Abstract: Based on over two years of fieldwork with Faith Family Missionary Baptist Church, I illustrate how this congregation grounds their sense of place when place itself is impermanent. In the midst of poverty, unemployment, and violence, the community views their Christian calling in their mission to reshape the younger, disenfranchised generation into godly individuals. Congregants build fellowship by pooling their resources in an attempt to follow the call of God to do good, and to recruit and save the disenfranchised. I argue that this congregation’s sense of place is shaped by and grounded in this fellowship, i.e., the concrete relationships they form through such practices. Despite having few resources to generate a large impact in the broader city, the congregation acts as a system of support crucial to individuals in these neighborhoods. While the congregation’s location in the city is invisible to many outsiders due to their mobility, further attention should be paid to such alternate forms of civic participation and practice.
Abstract: Kenyan Pentecostals in London (re)frame their migration as a “mission” to bring the United Kingdom back into the Kingdom of God. Focusing on the case of one church founded in the diaspora, this article examines how the pastor and church members try to realize this mission by exploring the kind of place they imagine God’s Kingdom to be and their efforts to create it in London. The “spatial turn” in studies of religion has followed two general trajectories, broadly referred to as the politics and the poetics of space. Studies of Pentecostal placemaking in particular have examined how Pentecostals use church‐planting as a strategy of territorialization, by which they make their presence seen and felt in specific localities, as well as how they phenomenologically “do” space. This article contributes to these discussions by elucidating a particular form of sociality as an important aspect of religious placemaking. In doing so, I argue that Pentecostal projects of self‐making and placemaking converge in what I refer to as “socializing space.” At the same time, through its focus on an independent church, the article extends our understanding of African diasporic churches beyond the well‐studied and ‐resourced transnational African Pentecostal networks and megachurches.
Abstract: This article examines themes of religion tourism, presence, devotional labour, and place-making from the vantage point of a ‘forgotten’ Christian attraction in the United States. I integrate archival, oral history, and ethnographic data to analyze the accumulations throughout the 60-year life course of the Garden of Hope, a site in northern Kentucky (USA): from distinctly Protestant and distinctly Catholic material features, more ambiguous theological features, stories of supernatural intervention and stories of human ingenuity, competing claims to authority and authenticity, choreographed rituals, and multiple forms of devotion. I argue for an interpretation of the Garden that accounts for the ways in which Christian engagements with the problem of presence accumulate promises of presence: the expectation, anticipation, and potentiality that a desired spiritual intimacy will be actualised. In particular, I highlight the devotional labour of custodians and visitors as integral for defining, narrating, and maintaining this promise.
Abstract: This paper scrutinises the role of place and space in the process of Christian rehabilitation. This process is an interconnection of the rehabilitation of the addicted people and conversion to a particular kind of Christianity, working as an inseparable twofold process. The narrative of conversion in the rehabilitation ministry is impacted by the 150-year history of Russian Baptists, the rich sociocultural context of contemporary Russia, the junkie and prison context of the people in rehabs, and a very specific Russian Synodal translation of the Bible. I demonstrate the role of space in the implementation of rehab rules and discipline, Christian dogmatics, and construction of the Christian self. The organisation of space in the rehabs very much resembles prison, while also following the common dogmatic principles of the program. At the same time, rehabilitation is enforced by harsh conditions, a strict regime, and the idea of proper Christian family.
Abstract: Place-making is a central activity for Christian groups. Yet the scholarly literature contains little comparative conversation on local Christian theories of place. This article ‘thinks across’ ten ethnographic descriptions of evangelical communities in order to pay attention to what these Christians pay attention to in their everyday place-making. It discusses seven problematics that commonly recur in evangelical place-work (namely linguistic, material, temporal, personhood, translocal, transcendent, and worldly concerns). This analysis nuances current anthropological debates on Protestant materiality, temporality, and personhood. The article argues that a central tenet of evangelicals’ place- making is a simultaneous taking apart and bringing together of faith and place. This results in a simultaneous fusing and ‘unfusing’ of situation and setting, which cannot be labeled either displacement or thorough emplacement. More broadly, evangelical place-making provides a modern example of deterritorialization that is different from placelessness. It also speaks to the complex interplay between ideals, intentionality, and agency.
The three articles in the section “Christianity, Space, and Place” assemble ethnographic studies concerned with different space-place relations in various geographical settings, ranging from urban spaces in Beijing (China) and Damascus (Syria) to rural settings in Bosavi (Papua New Guinea). I will give a brief overview of each essay before I draw a comparison and point out similarities, shared themes and insights. Further, I will discuss each article’s contribution to broader discussions in the Anthropology of Christianity and to what research desiderata these articles point us in terms of future studies. Continue reading →
Abstract: Beginning with nineteenth-century Indian curse rhetoric as a national jeremiad, and continuing into the twentieth century through Puritan-derived landscapes in fiction by Howard Philips Lovecraft and Jay Anson, Indian curses and accursed lands stand apart from other paranormal beliefs in the explicit voice they give to Euro-American anxieties over cultural authority. By imagining themselves as living in Indian terrains, accursed though they are, white Americans lay claim to the land, articulating an indigenized myth of national origin. Since the 1970s, neo-charismatic Protestants have taken a keen interest in Lovecraft-inspired religions and Indian curse lore, engaging in various deliverance ministries to exorcise individuals and landscapes, and to symbolically claim the nation for themselves.
Publisher’s Description: Combining ethnographic and historical research conducted in Angola, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, A Prophetic Trajectory tells the story of Simão Toko, the founder and leader of one of the most important contemporary Angolan religious movements. The book explains the historical, ethnic, spiritual, and identity transformations observed within the movement, and debates the politics of remembrance and heritage left behind after Toko’s passing in 1984. Ultimately, it questions the categories of prophetism and charisma, as well as the intersections between mobility, memory, and belonging in the Atlantic Lusophone sphere.
Abstract: In today’s post-industrial city, migrants and ethnic minorities are forming, through their religious practices, particular spaces of alterity, often at the ‘margin’ of the urban experience—for instance, in converting anonymous warehouses into places of worship. This paper examines diverse facets of the religious spatiality of Afro-Christian diasporic churches—from local emplacement to the more visible public parade of faith in the urban landscape. One of the aims is to explore to what extent particular spatial configurations and locations constitute ‘objective expression’ of social status and symbolic positionalities in the post-migration secular environment of the ‘host societies’. Without denying the impact of urban marginality, the paper shows how religious groups such as African Pentecostal and Prophetic churches are also engaged, in their own terms, in a transformative project of spatial appropriation, regeneration and re-enchantment of the urban landscape. The case study of the Congolese Kimbanguist Church in London and Atlanta also demonstrates the need to examine the articulation of local, transnational and global practices and imaginaries to understand how religious and ethnic identities are renegotiated in newly ‘localised’ diasporic settings.