Carroll, Timothy. 2018. Orthodox Christian Material Culture: Of People and Things in the Making of Heaven. New York: Routledge.
Publisher’s Summary: Although much has been written on the making of art objects as a means of engaging in creative productions of the self (most famously Alfred Gell’s work), there has been very little written on Orthodox Christianity and its use of material within religious self-formation. Eastern Orthodox Christianity is renowned for its artistry and the aesthetics of its worship being an integral part of devout practice. Yet this is an area with little ethnographic exploration available and even scarcer ethnographic attention given to the material culture of Eastern Christianity outside the traditional ‘homelands’ of the greater Levant and Eastern Europe.
Drawing from and building upon Gell’s work, Carroll explores the uses and purposes of material culture in Eastern Orthodox Christian worship. Drawing on three years of ethnographic fieldwork in a small Antiochian Orthodox parish in London, Carroll focusses on a study of ecclesiastical fabric but places this within the wider context of Orthodox material ecology in Britain. This ethnographic exploration leads to discussion of the role of materials in the construction of religious identity, material understandings of religion, and pathways of pilgrimatic engagement and religious movement across Europe.
In a religious tradition characterised by repetition and continuity, but also as sensuously tactile, this book argues that material objects are necessary for the continual production of Orthodox Christians as art-like subjects. It is an important contribution to the corpus of literature on the anthropology of material culture and art and the anthropology of religion.
McIvor, Meadhbh. 2018. Human Rights and Broken Cisterns: Counterpublic Christianity and Rights-Based Discourse in Contemporary England. Ethnos (Online First, January)
Abstract: Although human rights are often framed as the result of centuries of Western Christian thought, many English evangelicals are wary of the U.K.’s recent embrace of rights-based law. Yet this wariness does not preclude their use of human rights instruments in the courts. Drawing upon fieldwork with Christian lobbyists and lawyers in London, I argue that evangelical activists instrumentalise rights-based law so as to undermine the universalist claims on which they rest. By constructing themselves as a marginalised counterpublic whose rights are frequently ‘trumped’ by the competing claims of others, they hope to convince their fellow Britons that a society built upon the logic of equal rights cannot hope to deliver the human flourishing it promises. Given the salience of contemporary political conservatism, I call for further ethnographic research into counterpublic movements, and offer my interlocutors’ instrumentalisation of human rights as a critique of the inconsistencies of secular law.
Carroll, Timothy. 2017. Theology as an Ethnographic Object: An Anthropology of Eastern Christian Rupture. Religions 8(7): 114.
Abstract: This paper draws upon over three years’ research among Eastern Orthodox (principally Antiochian and Greek) communities in London and Mount Athos, Greece. This research came to engage theology quite heavily as part of the ethnographic facts of the fieldsites. This paper reviews some of the existing ways that theology (as both discipline and practice) relate to ethnographic enquiry, particularly as it has arisen in the dialogue with the Anthropology of Christianity and frames this in light of the historical development of Anthropology and its relationship to theology and Christianity. The paper then advances a methodological argument, in favour of further means of relation, specifically in terms of theology as a cultural artefact. Drawing on local practices of liturgical theology and Eastern Orthodox forms of allegorical interpretation, I argue for the inclusion of theological insight and practice within the social scientific study of religion. Working in an Orthodox setting requires the investigation of liturgical theology and brings to light important aspects of the relationship between temporal and sempiternal domains of action. Particularly as it relates to liturgical theology and the practices of interpretation, ethnographic enquiry into Orthodox theology asks for a reconsideration of social scientific methods of analysis and representation.
Pasura, Dominic and Marta Bivand Erdal, eds. 2016. Migration, Transnationalism and Catholicism: Global Perspectives. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Publisher’s Description: This book is the first to analyze the impacts of migration and transnationalism on global Catholicism. It explores how migration and transnationalism are producing diverse spaces and encounters that are moulding the Roman Catholic Church as institution and parish, pilgrimage and network, community and people. Bringing together established and emerging scholars of sociology, anthropology, geography, history and theology, it examines migrants’ religious transnationalism, but equally the effects of migration-related-diversity on non-migrant Catholics and the Church itself. This timely edited collection is organised around a series of theoretical frameworks for understanding the intersections of migration and Catholicism, with case studies from 17 different countries and contexts. The extent to which migrants’ religiosity transforms Catholicism, and the negotiations of unity in diversity within the Roman Catholic Church, are key themes throughout. This innovative approach will appeal to scholars of migration, transnationalism, religion, theology, and diversity.
Roman, Raluca Bianca. 2017. Kaale belongings and Evangelical becomings : faith, commitment and social outreach among the Finnish Kaale (Finnish Roma). PhD Thesis, Department of Social Anthropology, University of St. Andrews.
Abstract: Grounded in a theoretical debate between anthropological studies on Roma/Gypsies and anthropological studies of Christianity, the focus of this thesis is on the experience of social and religious life among members of a traditional minority in Finland, the Finnish Kaale/Finnish Roma, a population of approximately 13.000 people living in Finland and Sweden. Over the past decades, the processes of urbanisation and sedentarisation have led to shifts in the ways in which the social lives of Kaale families are lived. A shift towards individualisation is interlinked with the continuous importance placed on family and kin belonging, which come together in a re-assessment of people’s central attachments in the world. At the same time, over the same period of time, a large number of this population have converted to Pentecostal and charismatic movements in the country, leading to subtle changes in the shape of social relations within and outside their own community: between believers and non-believers, between Kaale and non-Kaale. Making use of participant observation, interviews, conversion stories and individual life histories among Finnish Kaale living in the capital city of Helsinki and in Eastern parts of the country, this ethnography provides an insight into the multiple, overlapping and complex ways in which Kaale belonging is understood and into the ways in which Pentecostal religious life takes shape among born-again Kaale. Furthermore, looking specifically at the practice of Evangelism and missionary work, which defines the life of Pentecostal Kaale believers, the role of faith as an enhanced engagement with the world is analysed. A conversation therefore emerges also on the role of Pentecostal belonging in mobilising believers in relation to the world around them and, more specifically, on the way in which Pentecostal faith provides an avenue for a further social engagement and social mobilisation of individual Kaale believers.
