Abstract: When antique wooden saints were offered for sale in a Hanoi shop window, they provoked uncomfortable responses from Catholic observers living outside Vietnam who could not imagine their co-religionists voluntarily selling statues that had once been blessed. To explore this question—how things considered too sacred for commerce came to be sold—we bring together two usually discrete domains of research on material culture: object biographies that trace their movement from local sites of production and use into global markets, and studies on material religion that address how embodied and sensate encounters with the material world are productive of religious experiences and understandings. The social life of things collides with material religion at the place where statues and other religious paraphernalia are first transacted into artifact, art, folk art, or native handicraft. The bridge between these two domains of inquiry is the recognition that object biographies are propelled in part by notions of object agency that assume particular protocols for interactions between people and things.
Woods, Orlando. 2013. The spatial modalities of evangelical Christian growth in Sri Lanka: evangelism, social ministry and the structural mosaic. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. Early online publication. p. 1-13.
Abstract: This paper incorporates a melange of ideas into a new understanding of evangelical Christian growth. Existing explanations of growth are well rehearsed within the social sciences, and draw clear distinctions between the characteristics of evangelical organisations and the structural contexts in which they operate. A number of theoretical and empirical assumptions render such explanations applicable in some countries, but not others. Drawing on empirical data from Sri Lanka, I argue that closer examination of the recursive relationship between organisation (agency) and context (structure) will lead to recognition of the fact that growth is a spatially defined process, with evangelical organisations being tied to localities in complex and multifarious ways. A heuristic device – the structural mosaic – is proposed and developed in order to account for the growth of evangelical Christian groups in hostile environments around the world.
Publisher’s Description: “Nagaland for Christ” and “Jesus Saves” are familiar slogans prominently displayed on public transport and celebratory banners in Nagaland, northeastern India. They express an idealization of Christian homogeneity that belies the underlying tensions and negotiations between Christian and non-Christian Naga. This religious division is intertwined with that of healing beliefs and practices, both animistic and biomedical. This study focuses on the particular experiences of the Angami Naga, one of the many Naga peoples. Like other Naga, they are citizens of the state of India but extend ethnolinguistically into Tibeto-Burman southeast Asia. This ambiguity and how it affects their Christianity, global involvement, indigenous cultural assertiveness, and nationalist struggle is explored. Not simply describing continuity through change, this study reveals the alternating Christian and non-Christian streams of discourse, one masking the other but at different times and in different guises.
Etter, Connie, (2012) “”Women With No One”: Community and Christianity in a Secular South Indian Homeless Shelter.” Anthropology – Dissertations. Syracuse University, Susan Wadley, Advisor. Paper 96. http://surface.syr.edu/ant_etd/96
Abstract: This dissertation examines daily life and social service practices in a secular homeless shelter for women in Tamil Nadu, south India. The residents of the shelter have diverse backgrounds but local staff members and volunteers describe them collectively as “women with no one”: unwed mothers, orphans, widows, women abandoned or abused by husbands and lovers, former sex workers, prisoners’ wives, and women deemed mentally or physically unfit for marriage. Daily negotiations of belonging take place among this transient and diverse group of marginalized women and equally diverse and transnational care providers. The closed shelter campus provides an opportunity to query the everyday experience of secularism and pluralism. Shelter board members emphasize these concepts as guiding principles of the institution. Indeed, they are touted in many settings as a necessary and laudable framework for democratic life in globalized and increasingly diverse populations. But how do individuals and communities, in everyday life and interactions, understand and engage with such abstract ideals?
Ethnographic research, conducted between August 2008 and August 2009, revealed important insights regarding the ideals shaping the secular goals of the shelter, namely women’s social rehabilitation. First, the definition of secularism cannot be assumed and is not universal. Inline with commonsense equations of secularism and pluralism in India, the secular goals of the shelter involved passionate displays of religious conviction, continuous ethical deliberation, and reflection on cultural ideals of womanhood and family. Secularism, in other words, was a religious, cultural, and gendered idea and practice. Second, just as there were many secularisms, many Christianities were embodied and articulated within the shelter. The institution depended on various local and international Christian communities for donations of time and money. They each had different understandings of the relationship between Christianity and women’s social rehabilitation. Third, cultural ideals are fragile. The social stigma faced by women living outside of patriarchal family structures and the forced intimacy of women with diverse backgrounds living together on a closed campus emphasized this fact. Faced with the fragility of social and cultural ideals, women at the shelter took great risks to forge new terms of belonging, community, and womanhood.
