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.

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.

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).

de Hontheim, “Devil Chasers and Art Gatherers”

de Hontheim, Astrid (2012) Devil Chasers and Art Gatherers. Cortil-Wodon, E.M.E.

Publisher’s Abstract: This book studies the socio-cultural changes that occurred among the Asmat people (West Papua) during the postcolonial era, after the arrival of the first missionary in 1953. It compares Catholic and Protestant missionary strategies of conversion and the way the Asmat coped with newcomers’settlement on their land, evangelization, Indonesian political hierarchies,market economy, ‘tribal’ art collectors, schooling and Western etiologies. Despite considerable academic interest in this area, regrettably few contemporary researchers in anthropology have published field-work based studies of the people of West Papua, unlike neighboring Papua New Guinea. We can hope that this book will encourage young researchers to dedicate themselves to research in this rapidly changing part of the world.

Jørgensen, “The Anthropology of Christianity and Missiology”

Jørgensen, Jonas (2011) “Anthropology of Christianity and Missiology: Disciplinary Contexts, Converging Themes, and Future Tasks of Mission Studies” Mission Studies 28(2):186-208

Abstract: The anthropology of Christianity is claimed to be a recent innovation in the discipline of social anthropology and focuses on the study of Christian forms of life. The purpose of this paper is threefold: first, to identify the nature of the anthropology of Christianity; second, to focus on converging themes in the anthropology of Christianity and missiology as academic disciplines; and third, to offer an interpretation of what such convergence might imply for the future of missiology.