Abstract: Conversion to Christianity in Amazonia is often described in terms of collective action rather than radically new beliefs interior to the individual. I describe how Waorani people in Ecuador remember the conversion of specific elders as a time of civilization that brought Waorani into a wider social order after a period of violence and isolation. Despite having largely abandoned Christianity since their mass conversion in the 1960s, Waorani today embrace past conversion as a catalyst of social transformation that they say made the present ideal of living in a “community” possible. The individual experiences evoked in memories of collective “civilization” and an insistence on personal autonomy in Waorani visions of community illustrate why the moral commentaries of Waorani Christians remain highly valued in communities where Christianity has ceased to be a dominant social identity.
Youseff, Joseph. 2013. From the Blood of St. Mina to the Martyrs of Maspero: Commemoration, Identity, and Social Memory in the Coptic Orthodox Church. Journal of the Canadian Society for Coptic Studies 5(1): 61-73.
Abstract: This article will discuss the role of commemorating martyrs in the Coptic Orthodox Church and how commemoration is used by Copts as a mode for political and social agency. Furthermore, commemoration is a means by which Copts cope with the rise of sectarian violence in Egypt today. I will focus on two ways Coptic martyrs are commemorated. The first is through visiting the shrines of martyrs, whose relics are believed by Copts to possess a certain kind of blessing (baraka). The second and more recent kind of commemoration that has emerged in the last three years takes form in prayer meetings meant to honor victims of sectarian violence, namely, the Martyrs of Nag Hammadi (2010), Alexandria (2011), and Maspero (2011). In both these types of commemoration the narratives and hagiographies of martyrs are (re)articulated and juxtaposed in the present to emphasize the continuity of the Coptic Church as a “Church of Martyrs.” In this way, commemoration is more than an act of remembering; it is an active attempt to make and remake the past in the present.