Abstract: The 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad) scandal and 2018 elections brought the corruption and nepotism of Malaysian politics to international attention. For my Christian Dusun interlocutors in the Ranau hinterlands of Sabah, Malaysia, one effect of corruption, as well as state-driven ‘Islamisation’, is that many people no longer trust their government, the moral failings of which are viewed as unchristian. Crucially, Western liberal democracies are often imagined as being both Christian and white, stimulating optimistic interpretations of racial whiteness. In this article, I employ theories of the fetish to unveil the inspired ‘cultural criticism’ that emerges at the interface of two social worlds (Spyer, Patricia. 1988. Introduction. In Border Fetishisms: Material objects in unstable spaces, edited by Patricia Spyer, pp. 1–12. Psychology Press; Graeber, David. 2005. Fetishism as Social Creativity or, Fetishes are Gods in the Process of Construction. Anthropological Theory, 5(4):407–438). The affective relations between people, images and ideas in postcolonial Ranau contributed to the construction of my embodied racial identity, orang putih (white person), which was fetishised by Christian Dusun as a ‘container’ (Newell, Sasha. 2014. The Matter of the Unfetish: Hoarding and the Spirit of Possessions. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 4(3):185–213) of hope for their own Christian future.
Abstract: This article analyses the historical course of the Evangelical minority in Guinea-Bissau, its transformations, its recent expansion and its current engagement with the public sphere. First, I trace the trajectory of the Guinean Evangelical movement from the 1940s to the present, against the background of the process of decolonization and the post-Independence history of the country. Second, I examine the recent impact of Pentecostal and Charismatic forms of Christianity on local Evangelical churches, following the transnational circulation of believers and missionaries, on the one hand, and the arrival of new international churches, mostly from Brazil and other African countries, on the other. Third, I place the current flowering of Evangelical and Pentecostal denominations in the broader context of a general shift to universal religions throughout the country. Within this framework, I argue, this success can be read as expression of a widespread craving for modernity and mobility, both in rural and urban Guinea-Bissau.
Publisher’s Description: The Empty Seashell explores what it is like to live in a world where cannibal witches are undeniably real, yet too ephemeral and contradictory to be an object of belief. In a book based on more than three years of fieldwork between 1991 and 2011, Nils Bubandt argues that cannibal witches for people in the coastal, and predominantly Christian, community of Buli in the Indonesian province of North Maluku are both corporeally real and fundamentally unknowable.
Witches (known as gua in the Buli language or as suanggi in regional Malay) appear to be ordinary humans but sometimes, especially at night, they take other forms and attack people in order to kill them and eat their livers. They are seemingly everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The reality of gua, therefore, can never be pinned down. The title of the book comes from the empty nautilus shells that regularly drift ashore around Buli village. Convention has it that if you find a live nautilus, you are a gua. Like the empty shells, witchcraft always seems to recede from experience.Bubandt begins the book by recounting his own confusion and frustration in coming to terms with the contradictory and inaccessible nature of witchcraft realities in Buli. A detailed ethnography of the encompassing inaccessibility of Buli witchcraft leads him to the conclusion that much of the anthropological literature, which views witchcraft as a system of beliefs with genuine explanatory power, is off the mark. Witchcraft for the Buli people doesn’t explain anything. In fact, it does the opposite: it confuses, obfuscates, and frustrates. Drawing upon Jacques Derrida’s concept of aporia—an interminable experience that remains continuously in doubt—Bubandt suggests the need to take seriously people’s experiential and epistemological doubts about witchcraft, and outlines, by extension, a novel way of thinking about witchcraft and its relation to modernity.
Abstract: Within the anthropology of Christianity, much attention has been paid to the convergence of Christianity with modern understandings of language. In this essay, I review scholarship that traces the historical connections between modern and Christian views of language, particularly in British colonial attacks on Hindu language practices, and I examine two recent ethnographies that offer different vantage points on the variety of ways in which contemporary Christians use language in a self-consciously modern way.
Publisher’s Description: Combining insider and outsider perspectives, Women in Lebanon looks at Christian and Muslim women living together in a multicultural society and facing modernity. While the Arab Spring has begun to draw attention to issues of change, modernity, and women’s subjectivity, this manuscript takes a unique approach to examining and describing the Lebanese “alternative modernities” thesis and how it has shaped thinking about the meaning of terms like evolution, progress, development, history, and politics in contemporary Arab thought. The author draws on extensive ethnographic research, as well as her own personal experience.
Rakovic, Slavisa. 2012. In the Haze of the Serbian Orthodoxy: ‘Conversion’ to the Ancestral Faith and Falling from the Church: Four Formerly Devout-to-Church Christians Speak. The Anthropology of East Europe Review 30(2).
Abstract: This paper is the result of research into the road towards and the road from institutional Orthodoxy and the experiences of four individuals, mutual acquaintances, who in the 1990s found “refuge in a search for meaning of life” in the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC). However, towards the end of the 2000s, they decided to abandon institutionalized religion and to move from the so-called theological-ecclesiastic model of Christian religiosity to an alternative model which negotiates between Christianity as doctrine and non-religious life-styles and “life philosophies”, as they are colloquially termed. Once torn between the conservativeness of institutional Orthodoxy and the modernity of their social environment (friendship groups, networks of people with similar interests, etc.), the four former members of the SOC declare that the SOC today is a community that has problems integrating cosmopolitan worldviews and is incapable of dealing with modernity and the diversity of contemporary society.
Abstract: This paper explores the social and economic implications of indigenous Christian discourses and practices in the Wenzhou Chinese diaspora in Paris, France. Popularly known as China’s Jerusalem, the coastal Chinese city of Wenzhou is home to thousands of self-started home-grown Protestant churches and a million Protestants. Drawing on multi-sited fieldwork, this study provides an ethnographic account of a group of Wenzhou merchants who have formed large Christian communities at home, along with migrant enclaves in Paris. The study shows how these migrant entrepreneurs and traders have brought their version of Christianity from China to France and how they perceive and deal with issues of illegality, moral contingency, native-place based loyalty and national belonging. It highlights the thoroughly intertwined relationship between an indigenised Chinese Christianity and the petty capitalist legacy of coastal southeast China in a secularised, exclusionary European context, and suggests that Christianity provides a form of non-market morality that serves to effectively legitimate Wenzhou’s pre-modern household economy in the context of market modernity.
Hindiyya al–’Ujaimi, a young eighteenth–century nun whose faith was matched by her ambition and intellect, lies at the heart of this absorbing history of Middle Eastern Christianity. At the age of twenty-six, Hindiyya left her hometown of Aleppo to establish a convent in the mountains of Lebanon. Her order and her growing public profile as a visionary and living saint met with stiff opposition from Latin missionaries and with mistrust from the Vatican. Church authorities were suspicious of feminine spirituality and independent religious authority, eventually subjecting her to two Inquisitions by the Vatican. Sentenced to spend her entire life imprisoned, Hindiyya died in 1798 in her cell, leaving a legacy that shaped the church for many years to come.
Compelling in its cinematic scope—resplendent with the requisite villains and mysterious events infused with sinister and sexual tensions, tragedy, and pathos—Hindiyya’s story holds within its folds a larger tale about the construction of a new Christianity in the Levant. Khater skillfully reveals what her story tells us about religious minorities in the Middle East, early modern cultural encounters between the West and the Middle East, and the relationship between gender, modernity, and religion.
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.