Abstract: This article examines the rhetorical invocation of “secular ethnicity” among diasporic Syriac Orthodox Christian activists living in the Netherlands as they seek political recognition as an endangered, indigenous ethnoreligious group of the Middle East from the UN Human Rights Council, the Dutch state, and their local municipal government. In tracing how their efforts to stake a politically salient ethnic identity on the holy rites and rituals of the Syriac liturgical tradition are legible to some audiences while remaining illegible to others, I analyze how secularity intertwines with theologically informed ritual practices in geographically variable ways to shape how Syriac Christian kinship is reproduced in diaspora. I analyze these intertwined forms of legibility and illegibility through the notion of perforation, which I offer as an alternative to the one-dimensional metaphor of secular rupture, in order to show how diasporic Syriac Orthodox kinship is premised on the conviction that Christianity is an inherent, rather than an optional, dimension of human personhood. Ultimately, I argue that secular power and its effects are subsumed within other historical processes of division and reconciliation in a broader contest over the proper dispensation of political and ritual power throughout the history of Christianity.
My Identity is ‘Indigenous Australian’ and ‘Christian’ and it’s Not An Oxymoron: Urban Indigenous Australian Pentecostal Christianity
Tanya Riches (Fuller Theological Seminary)
Within post-mission Australia, the state effectively manages perceptions of Indigenous peoples (both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) through the media, which often perpetuates rather than contradicting false stereotypes. In a contemporary neoliberal global political regime that values efficiency and rationality, Australia’s first nations are often characterized as homogenous, inefficient and non-rational. Recent publicity over threatened closure of over one hundred and fifty remote rural communities provides a case in point. In statements to the public, Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett defended his position, citing drunkenness, domestic violence, lack of work ethic, and even general untidiness as reasons for the removal of Australians from their land. In this way, cabinet ministers at both state and federal levels capitalize upon the general population’s ignorance about Australia’s Indigenous peoples. However, there are hundreds of Indigenous nations and cultures, including the islands of the Tiwi and Torres Strait (Rolls, Johnson, and Reynolds 2010). While connection to land as a central feature best represents Indigenous cultural and spiritual continuity, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples live and work in Australia’s urban cities. And, although spirituality is as for any group, highly various in practice, the ABS reports 73% of Australia’s Indigenous population self-identify as Christian. Continue reading
Abstract: This paper discusses the relationship between religious affiliation and the ways that the notion of ‘respect’ (respeto) is used in common discourse in rural Oaxaca. Drawing on the ethnographic example of indigenous Zapotec villages in the Sierra Juárez, I examine how Protestants and Catholics employ the term to justify their attitudes towards each other and towards the norms of communal life. Both consider ‘respect’ an important value in social relations, but in significantly different ways. Catholics conceptualise ‘respect’ mainly as a hierarchical value central to which is the villagers’ subordination to the authority of customs and communal leaders. For most Protestants, however, respect is a horizontal notion that is associated with freedom of religion and the right of individuals to distance themselves from local traditions without being socially excluded or marginalised. The differences between these two perspectives are reconciled by a mutual acknowledgement of the need to ‘reciprocate’ respect.
Abstract: Beginning with nineteenth-century Indian curse rhetoric as a national jeremiad, and continuing into the twentieth century through Puritan-derived landscapes in fiction by Howard Philips Lovecraft and Jay Anson, Indian curses and accursed lands stand apart from other paranormal beliefs in the explicit voice they give to Euro-American anxieties over cultural authority. By imagining themselves as living in Indian terrains, accursed though they are, white Americans lay claim to the land, articulating an indigenized myth of national origin. Since the 1970s, neo-charismatic Protestants have taken a keen interest in Lovecraft-inspired religions and Indian curse lore, engaging in various deliverance ministries to exorcise individuals and landscapes, and to symbolically claim the nation for themselves.
Abstract: Indigenous groups creatively incorporate outside institutions, including Christianity, for local purposes. Furthermore, people who see themselves as observing tradition may also construe themselves as being Christian and citizens of a nation. Despite the original external origins of Christianity, meaning becomes locally constructed and asserted for local purposes so that religion as practiced is about local, regional, or national concerns rather than commitment to particular dogmas, institutions, and hierarchy. A case in point are the people of Pollap in the Caroline Islands of Micronesia, who converted to Christianity in the middle of the twentieth century through the efforts of a Catholic catechist. Today the islanders practice a vibrant version of Catholicism in which local symbols and beliefs infuse imported Catholic ritual, and in which biblical verses and imagery support secular, political strategies. Pollapese seem less concerned with theology and more with behavior that demonstrates good character. As they attempt to exploit and reconcile potentially conflicting guides for behavior from the realms of religion, tradition, and government, they make strategic use of their understandings of Catholicism’s dictates for political and social purposes.
Abstract: Among many indigenous peoples of Amazonia, shamanism and Christianity co-exist as central cultural elements shaping the ways in which people interpret and interact with the world. Despite centuries of co-existence, the relationship between shamanism and Christianity has entered an especially dynamic era as many of Amazonia’s indigenous peoples abandon Catholicism for Evangelical and Sabbatarian churches. Testing the relationship between Christian church affiliation and shamanism in 23 Makushi and Wapishana communities in southern Guyana, we found that Evangelicals and Sabbatarians are less likely to visit shamans or accept their legitimacy than are Anglicans and Catholics. However, conversion does not necessarily imply a complete rejection of indigenous religious systems as many self-identified Evangelicals and Sabbatarians continue to adhere to some indigenous beliefs and practices. We conclude by positing possible implications of religious conversion for natural resource use on indigenous lands.
Contributors: Richard Fox Young, Jonathan A. Seitz, Nola Cooke, Richard Burden, Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, La Seng Dingrin, Erik de Maaker, Sipra Mukherjee, Gregory Vanderbilt, Jonas Adelin Jorgensen, Chad M. Bauman, Franklin Rausch, Rhonda Semple, Matthias Frenz, Edwin Zehner
Publisher’s Description: Drawing on first person accounts, Asia in the Making of Christianity studies conversion in the lives of Christians throughout Asia, past and present. Fifteen contributors treat perennial questions about conversion: continuity and discontinuity, conversion and communal conflict, and the politics of conversion. Some study individuals (An Chunggŭn of Korea, Liang Fa of China, Nehemiah Goreh of India), while others treat ethnolinguistic groups or large-scale movements. Converts sometimes appear as proto-nationalists, while others are suspected of cultural treason. Some transition effortlessly from leadership in one religious community into Christian ministry, while others re-convert to new forms of Christianity. The accounts collected here underscore the complexity of conversion, balancing individual agency with broader social trends and combining micro- with macrocontextual approaches
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: In recent decades many anthropological studies have suggested new approaches to conversion in order to grasp the connections between local Christianities and modernities. However, the relationship between conversion in indigenous societies and modernity remains problematic. The notion of transformation is often used as an ideological concept, which gives little information on the nature of the process of conversion, which is organized by complex processes of transitions and continuities. A better understanding of the various forms of indigenous Christianity is crucial to the development of an anthropology of Christianity.