McAlister, “Humanitarian Adhocracy, Transnational New Apostolic Missions, and Evangelical Anti-Dependency in a Haitian Refugee Camp”

McAlister, Elizabeth. 2013. Humanitarian Adhocracy, Transnational New Apostolic Missions, and Evangelical Anti-Dependency in a Haitian Refugee Camp. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 16(4):11-34.

Abstract: This article addresses religious responses to disaster by examining how one network of conservative evangelical Christians reacted to the Haiti earthquake and the humanitarian relief that followed. The charismatic Christian New Apostolic Reformation (or Spiritual Mapping movement) is a transnational network that created the conditions for post-earthquake, internally displaced Haitians to arrive at two positions that might seem contradictory. On one hand, Pentecostal Haitian refugees used the movement’s conservative, right-wing theology to develop a punitive theodicy of the quake as God’s punishment of a sinful nation. On the other hand, rather than resign themselves to victimhood and passivity, their strict moralism allowed these evangelical refugees to formulate an uncompromising critique of the Haitian government, the United Nations peacekeeping mission, and foreign humanitarian relief. They rejected material humanitarian aid when possible and developed a stance of Christian self-sufficiency, anti-foreign-aid, and anti-dependency. They accepted visits only from American missionaries with “spiritual,” and not material, missions, and they launched their own missions to parts of Haiti unaffected by the quake.

Rio and Eriksen, “Missionaries, Healing, and Sorcery”

Rio, Knut and Annelin Eriksen. 2013. Missionaries, Healing, and Sorcery in Melanesia: A Scottish Evangelist in Ambrym Island, Vanuata. History and Anthropology 24(3).

Abstract: Melanesian people have recently become highly occupied with history as an arena for moral scrutiny and causal explanations for contemporary failures. On the island of Ambrym in Vanuatu, this form of ontological worry goes back to the first missionaries on the island, the Murray brothers. This article takes us back to events in the 1880s when the missionaries were active on Ambrym, and searches into their social position. Drawing on the diary of Charles Murray, the main argument unfolds around his involvement in the realm of men’s ritual powers, how he himself played his part as a highly knowledgeable magician and how his downfall came about by challenging a manly realm of knowledge and power and his wider inclusion of women and lesser men in his church.

Brickell, “Geographies of Contemporary Christian Mission(aries)”

Brickell, Claire.  2012.  Geographies of Contemporary Christian Mission(aries).  Geography Compass 6(12): 725–739.

Abstract: This paper draws together emerging literature within Geography, and from across the broader social sciences, around contemporary mission and missionaries. It argues for the importance of recognising mission organisations and missionaries not just as historic relics, but as important, active, and geographically far ranging actors in the modern world. In mapping out the little work that has been conducted, three themes are addressed, missionary geopolitics; mission, welfare and development; and transnational migration, religion and cosmopolitanism. The article highlights the potential contributions that a (re)examination of missionary lives, beliefs and praxis can make to these disparate bodies of literature, and calls for further research in these directions within geographical scholarship.

Thomson, “Christianity, Islam, and ‘The Religion of Pouring’: Non-linear Conversion in a Gambia/Casamance Borderland”

Thomson, Steven (2012) “Christianity, Islam, and ‘The Religion of Pouring’: Non-linear Conversion in a Gambia/Casamance Borderland.” Journal of Religion in Africa 42(3):240-276 

Abstract: The twentieth-century religious history of the Kalorn (Karon Jolas) in the Alahein River Valley of the Gambia/Casamance border cannot be reduced to a single narrative. Today extended families include Muslims, Christians, and practitioners of the traditional Awasena ‘religion of pouring’. A body of funeral songs highlights the views of those who resisted pressure toward conversion to Islam through the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. The introduction of a Roman Catholic mission in the early 1960s created new social and economic possibilities that consolidated an identity that stood as an alternative to the Muslim-Mandinka model. This analysis emphasizes the equal importance of both macropolitical and economic factors and the more proximal effects of reference groups in understanding religious conversion. Finally, this discussion of the origins of religious pluralism within a community grants insight into how conflicts along religious lines have been defused.

Daswani, “Global Pentecostal Networks and the problem of Culture: The Church of Pentecost in Ghana and Abroad.”

Daswani, Girish (202) “Global Pentecostal Networks and the problem of Culture: The Church of Pentecost in Ghana and Abroad.” in Michael Wilinson, ed, Global Pentecostal Movements: Migration, Mission, and Public Religion. Leiden: Brill. Pp 71-92

First Paragraph: Many have written on how Pentecostalism travels the globe and how it has become a force to be reckoned with in our contemporary world. For example, Pentecostalism possesses what Thomas Csordas (2007) callas a “transposable message” of salvation, and “portable practices” that included prayer, speaking in tongues and prophecy – homogenizing forms that travel across space and time through processes of missionization, migration, mobility, and mediation. Joel Robbins (2004, 117) discussed how Pentecostalism successfully adapted itself to the range of cultures in which it is introduced through a processes of replication and indigenizing difference. He calls these two descriptions of global Pentecostalism, global homogenization adn indigenizing difference, contradictory assertions that are useful in explaining its success (119). Similarly, according to Simon Coleman (2010, 800), Pentecostalism in its global form constitutes what he calls “part cultures, presenting worldviews meant for export that are holistic in one sense but, as we have seen, also in tension with the values of any given host society.” While Pentecostalism can be described as both global in its reach and local in its application, adapting to the tensions between its own values and those of its host societies and cultures, I seek to revisit how we may understand the “global” in the globalization of Pentecostalism through one church’s expanding networks and the simultaneous tensions and limits that arise from its engagement with “culture.”

