Kapaló, “The Appearance of Saints”

Kapaló, James A. 2019. “The Appearance of Saints: Photographic Evidence and Religious Minorities in the Secret Police Archives in Eastern Europe.” Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief. 15(1): 82-109. 

Abstract: I present here examples of the photographic presence of a religious minority community in the secret police archives in ex-communist Eastern Europe. The use of secret police archives by researchers to trace the history of repression and collaboration and to understand the methods employed by totalitarian regimes to control their populations is well established. The significance of these archives for the study of material religion, however, has been largely overlooked by scholars. The secret police archives in Romania and the Republic of Moldova constitute a hidden repository of confiscated religious materials and photographs which often sit alongside photographic images created by the secret police in the course of their investigations into “criminal” religious activities. These archives, therefore, represent an important resource for understanding both how religious groups chose to represent themselves, and how the totalitarian system created images of religious “others” in order to incriminate them and to produce anti-religious propaganda. In this paper, through the presentation of example cases from state security files, I discuss the dual character of the photographic traces of communities in the archives as both religious justification and incrimination, and suggest ways of approaching these images through their materiality in the context of contemporary post-communist society.

Loustau, “The Uncanny Self in Love”

Loustau, Marc Roscoe. 2018. The Uncanny Self in Love: Divorced Catholic Women Remember Abortion in Romania. Journal of Religious Ethics 46(1): 63-87.

Abstract: This essay presents an ethnographic account of two divorced Catholic women’s memories of praying to the Virgin Mary while seeking illegal abortions under the Romanian socialist regime. These women’s stories focused on troubling memories of being in love, reflections that were retrospectively shaped by divorce. Drawing on Sigmund Freud’s notion of the uncanny, I call these recollections uncanny memories of the self in love. Uncannily remembering one’s self in love combines experiential self-examination and ethical assessment of actions. The notion of the uncanny self in love thus helps bridge the divide between experience- and action-oriented approaches to lived ethics. I argue that the ethical significance of the Virgin Mary’s actions depended on my acquaintances’ approach to love. For one woman seeking to stay estranged from her ex-husband, the Virgin Mary’s actions accentuated his ethical immaturity. My other acquaintance harbored more ambivalent feelings toward her ex-husband; for her, talking about the Virgin Mary helped her relativize feelings of ethical indignation. As a core implication of this argument, I urge greater awareness of the problematic tendency to include the need for greater awareness of tendencies in theories of lived ethics to reify socially situated perspectives on love.

Pop, ‘I’ve tempted the saint with my prayer!’

Simion Pop, ‘I’ve tempted the saint with my prayer!’ Prayer, charisma and ethics in Romanian eastern orthodox Christianity, Religion. Early online publication: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0048721X.2016.1225908

Abstract: Marcel Mauss’ perspective on prayer has the merit of revealing the complex relations between individual experience, sociality and efficacy of prayer. In this article I propose a particular ethical perspective on prayer and these complex relations and also a new ethnographic territory for studying situational, relational and personal practices of prayer. Considering the ethical orientation towards contemporary saints within the Romanian Eastern Orthodox revival milieu I introduce the notion of charismatic exemplar in order to open up the analytical space for studying prayer as ethical practice. I argue that relational ethics reveals that prayer practices work efficaciously within the everyday web of constitutive ethical relationships and are replete with ethical insights into these relationships’ concrete social and historical constitution. Within the Orthodox revival milieu the ethical capacities of engaging in social relationships are prayerfully shaped at the intersection of self-cultivation in terms of an authoritative tradition, charismatic authority/exemplarity and social-historical conditions.

Agadjanian (ed), “Armenian Christianity Today”

Agadjanian, Alexander.  2014.  Armenia Christianity Today: Identity Politics and Popular Practice.  New York: Routledge. 

Publisher’s Description: Armenian Christianity Today examines contemporary religious life and the social, political, and cultural functions of religion in the post-Soviet Republic of Armenia and in the Armenian Diaspora worldwide. Scholars from a range of countries and disciplines explore current trends and everyday religiosity, particularly within the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC), and amongst Armenian Catholics, Protestants and vernacular religions. Themes examined include: Armenian grass-roots religiosity; the changing forms of regular worship and devotion; various types of congregational life; and the dynamics of social composition of both the clergy and lay believers. Exploring through the lens of Armenia, this book considers wider implications of ’postsecular’ trends in the role of global religion.

Mikeshin, “How Jesus Changes Lives”

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.

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.

Hann, “The Heart of the Matter”

Hann, Chris.  2014. The Heart of the Matter: Christianity, Materiality, and Modernity.  Current Anthropology.  Early online publication.

