Abstract: I focus this study on changes in the prayer lives of U.S. Catholic nuns following Vatican II; widespread institutional change in the Catholic Church that, among other things, transformed U.S. Catholic nuns’ lives. In the article, I combine a phenomenological model of embodiment with narrative analysis to show how institutional linguistic prayer practices transform elderly nuns’ embodied experience as they age. Drawing on naturalistic video- and audio-recordings gathered over three years in a Catholic convent in the Midwestern United States, I show how changing communicative and embodied prayer practices following Vatican II have impacted U.S. Catholic nuns’ (1) understanding of the divine, (2) relationship with the divine, (3) embodied experience of the divine, and (4) how these changes have impacted their experiences of and interpretation of physical states including illness and pain. Overall, I offer insight into how changes in the nuns’ linguistic practice of prayer impact the nuns’ documented success in managing loneliness and chronic pain at the end of life.
Johan Roeland, Miranda Klaver, Marten van der Meulen, Remco van Mulligen, Hijme Stoffels, Peter Versteeg. 2012. “Can we dance in this place?”: Body Practices and Forms of Embodiment in Four Decades of Dutch Evangelical Youth Events. Journal of Contemporary Religion. 27(2): 241-256.
Abstract: This article describes the developments of the EO Youth Day, a Dutch Christian mass event that attracts thousands of young people every year. It is argued that in the course of time, the EO Youth Day has changed from a modest and sober event characterized by a Calvinist outlook to an expressive ‘hip’ event with an evangelical swing. This change becomes especially visible when the first versions of the EO Youth Day in the 1970s are compared with more recent ones—a comparison we shall make in this article. Central to this change is the way the body is addressed and referred to in what we call the ‘forms of embodiment’ offered at the EO Youth Day. Evidence for this is provided by an explorative empirical study of four EO Youth Days—those organized in 1977, 1987, 1999, and 2008.
Jansen, Eva and Claudia Lang (2011) “Transforming the Self and Healing the Body Through the Use of Testimonies in a Divine Retreat Center, Kerala” Journal of Religious Health [On line publication – pagination, issue and volume information not yet available]
Abstract: In this article, we analyze the collective healing process that takes place on a weekly basis in the Divine Retreat Center (DRC) in Muringoor, Kerala. We argue that disease in the DRC is understood either as a psycho-somatic or as a spirito-somatic phenomenon. In contrast to other Charismatic communities, however, the body is the locus on which the medical effects of the healing become visible. The whole process is divided into several phases: First, there is a cleansing and disengagement procedure that aims to purify and liberate the participants through confession and counseling. Thereafter comes a climatic phase of personal emptying, transition and re-orientation during which the healing itself takes place. The procedure is finally completed with the person being spiritually ‘‘refilled’’ by the Holy Spirit. The dominant recurring element in the whole process is the continuous statement of healing ‘‘testimonies.’’ As an integral part of the healing proce- dure, these statements are used to share personal experiences among the participants in the center. They are produced in a strict format in order to be spread far beyond through various media (TV, newspaper, Internet, etc.). They thereby constitute a speech genre that follows specific rules and patterns. Through shaping one’s own biography in the frame of the testimonies, so we argue, the actual transformation of the self and therefore the miracle healing takes place.
Abstract: The article explores Pentecostal embodiment practices and concepts with regard to Holy Spirit baptism and demon possession. The studied material is connected to a specific and highly controversial debate in Ethiopian Pentecostalism, which revolves around the possibility of demon possession in born-again and Spirit-filled Christians. This debate runs through much of Ethiopian Pentecostal history and ultimately is concerned with whether or how Christians can be seen to host conflicting spiritual forces, in light of the strong dualism between God and evil in Pentecostal cosmology. The article shows that the embodiment of spirits and/or the Holy Spirit is related to theological concepts of the self, because these concepts define what may or may not be discerned in certain bodily manifestations. Moreover, the article contends that this debate thrives on a certain ambiguity in spirit embodiment, which invites the discernment of spiritual experts and thereby becomes a resource of power.