Kollman, “Generations of Catholics in Eastern Africa: A Practice-Centered Analysis of Religious Change”

Kollman, Paul (2012) “Generations of Catholics in Eastern Africa: A Practice-Centered Analysis of Religious Change” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 51(3):412–428

Abstract: This article considers how well Martin Riesebrodt’s practice-centered theory of religion addresses religious change among Catholics in eastern Africa. Two arguments are advanced using a generational change scheme. First, Riesebrodt’s focus on religious practices assists in understanding many changes that African Catholics and their communities have experienced over time. It acknowledges believers’ perspectives and the impact of missionaries, and it generates comparative insights across different cases. However, Riesebrodt’s approach has limitations when developing a comparative perspective on historical transformation in these communities. Therefore, his focus on the objective meaning of interventionist religious practices needs supplementing: (1) capturing religious change within a given religion requires attention both to practices and their subjective appropriation by believers, and (2) in the forging of collective identities, theological reflection by elites helped connect Catholic practices to preexisting worldviews and Catholic practices marked generational change by distinguishing Catholics from other African Christians.

Howell, “Short-Term Mission: An Ethnography of Christian Travel Narrative and Experience”

Howell, Brian (2012) Short-Term Mission: An Ethnography of Christian Travel Narrative and Experience. Downers Groves, Illinois: IVP Academic Press.

Publisher’s Description: Over the past few decades, short-term mission trips have exploded in popularity. With easy access to affordable air travel, millions of American Christians have journeyed internationally for ministry, service and evangelism. Short-term trips are praised for involving many in global mission but also critiqued for their limitations.

Despite the diversity of destinations, certain universal commonalities emerge in how mission trip participants describe their experiences: “My eyes were opened to the world’s needs.” “They ministered to us more than we ministered to them.” “It changed my life.”

Anthropologist Brian Howell explores the narrative shape of short-term mission (STM). Drawing on the anthropology of tourism and pilgrimage, he shows how STM combines these elements with Christian purposes of mission to create its own distinct narrative. He provides a careful historical survey of the development of STM and then offers an in-depth ethnographic study of a particular mission trip to the Dominican Republic. He explores how participants remember and interpret their experiences, and he unpacks the implications for how North American churches understand mission, grapple with poverty and relate to the larger global church.

A groundbreaking book for all who want to understand how and why American Christians undertake short-term mission.

Beatty, “The Tell-Tale Heart”

Beatty, Andrew.  2012.  The Tell-Tale Heart: Conversion and Emotion in Nias.  Ethnos 1:1-26.

Abstract: In this article, I use historical and ethnographic data to analyse the Great Repentance, a violently emotional conversion movement that swept through the Indonesian island of Nias from colonial conquest around 1915, with recurrences until the 1960s. Against rationalist and materialist explanations, I argue for a constitutive role for emotion in the conversion process. I show how the techniques and idioms of Protestant missionaries suppressed indigenous meanings and encouraged a native emphasis on ‘the speaking heart’. The existential dilemmas of modern Christians in Nias, their sense of exclusion, can be accounted for by the paradoxical ethical and affective legacy of the repentance movement. The article is a contribution to both the study of emotion in historical perspective and to the analysis of conversion.

Barthes, “Billy Graham at the Vel’ d’Hiv'”

Barthes, Roland (2012 [1957]) “Billy Graham at the Vel’D’Hiv'”  in Mythologies: The Complete Edition, in a New Translation. Trans, Richard Howard & Annette Lavers. New York, Hill and Wang. Pp. 109-112.

Excerpt: “So many missionaries have regaled us with the religious practices of “Primitives” that it is entirely regrettable that a Papuan witch doctor was not at the Vel’ d’Hiv’ to describe the ceremony presided over by Dr. Graham under the name of an evangelizing campaign. There is a splendid piece of anthropological raw material here, which seems, moreover, to be inherited from certain “savage” cults, for we recognize in it under an immediate aspect the three great phases of every religious action: Expectation, Suggestion, Initiation . . . “

Dundon, “The Gateway to the Fly: Christianity, Continuity, and Spaces of Conversion in Papua New Guinea”

Dundon, Alison (2012) “The Gateway to the Fly: Christianity, Continuity, and Spaces of Conversion in Papua New Guinea” in Lenore Manderson, Wendy Smith, & Matt Tomlinson (eds) Flows of Faith: Religious Reach and Community in Asia and the Pacific (Springer, New York).

Abstract: By foregrounding space and the role it plays in the experience and recollection of conversion, Dundon illustrates how people conceptualise conversion to Christianity as meaningful. Her analysis of cultural continuity in terms of the parallels between practices and experiences of the ancestors and those of the missionaries draws attention to the importance of the places in which Gogodala live and move, and how they imagine the place to which they will travel to when they die (Wabila/Heaven). Conversion to Christianity, instigated by UFM missionaries and the establishment of the first UFM stations, churches and educational and health facilities, is perceived as a rupture, but not as traumatic and destructive. Rather, conversion is understood as a disjuncture between ‘before’ (when the ancestors did not know where they came from and its significance) and ‘now’ (when this has been revealed to them over time and through the spaces opened up between mission, church and community).