Kormina and Luehrmann, “The Social Nature of Prayer in a Church of the Unchurched: Russian Orthodox Christianity from Its Edges”

Kormina, Jeanne, and Sonja Luehrmann. 2018. “The Social Nature of Prayer in a Church of the Unchurched: Russian Orthodox Christianity from Its Edges.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 86 (2): 394-424.

Abstract: The Russian Orthodox Church portrays itself as a hierarchically ordered and socially influential “public religion,” but occupies quite a tenuous position in contemporary Russian society. Following Marcel Mauss’s idea of prayer as a social phenomenon, we argue that lay intercessory prayer as a way of assuming social responsibility is key to extending the Church’s reach into the lives of casual believers (so-called zakhozhane). Although individualization of religious practice does occur in post-Soviet Russia, contemporary Russian Orthodox prayer is less about personal self-culti- vation than about claiming and exercising competence within interper- sonal networks. The notion of prayer as practical competence helps to understand the role of lay prayer in a clerically dominated church, and explains the enduring role of established, mainstream denominations as ambient faith in a secular society.

Willerslev and Suhr, “Is there a place for faith in anthropology?”

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Willerslev, Rane and Suhr, Christian. “Is there a place for faith in Anthropology? Religion, reason, and the ethnographer’s divine revelation.” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. 8(1-2): 65-78. 

Abstract: Anthropological insights are not produced or constructed through reasoned discourse alone. Often they appear to be given in “leaps of faith” as the anthropologist’s conceptual grasp upon the world is lost. To understand these peculiar moments, we adopt the Kierkegaardian concept of religious faith, not as certitude in some transcendental principle, but as a deeply paradoxical mode of knowing, whose paths bend and twist through glimpses of understanding, doubt, and existential resignation. Pointing to the ways in which such revelatory and disruptive experiences have influenced the work of many anthropologists, we argue that anthropology is not simply a social science, but also a theology of sorts, whose ultimate foundation might not simply be reason but faith.

Pedersen, “Becoming What You Are”

Pedersen, Morten A. 2018. Becoming what you are: faith and freedom in a Danish Lutheran movement. Social Anthropology SS(0): 1- 15.

Abstract: Based on fieldwork in the Danish protestant movement Tidehverv, this article explores what it means to try to live one’s life according to a neo- orthodox Lutheran and explicitly Kierkegaard- inspired theology, whose overarching existential, social and political ideal is always to be true to oneself. Departing from the seemingly paradoxical notion that the essence of living a genuinely Christian life is ‘to become what you are’, as a Tidehverv priest put it, I seek to pin down the distinct concept of character, and wider concepts of personhood and temporality, upon which this ‘fundamentalist existentialist’ theology and ethics rest. This will involve discussing in some detail a number of core Kierkegaardian concepts such as ‘the moment’ (øjeblikket), the ‘decision’ (afgørelsen) and ‘the leap’ (springet), and making a preliminary attempt to contextualise Tidehverv’s existentialist project within the wider political, religious and cultural history of the modern Danish nation state. In doing so, the article offers an exploration of the relationships between Lutheran concepts of character and political expression, and between the concept of Christian individual character and Danish national character.

Shenoda, “The Politics of Faith: On Faith, Skepticism, and Miracles among Coptic Christians in Egypt”

Shenoda, Anthony. 2012. The Politics of Faith: On Faith, Skepticism, and Miracles among Coptic Christians in Egypt. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 77(4):477-495.

Abstract

The relationship of faith and skepticism has rarely been discussed by anthropologists. Drawing on ethnographic work among Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt, this article explores this relationship, particularly through the lens of the miraculous. By focusing on what might be at stake in Coptic miraculous tales that address Coptic Church-State relations as well as Muslim-Christian sectarian tensions, this article pushes for an analysis of faith and skepticism that sees them as products of social relationships. An emphasis is placed on skepticism not as opposing faith, but as potentially cultivating it, especially when that skepticism is of the Muslim Other. I conclude by suggesting that if socio-political miracles often say something about the narrator’s piety, they are also stories that highlight a commitment to persecution as central to Christian faith while simultaneously offering joy and empowerment to the Copts that recount and listen to them

Bandak and Jørgensen, “Foregrounds and Backgrounds – Ventures in the Anthropology of Christianity”

Bandak, Andreas and Jonas Adelin Jørgensen. 2012. Foregrounds and Backgrounds – Ventures in the Anthropology of Christianity. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 77(4):447-458.

Abstract
In this introduction, we take our point of departure in the question: what difference does Christianity make? We argue that the anthropology of Christianity must encompass believers, skeptics and observers, in that the differences Christianity makes never are simple or singular. We pose the play between foregrounds and backgrounds as a viable way to venture, but argue that this must be paired with a focus on the particular assemblage made in and across contexts. The effect of Christianity is therefore best conceived of in the very bundling of affects, forms, ideologies and practices. We contend that a focus on Christianity within anthropology should not be conceived as yet another subdisciplinary move, but is a focus that revitalizes the discipline of anthropology writ large. The theoretical elaboration on foregrounds and backgrounds we argue is of purchase beyond the focus on Christianity.