Abstract: Based on almost three years of ethnographic research living in Rio de Janeiro’s subúrbios, I consider how the senses comes to matter and how Pentecostalism, margins, smells, and soaps are put to work to construct new kinds of affective space. To do so, I track the way in which a fragrance composed of runoff waste from an international flavor and fragrance company has come to be understood as “pieces of grace,” or divinely given fragments of prosperity. I argue that the forms of racial and spatial governance that enable something like repurposed waste to become pieces of grace form part of a larger story of the sensorium of the subúrbios. In contending with Rio’s racialized urban landscape and how it is sensed and made sense of, I look to what I call the salvific sensorium, a kind of sensed space and territory that exists by engaging the senses with a divine alterity that reconfigures worth and temporality. It is affectively generative, if fleetingly so, and capacious enough to be open to both optimism and its cruelties.
Abstract: Evangelical rap may sound like an oxymoron, but it was one of the most important trends in evangelical America as the Christian right rose to new levels of power in the 1990s. The trio DC Talk sold millions of album and dominated the Christian charts from the early 1990s and into the early 2000s. This was more than pure entertainment. Popular culture, and especially popular culture targeted at teens, is an important venue for disseminating values and sustaining religious identities. The artists promoted by the Christian music industry have to reflect the ideas and values that parents and central evangelical institutions wish to teach their children. In the 1990s, racial reconciliation was one of the most important issues to evangelical America and DC Talk were poster boys for a multiracial and multicultural America. Therefore this article takes DC Talk as a starting point to discuss evangelical engagement with race issues in the 1990s. DC Talk wrapped up evangelical individualism and color-blind conservatism in hip-hop garb, trying to reinvent a group with a checkered past when it comes to race relations as the hope of a racially harmonious America.
Abstract: Within many North American evangelical Christian communities, discernment denotes attentiveness to an interior voice that believers learn to identify as God’s. This article adopts a comparative perspective on everyday domains of perception and feeling that practices of discernment implicitly distinguish as unmarked by God’s activity, and as characterized by specific forms of anxiety from which believers desire to be redeemed. In a majority White Pentecostal congregation in suburban Buffalo, New York, believers cast emotional insecurity as a condition demanding redemption, while members of African American churches in the inner city hope to be redeemed from sensitivity to insults. While practices of discernment counter such anxieties by fostering forms of intimacy and trust, they also reinforce anxiety by focusing believers’ attention on how familiar relations may be distorted in uncanny ways.
Marti, Gerardo. 2016. “I Was a Muslim, But Now I Am a Christian”: Preaching, Legitimation, and Identity Management in a Southern Evangelical Church. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Early online publication.
Abstract: Established in 2005, “Life” is a suburban, nondenominational, evangelical church in Charlotte, North Carolina, with an almost entirely white membership, yet the lead pastor is an immigrant from the Middle East. As an ex-Muslim ethnic Pakistani who was born and raised in Kuwait, Pastor Sameer Khalid does not “fit” into southern culture, and he did not convert to Christianity until he was enrolled in college in the United States. Ethnographic data from 14 months of fieldwork reveal how Pastor Sameer uses weekly sermons to negotiate racialized stigmas, emphasize his common religious identity with the congregation, and make his immigrant background a distinctive religious resource for the church. More specifically, while all pastors require legitimation of their charismatic authority, this research focuses on the dynamics of performance through preaching within the Sunday morning services of this congregation, a performance that negotiates this lead pastor’s ethnic and religious identities and accentuates his strategic use of institutionalized evangelical narratives to subvert Islamophobic threats and buttress legitimation of his pastoral identity.
Abstract: Within public health and medical anthropology research, the study of women’s agency in reproductive decision making often neglects the role of religion and women’s spirituality. This article is based on ethnographic research conducted at a shelter for homeless (mostly African American) mothers in the southeastern United States. We explore the inadequacy of rational choice models that emphasize intentionality and planning, which our research shows are in tension with the vernacular religious and moral ethos of pregnancy as a ‘blessing’ or unplanned gift. Our findings confirm that young and disadvantaged women may view pregnancy and motherhood as opportunities to improve their lives in ways that mediate against their acceptance of family planning models. For these women, the notion of ‘blessing’ also reflects an acceptance of contingency and indeterminacy as central to the reproductive experience. We also question the increasingly popular distinction between ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’ in contemporary public health.
