Gidal, “Catholic Music in Lusophone New Jersey”

Gidal, Marc Meistrich Gidal. 2016. Catholic Music in Lusophone New Jersey: Circum-Atlantic Music, Intergroup Dynamics, and Immigrant Struggles in Transnational Communities. American Music 34(2): 180-217.

Excerpt: In this article I explain three main points about music, religion, group dynamics, and transnationalism in this setting. First, the Roman Catholic parishes that serve Portuguese and Brazilians in Newark foster heterogeneous communities shaped by circum-Atlantic movements of people, religious trends, media, and music. Hence, the diverse backgrounds, customs, and tastes of the clergy and parishioners have influenced the musical activities in the parishes with regard to repertories of music, styles of performance, attitudes toward participation, and processes of dissemination. Second, music in worship services can accentuate or mitigate nationalist rivalries and other distinctions among lusophone people in the United States. This musical perspective contributes to social- scientific findings that although relations are tense between Portuguese and Brazilians, and among Brazilians, in Newark and elsewhere, churches provide unique centers for solidarity, social aid, and community building for lusophone immigrants. Third, parish leaders use music, sermons, and special events to support the personal struggles of parishioners, particularly immigrants who face limited opportunities for work and governmental actions against undocumented residents.

van de Kamp, “Violent Conversion”

van de Kamp, Linda.  2016.  Violent Conversion: Brazilian Pentecostalism and Urban Women in Mozambique.  Oxford: James Currey.

Publisher’s Description: There has been an extraordinary growth in Pentecostalism in Africa, with Brazilian Pentecostals establishing new transnational Christian connections, initiating widespread changes not only in religious practice but in society. This book describes its rise in Maputo, capital of Mozambique, and the sometimes dramatic impact of Pentecostalism on women. Here large numbers of urban women are taking advantage of the opportunities Pentecostalism offers to overcome restrictions at home, pioneer new life spaces and change their lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Yet, conversion can also mean a violent rupturing with tradition, with family and with social networks. As the pastors encourage women to cut their ties with the past, including ancestral spirits, they come to see their kin and husbands as imbued with evil powers, and many leave their families. Conquering spheres that used to be forbidden to them, they often live alone as unmarried women, sometimes earning more than men of a similar age. They are also expected to donate huge sums to the churches, often money that they can ill afford, bringing new hardships.

Praying and Preying: Book Review

Vilaça, Aparecida. 2016.  Praying and Preying: Christianity in Indigenous Amazonia, translated by David Rodgers. Oakland: University of California Press.

Reviewed by G.E.R. Lloyd (Needham Research Institute, Cambridge UK)

This is a truly remarkable book.  In most anthropological monographs the reader is given a detailed analysis of one particular collectivity, the circumstances of their lives, their kinship relations, social structures, myths, rituals, ways of making sense of the world and of their place in it.  That is certainly what Vilaça here does for the society she has been studying for more than 30 years, the Wari’ who live in what is today the Rondônia province of Brazil.  But a principal theme of this book is the interactions between the Wari’ and the missionaries (Protestants and some Catholics) who have lived among them and attempted, with varying success, to convert them to Christianity.  The Evangelical New Tribes Mission in particular, whose activities date back to the 1940s, may be said to be the subject of a second interlocking ethnographic analysis.  This adds a new dimension to the study of mutual intelligibility with which Vilaça is centrally concerned.  First there is the missionaries’ understanding of the Wari’ (they are not particularly concerned to learn from them or even about them but they certainly wish to get their own message across).  Second there is the Wari’s understanding of the missionaries and of what the missionaries are trying to teach them.  Third there is Vilaça’s own understanding of those divergent understandings and her further entering into dialogue with her fellow anthropologists.  I shall come back to that.

The problem of translation thus takes centre stage, and that takes multiple forms.  This is not just a matter of finding particular terms in one language that will be adequate to convey what is meant by some word in another. This to be sure was a major preoccupation for the missionaries, for what they were hoping to achieve was a rendition of the Word of God, as contained in the Bible, itself interpreted literally.  But for the Wari’ translation was quite different.  Their starting point is that Wari’ is the language spoken by everyone, every living being (and not just humans).  But the same term, used by different agents, may and often does have quite different referents.  The plot thickens when the agents are non-human persons.  When the jaguar drinks the blood of its victims, what the Wari’ see as blood is, for the jaguar, beer.  Of course translating from jaguar perceptions to those of the Wari’ takes special skills, the province of expertise of shamans in particular (though with Christianisation their power has been on the decline).  But the Wari’ in general are used to calling upon what may be thought of as internal dictionaries facilitating translation between jaguars (for example) and the Wari’, and of course also between the missionaries and themselves.  The consequence for reference is radical.  We are used to recognising that for someone to be a ‘father’ implies a relationship with another person, a son or daughter, who makes the father what he is.  But that principle is applied quite generally.  So that ‘blood’ is (only) blood to some agent for whom it is blood.  Indeed, a ‘person’ is only a person in virtue of being seen as a person.

That of course was the central message of the perspectivism proposed by Viveiros de Castro, which the Wari’ instantiate particularly clearly.  But where does that leave Vilaça herself?  On the one hand, she evidently distances herself from the assumptions of the missionaries, that the Word of God sets out a definitive statement of how things are.  On the other, she resists the relativising conclusion that the different understandings of translation, and of terms across languages, effectively rule out any possibility of mutual intelligibility.  That is not a conclusion the Wari’ themselves draw.  On the contrary their perspectivism suggests a particular focus on the efforts needed, and the difficulties likely to be encountered, in the task of translation.

