Rebecca C. Bartel, 2016. “Giving Is Believing: Credit and Christmas in Colombia” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 84(4): 1006-1028.
Abstract: The Durkheimian divide between “belief” and “rite” remains a contested boundary in the study of religion. In response, this article takes up the concept of “credere,” the root of both belief and credit, to challenge the distinction between believing and practice. “Credere” further opens a new window for inquiry in religious studies: the role of the gift in finance capitalism. Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Colombia, South America, this article challenges the disciplinary margins between political economy and religion. Relations between believing, practice, and finance capitalism are brought into new relief through a focus on gift-giving in a time of credit cards. In Colombia, the relationship between finance capitalism and Christianity reshapes the gift—from a gift based on social obligation to a gift based on credit.
Abstract: Within public health and medical anthropology research, the study of women’s agency in reproductive decision making often neglects the role of religion and women’s spirituality. This article is based on ethnographic research conducted at a shelter for homeless (mostly African American) mothers in the southeastern United States. We explore the inadequacy of rational choice models that emphasize intentionality and planning, which our research shows are in tension with the vernacular religious and moral ethos of pregnancy as a ‘blessing’ or unplanned gift. Our findings confirm that young and disadvantaged women may view pregnancy and motherhood as opportunities to improve their lives in ways that mediate against their acceptance of family planning models. For these women, the notion of ‘blessing’ also reflects an acceptance of contingency and indeterminacy as central to the reproductive experience. We also question the increasingly popular distinction between ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’ in contemporary public health.