Frederick, Marla F. 2015. Colored Television: American Religion Gone Global. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.
Publisher’s Description: The presence of women and African Americans not simply as viewers, but also as televangelists and station owners in their own right has dramatically changed the face of American religious broadcasting in recent decades. Colored Television looks at the influence of these ministries beyond the United States, where complex gospels of prosperity and gospels of sexual redemption mutually inform one another while offering hopeful yet socially contested narratives of personal uplift. As an ethnography, Colored Television illuminates the phenomenal international success of American TV preachers like T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, and Juanita Bynum. Focusing particularly on Jamaica and the Caribbean, it also explores why the genre has resonated so powerfully around the world. Investigating the roles of producers, consumers, and distributors, Marla Frederick takes a unique look at the ministries, the communities they enter, and the global markets of competition that buffer them.
Abstract: Papua New Guinean imaginings of Israel as a potential development partner draw on Christian renderings of the Bible, but they also reflect an understanding of Israel as a modern, technologically advanced nation. As middle-class Papua New Guineans reflect on the failures of national development since gaining independence from Australia, they express ambivalence about the appropriateness of Western models of development for the Papua New Guinean context. However, the influx of Asian investment is also seen as lacking, or even threatening; therefore, Asian models of development also fail to offer an appealing hope for the future. In this paper, I argue that these racialised understandings of modernity represent a ‘post-colonial racial triangle’, a discursive field within which the moral implications of development are understood and debated. Within this triangle, Melanesians are thought to have ‘culture’ and (Christian) ‘morality’ but lack ‘development’. Australians or ‘whitemen’ are thought to have ‘development’ and ‘morality’ but to lack ‘culture’. ‘Asians’ are thought to have ‘development’ and ‘culture’ but to lack (Christian) morality. Taking this moral framing of race into account, Israel emerges as a possible aid donor with the credentials to reconcile these three positions as it is seen to be the possessor of ‘development’, ‘culture’, and ‘morality’.
Abstract: The following case study utilizes in-depth qualitative interviews and participant observation data in order to examine how color-blindness operates in a diverse Christian fraternity. The color-blind ideology functions in two distinct ways: to authenticate the fraternity’s collective religious identity as an inclusive Christian community and to obscure within-group racial inequalities reproduced through tokenizing racist jokes aimed at its non-white members. Color-blind statements allow members to attribute their organization’s racial diversity to their accepting religious doctrine, while also making problems of race within the organization difficult to address. This article provides a theoretical contribution by highlighting the dire implications of ignoring race in diverse religious groups, particularly problematic within the “edgy” joking subculture of Christian fraternities.
Abstract: In this article the author explores the ways in which Catholic, evangelical, and Candomblé actors produce competing framings that shape encounters taking place in the city of Cachoeira in the Brazilian state of Bahia. The framing of Cachoeira as a site of heritage tourism – one where local religious practices are read as part of the African heritage and attractions for African American ‘roots tourists’ – obscures as much as it reveals. This is not to suggest that this framing is entirely inaccurate or to deny that many visitors themselves describe their trips to Bahia this way. But I contend that the ‘heritage frame’ masks key issues that complicate diasporic encounters in Cachoeira, particularly different understandings of heritage and religion and their relationship to black identity that African Americans and Afro-Brazilians bring to these encounters.
Publisher’s Description: Julie J. Park examines how losing racial diversity in a university affects the everyday lives of its students. She uses a student organization, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) at “California University,” as a case study to show how reductions in racial diversity impact the ability of students to sustain multiethnic communities.
The story documents IVCF’s evolution from a predominantly white group that rarely addressed race to the most racially diverse campus fellowship at the university. However, its ability to maintain its multiethnic membership was severely hampered by the drop in black enrollment at California University following the passage of Proposition 209, a statewide affirmative action ban.
Park demonstrates how the friendships that students have—or do not have—across racial lines are not just a matter of personal preference or choice; they take place in the contexts that are inevitably shaped by the demographic conditions of the university. She contends that a strong organizational commitment to diversity, while essential, cannot sustain racially diverse student subcultures. Her work makes a critical contribution to our understanding of race and inequality in collegiate life and is a valuable resource for educators and researchers interested in the influence of racial politics on students’ lives.