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Smiderle and Mesquita, “Political Conflict and Spiritual Battle”

Smiderle, Carlos Gustavo Sarmet Moreira and Wania Amelia Belchior Mesquita. 2016. Political Conflict and Spiritual Battle: Intersections between Religion and Politics among Brazilian Pentecostals. Latin American Perspectives 43(3): 85-103.

Abstract: A new interpretation of Evangelical actors’ increasing participation in Brazilian political and electoral contests is that elements of Pentecostalism predispose a believer to see the world as the site of an eternal struggle between God and Satan. The belief in demons that have territorial jurisdictions, known as territorial spirits, is one aspect of this theology. The cognitive universe of this belief induces the Evangelical voter to make electoral decisions on the basis of religious premises. It teaches the voter to conceive, without much reflection, the spiritual battle and the electoral game as territorial disputes.

Engler, “Dona Benta’s Rosary”

Engler, Steven.  2015.  Dona Benta’s Rosary: Managing Ambiguity in a Brazilian Women’s Prayer Group.  Journal of the American Academy of Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract: This article describes the rituals and beliefs of an upper-class Catholic women’s prayer group in a small city in southeast Brazil. My interest centers on why there is so little friction within the group when it would seem to have several potentially significant internal and external tensions. There are stark doctrinal differences between members: some have very liberal and even syncretic beliefs while others express very conservative, exclusive Catholic beliefs. At the same time, the group—despite certain unorthodox beliefs and practices—maintains close relations with representatives of the local Catholic Church and prays jointly on occasion with an evangelical group. I suggest that four aspects of the group allow it to manage ambiguity in ways that prevent tensions: relations between charisma and doctrine, levitas, flexible framing, and sociodoxy. These concepts emerge from the study’s grounded theoretical approach.

Rebhun, “Living Saints, Dead Saints”

Rebhun, Linda-Anne. 2016. “Living Saints, Dead Saints, and Ordinary Women in Northeast Brazil.” In Religious Diversity Today: Experiencing Religion in the Contemporary World. Edited by Liam D. Murphy, 131-152. Santa Barbara: Praeger.

Excerpt: “I met Maria do Rosario when I was conducting anthropological research in the city of Caruaru, in the inland portion of the Northeast Brazilian state of Pernambuco. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw a transition from military to civilian government, as well as massive rural to urban migration in the area…Maria do Rosario’s neighbors told me that she was a saint who had taken a vow to Saint Rita of Cascia, patron saint of bereaved mothers and abused wives…Many Catholics, like Maria do Rosario, practice local versions of Catholicism, shaped by regional history and folklore as well as Church theology.”

Ikeuchim, “Back to the Present”

Ikeuchim, Suma.  2015. Back to the Present: The ‘Temporal Tandem’ of Migration and Conversion among Pentecostal Nikkei Brazilians in Japan.  Ethnos.  Early online publication.

Abstract: This article contributes to the emerging area of research in the anthropology of Christianity that focuses on mobility and temporality. It does so by elaborating on the concept of ‘temporal tandem’, which is defined as a process of joint temporalization by which seemingly disparate projects of migration and conversion become interlocked. Pentecostal converts among Brazilians of Japanese descent (Nikkeis) in Japan will serve as a case study to delineate this concept. Temporality figures as a central theme in their stories of migration to the supposed ancestral homeland as well as in their narratives of conversion in Japan. I will illustrate the ways in which conversion addresses common concerns regarding time among the migrant converts, such as ‘putting aside living for the future’. The article concludes with an observation that Nikkeis often experience Pentecostal conversion as a ‘return to the present’, where life is no longer perceived to be suspended.

Bonfim, “Glossolalia and Linguistic Alterity”

Bonfim, Evandro.  2015. Glossolalia and Linguistic Alterity: The Ontology of Ineffable Speech. Religion and Society 6(1): 75-89.

Abstract: This article proposes a revised definition of glossolalia based on the ritual value of incomprehensible speech, which allows for an approach to meaning emergence in non-human languages and the issue of extreme linguistic alterity. The main social and acoustic features associated with glossolalia will be presented through the case study of a Christian charismatic community in Brazil (the Canção Nova), showing us how linguistic evidence supports different notions of Christian personhood and an iconic-based communication between human and divine beings.

de Abreu, “Worldings”

de Abreu, Mari Joé A.  2015. Worldings: the aesthetics of authority among Catholic Charismatics in Brazil.  Culture and Religion.  Early online publication. 

Abstract: In this article, I show how conceptions of religious authority among Catholic Charismatics in Brazil relate to particular aesthetic regimes. By aesthetic regime I mean the processes of decision-making by which a particular economy of the visible is negotiated and situated, the underlying forces that constitute what is sensory apprehensible and what remains latent, one might say, unworlded. Focusing on the relation Catholic Charismatics have with the statue of Christ Redeemer standing at the Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, the text engages with the material politics of this religious movement and the theological domains that undergird it.

Oosterbaan, “Mediating Culture”

Oosterbaan, Martijn. 2015. “Mediating Culture: Charisma, Fame, and Sincerity in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.” In The Anthropology of Global Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism. Simon Coleman and Rosalind I.J. Hackett, eds. 161-176. New York: NYU Press.