Cornelio and Marañon, “A ‘Righteous Intervention'”

Cornelio, Jayeel and Ia Marañon. (2019) “A ‘Righteous Intervention’: Megachurch Christianity and Duterte’s War on Drugs in the Philippines. International Journal of Asian Christianity. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/25424246-00202005. 

Abstract: Megachurches, which are among the fastest-growing religious organizations in the Philippines, have been apolitical towards Duterte’s war on drugs. In contrast to some influential religious groups, that they have not released any statement is glaring. At the same time, megachurches have adopted interventions that aim at the rehabilitation of drug-dependent individuals and the moral renewal of police officers. What accounts for these actions? For megachurch pastors, the war on drugs is a ‘righteous intervention’ on the part of a God-ordained administration. At the same time, addressing the proliferation of illegal drugs is ‘humanly impossible’. Thus responding to substance abuse can only be a spiritual matter. The task of the church is to treat it as a spiritual condition to which the answer is conversion and moral recovery. The article ends with a critical reflection on how these theological views ultimately reflect the interests of the class these megachurches represent.

Dugan, “iPrayer”

Dugan, Katherine. (2019) ‘iPrayer: Catholic Prayer Apps and Twenty-First Century Catholic Subjectivities’. In: Fewkes, J. (ed.) Anthropological Perspectives on the Religious Use of Apps. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Abstract: In this chapter, Dugan investigates what happens when mobile technology mediates Catholic prayer. How does the experience of prayer shift when mediated through mobile technology? In what ways does the technology affect the formation of Catholic subjectivities? Drawing on ethnographic work among app developers and users, this chapter examines three Catholic prayer apps. These apps instruct Catholics in correct performance of prayer and attune Catholics to daily requirements of religious practice. Prayer apps contribute to twenty-first-century Catholic subjectivity by drawing Catholics into contested spaces between the laity and hierarchy, rote and spontaneous prayer, and between the sacred and profane. These apps participate in prayer-based Catholic discipline in—and for—the iPhone era.

Casselberry and Pritchard, “Spirit on the Move”

Casselberry, Judith and Elizabeth A. Pritchard. 2019. Spirit on the Move: Black Women and Pentecostalism in Africa and the Diaspora. Durham: Duke University Press. 

Abstract: Pentecostalism is currently the fastest-growing Christian movement, with hundreds of millions of followers. This growth overwhelmingly takes place outside of the West, and women make up 75 percent of the membership. The contributors to Spirit on the Move examine Pentecostalism’s appeal to black women worldwide and the ways it provides them with a source of community and access to power. Exploring a range of topics, from Neo-Pentecostal churches in Ghana that help women challenge gender norms to evangelical gospel musicians in Brazil, the contributors show how Pentecostalism helps black women draw attention to and seek remediation from the violence and injustices brought on by civil war, capitalist exploitation, racism, and the failures of the state. In fleshing out the experiences, theologies, and innovations of black women Pentecostals, the contributors show how Pentecostal belief and its various practices reflect the movement’s complexity, reach, and adaptability to specific cultural and political formations.

Smith, “Unreconciled”

Smith, Andrea. 2019. Unreconciled: From Racial Reconciliation to Racial Justice in Christian Evangelicalism. Durham: Duke University Press. 

Abstract: In the 1990s, many evangelical Christian organizations and church leaders began to acknowledge their long history of racism and launched efforts at becoming more inclusive of people of color. While much of this racial reconciliation movement has not directly confronted systemic racism’s structural causes, there exists a smaller countermovement within evangelicalism, primarily led by women of color who are actively engaged in antiracism and social justice struggles. In Unreconciled Andrea Smith examines these movements through a critical ethnic studies lens, evaluating the varying degrees to which evangelical communities that were founded on white supremacy have addressed racism. Drawing on evangelical publications, sermons, and organization statements, as well as ethnographic fieldwork and participation in evangelical events, Smith shows how evangelicalism is largely unable to effectively challenge white supremacy due to its reliance upon discourses of whiteness. At the same time, the work of progressive evangelical women of color not only demonstrates that evangelical Christianity can be an unexpected place in which to find theoretical critique and social justice organizing but also shows how critical ethnic studies’ interventions can be applied broadly across political and religious divides outside the academy.

Engberg, “Walking on the Pages of the Word of God”

Engberg, Aron. 2019. Walking on the Pages of the Word of God: Self, Land, and Text Among Evangelical Volunteers in Jerusalem. Leiden: Brill

In Walking on the Pages of the Word of God Aron Engberg explores the religious language and identities of evangelical volunteer workers in contemporary Jerusalem. The volunteers are connected to Christian organizations which consider their work a natural consequence of the biblical promises to Israel and their responsibility to “bless the Jewish people”.

Relying on ethnographic data of the discursive practices of the volunteers, the book explores a central puzzle of Zionist Christianity: the narrative production of Israel’s religious significance and its relationship to broader Christian language traditions. By focusing on the volunteers’ stories about themselves, the land and the Bible, Aron Engberg offers a convincing account about how the State of Israel is finding its way into evangelical identities.

