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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Abstract: This book explores the proliferation and spread of Brazilian-born religious forms and practices throughout the world. The global diffusion of Brazilian religions provides an excellent lens to understand contemporary religious forms. As the book shows, religious movements as diverse as Santo Daime, Candomblé, Capoeira, John of God, and Brazilian style Pentecostalism and Catholicism, have become immensely popular in many places outside Brazil. This global spread is not merely the result of Brazilian migrants taking their religions abroad, it is also due to global media and to spiritual seekers, travelling to and from Brazil.
Global Trajectories of Brazilian Religion demonstrates that in a dynamic space of historical and cultural production, Brazil is imagined and re-created as an authentic, spiritual, and sensual place that functions as the center for various global religions. To understand the new cross-fertilizations between religion, life-style, tourism and migration, this book introduces the notion of ‘Lusospheres’, a term that refers to the historical Portuguese colonial reach, yet signals the contemporary modes of cultural interaction in a different geo-political age.