Abstract: With Pentecostalism frequently analysed as gaining traction in contexts of globalised individualisation and neoliberally-induced insecurity, scholars have paid less attention to the social purchase of the religion among the peasantry. This article draws on fieldwork in rural Nicaragua to argue that the distinctive relational form of campesinos – namely the rural household – should be central to the analysis of Pentecostal appeal. I argue that the Pentecostal demand to eliminate vicio (vice) – bound up with a dualistic conception of a world driven by either divine or malevolent power – speaks closely to an everyday project of domesticity which deals with the erratic forces associated with male and female bodies, and which revolves around problems of incorporation. Identifying male unreliability as vicio allows Pentecostal ritual, and the spiritual power afforded by faith, to address a domestic imperative focused upon containing inherently excessive vital force.
Abstract:This article examines how religious beliefs and practices influence the reception of international relief and development aid in impoverished communities. Specifically, I explain how Nicaraguan recipients’ prayers both enhance and constrain their ability to assert themselves as “empowered” actors during aid interactions. Data come from observations and interviews over a two-year period with 81 Nicaraguans in communities that receive aid from Christian development organizations. Compared to secular constructions of aid interactions, prayers provide space for Nicaraguans to position themselves as influential actors effecting change for themselves or their families. Through prayers, recipients portray themselves as influencing the actions of more powerful parties, including God and potential donors. They also pray for donors’ well-being, thereby offering spiritual reciprocity for material gifts. However, the same prayers that empower individuals at the interpersonal level constrain their ability to envision transformation of social structures. These findings shape understandings of prayer as aligning actions, of the moral and social dimensions of receiving care from strangers, and of the complex and contradictory ways religious practices influence discourses of empowerment and development.