Williams Green, “Sin and Sovereignty”

Williams Green, Leanne. (2019) ‘Sin and Sovereignty in the Lives of Urban Baptists in Zimbabwe’. Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1640263.

Abstract: What is the relation between divine and human action in the world? To understand how a certain group of Christians reckon human capacity and divine authority, I explore articulations of two theological concepts – sin and sovereignty – as they played out in the concerns of a congregation of Baptists in Zimbabwe’s capital city. This paper is situated within emerging conversations between anthropologists and theologians, and from my ethnographic case I argue that contemporary readings of Calvin and of Augustinian notions of original sin offer the anthropologist alternatives to the analytic category of ‘agency’. Beliefs about the limits of human capacity and about God’s control among urban Zimbabwean Baptists shape their engagement with the political realm, and their case contributes to ethnographic explorations of theological and political conceptions of sovereignty.

Loustau, “Labor of and Labor in Post-Medjugorje Slideshows”

Loustau, Marc Roscoe. 2019. “The Labor of and Labor in Post-Medjugorje Slideshows.” Journeys 20(1): 31-52. 

Why do post-pilgrimage slideshows help Transylvanian Hungarian Catholics perform domestic devotional labor? There is growing interest in breaking open pilgrimage research, and scholars have recently begun studying rituals of return—including pilgrims’ practice of using photographs to narrate their journeys after returning home. I contribute to this effort by sketching out the general characteristics of Transylvanian Hungarian Catholics’ post-pilgrimage slideshows about the Medjugorje shrine. I then give a detailed description of an exemplary case: a married couple’s presentation for their children gathered around the family computer. Although we might expect pilgrims to routinize stories and images from a chaotic journey, many slideshows were quite disorganized and impressionistic. This disorganization helped travelers tailor their stories to the diverse spiritual interests of guests in a changing Transylvanian Hungarian Catholic religious landscape. Family members’ conversations also dramatized how neoliberalism in Romania has emerged alongside new global pilgrimage sites like Medjugorje. Medjugorje appeals to pilgrims because it is a privileged site for advertising national wares on the global market.

Ulmonen, “#MeToo in Sweden”

Ulmonen, Paula. (2019) “#MeToo in Sweden: Museum Collections, Digital Archiving and Hashtag Visuality.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1640264.

Abstract: In October 2017, the Nordic Museum in Stockholm launched its #metoocollection. The aim was to capture the viral #MeToo campaign that in Sweden has been likened to a (feminist) revolution. Based on archival research, interviews and media analysis, this article explores public submissions to the #metoo collection and analyses the museum’s rationale for collecting what is considered to be difficult cultural heritage. Noting the absence of images in the collection, the article argues that the iconic hashtag #MeToo constitutes an alternative form of digital visuality, here termed hashtag visuality. Hashtag visuality, the article suggests, is an emerging form of visual representation that captures the multimodal logic of social media, blurring distinctions between texts and images. In Sweden, #MeToo hashtag visuality reveals the contradictory prevalence of structural sexism and sexual violence in a country with a national self-image of gender equality and a self-proclaimed feminist government, while affirming feminist agency.

Rose, “Palestinian Evangelicals”

Rose, Lena. (2019) “Palestinian Evangelicals – A Theologically Engaged Anthropological Approach.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1641534.

Abstract: Christian theologians have grappled for centuries with the fact that they are not Jews, yet embedded in Jewish history. Situated in the context of a Jewish-centric State that has been welcomed by a majority of evangelicals worldwide as fulfilment of biblical prophecy (and supported by their financial, spiritual, and political investment), Palestinian evangelicals are an anomaly. While they share an evangelical commitment, they have a complex and difficult relationship with the Israeli state. This paper argues that the population of Palestinian evangelicals is most productively explored through a combined interdisciplinary approach of Theology and Anthropology: it reveals the historical theologies that have shaped Palestinian evangelical engagement with the Israeli state and their global faith family. The article argues that theologically engaged Anthropology can aid in uncovering the power relationships within a transnational religious movement.

Loustau, “Belief Beyond the Bugbear”

Loustau, Marc Roscoe. (2019) “Belief Beyond the Bugbear: Propositional Theology and Intellectual Authority in a Transylvanian Catholic Ethnographic Memoir.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1640262.

Abstract: By overlooking the history of Catholic thought, anthropologists have made contemporary processes for negotiating intellectual authority in the Catholic Church into a lacuna in the anthropology of Christianity. I develop this claim by examining an ethnographic memoir called The Secret of Csíksomlyó by Árpád Daczó, a widely known contemporary Transylvanian Hungarian Catholic intellectual. Daczó blends autobiography and ethnography to argue that the Hungarian Virgin Mary is a Christianized pagan moon goddess. Halfway through, Daczó switches genres to propositional theology and defends himself to the magisterium, the Church’s institutional guarantor of orthodoxy. I situate Daczó’s effort to anticipate his critics in the history of Catholic-Protestant theological polemics, which helped make propositional theology into the Catholic Church’s privileged language for investigating heresy. By placing Daczó’s use of propositional theology against the backdrop of contemporary Catholic theologians’ debates about the magisterium’s authority, I challenge anthropological assumptions about the social significance of propositional belief.