Excerpt: Confronted with a catalogue of contradictions—the evidence of everyday inconsistencies in human lives—it is easy to take an external position of analysis which makes the incongruity seem all too obvious. Surely anyone can see this is not consistent with that? Perhaps, once dissected and laid out as specimens, the contradictions seem stark. But are they experienced this way when lived out in real time?…. As an anthropologist of religion who has carried out research on Christianity, here I wish to focus on a number of apparent contradictions that play an important role in Christian life (not because I believe they are necessarily unique to Christianity, simply that because of my ethnographic experience I find Christianity a useful lens through which to view this topic). My contention will be that such “contradictions” are not instances of disequilibrium to be rectified, but are often the very heart of the matter and, indeed, may be sustained as contradictions.
Publisher’s Description: How do Ghanaian Pentecostals resolve the contradictions of their own faith while remaining faithful to their religious identity? Bringing together the anthropology of Christianity and the anthropology of ethics, Girish Daswani’s Looking Back, Moving Forward investigates the compromises with the past that members of Ghana’s Church of Pentecost make in order to remain committed Christians.
Even as church members embrace the break with the past that comes from being “born-again,” many are less concerned with the boundaries of Christian practice than with interpersonal questions – the continuity of suffering after conversion, the causes of unhealthy relationships, the changes brought about by migration – and how to deal with them. By paying ethnographic attention to the embodied practices, interpersonal relationships, and moments of self-reflection in the lives of members of the Church of Pentecost in Ghana and amongst the Ghanaian diaspora in London, Looking Back, Moving Forwardexplores ethical practice as it emerges out of the questions that church members and other Ghanaian Pentecostals ask themselves.
Abstract: This article reviews the development of the anthropology of Christianity and considers the new questions and approaches introduced by the articles in this special issue of Current Anthropology. The article first addresses the contested history of the anthropology of Christianity, suggesting that there is intellectual value in seeing it as largely a development of the new century. It goes on to locate the rise of the anthropology of Christianity in relation to a number of important changes both in the place of religion in the world and in the academic study of religion that also occurred during this period. It then considers the foci of the articles collected here. These include such relatively novel topics as the nature of Christian social institutions, social processes, space-making practices, and constructions of gender, as well as questions concerning the boundaries of Christianity. Several articles also focus on considerations of recent developments in the study of long-standing topics in the anthropology of Christianity, such as discontinuity, reflexivity, experience, and materiality. Throughout the discussion of these issues, I take up critical debates around the anthropology of Christianity, for example, the charge that it is wholly idealist in orientation, and consider how these articles contribute to the further development of these discussions.
Abstract: This article discusses the unique methodological challenges that 2 secular researchers encountered while studying an evangelical collegiate enclave. The article showcases the researchers’ retrospec- tive sense making of their fieldwork and offers insights for qualitat- ive researchers interested in studying faith-based organizations.
By limiting Gypsy Travellers’ mobility, the state has restricted their subjectivities and their mobile lifestyles. In this context, Pentecostalism, an egalitarian doctrine based on the privatization of relations with God, creates new spaces for Gypsy Travellers’ self-expression, and further premises for their ethnic and cultural revivalism. Through a symbolic interactionist approach, this paper argues that Gypsy Travellers obtain individual authority through religious reflexivity and performativity. It examines ethnographically the inter- and intra-personal religious conversations among believers in a Gypsy Pentecostal church in Edinburgh, UK. It shows the ways in which Gypsy Travellers use internal dialogues with God and symbolic interactions with significant others in the church as means of self-expression. God is the relational conversational partner and facilitates the believer’s self-mediation. It is the symbolic interface and signifier who can delegate authority to believers or preachers. Through the process of self-mastery, the practitioners of religious reflexivity gain control over themselves and perform authority in front of others. Thus, internal dialogues and symbolic interactions become the important experiential domains of a complex dramaturgy of Gypsy believers’ struggles for individual and collective authority.