Abstract: The contributors to Affective Trajectories examine the mutual and highly complex entwinements between religion and affect in urban Africa in the early twenty-first century. Drawing on ethnographic research throughout the continent and in African diasporic communities abroad, they trace the myriad ways religious ideas, practices, and materialities interact with affect to configure life in urban spaces. Whether examining the affective force of the built urban environment or how religious practices contribute to new forms of attachment, identification, and place-making, they illustrate the force of affect as it is shaped by temporality and spatiality in the religious lives of individuals and communities. Among other topics, they explore Masowe Apostolic Christianity in relation to experiences of displacement in Harare, Zimbabwe; Muslim identity, belonging, and the global ummah in Ghana; crime, emotions, and conversion to neo-Pentecostalism in Cape Town; and spiritual cleansing in a Congolese branch of a Japanese religious movement. In so doing, the contributors demonstrate how the social and material living conditions of African cities generate diverse affective forms of religious experiences in ways that foster both localized and transnational paths of emotional knowledge.
A personal relationship with God is central to Evangelical belief. It unfolds as believers interpret internal sensations as coming from outside—from God. How does the formulaic design of testimonies present the audience with a personal relationship with God as a pursuit that is both feasible and deeply desirable? Analyzing the discursive rules structuring the appearance of emotion in the most popular testimonies on the online platform of Christianity Today reveals that such texts expertly present a microcosm in which the experience of reading mirrors the trajectory toward belief writers describe. To read a testimony from start to finish, readers must choose to tolerate the unfamiliar: that is, feel emotions that specifically belong in an Evangelical frame. Online written testimony relies on compelling storytelling to move readers, making them practise what it feels like to hand over part of one’s own story to God.
Abstract: The author discusses what she learned from her participation in evangelical fighting ministries, paying special attention to how these communities sought to connect with God through interacting with each other. In training with and interviewing the members of these ministries in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the author found that as evangelical Christians, many struggled to establish and maintain the primacy of their personal relationships with God over their interpersonal interests. Yet they also believed their relationships with God were meant to be witnessed and experienced by others. During moments of worship they shared emotional intimacy, granting each other opportunities to make outwardly perceivable their internally felt relationships with God. During their Brazilian jiu-jitsu training, they were encouraged to feel God’s presence as they grappled with each other at very close contact. Using the concept of compartmentalisation, the author analyses how these evangelical fighting ministries demarcated their practices into emotional and physical forms of intimacy, thereby finding different ways to achieve what they perceived as personal contact with God in their intense interactions with each other.
Abstract: This paper explores specific musical and cultural attributes that make indigenous Tanzanian music traditions effective in church worship in Dar es Salaam, the foremost metropolis in this East African nation. Based in empirical evidence, it argues that the power of indigenous Tanzanian music traditions, in heightening the religious experience of believers, is inherent in musical attributes – melody, harmony, and rhythms – as well as cultural aesthetics that facilitate the believers’ identification with such local music. Specifically, the article shows how the power of indigenous Tanzanian music to arouse deep and demonstrable emotions among church members is attributable to the characteristics of traditional music and its cultural usage. Indeed, as the article affirms, the strength of these culturally-rich indigenous Tanzanian music traditions can be traced to their African origins and the traditional attributes and aesthetics that make them deeply religious and powerful in generating emotions.
Abstract: This article examines a Fijian kindergarten using Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), a curriculum produced by an American corporation for Christian homeschoolers, which combines academic and emotion pedagogies. Pedagogies prompting children to label, reflect on, and control their emotions are popular in American schools and said to develop skills necessary to be self-directed, risk-taking entrepreneurs under neoliberalism. In contrast, in Fiji, children educated with the ACE curriculum are told that feeling the correct emotions is a “commitment” and that submitting to authority will benefit everyone. The ACE curriculum appears to turn working-class American children and children in peripheral countries like Fiji into submissive workers in corporations while middle-class Euro-American children are socialized to become innovative entrepreneurs. But further examination shows that Fijian parents and teachers see the curriculum as giving their children the proper skills to succeed in a world outside of Fiji.
Everett, Margaret & Michelle Ramirez. 2015. Healing the Curse of the grosero Husband: Women’s Health Seeking and Pentecostal Conversion in Oaxaca, Mexico. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 30(3): 415-433.
Abstract: Drawing on anthropological research in Oaxaca, Mexico, this article describes the role of health seeking in women’s experiences with Pentecostal conversion. The present study confirms that Pentecostalism’s promise of reforming problematic male behavior is a significant draw for women. Women’s stories of conversion are strikingly consistent in their accounts of male drinking, womanizing, and domestic violence. However, the findings also demonstrate that when efforts to domesticate men fail—and they often do—women still find significant ways in which Pentecostalism addresses suffering. The study provides a unique contribution to the literature by exploring that paradox in detail.
