Dawley, “From Wrestling with Monsters to Wrestling with God”

Dawley, William. 2018. From Wrestling with Monsters to Wrestling with God: Masculinities, ‘Spirituality,’ and the Group-ization of Religious Life in Northern Costa Rica. Anthropological Quarterly 91(1).

Abstract: This piece explores the support group movement’s role in restructuring Latin American religion and contributing to the trans-denominational and trans-secular spread of the “reformation of machismo”—Elizabeth Brusco’s (2010) name for Latin American evangelicalism’s focus on transforming men and masculinity. Using ethnographic data from two years of fieldwork in an urbanizing area of northern Costa Rica and life history interviews with men from three churches and three men’s groups there, this paper argues that a region-wide popular discourse about a “crisis of masculinity/machismo” and a “crisis of the family” has broadened the appeal of efforts to transform men and masculinity—not only among most churches, but especially among a proliferating number of trans-denominational and non-religious men’s groups that are modeled implicitly on all-male Alcoholics Anonymous groups, which are extraordinarily popular throughout Latin America. This essay’s argument borrows from Wuthnow’s analysis of “the restructuring of [North] American religion” under the influence of the support group movement (1988, 1994a, 1994b, 1998), but it also employs an historiographic approach, exploring the origins of this restructuring of Latin American religion in the same “Methodist model” of social organization that has driven evangelical growth throughout the Americas (and men’s conversions especially) during times of social change and male social dislocation (Martin 1990). The conversion histories of two Catholic men are used to illustrate how it is participation in these groups, rather than formal conversion, that transforms many men’s lives, their gender identities, and their relationships with others. Finally, the possible contributions of this research to anthropological studies of religion, ethics, and morality are explored, in particular the role that models of social organization might play in the spread of new ethical practices, discourses, or identity models.

 

Hale, “Religious Institutions and Collective Action”

Hale, Christopher W.  2017. Religious Institutions and Collective Action: The Catholic Church and Political Activism in Indigenous Chiapas and Yucatán.  Politics and Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract:

Why do religious organizations facilitate secular political activism in
some settings but not others? I contend that where religious institutions are
characterized by decentralized local governance, they are more likely to
facilitate political activism. Drawing on nine months of field research and 60
interviews, I conduct a qualitative comparison between the Mexican states of
Chiapas and Yucatán. I argue Chiapas exhibits highly decentralized
governance by the Catholic Church whereas Yucatán exhibits centralized
clerical management. This difference accounts for why Chiapas experiences
high levels of indigenous political activism while Yucatán experiences very
little political activism.

Johnson, “If I Give My Soul”

Johnson, Andrew.  2017.  If I Give My Soul: Faith Behind Bars in Rio de Janeiro.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: Pentecostal Christianity is flourishing inside the prisons of Rio de Janeiro. To find out why, Andrew Johnson dug deep into the prisons themselves. He began by spending two weeks living in a Brazilian prison as if he were an inmate: sleeping in the same cells as the inmates, eating the same food, and participating in the men’s daily routines as if he were incarcerated. And he returned many times afterward to observe prison churches’ worship services, which were led by inmates who had been voted into positions of leadership by their fellow prisoners. He accompanied Pentecostal volunteers when they visited cells that were controlled by Rio’s most dominant criminal gang to lead worship services, provide health care, and deliver other social services to the inmates. Why does this faith resonate so profoundly with the incarcerated? Pentecostalism, argues Johnson, is the “faith of the killable people” and offers ex-criminals and gang members the opportunity to positively reinvent their public personas. If I Give My Soul provides a deeply personal look at the relationship between the margins of Brazilian society and the Pentecostal faith, both behind bars and in the favelas, Rio de Janeiro’s peripheral neighborhoods. Based on his intimate relationships with the figures in this book, Johnson makes a passionate case that Pentecostal practice behind bars is an act of political radicalism as much as a spiritual experience.

St. Clair, “‘God Even Blessed Me with Less Money’”

St. Clair, George.  2017. ‘God Even Blessed Me with Less Money’: Disappointment, Pentecostalism and the Middle Classes in Brazil.  Journal of Latin American Studies.  Early online publication.

 Abstract: Through shedding light on traditional Pentecostalism in Brazil this article reveals how middle-class people in São Paulo, Brazil, manage disappointment relating to current socio-economic conditions. Ethnographic research on Brazil’s oldest Pentecostal church, which preserves an anachronistic style of practice, shows how people embrace a marginal identity and thereby critique social conditions in the country. In stark contrast to newer forms of Pentecostalism, people featured in this paper respond to an ‘anti-prosperity gospel’, in which failures and setbacks are construed as signs of spiritual purity and development. In a country where a ‘new middle class’ is supposedly finding prosperity, this study shows a religiously-oriented way in which people confront the disappointing gap between the promises of neoliberalism and the realities of jobless growth.

