Abstract: Mormon religiosity is deeply marked both by a culture of secrecy and also by a culture that obliquely indexes secret religious material as a means of communication. This secrecy, though, can at times be an engine of disbelief, a process which has been exacerbated by the internet. Because of high levels of social integration in the community, Mormon disbelief can have high social costs. Some Mormons, however, have retained a ‘testimony’ by using the concept of transhumanism as a way to re- negotiate what ‘belief’ in Mormonism means. However, in part due to the very culture of secrecy that can fuel doubt, and also in part due to the technical codes that transhumanism as a community often relies on, this very shift can itself be difficult for Mormon non-transhumanists to discern.
Abstract: I trace interrelations and tensions between varied practices of concealment and discernment in the Church of England by examining contrasting attitudes to sexuality among Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals. Moral panics over the sexual orientations of priests point to wider conflicts over incarnation, mediation, communication and knowledge. Combining historical and ethnographic data on the Church in England and the global Communion, I explore what can and should be openly ‘known’ in Anglican circles. I link my analysis of the Anglican case to wider considerations of what anthropology can and cannot claim to ‘know’ and discern through ethnographic observation, description and analysis.
Abstract: Debtera are Ethiopian Orthodox ritual specialists known for their advanced religious education, as well as for engaging in illicit magic. This article traces how their secret magical knowledge and practices emerge from the official Orthodox tradition. Yet, while drawing on this tradition, the debtera’s ritual repertoire also transgresses some of its central proscriptions. Transgression, in this context, does not abolish the boundaries it violates, but reinstates their legitimacy. This dynamic prompts debtera to engage in imaginative ethical reassessments of the unstable relationship between illicit knowledge and official tenets. Through their transgressive performances, debtera enable their clients to secretly address and actualise sinful desires that otherwise remain unacknowledged or are suppressed by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. By examining this ritual management of covert desires, I conclude that the study of debtera’s secrecy illuminates fundamental complexities and contradictions in Ethiopian Orthodox sociality which operate beneath the surface of public moral discourse.
Abstract: This essay argues that modalities of interreligious conflict and coexistence in Gondar, Ethiopia entail shifting sites of discernibility and concealment. In religiously mixed interactions, both parties tend to see concealment as a key facet of a self-conscious ethical project of harmonious, interreligious relations. Hence, many reserve interreligious evaluations for homogenous settings of religious insiders, where the expressions cannot frame real-time mixed interactions in antagonistic terms. On occasion, though, the concealment is unsustainable, and interreligious evaluations leak into shared spaces, becoming discernible in a mutually recognisable way, thus creating open conflict. Adhering to norms of concealment marks one as a respectful other, however, these norms can conflict with religious ethical imperatives. The way they conflict differs for Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Pentecostals. Moreover, the significance attributed to concealment/revelation within religious and interreligious value frameworks often shapes patterns of relations across religious boundaries, including routine mutuality, ambivalence, and escalating tensions.