Abstract: For the Amazonian Yine people, Christian denominationalism provides an important means for organizing social life. Denominations in this context are not, however, to be understood as clearly bounded entities. Simultaneously with forming and renewing denominational boundaries, the Yine continuously cross, dissolve, and redefine them. This article attempts to understand the denominational dynamics among the Yine people, and in particular their back and forth movement between Evangelicalism, Catholicism, and Pentecostalism, without viewing their denominational allegiances as subordinate to other forms of social organization or as something religiously insincere. Seeking inspiration from the ethnography of personhood and humanity in Amazonia, it suggests that denominations among the Yine can be understood to exist as unstable forms of belonging, as “thickenings” of different kinds of Christian moral relations to sociality, that take place on a continuum pictured not as a line but rather as a space. At the more general level the article shows how Christian vernacular denominationalism is likely to not be based on dogmatic differences but to be rather something that comes to be in practice. Furthermore, the article makes explicit how denominational boundaries are not always of the one and the same kind everywhere but vary between denominations.
Abstract: This article describes how, amidst Christian schism in the Philippines, the corporate form emerges as a central facet through which religious communities come to be understood. Centered on the legal fallout of a schism in the United Methodist Church in the Philippines that began in 2011, the article discusses how the schism foregrounded the necessary legal identities of religious groups in the Philippines as corporations. Having inherited the corporate model of religious organization from the United States’ colonial administration in the early 20th century, the legal configuration of the religious corporation is often at odds with how Christian actors themselves understand the divinely informed nature of the congregation. While such legal processes are undertaken to resolve matters of property ownership and church finances, they also reveal how legal bureaucratic regimes are involved in conceptualizing, abstracting, and circulating particular communal forms of subjectivity.
Handman, Courtney and Opas, Minna. (2019) “Institutions, Infrastructures, and Religious Sociality: The Difference Denominations Make in Global Christianity.” Anthropological Quarterly. 92(4): 1001-1014.
Abstract: Scholars working in the anthropology of Christianity have focused in large part on the subject in Protestantism, emphasizing the ways in which the modern subject is a Christian subject (Robbins 2004, 2007; Keane 2007; Meyer 1999; Elisha 2011; O’Neill 2010). This follows a wider trend in the renewed anthropological analyses of religion, morality, and ethics that have been oriented around religious subjectivities as the primary sites of investigation (e.g., Hirschkind 2006, Mahmood 2005, Laidlaw 2013, Lambek 2010). As productive as this line of questioning has been in conceptualizing Christian subjects, it has largely come at the expense of an emphasis on the social groups in and through which Christian practice takes place. Although relatedness has been understood to contribute to the rise of individuals’ faith (e.g., Bielo 2009, Coleman 2015, Elisha 2011, Luhrmann 2004), the significance of institutionalized structures of sociality has rarely been addressed. In this collection, we ask: what is lost when the institutions and infrastructures of Christian practice are elided? In addressing this question, we pay particular attention to the denominational form, doing so in the face of long-standing theological and ethnographic traditions that have resolutely denied the importance of this institution.
Abstract: In this article, I analyze the dynamics of Protestants’ ambivalence about their own institutional existence in the context of inter-denominational fighting between Lutheran and Catholic missions in colonial New Guinea. I argue that denominational conflict became a crucial part of the Lutheran missiological method. In particular, it gave them the chance to embrace their Lutheran infrastructure by comparing what they thought of as its lifegiving capacities to the dead or false forms of Catholic missionization. Ethnographically, I focus on a moment in the 1930s when two Catholic priests were killed by local people, as well as the ensuing Lutheran response. The priests were killed, according to the Lutherans, because they did not have a spirit-filled infrastructure. The institutional life of the denomination is recognized and yet mitigated through a process of animation, a way of making the most mundane infrastructure the stuff of lifegiving force.
Abstract: One of the most productive lines of inquiry in the anthropology of Christianity has explored how Christian adherence structures time. The organizing idea here has been rupture, whether the break with the pagan past at conversion or the expected break of the apocalyptic future. In contrast to this “punctuated” view of time, this article examines a Christian temporality focused not on a past or future break, but rather on an expansive present. For Pentecostals on the Zambian Copperbelt, this expansive present is structured by the narrative of the past in the form of scripture, which is perpetually relived. The Pentecostal future is also brought near to the present by the expectations of the prosperity gospel. By expanding the present along these lines, believers reject the logic of submission that structures many forms of both Christian and capitalist time. An analysis of the expansive present therefore moves us beyond the language of rupture that has been central to the anthropology of Christianity. It also speaks to concerns beyond the study of religion by exploring the experience of—and critical engagement with—capitalist time.
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.
Abstract: African Americans regularly join Eastern Orthodox churches in the United States. By focusing on what practitioners do with Orthodox icons, this case study explores the processes through which specific experiences and expressions of being an Orthodox Christian become possible and meaningful for African American practitioners. This article suggests that saint veneration became a compelling Orthodox practice to practitioners because it provided a unique way to connect to the divine and to resist continuing racial discrimination in the United States. With the help of icons, African American men and women demonstrated that African people were saints, that African women contributed significantly to the history of Christianity, and that African Americans performed saintly acts. In this way, practitioners aimed to cultivate a reconciled Christian community where the full and equal membership of people of African descent is taken for granted. In following how Orthodox Christians put the materiality of their icons to work to deconstruct the assumption that whiteness is a universal default for religious experience, this article urges scholars of African American religions to make room for Eastern Orthodoxy as yet another tradition that supplies African Americans with creative tools to craft a compelling way of being a religious person.
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.
Abstract: This article examines a series of spatial practices called ‘cross walks’ and ‘cross vigils’ undertaken by a Pentecostal Christian church in West Belfast, Northern Ireland. It discusses the ways in which cross walk and vigil participants used imitative practices to bring divine power to bear on the urban spaces and place-specific issues of the church’s local area. The article begins by discussing the church itself, and the ways in which participants understand themselves as situated within the ethno-political designations of ‘Protestant’ and ‘Catholic’ in Northern Ireland. It studies the various exemplars set up for the spatial practices in official discourse, and the ways in which these exemplars created a gendered narrative. Finally, it examines the links to Northern Ireland’s parading tradition and the church pastor’s suggested response to a local dispute over parade routes.