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.
Christianity has transformed many times in its 2,000-year history, from its roots in the Middle East to its presence around the world today. From the mid-twentieth century onward the presence of Christianity has increased dramatically in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and the majority of the world’s Christians are now nonwhite and non-Western. The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the Global South traces both the historical evolution and contemporary themes in Christianity in more than 150 countries and regions. The volumes include maps, images, and a detailed timeline of key events.
The phrases “Global Christianity” and “World Christianity” are inadequate to convey the complexity of the countries and regions involved—this encyclopedia, with its more than 500 entries, aims to offer rich perspectives on the varieties of Christianity where it is growing, how the spread of Christianity shapes the faith in various regions, and how the faith is changing worldwide.
Abstract: For Southern Californian members of the Vineyard network of charismatic churches, character is a gift of God, traits bequested on them that are equal in dignity and importance to the classical divine gifts such as tongues, prophecy, healing or casting out demons. The chief difference is that these more classical gifts are not about gaining or valuing character traits, but about submission to God, and therefore are as much moments of character’s erasure as they are of elaboration. And both forms of character, as perduring divine gift or as an ascetically earned moral character shaped through submission, help believers understand character in a third sense: as their being participants, and therefore personages, in the wider Gospel narrative of cosmic salvation.
Abstract: Contemporary anthropological debates over the political implications of the global explosion of Evangelical and Pentecostal forms of Christianity frequently center on a ‘break with the past’ and reliance on the working of divine power. In this article, we intervene in this debate by exploring people’s wonder about new global geography and historicity and the ways in which this wonder is opening up a space for local state building by an Evangelical/Pentecostal movement on the island of Malaita, Solomon Islands. We present and discuss the origins of a particular theocratic impulse of this movement to show how the movement’s theology evokes and supports the institution of a form of governance. This challenges the widespread observation that Evangelical/Pentecostal believers are politically quiet.
Abstract: Ritual is a domain of analysis shared across Christian confessions and continents. Yet in anthropological work on Christianity, studies of ritual have thus far remained piecemeal and disjointed, unwittingly perpetuating distinctions between north and south, ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ publics, Pentecostals and ‘the rest’. This introductory essay charts the analytic potential of developing a robust cross-cultural analysis of ritual from the perspective of anthropologists of Christianity. We employ ritual risk and efficacy to expand the ongoing study of the practice of Christian sociality, which we explore through three themes. Firstly, this collection is united by a shared interest in ritual inefficacy—the ‘infelicitous’ moments when ritual go awry— and the societal and metaphysical risks that may result. Secondly, the collection examines the social ‘work’ of ritual in defining and authorizing particular forms of Christianity. Finally, the essays explore the ways Christian futures are imagined and created through ritual.
Abstract: Place-making is a central activity for Christian groups. Yet the scholarly literature contains little comparative conversation on local Christian theories of place. This article ‘thinks across’ ten ethnographic descriptions of evangelical communities in order to pay attention to what these Christians pay attention to in their everyday place-making. It discusses seven problematics that commonly recur in evangelical place-work (namely linguistic, material, temporal, personhood, translocal, transcendent, and worldly concerns). This analysis nuances current anthropological debates on Protestant materiality, temporality, and personhood. The article argues that a central tenet of evangelicals’ place- making is a simultaneous taking apart and bringing together of faith and place. This results in a simultaneous fusing and ‘unfusing’ of situation and setting, which cannot be labeled either displacement or thorough emplacement. More broadly, evangelical place-making provides a modern example of deterritorialization that is different from placelessness. It also speaks to the complex interplay between ideals, intentionality, and agency.
Excerpt: This chapter is about the shifting relationship between anthropology and Christianity. Any relationship has different dimensions—some that are openly acknowledged, and some that are concealed; some that may reflect imbalances between two parties, and others that express ideals of equality. Relationships can go through periods of harmony or occasionally descend into mutual incomprehension or enmity. A common view of anthropology is that it developed as a secular discipline, actively distancing itself from theology and the latter’s Christian associations. Up until at least the 1980s it was common to hear anthropologists say that they had encountered Christian missionaries in the field but had tried to ignore them while they studied the “local” culture. Christianity in many conventional fieldwork contexts was seen as a troubling remnant of colonial times, while its presence in Western societies was regarded as of little interest. Nonetheless, these comments do not tell the whole story of the relationship. The fact that for much of the twentieth century anthropology paid relatively scant ethnographic attention to Christianity may suggest a combination of hostility and indifference; but it also reflects a more complex, ambivalent set of interactions. The term “companion” derives from the Latin word companio, which in literal terms means “one who eats bread with another,” implying not merely separate identities but also mutual bonds expressed through proximity, parallel practices and even a hint at consubstantiality. It points in other words to both conjunctions and distinctions. In this chapter, we shall explore examples of both.
