Lauterbach, Karen and Vähäkangas, Mika (eds.). (2020) Faith in African Lived Christianity: Bridging Anthropological and Theological Perspectives. Leidin: Brill.
Publisher’s description: Faith in African Lived Christianity – Bridging Anthropological and Theological Perspectives offers a comprehensive, empirically rich and interdisciplinary approach to the study of faith in African Christianity. The book brings together anthropology and theology in the study of how faith and religious experiences shape the understanding of social life in Africa. The volume is a collection of chapters by prominent Africanist theologians, anthropologists and social scientists, who take people’s faith as their starting point and analyze it in a contextually sensitive way. It covers discussions of positionality in the study of African Christianity, interdisciplinary methods and approaches and a number of case studies on political, social and ecological aspects of African Christian spirituality.
Webster, Joseph. (2019) “Whose Sins Do the Brethren Confess? The Problem of Sin as the Problem of Expiation.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1582547.
Abstract: Among Brethren fisher-families in Gamrie, confession of sin is a private and pointedly interior affair. Yet, much of Brethren worship is given over to ritualised acts of confession. So whose sins do the Brethren confess? In Gamrie, such acts involve confessing not one’s own sin, but the sins of ‘fallen’ world. By attending to the anthropological and theological processes of confessing the sins of another, we see a collapse in the distinction between confiteor and credo that has so dogged anthropological studies of Christianity. In Brethren prayer, bible study, and everyday gossip, the ‘I confess’ of the confiteor and the ‘I believe’ of credo co-constitute one another as evidences of the ‘lostness’ of ‘this present age’. With the ritual gaze of confession turned radically outward, Brethren announcements of global wickedness enact (in a deliberate tautology) both a totalising call for repentance from sin, and a millenarian creed of the imminent apocalypse.
Rose, Lena. (2019) “Palestinian Evangelicals – A Theologically Engaged Anthropological Approach.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1641534.
Abstract: Christian theologians have grappled for centuries with the fact that they are not Jews, yet embedded in Jewish history. Situated in the context of a Jewish-centric State that has been welcomed by a majority of evangelicals worldwide as fulfilment of biblical prophecy (and supported by their financial, spiritual, and political investment), Palestinian evangelicals are an anomaly. While they share an evangelical commitment, they have a complex and difficult relationship with the Israeli state. This paper argues that the population of Palestinian evangelicals is most productively explored through a combined interdisciplinary approach of Theology and Anthropology: it reveals the historical theologies that have shaped Palestinian evangelical engagement with the Israeli state and their global faith family. The article argues that theologically engaged Anthropology can aid in uncovering the power relationships within a transnational religious movement.
Loustau, Marc Roscoe. (2019) “Belief Beyond the Bugbear: Propositional Theology and Intellectual Authority in a Transylvanian Catholic Ethnographic Memoir.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1640262.
Abstract: By overlooking the history of Catholic thought, anthropologists have made contemporary processes for negotiating intellectual authority in the Catholic Church into a lacuna in the anthropology of Christianity. I develop this claim by examining an ethnographic memoir called The Secret of Csíksomlyó by Árpád Daczó, a widely known contemporary Transylvanian Hungarian Catholic intellectual. Daczó blends autobiography and ethnography to argue that the Hungarian Virgin Mary is a Christianized pagan moon goddess. Halfway through, Daczó switches genres to propositional theology and defends himself to the magisterium, the Church’s institutional guarantor of orthodoxy. I situate Daczó’s effort to anticipate his critics in the history of Catholic-Protestant theological polemics, which helped make propositional theology into the Catholic Church’s privileged language for investigating heresy. By placing Daczó’s use of propositional theology against the backdrop of contemporary Catholic theologians’ debates about the magisterium’s authority, I challenge anthropological assumptions about the social significance of propositional belief.
Meneses, Eloise. (2019) “Religiously Engaged Ethnography: Reflections of a Christian Anthropologist Studying Hindus in India and Nepal.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/0014184 4.2019.1641126.
