Abstract: The special issue Connected with God: Body, the Social, and the Transcendent addresses the very topical question of the architecture of religious, especially Christian, experiences. Specifically, it examines the processes in which Christians experience the connection with, and gain knowledge of, God in and through the body, and, in particular, the role of social relatedness and morality in generating and informing these experiences. The issue challenges the view of an individual subjective relationship with God, and argues that Christian experiences of God’s presence are not solely a matter of an individual’s relationship with the divine but are very much made possible, guided, and conceptualised through corporeal relationships with social others – believers and other fellow-humans. Through detailed ethnographic and historical examination, the issue also addresses the question of whether and how the form of Christianity practised influences people’s experiences of divine presence.
Dein, Simon. 2017. The Experience of Healing and the Healing of Experience in the Pentecostal Movement. In Helene Basu and Roland Littlewood, eds. Mental Health at the Intersection of Religion and Psychiatry. Münster: LIT Verlag Münster; 207-226.
Excerpt: “In this chapter I examine the role of bodily experience in Pentecostal healing and more specifically the ways in which some Pentecostal groups have moved away from medical confirmation of the success of healings to criteria based upon bodily experience. I begin by arguing for the centrality of healing in the Pentecostal movement before examining attitudes towards biomedicine and conceptualizations of sickness and healing in more detail. I then examine anthropological work in this area.”
Excerpt: Confronted with a catalogue of contradictions—the evidence of everyday inconsistencies in human lives—it is easy to take an external position of analysis which makes the incongruity seem all too obvious. Surely anyone can see this is not consistent with that? Perhaps, once dissected and laid out as specimens, the contradictions seem stark. But are they experienced this way when lived out in real time?…. As an anthropologist of religion who has carried out research on Christianity, here I wish to focus on a number of apparent contradictions that play an important role in Christian life (not because I believe they are necessarily unique to Christianity, simply that because of my ethnographic experience I find Christianity a useful lens through which to view this topic). My contention will be that such “contradictions” are not instances of disequilibrium to be rectified, but are often the very heart of the matter and, indeed, may be sustained as contradictions.
Abstract: This article reviews the development of the anthropology of Christianity and considers the new questions and approaches introduced by the articles in this special issue of Current Anthropology. The article first addresses the contested history of the anthropology of Christianity, suggesting that there is intellectual value in seeing it as largely a development of the new century. It goes on to locate the rise of the anthropology of Christianity in relation to a number of important changes both in the place of religion in the world and in the academic study of religion that also occurred during this period. It then considers the foci of the articles collected here. These include such relatively novel topics as the nature of Christian social institutions, social processes, space-making practices, and constructions of gender, as well as questions concerning the boundaries of Christianity. Several articles also focus on considerations of recent developments in the study of long-standing topics in the anthropology of Christianity, such as discontinuity, reflexivity, experience, and materiality. Throughout the discussion of these issues, I take up critical debates around the anthropology of Christianity, for example, the charge that it is wholly idealist in orientation, and consider how these articles contribute to the further development of these discussions.
Excerpt: In her recent book When God talks back: Understanding the American Evangelical relationship with God, Tanya Luhrmann offers an anthropological description of the motivations and world-view of contemporary Evangelical Christians. This work forms part of a current movement by anthropologists to gain detailed insight into and understanding of North American Christianity (Bialeki 2009; Bielo 2009, 2011; Harding 2000), and may be set in the broader context of the “anthropology of Christianity” (Cannell 2006; Engelke 2007; Robbins 2003, 2007; Keane 2007; cf. Hann 2007; Jenkins 2012). I have two broad observations to make, one concerning what one might call the Protestant nature of experience as a category, the other noting the use of theological texts as significant anthropological source.
Abstract: Belief is important in some religious experiences and not in others. Why? I address the question here through an analysis of belief in two different religious communities in Northern Thailand. In the Northern Thai Buddhist community of Mae Jaeng the Thai term for belief is rarely evoked, while in the nearby Christian community of Mae Min it occurs often. Tying belief to ideas about causation, I argue that the different prominence of belief in the two communities relates to ideas about personal agency. In the Christian community belief creates personal agency through the mediation of an external agentive Other, while in the Buddhist community personal agency is seen to be constructed through natural processes that render belief unnecessary. In making this argument I offer a critique of the ubiquity of belief as part of religious experience, and push for further research on the intersections of belief, agency, and intersubjectivity in psychological anthropology.