Cantón-Delgado, Manuela. 2017. Gypsy leadership, cohesion and social memory in the Evangelical Church of Philadelphia. Social Compass. Early online publication.
Abstract: Nowadays, although throughout Europe the Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and Protestant denominational identities remain among Roma, the conversion rate would suggest the number of Roma Pentecostal will have numerically overtaken all the others in just a few years’ time. The uniqueness of Spanish Gypsy Pentecostalism contradicts some of the stereotypes of global Pentecostalism and resides in its organisational complexity and hierarchical structure, its rapid institutionalisation as a sole church, the thorough theological training of its leaders, and its autonomy both from the State and from the European and Latin American Pentecostal Roma Movement. This article is structured around a life history and two concerns: (a) the role of the constant circulation of the gypsy evangelical ministers as regards charisma and leadership; (b) the growing transfer of prestige from the respected gypsy elders to the young evangelical pastors and their role in wide pacification processes involving ethnic cohesion and kinship.
Napolitano, Valentina. 2017. “Catholic Humanitas: Notes on Critical Catholic Studies.” Immanent Frame. 9 January
Excerpt: “Contemporary engagement with embodied practices of Latin American transnational migrancy, as well as the long durée of the return of Catholic religious materialities, ideas, and fantasies from the Americas to Rome, shows the reignition of an old conflict within the Catholic Church and a lasting paradox within a Catholic Humanitas. This is the paradox growing from the Catholic fantasy of “full” conversion of the Other/Indian, with her imagined docile, childlike, as well as barbaric qualities—a fantasy that positions the Other/Indian as at once within and without a Catholic Humanitas. This constitutive dimension of Catholic Humanitas infuses the tension between Sameness and Otherness that still permeates Western cosmologies and, for better and worse, political practices toward migration and hospitality in Europe.”
Webster, Joseph. 2016. Praying for salvation: a map of relatedness. Religion. Early online publication.
Abstract: This article attempts to push Mauss’ work on the sociality of prayer (1909) to its fullest conclusion by arguing that prayer can be viewed anthropologically as providing a map for social and emotional relatedness. Based on fieldwork among deep-sea fisher families living in Gamrie, North-East Scotland (home to 700 people and six Protestant churches), the author takes as his primary ethnographic departure the ritual of the ‘mid-week prayer meeting’. Among the self-proclaimed ‘fundamentalists’ of Gamrie’s Brethren and Presbyterian churches, attending the prayer meeting means praying for salvation. Yet, contrary to the stereotype of Protestant soteriology as highly individualist, in the context of Gamrie, salvation is not principally focused upon the self, but is instead sought on behalf of the ‘unconverted’ other. Locally, this ‘other’ is made sense of with reference to three different categories of relatedness: the family, the village and the nation. The author’s argument is that each category of relatedness carries with it a different affective quality: anguish for one’s family, resentment toward one’s village, and resignation towards one’s nation. As such, prayers for salvation establish and maintain not only vertical – human-divine – relatedness, but also horizontal relatedness between persons, while also giving them their emotional tenor. In ‘fundamentalist’ Gamrie, these human relationships, and crucially their affective asymmetries, may be mapped, therefore, by treating prayers as social phenomena that seek to engage with a world dichotomised into vice and virtue, rebellion and submission, and, ultimately, damnation and salvation.
Butticci, Annalisa. 2016. African Pentecostals in Catholic Europe: The Politics of Presence in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Publisher’s Description: Over the past thirty years, Italy—the historic home of Catholicism—has become a significant destination for migrants from Nigeria and Ghana. Along with suitcases and dreams of a brighter future, these Africans bring their own form of Christianity, Pentecostalism, shaped by their various cultures and religious worlds. At the heart of Annalisa Butticci’s beautifully sculpted ethnography of African Pentecostalism in Italy is a paradox. Pentecostalism, traditionally one of the most Protestant of Christian faiths, is driven by the same concern as Catholicism: real presence.
In Italy, Pentecostals face harsh anti-immigrant sentiment and limited access to economic and social resources. At times, they find safe spaces to worship in Catholic churches, where a fascinating encounter unfolds that is equal parts conflict and communion. When Pentecostals watch Catholics engage with sacramental objects—relics, statues, works of art—they recognize the signs of what they consider the idolatrous religions of their ancestors. Catholics, in turn, view Pentecostal practices as a mix of African religions and Christian traditions. Yet despite their apparently irreconcilable differences and conflicts, they both share a deeply sensuous and material way to make the divine visible and tangible. In this sense, Pentecostalism appears much closer to Catholicism than to mainstream Protestantism.
African Pentecostals in Catholic Europe offers an intimate glimpse at what happens when the world’s two fastest growing Christian faiths come into contact, share worship space, and use analogous sacramental objects and images. And it explains how their seemingly antithetical practices and beliefs undergird a profound commonality.