Abstract: According to Collins (2004), the performance of interaction rituals, or the practice of private religious techniques, may produce emotion believers interpret to be spiritually meaningful. Yet Collins (2004) and more recently Wellman et al. (2014) are unclear on how emotion manifests itself bodily and how these manifestations are interpreted. Using participant-observation and semistructured interviews, this study examines the spiritual experiences of 27 participants from Fellowship Christian Assembly, a Pentecostal congregation. In 21 participants, emotion manifested itself bodily as goosebumps, tingles, or similar sensations. This study examines (1) the conditions under which emotional experiences are produced and (2) how emotion was interpreted using terminology provided by spiritual “experts” (Luhrmann 2012). Findings suggest that somatic manifestations of emotion are relatively common in this congregation, and these experiences are interpreted as communication from God. The implications of these findings are discussed in light of recent theory and research on religious rituals and practices.
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.
Abstract: This article seeks to contribute to the dialogue between the history and anthropology of Christianity by addressing the emotional practices of Vietnamese Pentecostals in present-day Berlin. Particularly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Vietnamese migrants, former contract workers in the former GDR, and ‘boat people’ whose flight from Vietnam led them to West Germany, founded Pentecostal churches and connected their old and new homes via transportable religious practices. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork carried out among Vietnamese migrants in Berlin who converted to charismatic Pentecostal Christianity after arriving in Germany, this article explores the allure of charismatic Pentecostal Christianity for people living in the diaspora, arguing that emotions as cultural practices represent a substantial part of religious rituals in Vietnamese Pentecostal charismatic networks. In the context of migration, emotions are transformed, transmitted, and performed in different ways, and at the same time, the migration experience generates specific emotions that are dealt with in religious practices. :
Excerpt: “While an analytic focus on the semiotic techniques whereby media produce immediacy is crucial to analyzing the social processes by which those media are themselves made invisible in experience, such an analysis only goes so far in elucidating the “creativity and control of human subjects” that Eisenlohr argues is erased in such processes. Therefore, in this article, I emphasize the discipline and disciplining work as well as the ethical practices that make such cultural and social processes possible. I do so through an analytic emphasis on what I call the labor of immediacy, that is, the practices whereby human subjects discipline themselves and rehearse the necessary actions that allow the mediated nature of immediate religious experiences to disappear. I argue that the perceived spontaneity of musical performance as well as the practical techniques through which religious sound artifacts are performed in new contexts in order to produce connections and circulate values, all rest on this labor of immediacy.
More specifically, in this article, I examine the labor of immediacy that underlies the use of sound recording and playback technology in facilitating and enhancing religious experiences and worship practices for members of the Cherubim and Seraphim Ayọ ni o Church in Lagos, Nigeria. The Ayọ ni o Church is a branch of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church Movement—a form of Yoruba independent Christianity. This movement began in colonial Nigeria, when early Yoruba Christians broke away from mission churches to establish congregations of their own. The Cherubim and Seraphim emphasized healing through prayer, Holy Spirit baptism, and charismatic forms of worship that featured the extensive use of music and dance. The Ayọ ni o Church is located in a large compound at the edge of Surulere, a predominantly Yoruba, middle-class suburb of Lagos. Each Sunday more than three thousand people attend worship services at the Ayọ ni o Church, many of them attracted by the church’s reputation for including spiritually powerful and emotional musical performances in their worship. This musical reputation was enhanced by the Ayọ ni o choir’s commercially produced and distributed recordings, along with the music videos and other promotional materials that support their recordings.
More than thirty albums have been recorded by the Ayọ ni o Choir since 1978. These recordings reproduce and circulate aesthetic values central to producing religious belonging and ethical forms of personhood. As I discuss in more detail below, the recordings thus play an important role in the everyday religious practices of church members. However, the recordings did not replace live musical performance during worship services. While worship without instruments—no guitars, keyboard, or even drums—was acceptable, worship without singing was inconceivable. The idea that there were living people in the same space as oneself, participating in a shared musical ritual, was important for ensuring the success of worship both in terms of its ability to provoke appropriate emotional responses from the congregation as well as in terms of attracting the Holy Spirit to enter the worship space. Therefore, while the songs on the recordings played an important role in church worship, they were always represented in the form of live performance.
In order to analytically detail the labor of immediacy that underlies and produces religious musical experiences for church members, I explore here how the recordings are used by choir musicians in their everyday lives, in individual musical practice, and in rehearsals. I describe how through the musical labor of training, practice, and rehearsal the choir members engage with the recordings in order to regulate affective and emotional responses and expressions during church worship. Their recontextualization of previously recorded songs does important spiritual work for church members by creating links between aesthetic and religious values and allowing those values to be recirculated through the community. While such performances may seem spontaneous in the context of church worship, in order for the recontextualization of a previously recorded song to be successful in achieving the spiritual goals of the congregation, a great deal of planning and work takes place.
In this article, I explore how the work of choir musicians during practice and rehearsals makes possible the recontextualization of recorded sounds during Yoruba Christian worship. Through disciplinary practices of listening and music-making that make use of the recordings, church musicians attune themselves to particular modes of behavior and produce appropriate forms of emotionality. These emotional responses can then be summoned contextually by church members in relation to a given situation. As I suggest in the conclusion of this article, these disciplined forms of emotion and embodiment are seen as necessary to survive and thrive in the midst of the uncertainty provoked by the political and economic transitions taking place in contemporary Nigeria.”