Napolitano, “Catholic Humanitas”

Napolitano, Valentina. 2017. “Catholic Humanitas: Notes on Critical Catholic Studies.” Immanent Frame. 9 January

Excerpt: “Contemporary engagement with embodied practices of Latin American transnational migrancy, as well as the long durée of the return of Catholic religious materialities, ideas, and fantasies from the Americas to Rome, shows the reignition of an old conflict within the Catholic Church and a lasting paradox within a Catholic Humanitas. This is the paradox growing from the Catholic fantasy of “full” conversion of the Other/Indian, with her imagined docile, childlike, as well as barbaric qualities—a fantasy that positions the Other/Indian as at once within and without a Catholic Humanitas. This constitutive dimension of Catholic Humanitas infuses the tension between Sameness and Otherness that still permeates Western cosmologies and, for better and worse, political practices toward migration and hospitality in Europe.”

Bartel, “Giving Is Believing”

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.

Bartel, “Giving is Believing”

Bartel, Rebecca C.  2016. Giving Is Believing: Credit and Christmas in Colombia.  Journal of the American Academy of Religion.  Early online publication.

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.

Parker, “Religious Pluralism and New Political Identities in Latin America”

Cristián Parker. 2016. Religious Pluralism and New Political Identities in Latin America. Latin American Perspectives 43(3): 15-30.

Abstract: The role of religion in Latin American politics can no longer be interpreted with reductionist schemes. The faithful—citizens—are combining faith and politics in unprecedented ways, and churches and denominations are no longer factors of political identity. The reconfiguration of new social and political movements interweaves complex linkages with the religious. The transformations of the political field and especially of democratic processes have reshaped identities in a context of increasing religious and cultural diversity with relatively less Catholic presence and greater Evangelical presence. Institutional secularization and religious pluralism seem to go hand in hand with a new cleavage between religion and politics.

Lindhardt, “New ways of being Pentecostal in Latin America”

Lindhardt, Martin. ed. 2016. New ways of being Pentecostal in Latin America. Lanham: Lexington. 

Publisher’s Description: The explosive growth of Pentecostalism has radically transformed Latin America’s religious landscape within the last half century or so. In a region where Catholicism reigned hegemonic for centuries, the expansion of Pentecostalism has now resulted in a situation of religious pluralism and competition, bearing much more resemblance to the United States than to the Iberian motherlands. Furthermore, the fierce competition from Pentecostal churches has inspired significant renewals of Latin American Catholicism, most notably the growth of a Catholic Charismatic movement. However, another and more recent source of religious pluralism and diversity in Latin America is an increasing pluralization and diversification of Pentecostalism itself and of the ways in which individual Pentecostals exercise their faith. By carefully exploring this diversification, the book at hand breaks new ground in the literature on Latin American Christianity. Particular attention is focused on new ways of being Pentecostal and on the consequences of recent transformations of Christianity for individuals, faith communities and societies.

More specifically, the chapters of the book look into certain transformations of Pentecostalism such as: theological renewals and new kinds of religious competition between Pentecostal churches; a growing political and civic engagement of Pentecostals; an observed de-institutionalization of Pentecostal religious life and the negotiation individual Pentecostal identities, composed of multiple intra- and extra-ecclesial points of identification; and the emergence of new generations of Pentecostals (children of Pentecostal parents), many of whom have higher levels of education and higher incomes than the previous generations within their churches. In addition, Catholic responses to Pentecostal competition are also addressed in several chapters of the book.

Engler, “Dona Benta’s Rosary”

Engler, Steven.  2015.  Dona Benta’s Rosary: Managing Ambiguity in a Brazilian Women’s Prayer Group.  Journal of the American Academy of Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract: This article describes the rituals and beliefs of an upper-class Catholic women’s prayer group in a small city in southeast Brazil. My interest centers on why there is so little friction within the group when it would seem to have several potentially significant internal and external tensions. There are stark doctrinal differences between members: some have very liberal and even syncretic beliefs while others express very conservative, exclusive Catholic beliefs. At the same time, the group—despite certain unorthodox beliefs and practices—maintains close relations with representatives of the local Catholic Church and prays jointly on occasion with an evangelical group. I suggest that four aspects of the group allow it to manage ambiguity in ways that prevent tensions: relations between charisma and doctrine, levitas, flexible framing, and sociodoxy. These concepts emerge from the study’s grounded theoretical approach.