Abstract: Anthropology has rejected religiously based thought in its analysis from its inception. Now, due to developments in the anthropology of Christianity, ‘theologically engaged anthropology’ is inviting mutually productive interdisciplinary dialogue between anthropology and theology. What might anthropology look like, going forward, if the religious views of ethnographers were to be included in the production of ethnographies? Those in reflexive ethnography have already acknowledged that ethnographers’ cultural backgrounds enter into representations of other cultures, and those in ‘the ontological turn’ are challenging anthropology’s ontological assumptions through the serious consideration of their interlocutors’ views. I suggest that there is value for the discipline in permitting discourses of ethnography and analysis that reflect the multiple, sometimes religiously-based, ontologies of ethnographers as well.
Lemons, J. Derrick. (2019) “An Introduction to Theologically Engaged Anthropology*.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1640760.
Abstract: The burgeoning field of theologically engaged anthropology has facilitated an overdue dialogue among anthropologists and theologians. The theologically engaged anthropology project created the stratified and transformational research frameworks. The stratified framework encourages anthropologists and theologians to collaborate on common religious topics while maintaining boundaries between each discipline, lest each loses its integrity. The transformational framework encourages anthropologists and theologians to cross the border between their two disciplines to facilitate discovery of new insights about religion. This special journal issue of Ethnos presents multiple examples of theologically engaged anthropology that illustrate the value of both frameworks. In this introduction, I invite readers to observe four themes that emerge from the papers. Each illustrates the value of additional theologically engaged scholarship.
Tomlinson, Matt. “Repetition in the work of a Samoan Christian theologian: Or, what does it mean to speak of the Perfect Pig of God?” History and Anthropology.
Abstract: The Samoan Christian theologian Ama’amalele Tofaeono draws on diverse intellectual sources to articulate an ecological theology both distinctively Samoan and self-consciously Oceanic. I examine Tofaeono’s writings through the lens of recent work in linguistic anthropology on repetition and replication. By paying close attention to the ways texts and their original contexts, authorship, and intentions can be brought forward into new contexts, such anthropological work offers a useful perspective on Tofaeono’s theological arguments about creation and salvation. Tofaeono frames creation and salvation as actions that are necessarily ongoing—matters of repetition rather than rupture, a kind of continuity that depends not on fundamental durability but on repeated reengagement. An appreciation of Tofaeono’s articulation of time and repetition can in turn illuminate the anthropological study of social transformation and help develop productive interdisciplinary dialogue between anthropology and theology.
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Willerslev, Rane and Suhr, Christian. “Is there a place for faith in Anthropology? Religion, reason, and the ethnographer’s divine revelation.” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. 8(1-2): 65-78.
Abstract: Anthropological insights are not produced or constructed through reasoned discourse alone. Often they appear to be given in “leaps of faith” as the anthropologist’s conceptual grasp upon the world is lost. To understand these peculiar moments, we adopt the Kierkegaardian concept of religious faith, not as certitude in some transcendental principle, but as a deeply paradoxical mode of knowing, whose paths bend and twist through glimpses of understanding, doubt, and existential resignation. Pointing to the ways in which such revelatory and disruptive experiences have influenced the work of many anthropologists, we argue that anthropology is not simply a social science, but also a theology of sorts, whose ultimate foundation might not simply be reason but faith.
Bialecki, Jon. 2018. Anthropology and Theology in Parallax. Anthropology of This Century, Issue 22.
Abstract: Answering the question of the intellectual proximity of anthropology and theology is difficult, however. One way to do this would be to try to map how the entirety of things looks from each vantage, and then compare these sky-charts for matching patterns. Such a cataloging is a dizzying and exhaustive proposition, though, and not even those who have made the greatest investment of time and thought on this issue are suggesting that we are anywhere near the point of sufficient mastery of an anthropological/theological conjunction to engage in that work. As we will see, for the most part the theology/anthropology rapprochement is a project that is still in its formative stages, offering plenty of promissory notes instead of hard arguments. But still, this is a development that is still quickening, and so a comprehensive account of the overlaps in the views of both disciplines has to wait. A far more economical move might be to simply select a single book and use it to make what we might call taking a parallax measurement. We would ask how this book might appear from different vantage points, with each vantage point’s likely view of the text compared with the other to see how far apart the two standpoints are, i.e. to see how the book might appear to both non-theological and theological readers. As we will see, there are actually far more than two vantage points, however. The gradations and modes of theological engagement by anthropology go far beyond an easy binary, with theology either embraced or scorned. This may be an exercise in intellectual parallax, but once we look into the particulars of how theology and anthropology could relate it is also an exercise in the intellectually vertiginous.