Abstract: The discipline called the “anthropology of Christianity” began to gain traction in the early to mid-2000s when interested scholars focused on Christianity as an object of collaborative and comparative cross-cultural analysis. Along with several landmark works of Joel Robbins, one foundational text is Fenella Cannell’s edited volume The Anthropology of Christianity, published in 2006. In her introductory essay, Cannell poses a pointed question for the volume and the discipline itself: “What difference does Christianity make?” Bracketing the question of whether “difference” can or should be defined (Green 2014), several anthropologists have taken inspiration from Cannell, including Naomi Haynes (2014) in the concluding essay to a recent special issue of Current Anthropology, and myself and Debra McDougall (2013) in an edited volume on Christian politics in Oceania. Difference, as the criterion by which continuity and transformation are evaluated, is arguably the key concept for an effective anthropological engagement with Christianity.
Abstract: The emergent church movement has fashioned itself as an alternative for Christians who do not want to walk away from their faith, but feel uncomfortable with the dogmatic conservatism found in mainstream evangelicalism. The emerging church movement has portrayed itself as diverse and inclusive, which is a direct result of evading ingroup-outgroup boundaries. However, despite the desire for a plurality of opinions, the movement’s leaders have been known to take political positions that are largely left-leaning. We use the first dataset known to gather this identity from a sample of Protestant clergy, and assess whether denominationally connected emergent church clergy do, in fact, present a distinctive political profile. Emergent clergy are what they say they are—diverse and inclusive—while they are, on average, more liberal than nonemergent clergy in the sample.
Abstract: The paper discusses the impact of Christianity on the institutions of divine kingship and chiefship among the Asante people of Ghana during the late pre-colonial and colonial periods. The thrust of the paper is that separate categories of religion and politics emerged in Asante society as the colonial administration sought to facilitate missionary work and conversion while at the same time they supported the chiefs as the secular rulers of the country. The analysis is based on Dumont’s ideas on the differentiation of the political category and the characteristics of the modern state. Dumont’s own work on secularization focused on long-term historical developments that were markedly different from the abrupt changes described here. Nevertheless, his ideas help us significantly in comprehending the profoundness and radicality of this transformation. Additionally, the aim of the paper is to provide some historical background for understanding debates about the nature and value of traditional chieftaincy in present-day Ghana.
Excerpt: This collection of articles is a very welcome surprise. In the years since writing the 2006 essay on anthropology and theology with which all of the articles to some extent engage, I had become resigned to what seemed to the be the likelihood that the dialogue between anthropology and theology was going to be one that at best built very slowly, and at worst was destined hardly to take place. To be sure, there had been some fits and starts kinds of discussions, but nothing much had happened in the way of sustained conversation. Anthropology and theology appeared to me set to continue to go their separate ways without the benefit of much cross-fertilization. The publication of this collection fundamentally alters this picture. Each of its articles is a substantial contribution in its own right, and taken together they indicate in a way no other collection yet has how productive of fresh anthropological ideas encounters with various kinds of theology can be. And in moving decisively beyond a focus solely on the Christian tradition, they also rescue this nascent engagement from becoming a purely parochial one . . .
Filmaker’s Description: The feature-length documentary God Loves Uganda is a powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to change African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right.
The film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow Biblical law.
Abstract: This article addresses the politics of space in the study of American religion. Part 1 argues that an attention to broken space, namely an assumed division between the sacred and the profane as well as between the local and the global, limits the kind of political relationships that the scholar can posit between religion and space. Part 2 proposes the term “affective space” as a flexible analytical tool with broad utility for the study of American religion, one that prompts scholars to address those social processes that constitute felt difference amid an unevenly interrelated world. To animate the production of affective spaces, this article draws on more than a decade of ethnographic research in and on postwar Guatemala.
Abstract: While contemporary philosophers have been content to declare the logical possibilities of sacrifice exhausted, to have finally ‘sacrificed sacrifice,’ for many people around the world the notion of sacrifice – whether religious, secular, or somewhere in between – remains absolutely central to their understanding of themselves, their relations with others, and their place in the world. From religion to economics, and from politics to the environment, sacrificial tropes frequently emerge as key means of mediating and propagating various forms of power, moral discourse, and cultural identity. This paper lays out reasons for retaining sacrifice as an analytical concept within anthropology, and argues for the importance of a renewed focus on the ‘other side of sacrifice’, as a means of understanding better how sacrifice emerges beyond ritual and enters into the full gamut of social life.
Silcott, William & Jens Kreinath. 2013. Transformations of a ‘religious’ nation in a global world: Politics, Protestantism and ethnic identity in South Korea. Culture and Religion: An Interdisciplinary Journal 14(2):223-240.
Abstract: In an increasingly globalised world, matters of national identity are no longer confined solely to domestic politics. This paper proposes that Christianity in South Korea is engaged in a mutually reinforcing relationship with the construction of Korean national identity, particularly concerning historical dynamics of both Westernisation and the formation of nationalism. In positioning the role of religion in the creation of a national image, the conflicts and contestations between religious groups will become politically effective. As actors in the political and religious field attempt to reflexively create an image of Korea that transcends national borders and anticipates to overcome domestic and ethnic divides, religion becomes more than an article of faith through its entanglement with national politics. By recognising the impact of Westernisation and its historical implications for this process, it becomes possible to approach the formation of Korean identity from a new angle by accounting for the efficacy of the self-reflexive image.