Jansen, Eva and Claudia Lang (2011) “Transforming the Self and Healing the Body Through the Use of Testimonies in a Divine Retreat Center, Kerala” Journal of Religious Health [On line publication – pagination, issue and volume information not yet available]
Abstract: In this article, we analyze the collective healing process that takes place on a weekly basis in the Divine Retreat Center (DRC) in Muringoor, Kerala. We argue that disease in the DRC is understood either as a psycho-somatic or as a spirito-somatic phenomenon. In contrast to other Charismatic communities, however, the body is the locus on which the medical effects of the healing become visible. The whole process is divided into several phases: First, there is a cleansing and disengagement procedure that aims to purify and liberate the participants through confession and counseling. Thereafter comes a climatic phase of personal emptying, transition and re-orientation during which the healing itself takes place. The procedure is finally completed with the person being spiritually ‘‘refilled’’ by the Holy Spirit. The dominant recurring element in the whole process is the continuous statement of healing ‘‘testimonies.’’ As an integral part of the healing proce- dure, these statements are used to share personal experiences among the participants in the center. They are produced in a strict format in order to be spread far beyond through various media (TV, newspaper, Internet, etc.). They thereby constitute a speech genre that follows specific rules and patterns. Through shaping one’s own biography in the frame of the testimonies, so we argue, the actual transformation of the self and therefore the miracle healing takes place.
Abstract: The purpose of this article is to critically examine the politics of religious conversion in India. Since Christianity is the main religion espousing and conducting conversion in ever-larger numbers in India, my focus, in the following pages, is to interrogate the debate surrounding this particular undertaking and the attendant conflict dynamics. This study is organized according to the following framework. First, it situates religious conversion in the context of radical Hindu nationalism. Second, it explores the issue of religious conversion in the theories of identity and globalization. Third, it probes the specifics of Christian conversion in India and investigates the issue within the framework of identity politics and secularism. Fourth, it examines the response and reaction of the radical Hindu nationalists towards religious conversion in general and Christian conversion in particular from the perspective of ethno-religious nationalism. Fifth and finally, it evaluates the dimensions of conflict between Christians and Hindus and how they are played out in the shared social arena.
In conclusion, this article stresses that religious conversion in India is a form of a socioeconomic emancipatory undertaking. Those who feel stifled by the discriminatory caste order prevalent within Hinduism and live a marginal existence embrace this new identity. In the same breath it argues that Christianity in general, and Christian missionaries in particular, have courted criticism, opposition, and violence from radical Hindus, informed citizenry, and the institution of the state, as they are considered an “external other”—accused of undermining the complex sociopolitical order in the country.
Publisher’s Description: This interdisciplinary introduction offers students a truly global overview of the worldwide spread and impact of Christianity. It is enriched throughout by detailed historic and ethnographic material, showing how broad themes within Christianity have been adopted and adapted by Christian denominations within each major region of the world.
- Provides a comprehensive overview of the spread and impact of world Christianity
- Contains studies from every major region of the world, including Africa, Asia, Latin America, the North Atlantic, and Oceania
- Brings together an international team of contributors from history, sociology, and anthropology, as well as religious studies
- Examines the significant social, cultural, and political transformations in contemporary societies brought about through the influence of Christianity
- Takes a non-theological approach, focusing instead on the impact of and response to Christianity
- Discusses Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox forms of the faith
- Features useful maps and illustrations
- Combines broader discussions with detailed regional analysis, creating an invaluable introduction to world Christianity
This is an engaging multidisciplinary introduction to the worldwide spread and impact of Christianity. Bringing together chapters from leading scholars in history, sociology, anthropology, and religious studies, this book examines the major transformations in contemporary societies brought about through the influence of Christianity.
Each chapter shows how the broad themes within Christianity have been adopted and adapted by Christian denominations within each major region of the world. In this way, the book paints a global picture of the impact of Christianity, enriched by detailed historic and ethnographic material for each particular region. Throughout, the chapters examine Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox forms of Christianity. The combination of broader perspectives and deep analysis of particular regions, illuminating the social, cultural, political, and religious features of changes brought about by Christianity, makes this book essential reading for students of world Christianity.