Bandak, “Of Refrains and Rhythms in Contemporary Damascus”

Bandak, Andreas. 2014. Of Refrains and Rhythms in Contemporary Damascus: Urban Space and Christian-Muslim Coexistence. Current Anthropology DOI: 10.1086/678409

Abstract: Christians in the Middle East have traditionally clustered around cities. As minorities in a Muslim majority context, difference manifests itself in many ways. In recent decades, the sounds of the city, in the form of calls to prayer from minarets and church bells, have increased, while green and blue lighting likewise crafts a plural setting that is not only audible but visible to all. In this article, I explore Christian ways of inhabiting the city in Damascus, Syria. The orchestration of space is intensifying as the region appears to be becoming an ever more vulnerable place to live for a Christian minority. I argue that an anthropological engagement with Christianity may do well to listen to the particular refrains that are formed in and of the city. Such an engagement attests to the ways in which Christianity is lived in particular locations but also how Christianity is continuously made to matter.

Hovland, “Mission Station Christianity”

Publisher’s Description: In Mission Station Christianity, Ingie Hovland presents an anthropological history of the ideas and practices that evolved among Norwegian missionaries in nineteenth-century colonial Natal and Zululand (Southern Africa). She examines how their mission station spaces influenced their daily Christianity, and vice versa, drawing on the anthropology of Christianity. Words and objects, missionary bodies, problematic converts, and the utopian imagination are discussed, as well as how the Zulus made use of (and ignored) the stations. The majority of the Norwegian missionaries had become theological cheerleaders of British colonialism by the 1880s, and Ingie Hovland argues that this was made possible by the everyday patterns of Christianity they had set up and become familiar with on the mission stations since the 1850s.

O’Neill, “Beyond Broken: Affective Spaces and the Study of American Religion”

O’Neill, Kevin Lewis.  2013. “Beyond Broken: Affective Spaces and the Study of American Religion.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion.  doi: 10.1093/jaarel/lft059 (early digital publication).

Abstract:  This article addresses the politics of space in the study of American religion. Part 1 argues that an attention to broken space, namely an assumed division between the sacred and the profane as well as between the local and the global, limits the kind of political relationships that the scholar can posit between religion and space. Part 2 proposes the term “affective space” as a flexible analytical tool with broad utility for the study of American religion, one that prompts scholars to address those social processes that constitute felt difference amid an unevenly interrelated world. To animate the production of affective spaces, this article draws on more than a decade of ethnographic research in and on postwar Guatemala.

 

Seitz, “No Closure”

Seitz, John (2011) No Closure: Catholic Practice and Boston’s Parish Shutdowns. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Publisher’s Description: In 2004 the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston announced plans to close or merge more than eighty parish churches. Scores of Catholics—28,000, by the archdiocese’s count—would be asked to leave their parishes. The closures came just two years after the first major revelations of clergy sexual abuse and its cover up. Wounds from this profound betrayal of trust had not healed.

In the months that followed, distraught parishioners occupied several churches in opposition to the closure decrees. Why did these accidental activists resist the parish closures, and what do their actions and reactions tell us about modern American Catholicism? Drawing on extensive fieldwork and with careful attention to Boston’s Catholic history, Seitz tells the stories of resisting Catholics in their own words, and illuminates how they were drawn to reconsider the past and its meanings. We hear them reflect on their parishes and the sacred objects and memories they hold, on the way their personal histories connect with the history of their neighborhood churches, and on the structures of authority in Catholicism.

Resisters describe how they took their parishes and religious lives into their own hands, and how they struggled with everyday theological questions of respect and memory; with relationships among religion, community, place, and comfort; and with the meaning of the local church. No Closure is a story of local drama and pathos, but also a path of inquiry into broader questions of tradition and change as they shape Catholics’ ability to make sense of their lives in a secular world.

Yeung, “Constructing Sacred Space”

Yeung, Gustav K.K. 2011. Constructing Sacred Space Under the Forces of the Market: a study of an ‘upper-floor’ Protestant church in Hong Kong. Culture and Religion 12(4).

Abstract: In Hong Kong, over half of the Protestant churches are located in the upper-floor units in commercial and residential buildings. Because of their physical locations, these churches are sometimes dubbed ‘upper-floor churches’. Unlike those that occupy stand-alone religious buildings or dwell in church-run schools and social service centres, these are often invisible in the landscapes of the city. Through analysis of a case study, this paper aims to explore the spatial practices that a Protestant community has adopted in acquiring, representing, and ritualising a business unit in a residential high-rise for building up their church. Our analysis of the case study shows that in a metropolis like contemporary Hong Kong, the construction of sacred space is full of tensions between utilitarian calculations and concerns of human relations and religious values. While the congregation had been very creative in transforming a commercial unit into a religious site, it did not show much awareness of the oppressive powers of the capitalist market and had a strong tendency to represent its spatial practices as commodities for consumption.