Abstract: This article discusses the forceful transformation of the female body in Brazilian Pentecostalism in urban Mozambique and argues for an understanding of Pentecostal conversion as embodying spiritual warfare. Presenting the case of avenging spirits, such as the spirit spouse, it explores how spirits interfere in women’s new socio-economic positions and intimate relationships. Pentecostal women learn to stay in control of their body under guidance of the Holy Spirit and a ‘violent’ war against the spirit spouse unfolds. The prevalence of ‘violence’ implies that we should critically question a perception of conversion as bringing healing and harmony.
Abstract: This article discusses the bodily mass reproduction of divine touch in Ghanaian charismatic Pentecostalism and argues for an understanding of conversion as an ongoing bodily process that ‘tunes’ the senses to specific sensory experiences. Presenting a case study of the International Central Gospel Church in Accra, it asks how the church’s explicit appeal to the body relates to its strong suspicion of bodily mediation and its ideology of conversion as an inner transformation of the spirit and only secondarily of the body. It shows that the learning of the church doctrine that grounds born-again subjectivity in spontaneous and immediate experiences of being touched by the Holy Spirit goes together with repeated performance and gradual embodiment of sensory and bodily ‘formats’ that evoke such experiences, but also raise concerns about their authenticity.
Abstract: Why do recent converts in new evangelical churches desire to be re-baptized by immersion despite their previous infant baptism in mainline churches? This article addresses this question through a discussion of the observed shift in baptism practices from that of ‘sprinkling’ infants (in Protestant mainline churches) to full bodily immersion of adults (in new evangelical churches) in the Netherlands. Based on an ethnographic comparison of these two baptism practices, I demonstrate the performative effect of rituals as well as the importance of connections between material forms, embodiment and doctrines. The call for different baptism practices, I suggest, illustrates a broader shift in Dutch Protestantism from a didactic to an experiential form of Christianity in which the encounter with the sacred is increasingly located in the body. At the same time, it demonstrates how religious authority has moved from institutions to individual believers.
Abstract: The body is one of the most discussed topics in current studies of religion and society. Pentecostalism displays a remarkable sensorial and experiential form of religion and is therefore a most interesting domain to study the intersection of religion and embodiment. To avoid the pitfall of taking the feeling body for granted as a prime phenomenological reality, this thematic issue elaborates on the explicit strategies through which the religious body is formed in different societies. The dynamics of becoming and remaining a religious convert are displayed through a focus on the three specific interrelated issues of time, spirits and the subject.
Abstract: A prominent trend of late Christianity has been a cultivation of ‘unmediated’ inspiration realised in embodied worship, notably glossolalia, ecstasy and verbal exuberance. Speaking unfathomable language and embracing spontaneous feelings, Pentecostals in Java have relied on and reworked local language ideologies by passionately employing both the babbling and yelling forms of code-switching in Indonesian, English, Hebrew and glossolalia, in an aspiration to achieve ‘true worshiper-hood’. A closer scrutiny of some elements of this embodied worship against the larger religiously heterogeneous context, furthermore, reveals the salient impacts of cross-religious relations on the process of shaping Pentecostal Christianity. This article argues that specific forms of Pentecostal worship can be better understood when situated in Muslim–Christian relations. Specifically, they speak to a thriving form of religious fetishism that is locally primed for a distinct voice out of the flourishing movements of Islamic resurgence.
Heuser, Andreas (2011) “‘Put on God’s Armour Now!’: the Embattled Body in African Pentecostal-type Christianity” in Sebastian Jobs and Gesa Mackenthun, eds., Embodiments of Cultural Encounters. Munster: Wasmann Verlag.
Excerpt: “Arjun Appadurai distinguishes “hard” from “soft” cultural forms by discussing processes of indigenization . . The argument that I have presented here is that the ‘theology of the embattled body’ in African Pentecostal-type Christianity has developed in to such a “hard cultural form.” . . .Pneumatology, the central theological dimension in African Pentecostal-style Christianity, reviles around the twin formula of an enacted demonology and an elaborated devil complex. . . As a hard cultural form, with all its moral, spiritual, and ritual virtues, the theology of the embattled body resist reinterpretation. In few of the gendered body politics in African Pentecostal-type churches, it changes those who are socialized in it more readily than it permits transformation of the established texture of the devil complex. . . “