Premawardhana, “In Praise of Ambiguity”

Premawardhana, Devaka. 2020. “In Praise of Ambiguity: Everyday Christianity through the Lens of Existential Anthropology.” Journal of World Christianity 10, no. 1 (2020): 39-43. doi:10.5325/jworlchri.10.1.0039.

A recent theoretical move among ethnographers of religion challenges the social scientific tendency to reduce people’s beliefs and practices to one or another religious tradition, to a religious affiliation assumed to operate as a master identity. Some scholars advancing this move draw on the insights of existential anthropology to emphasize the ambiguities and indeterminacies of religious life. The aim of this article is to argue for the relevance of existential anthropology for ethnographic approaches to the study of World Christianity. That relevance lies not only in existential anthropology’s capacity to convey the complexity of everyday religion, but also in the entanglements of existentialism itself with multiple aspects of Christian theology, past and present.