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.
Publisher’s Description: Despite the fact that Christianity is understood to be thoroughly intertwined with matter, objects, and things, Christians struggle to cope with this materiality in their daily lives. This volume argues that the ambivalent relationships many Christians have with materiality is a driving force that contributes to the way people in different Christian traditions and in different parts of the world understand and live out their religion.
Introduction, Minna Opas & Anna Haapalainen (University of Turku, Finland)
Part 1: Doubting
1. Spirit Media and the Spectre of the Fake, Marleen de Witte (Unviersity of Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
2. Organic Faith in Amazonia: De-indexification, doubt and Christian corporeality, Minna Opas (University of Turku, Finland)
3. Things not for themselves: idolatry and consecration in Orthodox Ethiopia, Tom Boylston (University of Edinburgh)
Part 2: Sufficing
4. The Bible in the Digital Age: Negotiating the Limits of ‘Bibleness’ of Different Bible Media, Katja Rakow(Heidelberg University, Germany)
5. The Plausibility of Immersion: limits and creativity in materializing the Bible, James Bielo (Miami University, USA)
6.Humanizing the Bible: Limits of materiality in a passion play, Anna Haapalainen (University of Turku, Finland)
7. Semana Santa processions in Granada – Religion or Spectacle? Sari Kuuva (University of Jyväskylä, Finland)
8. The death and rebirth of a crucifix: Materiality and the sacred in Andean vernacular Catholicism, Diego Alonso Huerta (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú / University of Helsinki, Finland)
Part 3: Unbinding
9. Proving the Inner Word: (De)materializing the Spirit in Radical Pietism Elisa Heinämäki (University of Helsinki, Finland)
10. The Return of the Unclean Spirit: Collapse and Relapse in the Baptist rehab ministry Igor Mikeshin (University of Helsinki, Finland)
11. Mimesis and Mediation in the Semana Santa Processions of Granada, Sari Kuuva, University of Jyväskylä
Afterword: Diana Espirito Santo (London School of Economics, UK)
Abstract: This article explores the limits of the debate surrounding Robert A. Orsi’s call for a “third way” in scholar-practitioner encounters in religious studies research. It argues that the debate has reached an impasse and that, as Joel Robbins suggests, an alternative approach might exist within theology—particularly, theological discussions of how the Christian is to relate to the non-Christian other. The article tests this notion by probing the writings of A. Kenneth Cragg, an Anglican theologian and Islamic Studies specialist who proposed the possibility of expanding the Christian canon within the context of interfaith encounters. The article concludes that although religious studies remains, as a field, unprepared to countenance the kind of hybridization toward which Cragg’s conception of the interfaith situation leads, his notion of “bi-scripturalism” has the potential nevertheless of opening up new questions for religious studies scholars concerned with alterity.
King, Rebekka. 2014. The Anthropology of Christianity Goes to Seminary. Religion and Society: Advances in Research 5:255-260.
Excerpt: “I didn’t know that we were the repugnant other,” my student Tracy exclaimed as she entered the classroom and tossed her books on the table. “I didn’t know that anthropologists were interested in studying us at all!” “Yes, I imagine it comes as a surprise,” I responded as I finished mov- ing the classroom desks into a semi-circle that was intended to facilitate the creation of spaces marked by open dialogue and diversity—core pedagogical concerns of the institution at which I was teaching. It was the second day of class, and Tracy’s comments were in response to Joel Robbins’s (2003) article “What Is a Christian? Notes toward an Anthropology of Christianity.” His discussion of Susan Harding’s infamous ‘repugnant cultural other’, which Robbins describes as an “anomalous mixture of the similar and the different” (ibid.: 193), had hit a nerve. Tracy’s question about anthropological interests in the Christian subject was an expected one, given that I was leading a special topics seminar on the Anthropology of Christianity to master of divinity students at the Candler School of Theology, a United Methodist seminary affiliated with Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia…
Stewart, Anna and Simon Coleman. 2014. “Contributions from Anthropology,” in The Oxford handbook of theology, sexuality, and gender, edited by Adrian. Thatcher, 107-119. Oxford : Oxford University Press.
Excerpt: “Religion, according to one popular anthropological definition, is a realm of experience in which humans confront ultimate categories of meaning. Through religious language, ritual, and ideology human beings come to reside within a ‘system of symbols’ that colours their experience and orientation towards the world ….In the years since Geetz’s influential definition of religious was proposed, anthropologist have pointed out the importance of looking not only at systems of meaning but also at the entanglement of actors in more material and more mundane networks of family, economy, and politics … Gender (In solving cultural expectations about the roles of men and women) ash sexuality (involving morality, desire, and physical activity related to sex) have added significant dimensions to the study of religion, for they appear to bring together these themes of symbolic meaning and embodied life ….”
Abstract: Growth in Christianity has spurred the appearance of the subfield of world Christianity, whose assumptions increasingly shape scholarship on Christianity. What I term the world-Christian turn, which is often linked to mission studies, yields more comprehensive approaches to the Christian past, connecting local histories of Christian communities to larger-scale historical movements and producing innovative comparative perspectives on Christianity past and present. In Catholic theology, this turn has encouraged new comparative and contextual theologies. Yet support for Christian mission and the world-Christian turn need not go together. Two cases in point: comparative theology tends to eschew mission while the work of Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, is suspicious of some impulses behind the world-Christian turn and their potential for undermining Christian mission. Such cases notwithstanding, I argue that missiology is a promising resource for the field of world Christianity.
Meneses, Eloise, Lindy Backues, David Bronkema, Eric Flett, and Benjamin L. Hartley. 2014. Engaging the Religiously Committed Other: Anthropologists and Theologians in Dialogue. Current Anthropology. Preprint – issue, volume, page not available.
Abstract: Anthropology has two tasks: the scientific task of studying human beings and the instrumental task of promoting human flourishing. To date, the scientific task has been constrained by secularism, and the instrumental task by the philosophy and values of liberalism. These constraints have caused religiously based scholarship to be excluded from anthropology’s discourse, to the detriment of both tasks. The call for papers for the 2009 meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) recognized the need to “push the field’s epistemological and presentational conventions” in order to reach anthropology’s various publics. Religious thought has much to say about the human condition. It can expand the discourse in ways that provide explanatory value as well as moral purpose and hope. We propose an epistemology of witness for dialogue between anthropologists and theologians, and we demonstrate the value added with an example: the problem of violence.
Excerpt: This collection of articles is a very welcome surprise. In the years since writing the 2006 essay on anthropology and theology with which all of the articles to some extent engage, I had become resigned to what seemed to the be the likelihood that the dialogue between anthropology and theology was going to be one that at best built very slowly, and at worst was destined hardly to take place. To be sure, there had been some fits and starts kinds of discussions, but nothing much had happened in the way of sustained conversation. Anthropology and theology appeared to me set to continue to go their separate ways without the benefit of much cross-fertilization. The publication of this collection fundamentally alters this picture. Each of its articles is a substantial contribution in its own right, and taken together they indicate in a way no other collection yet has how productive of fresh anthropological ideas encounters with various kinds of theology can be. And in moving decisively beyond a focus solely on the Christian tradition, they also rescue this nascent engagement from becoming a purely parochial one . . .