Abstract: The background to this article is the controversy caused in 1980s South Korea when some theologians accused Yonggi Cho’s Full Gospel theology of syncretizing “shamanism” with Christianity. In this article, I shall problematize the use of both “shamanism” and “Pentecostalism” in this controversy. Instead, I shall set the episode in the wider context of what might be called Korean traditional religion, which has an animistic cosmology. By pointing to an affinity between Korean Protestantism more generally and Korean traditional religion that goes back at least to the 1907 Korean Revival, I shall argue that the Pentecostal–Charismatic and the liberationist strands of Korean Protestantism together represent a developing understanding of what it means to do Christian theology in the context of animism – or in a land of many spirits.
Abstract: This paper examines the diabolisation of Oksapmin tamam (here glossed as ‘witchcraft’) as an example of negative cosmological integration. The article takes as its point of departure Robbins’s model of cultural syncretism developed in a series of recent papers, wherein diabolisation occurs as people insert those aspects of their indigenous religion that do not contravene the Christian God’s paramount creative power into the Christian cosmos as representatives of the Devil. Through my own discussion of the diabolisation of Oksapmin witchcraft, I build upon the model in three main ways. First, I draw attention to the role of the mission in providing and enforcing these negative moral terms of reference. Second, the article highlights that in cases of negative cosmological integration, whether within or outside the frame of Pentecostalist Christianity, syncretic melding and mixing may occur, regardless of rhetoric to the contrary. Finally, I point out that the subordination of indigenous religious realities within the Christian cosmos does not necessarily entail their restriction or reduction of expression, as Robbins shows for the Urapmin nature spirits known as motobil. Indeed, in the case of witchcraft, integration into the Christian cosmos and related complexes of deliverance may actually serve to intensify and amplify their expression.
Abstract: Mapuche oral shamanic biographies and performances—some of which take the form of “bibles” and involve shamanic literacies—play a central role in the production of indigenous history in southern Chile. In this article, I explain how and why a mixed-race Mapuche shaman charged me with writing about her life and practice in the form of such a “bible.” This book would become a ritual object and a means of storing her shamanic power by textualizing it, thereby allowing her to speak to a future audience. The realities and powers her “bible” stored could be extracted, transformed, circulated, and actualized for a variety of ends, even to bring about shamanic rebirth. Ultimately, I argue, through their use and interpretation of this kind of “bible,” Mapuche shamans expand academic notions of indigenous history and literacy.
Fraser Macdonald. 2014.. ‘Always been Christian’: Mythic Conflation among the Oksapmin of Papua New Guinea, Anthropological Forum: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Comparative Sociology, DOI: 10.1080/00664677.2014.886997. Early Online Publication.
Abstract: Across the world and throughout history, people have negotiated religious and social change by marshalling the mythological resources at their disposal. In cases of conversion to Christianity, this dynamic has often taken the form of constructing an isomorphism between traditional mythical narratives and those learned from the Bible, a manifestation of the process I here call ‘mythic conflation’. In this article I explore how the Oksapmin of the West Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, have conflated aspects of Bible stories with two of their traditional narratives in an attempt to overcome cosmological contradiction. From the etic perspective, this has partially collapsed difference in the construction of syncretic religious forms. From the emic perspective, by constructing for themselves an ancestral precedent of this kind, the Oksapmin support a claim of having revealed the mystery of Christianity’s local origin.
Farrelly, Paul (2012) “The New Testament Church and Mount Zion in Taiwan” in Lenore Manderson, Wendy Smith, & Matt Tomlinson (eds) Flows of Faith: Religious Reach and Community in Asia and the Pacific (Springer, New York).
Abstract: Members of the New Testament Church (NTC) led by Elijah Hong, “God’s Chosen Prophet”, believe that God has forsaken the traditional Mount Zion in Israel and that the new Mount Zion in Taiwan is imbued with the spiritual significance and power that the old mountain once had. Mount Zion is both a pilgrimage destination and nature-based utopian community of several hundred adherents, serving as an Eden-like sanctuary and as the setting for the impending Tribulation. The NTC’s theology, as manifested in Mount Zion and the objects on it, is a curious blend of Pentecostal Protestantism and Chinese religiosity.
Abstract: Although anthropologists rarely use the term crypto-religion, one can argue that they tend to analyze the cultures of most non-western converts to Christianity in crypto-religious terms. This tendency, which follows from the theoretical investment anthropologists have in cultural continuity, inflects anthropological approaches to conversion and syncretism in disciplinarily specific ways. This paper works to develop a model of syncretism that is not haunted by crypto-religious analysis and to demonstrate its value in considering cases in which people have converted to charismatic and Pentecostal forms of Christianity. The argument is illustrated with field materials from research in Papua New Guinea and concludes by considering what this rethinking of anthropological notions of syncretism might mean for placing the concept of crypto-religion in the theorization of processes of religious transformation more generally.