Robbins, “Engaged Disbelief: Communities of Detachment in Christianity and in the Anthropology of Christianity”

Robbins, Joel. 2015. Engaged Disbelief: Communities of Detachment in Christianity and in the Anthropology of Christianity. In Thomas Yarrow; Matei Candea; Catherine Trundle; Jo Cook, eds., Detachment: essays on the limits of relational thinking. Manchester : Manchester University Press, p115-129. 

Excerpt: This chapter takes up some of these kinds of tasks in the realm of religion. It is worth noting at the outset that this realm is likely to be a hard case for theorists of detachment. At least in the Western (and in this respect profoundly Protestant) imagination, what is more given to forming bonds than faith or belief? To believe in some being, to have faith in that being, is to tie yourself to it in a highly committed way. If religion is a matter of belief, then it is nothing if not a matter of connection. This is surely yet another way to cash out the often proposed etymological root of the word ‘religion’ in *leig, ‘to bind’. For social theorists, the link between religion and connection has evidenced itself both in the assumption that relations of belief are strong ones, and in the claim from Durkheim forward that the bonds between people who share beliefs in the same things – for example, in gods, or ideas or values – are also unusually strong. And this double assumption of a link between religion and connection remains as true today as in the past. For example, some of the currently most important and influential work in the anthropology of religion is focused on religious mediation: the very problem of how to make the presence of deities evidence so that people can connect to them and can form communities around these connections. If religion is all about connections in the ways I have just listed, we might ask, what room can there be to introduce detachment into discussions on this subject?

I am going to approach the problem raised by the question of how to think about detachment in relation to religion in two ways here. I first want to go over some pretty well-known ground concerning Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity by means of a slightly different path than usual and to use the results of this exercise to make a point about the role of detachment in Christianity more generally and in other monotheistic faiths. I hope this part of the chapter helps us further the task of exploring differences between kinds of detachments and the social roles they can play by laying out one influential religious family of detachment dynamics in very clear terms. I then turn to the relationship between anthropologists who study Christians and the Christians that they study. As it happens, anthropologists often find this relationship somewhat fraught precisely because they worry over the way, as Elias would have it, involvement and detachment balance out on their side of these relationships. In conclusion, I suggest that the options I make about detachment in my discussion of Pentecostal Christianity can help us think through the problems of involvement and detachment anthropologists of Christianity experience in the field, and I will consider how both of these analyses of detachment can contribute to a broader theoretical investigation into the way social relations are constituted.

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.

Fer, “Politics of Tradition”

Fer, Yannick. 2015. “Politics of Tradition: Charismatic Globalization, Morality, and Culture in Polynesian Protestantism.” In The Anthropology of Global Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism. Simon Coleman and Rosalind I.J. Hackett, eds. 228-242. New York: NYU Press.

Lindhardt, “Mediating Money”

Lindhardt, Martin. 2015. “Mediating Money: Materiality and Spiritual Warfare in Tanzanian Charismatic Christianity.” In The Anthropology of Global Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism. Simon Coleman and Rosalind I.J. Hackett, eds. 147-160. New York: NYU Press.

Bialecki, “Affect”

Bialecki, Jon. 2015. “Affect: Intensities and Energies in the Charismatic Language, Embodiment, and Genre of a North American Movement.” In The Anthropology of Global Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism. Simon Coleman and Rosalind I.J. Hackett, eds. 95-108. New York: NYU Press.

Bialecki, “The Third Wave and the Third World”

Bialecki, Jon. 2015. The Third Wave and the Third World: C. Peter Wagner, John Wimber, and the Pedagogy of Global Renewal in the Late Twentieth Century. Pneuma 37(2): 177-200.

Abstract: While a great deal of social science literature has examined the explosion of pentecostal and charismatic Christianity in the Global South as well as conservative and anti-modern forms of resurgent Christianity in the United States, little work has been done to investigate the causal effects of the former on the latter. Drawing from existing literature, interviews, and archives, this article contributes to filling that gap by arguing that in the mid-twentieth century, evangelical missionary concerns about competition from global Pentecostalism led to an intellectual crisis at the Fuller School of World Missions; this crisis in turn influenced important Third Wave figures such as John Wimber and C. Peter Wagner and is linked to key moments and developments in their thought and pedagogy.

Ripka, Štepán: “Being ‘one of them’”

Ripka, Štěpán.  2015. Being ‘one of them’: Hierarchy and institutionalisation of charisma of an ethnic pastor in a Romani congregation.  Social Compass 62(2): 147-258.

