Protestants mobilize objects such as ‘Holy Land’ flowers, Jordan River stones, vials of Dead Sea water, sand from Lake Tiberias, and Golgotha soil as potent metonymic resources, promising a kind of direct access to the scriptural past and its sacred stories. This article uses this case of biblical landscape items to reflect on the historic ambivalence that characterizes Protestant relations with religious materiality. Building on scholarship that has demonstrated the prolific role of religious materiality in Protestant ritual and everyday lifeworlds, the author extends this analysis by asking: under what conditions do Protestants experience materiality as untroubled and under what conditions is a more anxious disposition activated? To differentiate among conditions, the author proposes that it is helpful to conceptualize Protestant engagements with materiality vis-à-vis legitimized frames (e.g. pedagogy, devotion, evangelism, entertainment). Drawing together archival and ethnographic data, primarily among US Protestants, the article argues that when Protestants function within legitimized frames they are prone to embrace biblical landscape items, but when they find themselves out of frame, their engagement with this particular species of materiality becomes troubled.
Abstract: This article explores how the phenomenon of biblical gardens joins three bodies of scholarship: the social life of scriptures, the study of religion’s media turn, and religious pedagogy. As a kind of religious attraction, the biblical garden is both devotional and pedagogical, with historic roots in nineteenth-century projects to connect botanical science with biblical literacy. I argue that the pedagogy of biblical gardens is anchored by an ideology of sensual indexicality and a strategy of metonymic immersion, which is differentiated from themed immersion. Analyses are drawn from observational and textual data, as well as comparative data from other forms of Holy Land replication, primarily in the USA. Ultimately, I argue that biblical gardens resist a modern ideology that elevates visual experience atop a sensory hierarchy.
Engberg, Aron. 2016. Walking on the Pages of the Word of God: Self, Land, and Text among Evangelical Volunteers in Jerusalem. Doctoral Dissertation, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies. Lund, Sweden: Lund University.
Excerpt: During the last 30 years, the Evangelical relationship with the State of Israel has drawn much academic and popular attention, particularly from historical, theological, and political perspectives. This dissertation engages with this literature but also complements it with an ethnographic account of the discursive practices of Evangelical Zionists through which, it is suggested, much of the religious significance of the contemporary state is being produced. The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork among Evangelical volunteer workers in Jerusalem, focusing on their stories about themselves, the land, and the biblical text.
Publisher’s Description: Young evangelicals in Britain often find themselves at odds with an increasingly secular society, and yet the tradition persists and in some places flourishes. Sociological studies into the faith of this demographic group are rare, yet there is much to be explored as to how their faith functions and how it compares to other groups globally. Similarly, given the privilege evangelicals afford the biblical text, how young believers engage with the ancient Scriptures they understand to be “the word of God” is particularly significant. This work addresses that core question. How do young evangelicals make sense of the Bible today? Based on qualitative data gathered from three diverse evangelical churches it compares the reading priorities, ordinary hermeneutics, and theological concerns of young adults. Presenting age-related focus groups with challenging biblical narratives, the study compares strategies for negotiating the texts based on age, gender, and churchmanship. It provides a unique insight into the realities of Bible reading and the faith of “Generation Y” and gives food for thought not only to those with scholarly interests, but also those with a pastoral concern to shape and sustain the Christian faith of young adults in Britain and beyond.
Publisher’s Description: The Mi’kmaq of eastern Canada were among the first indigenous North Americans to encounter colonial Europeans. As early as the mid-sixteenth century, they were trading with French fishers, and by the mid-seventeenth century, large numbers of Mi’kmaq had converted to Catholicism. Mi’kmaw Catholicism is perhaps best exemplified by the community’s regard for the figure of Saint Anne, the grandmother of Jesus. Every year for a week, coinciding with the saint’s feast day of July 26, Mi’kmaw peoples from communities throughout Quebec and eastern Canada gather on the small island of Potlotek, off the coast of Nova Scotia. It is, however, far from a conventional Catholic celebration. In fact, it expresses a complex relationship between the Mi’kmaq, Saint Anne, a series of eighteenth-century treaties, and a cultural hero named Kluskap.
Finding Kluskap brings together years of historical research and learning among Mi’kmaw peoples on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The author’s long-term relationship with Mi’kmaw friends and colleagues provides a unique vantage point for scholarship, one shaped by not only personal relationships but also by the cultural, intellectual, and historical situations that inform postcolonial peoples. The picture that emerges when Saint Anne, Kluskap, and the mission are considered in concert with one another is one of the sacred life as a site of adjudication for both the meaning and efficacy of religion—and the impact of modern history on contemporary indigenous religion.
Walker Peterson, Heather. 2012. A Non-Place Identity and a Fixed (Sacred) Text: Literacy Practices Shaping Identity/ies of a Slavic Baptist Congregation from the Former Soviet Union to the United States. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 12(3): 450–465.
Abstract: Based on an interdisciplinary linguistic ethnography, I apply the term ‘non-place’ to the collective identity of a Slavic migrant congregation in the United States. Those members socialised into their faith before migration had already been marginalised in their resistance to the former national Soviet identity. The New Literacy Studies in particular help to describe their historic Protestant literacy practices regarding a sacred, and thus fixed, text. A fixed sacred text provided the freedom to interpret the group’s context, a perceived narrative to join, and authority for leadership to dictate a way of life. Events around text were warm and welcoming, utilising Western texts for legitimatised scripture interpretation, and accessible to both Russian speakers and second-generation English speakers. With the assumed permanence of a sacred text, new believers retold their own narratives as part of the scriptural one, and had a ‘home land’ they had never stepped foot in.
Abstract: In contrast to popular Marian rites throughout the world, the Jerusalem Dormition Feast is held on a canonical route that includes the purported sites of some of the key moments in the Virgin’s life. The festival boasts an ancient liturgical order consisting of utterances and customs that are assiduously preserved by Jerusalem’s Greek-Orthodox Church. Drawing on Engelke’s distinction (2007) between scriptural authority and religious performance and numerous scholarly analyses of cohesion and dissent at assorted Marian shrines (e.g., Eade and Sallnow ), this article explores the reactions to the local ceremonial on the part of various participants. While the clergy strives to impose its particular reading of the Scriptures on all the attendees, the different lay groups insist on performing rituals that give expression to their own knowledge of the canon and their own understanding of the Virgin’s nature. All told, their reactions range from rigid obedience to creative practices and heated dissent. The event ultimately splinters off into several factions and the host’s orderly script is compromised.