Abstract: How are spiritual power and self-transformation cultivated in street ministries? In Addicted to Christ, Helena Hansen provides an in-depth analysis of Pentecostal ministries in Puerto Rico that were founded and run by self-identified “ex-addicts,” ministries that are also widespread in poor Black and Latino neighborhoods in the U.S. mainland. Richly ethnographic, the book harmoniously melds Hansen’s dual expertise in cultural anthropology and psychiatry. Through the stories of ministry converts, she examines key elements of Pentecostalism: mysticism, ascetic practice, and the idea of other-worldliness. She then reconstructs the ministries’ strategies of spiritual victory over addiction: transformation techniques to build spiritual strength and authority through pain and discipline; cultivation of alternative masculinities based on male converts’ reclamation of domestic space; and radical rupture from a post-industrial “culture of disposability.” By contrasting the ministries’ logic of addiction with that of biomedicine, Hansen rethinks roads to recovery, discovering unexpected convergences with biomedicine while revealing the allure of street corner ministries.
Excerpt: This essay considers the politics of hunting in Guatemala City. Amid the crack and the Christianity, in the service of so much captivity, Alejandro and his pastor track down drug users, as if they are animals, to remind them, in classic Christian fashion, that they are human—that, in the words of so many missionaries before them, it is not enough to be human, one must also act human. These efforts at ontological policing upset an increasingly bundled set of images about pastoralism today. Across the humanities and the social sciences, from a range of theoretical and methodological commitments, scholars deliver steadfast portraits of neoliberal withdrawal. And their terms tell all: dispossession and disposability; expulsion and exposure; precarity and social abandonment. While each advances an analytically distinct proposition, each also contributes to a single, powerful image of the failed shepherd, of people left to die.
Mikeshin, Igor. 2016. How Jesus Changes Lives: Christian Rehabilitation in the Russian Baptist Ministry. Research Series in Anthropology (University of Helsinki). Doctoral Dissertation. Helsinki: Unigrafia.
Abstract: This thesis is the study of a rehabilitation ministry for the addicted people called Good Samaritan, run by the Russian Baptist Church. The study scrutinizes a two-dimensional process of Christian Rehabilitation. This process consists of two aspects: bodily detoxication through prolonged isolation, and radical moral transformation through conversion to Christianity. This twofold process corresponds to the twofold nature of substance use dependence: biochemical and psychological. The narrative of conversion is constructed upon the literalist reading of the particular translation of Scripture Russian Synodal Bible impacted by the 16th (Martin Luther) and 17th century (Jacobus Arminius and the Remonstrants) Protestant dogmatics and Russian historical and sociocultural context. The narrative of rehabilitation is also impacted by the street, junkie, and prison experience of the rehabilitants and their elders, who hold the authority to interpret Scripture. My research contributes to the study of Russian Evangelical Christianity and substance use dependence, both of which are unique and substantially influenced by contemporary Russian historical, sociocultural, political, economic, and linguistic context. At the same time, both Russian Evangelicalism and substance abuse share global features of Evangelical Christianity and drug epidemics. My analysis is based on the ethnographic fieldwork conducted from January 2014 to January 2015 in St. Petersburg and Leningradskaia oblast’, Russia. The participant observation included prolonged stays in three rehab facilities, guest and missionary visits, church services, seminars, festivities, and extensive study of Protestant Christianity and substance abuse.
O’Neill, Kevin Lewis. 2014. On Liberation: Crack, Christianity, and Captivity in Postwar Guatemala City. Social Text 32(3): 11-28.
Abstract: A will to escape organizes the practice of Latin American Christian liberation while at the same time enacting a new genre of captivity. After a shift in US interdiction efforts, the vast majority of cocaine produced in the Andes for the United States now passes through Guatemala. With this drastic increase has come a spike in the use of crack cocaine, as well as the proliferation of drug rehabilitation centers. Run by Pentecostal Christians, these centers warehouse users (against their will) in the name of liberation. Locked up, tied up, and told to shape up, these users confess, at times plead, that they want out and they want it now. Pastors, in response, assure them that captivity is itself liberation—that slavery is salvation. This will to escape provokes a pair of guiding questions. They are, at their most philosophical: How do openings become enclosures? How do lines of flight become absolute dead ends?