What, then, of my use of “constant” and “inconstant”? In its mathematical sense a constant implies a non-varying value, but I do not suggest that either Christianity or its connections with anthropology have remained unchanged. One reason to introduce this temporal metaphor is to indicate how the relationship between Christianity and anthropology has so often been defined by their respective relationships to time, change, and historical process. In his famous work The Golden Bough (1890) the Victorian anthropologist James Frazer tried to consign Christianity to the same dustbin of history that he reserved for other forms of religion; but a century or so later anthropologists have actually been observing striking increases in Christian adherence and practice across large parts of the world. More and more, they have come to understand the need to analyze how the spread of Christianity raises questions over the supposed disruptions of modernity. But this new analytical impulse does not involve a simple assumption that Christian influence produces a uniform, linear modelof Westernization. The task is rather to develop a critical and nuanced understanding of whether and how encounters with Christianity have produced transformations in cultures around the world. This new focus on Christianity also involves anthropologists taking a more historically informed look at themselves. The aim has been to understand whether anthropological conceptions of cultural coherence, of transcendence, of divisions between sacred and profane time and space, have links with Christian roots in ways that have not hitherto been fully acknowledged.
Following on from such points, categories of time, history and identity will help to form the structure of this chapter. Over the last 15 years or so, a self-conscious sub-field has emerged within the discipline dedicated to studying Christianity. In acknowledgement of this development, I divide my analysis into three periods. The first—with apologies to archeologists—I call “B.A.C.” (Before the Anthropology of Christianity); the second “A.C.” (the era of the Anthropology of Christianity); and finally, I provide some suggestions of possible futures for studies of the religion. However, I invoke such categories with irony. I approach them critically, especially their linear assumptions, and show how they represent only a limited view of how anthropology can continue to approach this religion …
Abstract: The wide-ranging contributions to this special issue point to the extraordinary variety of Christian adherence around the world. In the light of this multiplicity, it has become increasingly important to develop frameworks that will allow us to conceptualize Christianity as a multifaceted, labile, but nevertheless identifiable object. Drawing together the concept of affordances, as used by Webb Keane in his contribution to this issue, as well as what I call “audiences,” this afterword outlines a comparative framework for the study of Christianity. This framework is focused on Christian adherence as a form of value creation, worked out in contested social space. I begin by applying this model to some of my own material from the Zambian Copperbelt, showing how Pentecostalism and the prosperity gospel afford claims on audiences that include God, the state, and the wider social world. I then turn my attention to the affordances and audiences that emerge in the articles collected in this special issue. I conclude by suggesting that the framework of affordances and audiences I have developed here helps to address one of the most vexing problems in the anthropology of Christianity, namely, how the subfield defines its object of study.
Abstract: This article reviews the development of the anthropology of Christianity and considers the new questions and approaches introduced by the articles in this special issue of Current Anthropology. The article first addresses the contested history of the anthropology of Christianity, suggesting that there is intellectual value in seeing it as largely a development of the new century. It goes on to locate the rise of the anthropology of Christianity in relation to a number of important changes both in the place of religion in the world and in the academic study of religion that also occurred during this period. It then considers the foci of the articles collected here. These include such relatively novel topics as the nature of Christian social institutions, social processes, space-making practices, and constructions of gender, as well as questions concerning the boundaries of Christianity. Several articles also focus on considerations of recent developments in the study of long-standing topics in the anthropology of Christianity, such as discontinuity, reflexivity, experience, and materiality. Throughout the discussion of these issues, I take up critical debates around the anthropology of Christianity, for example, the charge that it is wholly idealist in orientation, and consider how these articles contribute to the further development of these discussions.