Abstract: The successful leadership of ethnic pastors in ethnic churches is usually under-theorised, as if their position and authority are self-explanatory, because they are ‘one of them’. The author presents a case from a Charismatic church of Roma/Gypsies in the Czech Republic where one religious leader has changed the shape of a local community of converts from a kinship-driven community to an ethno-religion. Whereas the leader based his political capital on his ‘Gypsiness’, he paradoxically succeeded thanks to the fact that he was not ‘one of them’. The author traces back this process of political empowerment by religious means, and delineates the strategies of hierarchical ordering of the local Roma through a Bible school. By focusing attention on a particular individual who operates within the fields of power and recreates these structures through their own strategies, I point to an aspect of the political–religious dichotomy that has been neglected in the sociology of religion.

Carl, “The Ritualization of the Self”

Carl, Florian.  2014.  The Ritualization of the Self in Ghanaian Gospel Music.  Ghana Studies 17: 101-129.

Excerpt: Considering the prominence of gospel music in Ghana’s public sphere (see also Atiemo 2006; Carl 2012 and 2013; Collins 2004 and 2012), as well as the central place it occupies in Charismatic worship itself, this article explores gospel music performance at the interface of ritual and media.1 I particularly focus on the interrelationship between the performance practices of congregational worship and the mediated performances that inhabit Ghana’s mediascape in various audiovisual formats. Existing studies understand Charismatic expressive culture in Ghana as a “conversion to modernity” (Marshall-Fratani 1998: 286; cf. Dilger 2008; Meyer 1999), as cathartic relief (Collins 2004), or in terms of the indigenization of Christianity (Amanor 2004 and Atiemo 2006). Instead, I argue for approaching this culture as ritual performance, as a form of mimesis that involves embodied patterns of ritualized behavior as well as playful improvisation and that serves, in this way, as a medium of self-creation and self-transformation, what, with reference to anthropologist Thomas Csordas (1990 and 1994), I call the ritualization of the self (see also Butler 2002 and 2008). In doing so, I want to contribute to the understanding of an aspect of Ghanaian popular culture that has so far received relatively little attention. Additionally, I want to add to the more detailed study of Charismatic ritual in general which, as Joel Robbins remarked, “despite its widely acknowledged importance, […] is notably scarce in the literature” (2004: 126).

Cassaniti and Luhrmann, “The Cultural Kindling of Spiritual Experiences”

Cassaniti, Julia L and Tanya Marie Luhrmann. 2014. The Cultural Kindling of Spiritual Experiences. Current Anthropology. DOI: 10.1086/677881

Abstract: In this paper we suggest that it is important for the anthropology of Christianity and the anthropology of religion more generally to develop a comparative phenomenology of spiritual experience. Our method is to distinguish between a named phenomenon without fixed mental or bodily events (phenomena that have specific local terms but are recognized by individuals by a broad and almost indiscriminate range of physical events); bodily affordances (events of the body that happen in social settings but are only identified as religious in those social settings when they afford, or make available, an interpretation that makes sense in that setting); and striking anomalous events. We demonstrate that local cultural practices shift the pattern of spiritual experiences, even those such as sleep paralysis and out-of-body experiences that might be imagined in some ways as culture free, but that the more the spiritual experience is constrained by a specific physiology, the more the frequency of the event will be constrained by an individual’s vulnerability to those experiences. We will call this the “cultural kindling” of spiritual experience.

Jennings, “Imagining Jesus doing a Whole Lotta Shakin'”

Jennings, Mark.  2014. Imagining Jesus doing a Whole Lotta Shakin’: Pentecostal worship, popular music and the politics of experience.  Culture and Religion 15(2): 211-226.

Abstract: This paper commences with a brief outline of the history of the symbiotic relationship between popular music and Pentecostalism in the USA. While early rockers learned many of the techniques of ecstasy from Pentecostal worship, in recent times Pentecostal/charismatic songwriters and worship leaders have completed the circle, re-appropriating popular music forms for use in church. This is particularly the case in Australia, where Hillsong and Planetshakers have led the way in composing worship music using rock, pop and hip-hop forms. Drawing from ethnographic data from my own participant observation at an Australian Pentecostal church, I attempt to address the question ‘Can the ecstatic encounter with God which is central to Pentecostalism be accessed in other, “unbaptized” (i.e. non-Christian) musical contexts?’ The ambivalence of responses from the members of ‘Breakfree’ Christian church point to the fact that this is a political issue: at stake is the authority to determine which experiences are ‘Christian’, and which not.