on Route 78, a major Chilean highway connecting Santiago (Chile’s capital city) and San Antonio (one of the country’s main sea ports). We argue that Chilean roadside memorials are not solely commemorative sites but primarily animitas that have a core (popular) religious component: they are privileged locations where salvific grace is dispensed, acting as mediators between the living and the divinity and connecting the sacred and profane worlds. Furthermore, we suggest that the tragic nature of the deaths they commemorate confers on them a miraculous efficacy which may transform the sites into shrines and the victims into folk saints.
Abstract: Although dance is a common religious expression, its place in the Christian tradition has been contested. In modern Protestant Norway, dance has mostly been considered irrelevant to church life or even sinful. In recent decades, however, dance has become increasingly common in Norwegian churches. The present analysis of empirical data on dance in Christian settings in contemporary Norway is based on participant observation and interviews. While younger dancers (born after 1990) consider it natural to dance in church, and are usually welcome to do so, older participants have met significant resistance. When dancing, dancers find personal meaning (wellbeing, processing emotions and life events), social meaning (communication, belonging), and religious meaning (contact with God, prayer, growth). Dance emerges as a part of lived religion that clearly highlights how bodies matter, and how spiritualities are gendered, in this contribution to understanding the embodied dimensions of religion.
Kirby, Benjamin. 2019. “Pentecostalism, Economics, Capitalism: Putting The Protestant Ethic to Work.” Religion 49(4): 571-591.
Abstract: In recent years, academic interest in the nexus between Pentecostalism, economics, and capitalism has grown significantly. Notably, the vast majority of publications that have addressed this interface are to some degree conceptually framed by Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. In this article I consider what The Protestant Ethic might contribute to our understanding of the relationship between Pentecostalism and capitalism. First, I assess a particularly noteworthy attempt to draw Pentecostalism into Weber’s genealogical account which draws a series of parallels between Pentecostalism and ascetic Protestantism. Second, I discuss the merits of an approach that is not primarily genealogical but remains indebted to the concepts that Weber introduces, elaborating a new affinity between Pentecostalism and capitalism in its present iteration. With this article, I seek to comprehensively extend the scope and sharpen the conceptual underpinnings of future analysis and empirical work in this area.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This article offers a reflexive and phenomenological response to some of the challenges of the recent ontological turn. It argues, first, that a focus on embodiment is crucial in understanding the formation of ontological assumptions, and, second, that researchers have an ethical responsibility to practice an ‘ontological reflexivity’ that goes beyond the conceptual reflexivity of much recent ontological work. It conceives the anthropological domain as a place of ‘intra-actment’ and maintains that to avoid ontological closure, researchers must contextualize their ontological assumptions by reflexively sensitizing themselves to how these assumptions are shaped by both embodied experience and the contexts in which they are articulated and performed. This article seeks to enact this through an auto-ethnographic exploration of the author’s own embodied experience as it relates to demonic manifestations and the divine.
Seeking to uproot evil from people’s life, neo-Pentecostal exorcists in Brazil separate between internal and external bodily surfaces and then ‘close’ the victim’s entire body to protect against further malignant intrusion. Based on fieldwork in Brazil and the analysis of expulsion videos online, I demonstrate that exorcists self-consciously use topological imaginaries of connectedness and disjunction to generate a reality in which demons and humans occupy mutually exclusive ontological domains. I argue that the moral transformation that these rituals encourage is thus contingent on the successful disentanglement of bodily surfaces, which distinguishes inside from outside and humans from demons. I use the term ‘moral topology’ to analyze this process and call for further cross-cultural attention to the ethnographic vitality of topological imaginaries in the making of cosmological boundaries.