Abstract: Post-Soviet Central Asia has inherited a set of circumstances conducive to the revitalization of religion. The renewal of Muslim awareness and identity in Central Asia may not be surprising, but the growth of Christianity is, especially in its Protestant form within indigenous Muslim communities. This article, based on qualitative field research, reviews one example of this development: the process of conversion to Protestant Christianity among Muslim Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan. A prominent aspect of this social movement has been the ways in which Kyrgyz Christians have entered into a dynamic process of engaging with issues of identity and what it means to be Kyrgyz – a process that has sought to locate their new Christian religious identity within, rather than on the margins of, familial and ethnic identity, and one that challenges the normative understanding of Kyrgyz identity: that to be Kyrgyz is to be Muslim. While providing the context for Kyrgyz conversion, this discussion primarily focuses on the way Kyrgyz Christians utilize a number of different discursive strategies to contest normative Kyrgyz identity constructs and to legitimize a Kyrgyz Christian identity.
Abstract: This article examines the changing relationship between religion, secularism, national politics, and identity formation among Lebanese Christians in Senegal. Notre Dame du Liban, the first Lebanese religious institution in West Africa, draws on its Lebanese “national” character to accommodate Lebanese Maronite Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christians in Dakar, remaining an icon of “Lebanese” religion, yet departing from religious sectarianism in Lebanon. As such, transnational religion can vary from national religion, gaining new resonances and reinforcing a wider “secular” ethno-national identity.
Abstract: In recent years there has been an outpouring of Kenyan scholarship on the ways popular musicians engage with politics in the public sphere. With respect to the rise in the 1990s and 2000s of gospel music – whose politics are more pietistic than activist – this article challenges how to ‘understand’ the politics of gospel music taken from a small speech community, in this case the Meru. In observing street performances of a new style of preaching, ‘lip-synch’ gospel, I offer ethnographic readings of song lyrics to show that Meru’s gospel singers can address moral debates not readily aired in mainline and Pentecostal-Charismatic churches. Critical of hypocrisy in the church and engaging with a wider politics of belonging and identity, Meru gospel singers weave localized ethnopoetics into their Christian music, with the effect that their politics effectively remain concealed within Meru and invisible to the national public sphere. While contesting the perceived corruption, sin and hypocrisy in everyday sociality, such Meru gospel singer groups cannot rightly be considered a local ‘counter-public’ because they still work their politics in the shadows of the churches.
Abstract: This paper explores the recasting of Pentecostalism as a youth religion in contemporary Chile. I focus in particular on how young native Pentecostals, whose life experiences and social status differ from those of ex-Catholic converts, address the dilemma of being exposed to the religious culture of their parents, and their congregation, and to the secular youth culture beyond the religious community. I argue that, although faced with many challenges, young Pentecostals are able to define vital roles and positions for themselves within their church and in wider society, as they engage in a creative bricolage, embracing certain aspects of globalised youth ideologies as fundamental features of their Pentecostal self-identities.
Publisher’s Description: “Nagaland for Christ” and “Jesus Saves” are familiar slogans prominently displayed on public transport and celebratory banners in Nagaland, northeastern India. They express an idealization of Christian homogeneity that belies the underlying tensions and negotiations between Christian and non-Christian Naga. This religious division is intertwined with that of healing beliefs and practices, both animistic and biomedical. This study focuses on the particular experiences of the Angami Naga, one of the many Naga peoples. Like other Naga, they are citizens of the state of India but extend ethnolinguistically into Tibeto-Burman southeast Asia. This ambiguity and how it affects their Christianity, global involvement, indigenous cultural assertiveness, and nationalist struggle is explored. Not simply describing continuity through change, this study reveals the alternating Christian and non-Christian streams of discourse, one masking the other but at different times and in different guises.
Abstract: Evangelical Christianity has become a powerful force in American popular media and the political arena. The reason for evangelicalism’s rise to prominence has been widely researched. Contemporary manifestations of popular evangelicalism remain connected to a mythology that can be traced to one of many expressions commonly associated with the American counterculture of the 1960s, specifically a revival of conservative Christianity known as the Jesus Movement, a new way of expressing Christian belief that largely targeted American youth. Today’s youth (not unlike youth in every generation) continue to seek identity. For the most part, the media paradigm that emerged during the 1970s and 1980s evolved into a parallel universe of evangelical culture, which operated as chief purveyor of both evangelical belief and identity. The result was a groundswell of new activity as the evangelical culture industry rallied around new, popular ways of expressing Christian belief; the most compelling example has been contemporary Christian music. This essay will focus primarily on Christian music as a potential causal agent in the lives of evangelical youth, and considers how these youth are formed by music while also challenging how popular music represents evangelical belief and identity.
Abstract: Chilean Evangelicals, like their peers elsewhere in Latin America, have striven for over a century to be recognised by state and society. They have achieved a number of advances, but feel that this is not yet enough. This article examines the practice most used by Evangelicals to affirm their identity: street preaching. In the drama of street preaching they mobilise and express their identity, including their political identity. Their preaching involves traditional themes of Pentecostal discourse: the saved versus the lost, and the offer of a better life that can be obtained by joining the ranks of this religious movement.
Abstract: Phrases such as ‘the only difference is one of faith’ construct Copts and Muslims in Egypt as, although different, mainly the same as each other. Similar constructions of sameness are also dominant in historical and current Egyptian narratives on national unity. However, as a result of the privileging of sameness and the underplaying of differences, the interaction between narratives of sameness and difference has been left unexplored and partly ignored, not only by national movements, but also by research. Thus, the main issue examined in this article is how current Orthodox Christian practices in Egypt take shape under the influence of hegemonic narratives of sameness and difference. Supported by data collected from ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Egypt, the argument is that the Copts, by positioning themselves as Christians in specific locations and situations, are mediating the antithetical potentialities of being the same as or different from the national Muslim majority. In other words, Christianity not only makes a difference as a sign of the Copts’ minority position, but also simultaneously offers Copts a way out of their marginal position as a minority.
Abstract: This article discusses the issue of proselytism and belonging among Angolan Christians in Europe, namely those belonging to the Tokoist Church, a propheticbased movement originated in Angola in the 1940s and later transnationalized into other African countries and Europe. Invoking fieldwork performed with the church in Lisbon and Luanda, I suggest that religious proselytism in diasporic contexts, as an expression of transnational religiosity, cannot be analyzed without approaching the issue of identity and belonging, which in turn is processed through the production of ‘double presences,’ a reflection of the multiple agencies and territorialities in which migrants are involved.