Abstract: At the microlevel, this paper focuses on the Roman Catholic cult of the Sacred Heart, noting its spread among Catholic populations in Central Europe whose liturgical tradition is that of Byzantium rather than Rome. At the mesolevel, it places this instance of religious acculturation in the context of long-term economic and political inequalities between East and West. At the macrolevel, implications are outlined for debates concerning civilizational differences and modernity. It is commonly supposed that the latter was initiated when Protestants began a shift toward interior belief based on text, eventually dragging Roman Catholics in their wake, while Eastern Christians have remained largely excluded from both material and ontological progress. The anthropology of Christianity has concentrated on Western-influenced “moderns,” in their many guises, outside the religion’s heartlands. But the take-up of Sacred Heart religiosity among the Greek Catholics of Central Europe suggests that there are no deep ontological barriers within Christianity. Similarly, there are no grounds for dismissing Eastern Christian institutional patterns as premodern; they should be drawn into the comparative framework as a distinctive crystallization of Christian civilization.

Negru, “How Private Is the Relation With God?”

Negru, Oana.  2013.  How Private Is the Relation With God? Religiosity and Family Religious Socialization in Romanian Emerging Adults.  Journal of Adolescent Research (Published Online 22 November 2013).  

Abstract: This qualitative study explores the dynamics of religious cognitions, behaviors, and emotions in emerging adult discourse in a sample of Romanian youth of heterogeneous socioeconomic, denominational (Orthodox Christian, Roman Catholic, Neo-protestant), and educational background. Also, from a parent-child dyad perspective, we investigate the role of family religious socialization when children have reached emerging adulthood. Findings bring forward personal conceptualizations of religiosity and specific strategies of religious exploration the youth employ. In addition, family religious socialization is portrayed through the lens of the autonomy-support parents provide their offspring from childhood to emerging adulthood. Emerging adults tend to integrate childhood family religious socialization into the context of their lifelong religious development and also report more present-day parental influence than their parents.

Mandes and Rogaczewska, “‘I don’t reject the Catholic Church—the Catholic Church rejects me'”

Mandes, Sławomir and Maria Rogaczewska.  2013.  “I don’t reject the Catholic Church—the Catholic Church rejects me”: How Twenty- and Thirty-somethings in Poland Re-evaluate their Religion.  Journal of Contemporary Religion 28(2): 259-276.

Abstract: Given measures of religious belief and participation, young adults in Poland are becoming increasingly disengaged from the Catholic Church. Broad theories of secularisation are less useful for making sense of this trend than an analysis of the role of Catholicism in Polish society in the twentieth century, which demonstrates the ways in which forms of belief are contingent upon wider social and political transformations. This article argues that, since 1989, attempts by the Catholic Church in Poland to influence public life through conservative social and political interventions have alienated young people who are looking for religious resources with which to make sense of their lives in a rapidly changing social milieu. Alongside disengagement from conservative, propositional forms of Catholic truth and rejection of direct authority, young people still possess ‘religious capital’ and look upon religious ideas to orientate their personal lives. However, disaffection from the propositional truths offered by the Church and disengagement from rituals and practices of ‘folk Catholicism’ at the level of the family and local parish have not led to widespread expressions of atheism among young people. Instead, there is a sacralisation of everyday life and there are attempts to use ‘religious capital’ to help young people make choices for life. The reconfigured ‘religious capital’ is often expressed through diffuse Catholic symbols and sentiment as well as the periodic use of major religious festivals as a means of finding access to some form of collective religious experience. The article concludes by reflecting on the implications of these changes for the future religious landscape of Polish society.

Brzozowski, “Spatiality and the Performance of Belief”

Brzozowski, Grzegorz.  2013.  Spatiality and the Performance of Belief: The Public Square and Collective Mourning for John Paul II.  Journal of Contemporary Religion 28(2): 241-257.

Abstract: The outburst of collective mourning for the death of Pope John Paul II in April 2005 in Piłsudski Square in Warsaw presented an exceptional case of intense religious emotions, expressed through an unprecedented variety of visual forms in a secular public space beyond the limitations of domestic and traditional worship spheres. Using displays of this emotion as a focus, this article considers how complementary theoretical frameworks can generate nuanced accounts of the dynamic intersection of such a space and the performance of belief in late modernity. Drawing on Danièle Hervieu-Léger’s concepts of strategies of religious spatialisation, Jeffrey Alexander’s theory of space as a mise-en-scene for cultural performance, and Erika Fischer-Lichte’s understanding of effects of space in shaping the nature of performance art, I argue that space must be understood as integral to such acts of believing. The meanings and uses of space should be understood as subject to the continuation or disruption of particular chains of memory, the operation of particular institutional strategies and resources, and the ways in which the material environment itself enables or precludes different forms of religious and cultural performance. Space as a condition of performance of belief thus binds together various levels of analysis: from the macro-level of institutional strategies to the micro-dynamics of individual behaviour. These levels of the theoretical framework will be followed along the analysis of stages in the material transformation of the Square. This perspective challenges privatised, propositional accounts of belief, further demonstrating that belief is inseparable from embodied emotion and action, the negotiation of various forms of institutional power, and the affordance of space and material objects.