Abstract: This essay uses the Gateway to the Americas International Bridge at the Port of Laredo to examine Catholic parish life at la Parroquia Santo Niño in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Considering how infrastructure works, how it literally keeps people and objects moving, nuances our understanding of the devotional rhythms and space sacralization processes of actors who move and wait in a border environment. Contributing to debates about rhythm and mobility in border studies, it highlights religion’s temporal particularities—specifically the role that an international bridge plays in influencing where, when, and how often border-based actors manage worship and spaces of reflection. Thinking with scholars of material religion, this essay maintains that accounting for border infrastructure is worthwhile. Using infrastructure as a primary reference point can productively challenge still influential distinctions between American and Latin American religion. It will also show that infrastructure not only animates religious practice and dictates devotional rhythms within the walls of la Parroquia, but also facilitates or at times deters movement to and from that site of worship. Mapping out routes and relationships among objects, places, and people, it traces how parish life and international bridge usage are inextricably linked across several planes—geographic, temporal, cultural, and economic; it is impossible to understand the significance of one without attending to the other.
Abstract: While Christianity is among the fastest growing religions in the reform era, state-led sporadic demolition campaigns have targeted unauthorized church structures and sites in order to contain massive Christian growth, especially in regions where there is a high concentration of Christian population. Such campaigns often stir heated international concerns about China’s religious freedom violations, naturally making church-state relations the recurring central theme of both public and academic discourses on the church in China. However, a heightened emphasis on church-state tensions and religious persecution may obscure the cultural and spatial dimensions of local church development. Focusing on the case of the recent campaign against rooftop crosses in Wenzhou—the most Christianized Chinese city, I go beyond the one-dimensional framework of church-state relations by offering a multifaceted analysis of the local religious scene in the political economic contexts of contested spatial modernity and of central-local relations amid the party-building process. In so doing, I methodologically place Chinese Christian studies at the center of contemporary China studies.
Abstract: In this paper I connect an anthropology of Christianity to an anthropology of the body and an anthropology of the nation. I try to achieve this by looking at changing notions of femininity in the Pentecostal context of Vanuatu. I do this on two different levels; on the one hand I show how the meaning of womanhood is changed in what I call the ‘pentecostalised’ neighborhoods of the capital Port Vila, and on the other I show how the household and the nation become contexts into which this new notion of femininity is played. Thus, in the first part of the paper I look at the ways in which Pentecostal Christianity change the meaning of gender, whereas in the second part of the paper I look at how this new form of gendered meaning has relevance for our understanding of wider social contexts.
Abstract: This paper scrutinises the role of place and space in the process of Christian rehabilitation. This process is an interconnection of the rehabilitation of the addicted people and conversion to a particular kind of Christianity, working as an inseparable twofold process. The narrative of conversion in the rehabilitation ministry is impacted by the 150-year history of Russian Baptists, the rich sociocultural context of contemporary Russia, the junkie and prison context of the people in rehabs, and a very specific Russian Synodal translation of the Bible. I demonstrate the role of space in the implementation of rehab rules and discipline, Christian dogmatics, and construction of the Christian self. The organisation of space in the rehabs very much resembles prison, while also following the common dogmatic principles of the program. At the same time, rehabilitation is enforced by harsh conditions, a strict regime, and the idea of proper Christian family.
Abstract: Patterns of sociality in Fijian evangelical Christianity differ from the mainline Fijian Methodist church in being notably less integrated with relations of vanua and chiefly hierarchy, leading scholars to speculate as to whether such traditions are more individualised. Analysing teachings, hymns, worship styles and spatial arrangements within a prominent Fijian Pentecostal ministry, I explore how sociality is produced through the interaction of spatial, conceptual, and embodied processes. Competing dynamics of hierarchy and equality, connections and boundaries, are mobilised within an overall framework that emphasises individual moral authority and personal relationship with God. Through this analysis, in conversation with previous studies, this paper argues for a critical examination of schemes of ‘egalitarian individualism’ and ‘hierarchical holism’, which, through the influence of Louis Dumont in particular, have been prominent in studies of Christianity and sociality in Oceania.
Part III: Review Forum, “The Anthropology of Christianity: Unity, Diversity, New Directions”
Christianity, Space, and Place
By: Katja Rakow (Heidelberg University)
The three articles in the section “Christianity, Space, and Place” assemble ethnographic studies concerned with different space-place relations in various geographical settings, ranging from urban spaces in Beijing (China) and Damascus (Syria) to rural settings in Bosavi (Papua New Guinea). I will give a brief overview of each essay before I draw a comparison and point out similarities, shared themes and insights. Further, I will discuss each article’s contribution to broader discussions in the Anthropology of Christianity and to what research desiderata these articles point us in terms of future studies. Continue reading
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.
By: Casey Golomski (University of the Witwatersrand)
In Mission Station Christianity, Ingie Hovland gives religious studies scholars and anthropologists a concise and useful case study of the Norwegian Missionary Society’s (NMS) colonial encounters with Zulu peoples in nineteenth century Southern Africa. The book is part of Brill’s interdisciplinary Studies in Christian Mission series that presents historical, global case studies of transcultural missionary movements. This is her first book. Continue reading
By: Casey Golomski (University of the Witwatersrand)
In Mission Station Christianity, Ingie Hovland gives religious studies scholars and anthropologists a concise and useful case study of the Norwegian Missionary Society’s (NMS) colonial encounters with Zulu peoples in nineteenth century Southern Africa. The book is part of Brill’s interdisciplinary Studies in Christian Mission series that presents historical, global case studies of transcultural missionary movements. This is her first book.
Abstract: In this article I analyze different spatial practices related to Pentecostal healing, drawing on fieldwork with Pentecostal believers who have migrated from Ghana to London, UK. I explore the relationship between space and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit by looking at how points of contact with the divine are created in the personal life of people and at the sites where the casting out of demons takes place. Unlike in other spirit-centered healing traditions, the Christian Holy Spirit is not conceived of as embodied in specific places, but rather is spatially unbound. To manifest, however, the Holy Spirit requires specific spatial qualities and esthetics.