Engelke, “Angels in Swindon: Public religion and ambient faith in England”

Engelke, Matthew (2012) “Angels in Swindon: Public religion and ambient faith in England” American Ethnologist 39(1):155-170

Abstract: this article, I introduce the idea of “ambient faith” in an effort to clarify the stakes in long-standing debates about public and private religion. I take as my starting point the increasingly common recognition that conceptual distinctions between publicity and privacy are difficult to maintain in the first place and that they are, in any case, always relative. The idea of “ambient faith,” which I connect to work on the turn to a materialist semiotics, can serve as both a critique of and supplement to the ideas of “public” and “private” religion. Introducing ambience—the sense of ambience—allows one to raise important questions about the processes through which faith comes to the foreground or stays in the background—the extent to which faith, in other words, goes public or stays private. I use my research on a Christian organization in England, the Bible Society of England and Wales, to illuminate these points, discussing the society’s campaign in 2006 to bring angels to Swindon and its promotion of Bible reading in coffee shops. I also consider Brian Eno’s music and recent advertising trends for additional insights into the notion of “ambience.”

Engelke, “The Semiotics of Relevance”

Engelke, Matthew “The Semiotics of Relevance: Campaigning for the Bible in Greater Manchester” Anthropological Quarterly 84(3):705-733

Abstract: This is an article about an advertising campaign that ran in the Greater Manchester area, north of England, in May and June 2007, sponsored by the Bible Society of England and Wales, and aimed at stressing the relevance of the Bible to the general public for understanding today’s world. One of the Society’s assumptions was that the best way to do this was by appearing not-Christian: drawing on semiotic and aesthetic registers that drew from what were understood to be “Cultural” rather than “Church”-based repertoires. The specificities of the case study are explored in some depth, but related also to the wider literatures on Christian approaches to language and secularization theory.

A part of the special issue Beyond Logos: Extensions of the Language Ideology Paradigm in the Study of Global Christianity (-ies)