Halvorson, Britt. Conversionary Sites: Transforming Medical Aid and Global Christianity from Madagascar to Minnesota. 2018. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Drawing on more than two years of participant observation in the American Midwest and in Madagascar among Lutheran clinicians, volunteer laborers, healers, evangelists, and former missionaries, Conversionary Sites investigates the role of religion in the globalization of medicine. Based on immersive research of a transnational Christian medical aid program, Britt Halvorson tells the story of a thirty-year-old initiative that aimed to professionalize and modernize colonial-era evangelism. Creatively blending perspectives on humanitarianism, global medicine, and the anthropology of Christianity, she argues that the cultural spaces created by these programs operate as multistranded “conversionary sites,” where questions of global inequality, transnational religious fellowship, and postcolonial cultural and economic forces are negotiated.
A nuanced critique of the ambivalent relationships among religion, capitalism, and humanitarian aid, Conversionary Sites draws important connections between religion and science, capitalism and charity, and the US and the Global South.
Cole, Jennifer. 2012. “The Love of Jesus Never Disappoints: Reconstituting Female Personhood in Urban Madagascar.” Journal of Religion in Africa 42(4): 384-407.
Abstract: Drawing from extensive fieldwork in east Madagascar, this article examines the role of Pentecostal churches in assuaging gendered suffering among middle-aged women who have become vulnerable to social exclusion. It focuses particularly on two techniques that women use to manage their relationships with husbands and children: cultivated passivity and the creation of a relationship with Jesus through prayer and small acts of exchange. It argues that conversion and the practice of Pentecostal Christianity helps women less by changing their husband’s behavior than by offering them an alternative source of authority and a new set of practices through which to build valued personhood.
Halvorson, Britt. 2012. Woven Worlds: material things, bureaucratization, and dilemmas of caregiving in Lutheran humanitarianism. American Ethnologist 39(1): 122-137.
Abstract: In this article, I examine the transition from charitable assistance to a professional model of humanitarianism in one American Lutheran agency that emerged from colonial missions to Madagascar. The agency, “International Health Mission” (IHM), primarily supplies medical technologies to Lutheran clinics in Madagascar, Tanzania, and Cameroon. I argue that popular material devices of relief provision, such as handmade bandages, tie the Christian humanitarian project to older notions of Lutheran faith as caregiving and pose special challenges to the bureaucratic model of aid delivery espoused by IHM. Casting renewed scholarly attention on materiality sheds light on the unique dilemmas facing faith-based aid agencies that strategically merge political discourses of humanitarianism with religious motivations for their work.