Hardin, “Spiritual Etiologies”

Hardin, Jessica. 2014. Spiritual Etiologies: Metabolic Disorders, Evangelical Christianity, and Well-Being in Samoa. Doctoral Dissertation, Dept. of Anthropology. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University. 

Abstract: This dissertation examines how rising rates of metabolic disorders are interpreted by evangelical Christians in Samoa as evidence of the need for (re)Christianization. Evangelical Christians critique mainline Christianity as a source of suffering, and posit a relationship between church-based exchange and metabolic disorders. Metabolic  disorders are particularly difficult to heal in the cultural context of Samoa because they require individuals to change their everyday lives in ways that challenge common Samoan practices of well-being, including food-sharing and feeding. Metabolic disorders also require Samoans to reformulate the associations power and potency have with large body size. This dissertation explores the ways medicalized ideas of food, fat, and fitness travel into evangelical Christian contexts in order to examine the generative intersection of religion and medicalization. While the medicalization of food, fat, and fitness is readily accepted, many Samoans struggle with how to actualize changes to their health behaviors (i.e., to eat differently, to exercise) because of the constraints of church and family obligations, and cash-poverty. Evangelical churches offer new ways to participate in church-based exchange, which are explicitly directed at alleviating cash-poverty, and evangelical Christianity has, through the linking of salvation and healing, developed ways for born-again Samoans to change health behaviors. Through conversion and healing practices, many born-again people also examine the relationships that may be a source of suffering. Data was collected over two years of ethnographic fieldwork between 2008 and 2012; fieldwork included participant observation in biomedical facilities (hospitals and clinics), in churches (Sunday services, healing ministries, Bible study, and prayer groups), and in two households. In-depth interviews were also conducted with a range of Christians and health practitioners. In a time of deepening socio-economic inequalities and increased dependence on cash, this dissertation argues that evangelical notions of well-being, in conversation with medicalization, bring into focus the socio-economic inequalities that cause metabolic disorders––inequalities that medicalization alone tends to eschew. In turn, evangelical Christians come to examine the embodied evidence of disease (e.g., stress, anger, high blood pressure) as evidence of those inequalities.

Cannell, “The Blood of Abraham”

Cannell, Fenella. 2013. The Blood of Abraham: Mormon redemptive physicality and American idioms of kinship. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19(s1):77-94.

Abstract: For Latter-day Saints, blood is one important idiom of kinship, and of Christian worship, but not in the ways one might expect. This paper asks how the logic of the resurrected and ‘perfected’ body inhabits both registers, beginning with the surprisingly ‘bloodless’ LDS Sacrament Service. I then explore the paths by which Latter-day Saints navigate meanings of blood kinship in tension, especially attribution to the ‘Abrahamic lineages’. I argue, in agreement with Armand Mauss, that contemporary Mormonism has largely shed racist readings of ‘blood’, but suggest that both lineage and cognatic kinship as mystery remain salient through a ‘reduplicative logic’ which collapses physical inheritance, agency, and revelation. This illuminates both similarities to and differences from conservative American Protestant positions, including understandings of the life of the unborn fetus and the rights and wrongs of stem cell research.

Heo, “The Bodily Threat of Miracles”

Heo, Angie. 2013. The Bodily Threat of Miracles: Security, Sacramentality, and the Egyptian Politics of Public Order. American Ethnologist 40(1):149-164.

Abstract: This article examines the political and public culture of Coptic Christian miracles through the circulation and reproduction of images and the mimetic entanglements of artifacts and objects. To understand the threat posed by one case of a woman’s oil-exuding hand, this study points to how semiotic orders of security and sacramentality intersect in the regulation of bodily miracles. It explores Coptic Orthodox Church and Egyptian state efforts to contain the activity of images and transform the public nature of truthful witness and divine testimony. In doing so, it suggests how the material structure of saintly imagination introduces bodily and visual challenges to an authoritarian politics of public order.

van de Kamp, “Love Therapy”

van de Kamp, Linda.  2012.  Love Therapy: A Brazilian Pentecostal (Dis)connection in Maputo.  In, The Social Life of Connectivity in Africa, Rijk van Dijk and Mirjam de Brujin, eds.  p. 203-226.  New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Excerpt: “This chapter examines this public training of the body in ways of love, such as embracing and kissing, in relation to the changing practices of love an dnew gender roles in Maputo.  I examine Brazilian Pentecostal counseling sessions on love and sexuality as a set of ‘connecting techniques’ where the terapia do amor serves as a key example.  In line with the arguments running through this current volume, connecting techniques are specific forms of linking that people consider to open up new life options, such as the invention of new bodily modes  and relationships.  In the case of the therapy, the connecting techniques have two important meanings.  First, the value of the Brazilian Pentecostal connections for Mozambican urban women is intrinsically related to its transnational aspects.  The transnational Pentecostal bridge allows for disconnecting from existing forms of relating and learning about alternative ways of being and relating.  Second, it appears that the embodiment of specific constructs, tools, or techniques (Foucault 1988) produces love and successful relations.  To connect to alternative forms of love and marriage and to disconnect from older ones, the body plays a central role in realizing connections and effectuating sociocultural change.  The last part of this chapter describes how the new modes of bridging and bonding through the embodiment of Brazilian Pentecostal techniques are also leading to insecure feelings and relationships” (p. 204).

Braunlein, “We are 100% Catholic”

Braunlein, Peter J. 2012. “We are 100% Catholic“: Philippine Passion Rituals and Some Obstacles in the Study of Non-European Christianity. Journal of Religion in Europe 5(3):384-413.

Abstract: Philippine Catholicism is usually seen as a variant of a non-European Christianity, which was formerly introduced by Spanish missionaries and colonizers into the Philippine Archipelago. Philippine passion rituals, especially self-flagellation and rites of crucifixion, are commonly interpreted as bizarre phenomena of a pre-modern folk-religiosity or archaic survivals of `our’ past, or as a post-colonial mimicry of European religious history. The perspective on Philippine Christianity is always governed by European discourses, whether religious, scientific, or common sense. This paper is an attempt to question dichotomies such as `European’ and `non-European,’ `modern’ and `pre-modern,’ `authentic’ and `inauthentic,’ etc. In the study of religion such dichotomies, I argue, create problems of conceptualizing diversity within one religious tradition and behind such distinctions lurks the implicit self-perception of the West of being exemplary `modern.’ I use Philippine passion rituals as a hermeneutic challenge. Crucifixions are analyzed as media events and from the actor’s perspective, by historicizing the missionary encounter, and by scrutinizing concepts such as `syncretism’ and `identity.’ `Translation’ and the `histoire croisée’ approach are proposed as helpful analytical tools for the study of Christianity.

Brahinsky, Josh (2012) “Pentecostal Body Logics: Cultivating a Modern Sensorium”

Brahinsky, Josh. 2012. Pentecostal Body Logics: Cultivating a Modern Sensorium. Cultural Anthropology. 27(2):215-238.

Abstract

Pentecostals put intensive study into bodies, texts, practices and their interrelationships so as to effectively cultivate a sensory culture – sensorium – and invite authoritative religious experience. This ethnographic study follows a Pentecostal sensorium from its crucial institutionalization in early Assemblies of God practice to more contemporary manifestations at Bethany University and among the Promise Keepers. It traces the historical mutations of what I call the body logics – or portable sensory dynamics – that are central to Pentecostal pedagogies of conversion and commitment, especially in their relatively easy transposition to new contexts and ambivalent but productive relationship to modern secularity. Further, it argues that religiously inflected sensory aptitudes, and perhaps even mind-body dynamics, emerge through a process of careful cultivation and nurturance.