Abstract: During a Christian revival movement on Ahamb Island in Vanuatu in 2014, gender- and age-based hierarchies were inverted as women and children were given divine authority and men were positioned as threats to sociopolitical renewal. In analysing these events, I develop Kapferer’s insights on the inherent openness and unpredictability of ritual dynamics. However, I argue that such openness and unpredictability can also be tied to external factors including participants’ multiple and sometimes incompatible values and interests. Attempts to resolve ambiguities in ritual may eventually feed back into ritual ideology and practice in ways that make participants’ experiences disturbing and problematic rather than orderly and supportive.
Abstract: During ethnographic fieldwork among lay Catholics in eastern Uganda, informants occasionally turned to deception in their dealings with God and the Holy Spirit; in doing so, they appeared to reject the Christian notion of divine omnipotence and omniscience. Based on ethnography conducted in a sub-county I call Buluya, this article tries to explain how such attempts are deemed possible and plausible. My argument is made up of two main strands. First, I argue that, in an indeterminate social landscape in which no one can ever fully ‘know’ (ngeo) another person, many interpersonal relationships in Buluya are firmly grounded in practical efforts to gain better jobs, more money, education and greater security. I show how deception is a normal and morally neutral aspect of these relationships, as each party strives to protect what they have, and to improve their prospects. Second, I draw on ethnographic and historical data to suggest that the Holy Spirit has entered into the local cosmology in Buluya as a powerful yet limited being, dependent to some extent on the guidance of its human mediators. Finally, I bring these two strands together to suggest that, when the Holy Spirit is conceived of as a limited being (it, too, does not fully know people), relationships with it that take place through a human mediator can also be legitimately characterized by deception, without risking the work of the Holy Spirit.
Excerpt: Recent anthropological studies on pneumatic churches oscillate between a fascination with the emphasis in these churches on the located (embodied) immanence of the Divine and the observation that pneumatic forms of Christianity have massively grown in popularity and turned into a religious movement of global proportions. the latter is most pronounced in work on the globalization of Pentecostalism (e.g. Anderson 2004; Cox 1996; Martin 2002; Meyer 2004; Robbins 2004), which not only foregrounds the role of modern mass communication and mass organization in creating (imagined) Pentecostal communities but also emphasizes the circulation of Pentecostal messages across continents, more particularly, the spatial diffusion of “ideas, media products, preachers, and believers” (Meyer 2010, 120).
However, astonishingly, neither Andre Drooger’s (2001) reminder that Pentecostalism’s expansion should be explained not solely with reference to external circumstances but also with regard to its internal religious characteristics nor the emergent interest by anthropologists in Christian pneumatology (cf. Maxwell 2012) has led to a detailed empirical assessment and thorough theoretical reflection of the ways in which the “global portability of pneumatic Christianities… depends… on the portability of the Holy Spirit and the spirits it battles, on their fluidity and capacity to circulate through flexible transnational church and immigrant networks” (Vasquez 2009, 280)…