The first phase of anthropology’s turn toward ethics called our attention to freedom, evaluative reflection, and projects of intentional self‐cultivation. While the inclusion of such moments of intentionality and freedom provided a helpful corrective to overly determinist frameworks for the study of morality and social life, we lost sight of other aspects of ethical life and personhood that are less easily controlled. Drawing on an ethnographic case that might otherwise be considered exemplary of a Foucauldian “care of the self,” this article draws on texts from Africanist anthropology and Franciscan theology to explore how members of a community of Ugandan, Kenyan, and Tanzanian Franciscan nuns living and working at a residential home for orphans and children with disabilities in central Uganda understand and engage with the uncertain potential of moral transformation.
Abstract: The article shows that in Foucault’s late 1970s and early 1980s analyses of pastoral, conductive power—most essentially in early and medieval Christianity—the issue of sight and visual perception recurs and occupies a crucial status. In Foucault’s discussion, these Christian relations of power, knowledge, and truth are attached with a surveying gaze that is both totalizing as well as individualizing, one that is mobilized by the thrust towards perfect visibility, transparency, and illumination of the subject turned into an object. The intention is also to develop Foucault’s analysis further, by demonstrating how Christian, providential government can be and actually has been detached from the totalizing modality of optics, and instead become articulated with a very different sort of sight and seeing, one that is non-totalizing and affirms its own limits. The article maintains that from this angle, Foucault’s conception of modern, economic-liberal governmentality has essential convergences with the Christian form of providential government, even though Foucault himself leaves these convergences partly inarticulate.
Abstract: St Joachim, who according to the apocryphal Protoevangelium Jacobi is the father of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the patron saint of a Catholic Men’s Organization in Zambia which promotes him as model of Catholic manhood. Through a case study of this organization, this article explores the intersections of religion, men and masculinity in a contemporary African Catholic context, in relation to broader discussions on African masculinities. The focus is on the practice of imitation of St Joachim and its effects on masculinity as the symbolic, discursive and performative construction of embodied male gender identity. Two theoretical concepts inform the analysis, being the notion of imitation as a hermeneutical process and Michel Foucault’s conceptualization of the technologies or hermeneutics of the self. The article shows how a sacred text is mobilized and inspires a communal imitative practice through which men are shaped, and shape themselves, after a religious ideal of masculinity.
Excerpt: “Here I want to take the opportunity to suggest that the study of charisma is not a rupture with any other form of previous anthropology of religion but, in many ways, a refreshing return to the founding fathers of the discipline such as Durkheim, whose centenary I am celebrating with my subtitle. I also want to suggest that new forms of African religion are experienced by their believers not as a rupture but sometimes as a return to a purer and very old form of religion that Africans have forgotten via a destructive combination of internal and external agencies. The return to a ‘forgotten God’ is a common theme in several trends of prophetic Christianity and also of Islam, though less explicit in Pentecostal discourses. . . “
Bochow, Astrid and Rijk van Dijk. 2012. “Christian Creations of New Spaces of Sexuality, Reproduction, and Relationships in Africa: Exploring Faith and Religious Heterotopia.” Journal of Religion in Africa 42(4):325-344.
Abstract: In many African societies today Christian churches, Pentecostals in particular, are an important source of information on sexuality, relationships, the body, and health, motivated in part by the HIV/AIDS pandemic but also related to globally circulating ideas and images that make people rethink gender relations and identities through the lens of ‘romantic love’. Contextualizing the contemporary situation in the history of Christian movements in Africa, and by applying Foucault’s notion of heterotopia, this introduction and the subsequent papers show that Christian doctrines and practices are creating social spaces of altering relational ethics, identities and gender roles that appeal especially to upwardly mobile women.
ABSTRACT: Among the Lelet of central New Ireland (Papua New Guinea), a dramatic increase in Pentecostalist fervor has produced significant changes in dreaming. Traditionally, the Lelet have valued dreaming as a means of access to knowledge and power. Now it is seen as a gift bestowed by the Holy Spirit, giving access to new and different forms of knowledge and power. Pentecostalism lays down many rules of conduct for the avoidance of sin, and dreams now play a role in policing them. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s work on governmentality, I find that Lelet dreaming acts as a form of self-scrutiny, reminding dreamers of the need to rectify their failures to follow Pentecostal precepts. Beyond this, dreams enable people to address the dilemmas that emerge when they embrace frameworks that impose radically different ways of being in the world than their previous religion did.
Publisher’s Description: Through an ambitious and critical revision of Michel Foucault’s investigation of ethics, James Faubion develops an original program of empirical inquiry into the ethical domain. From an anthropological perspective, Faubion argues that Foucault’s specification of the analytical parameters of this domain is the most productive point of departure in conceptualizing its distinctive features. He further argues that Foucault’s framework is in need of substantial revision to be of genuinely anthropological scope. In making this revision, Faubion illustrates his program with two extended case studies: one of a Portuguese marquis and the other of a dual subject made up of the author and a millenarian prophetess. The result is a conceptual apparatus that is able to accommodate ethical pluralism and yield an account of the limits of ethical variation, providing a novel resolution of the problem of relativism that has haunted anthropological inquiry into ethics since its inception.