Archive for January, 2012

Dullo, “Uma pedagogia da exemplaridade: a dádiva cristã como gratuidade” [A pedagogy of the exemplarity: the christian gift as gratuity]

January 23, 2012

Dullo, Eduardo (2011) “Uma pedagogia da exemplaridade: a dádiva cristã como gratuidade” Religião & Sociedad 31(2)


Durante pesquisa de campo, observei diversas atitudes de ‘ajuda’. O presente artigo é uma descrição dessas relações sob a ótica da interação de dois coletivos de agentes: os católicos que presidem o Centro Social Marista e os jovens atendidos por esse Centro. A partir das ‘ajudas’ e da decorrente alteração de status advinda da consideração de uma bem sucedida ‘inclusão social’, analiso a produção de indivíduos exemplares, de cuja pedagogia traço a face ritual. Tais indivíduos estabelecem com outros jovens uma relação de exemplaridade que, por sua vez, e fechando o circuito, é central para a concretização do sistema de trocas baseadas na gratuidade e para a tentativa de consolidação de uma comunidade moral de semelhantes.

ABSTRACT During the fieldwork, I observed several attitudes of ‘help’. This text is a description of this relations from the point of view of two collectives of agents that interact in a daily routine: the Catholics that manage the Centro Social Marista and the young persons assisted by them. Beginning with the ‘helps’ and the change of statuses they receive when acknowledged as well succeeded in the ‘social inclusion’, I analyze the production of the exemplar individual, by tracing the ritual face of the pedagogy that made them. Those individuals establish a relationship of exemplarity with other young persons that makes a whole system of changes based in the gratuity be effective and that are central to close the circuit and try to consolidate a moral community of similars.


de Hontheim, “Devil Chasers and Art Gatherers”

January 20, 2012

de Hontheim, Astrid (2012) Devil Chasers and Art Gatherers. Cortil-Wodon, E.M.E.

Publisher’s Abstract: This book studies the socio-cultural changes that occurred among the Asmat people (West Papua) during the postcolonial era, after the arrival of the first missionary in 1953. It compares Catholic and Protestant missionary strategies of conversion and the way the Asmat coped with newcomers’settlement on their land, evangelization, Indonesian political hierarchies,market economy, ‘tribal’ art collectors, schooling and Western etiologies. Despite considerable academic interest in this area, regrettably few contemporary researchers in anthropology have published field-work based studies of the people of West Papua, unlike neighboring Papua New Guinea. We can hope that this book will encourage young researchers to dedicate themselves to research in this rapidly changing part of the world.

Hann, “Personhood, Christianity, Modernity”

January 15, 2012

Hann, Chris (2012) “Personhood, Christianity, Modernity.” Anthropology of this Century 1(3) [No pagination – Electronic Edition].

Excerpt: In this essay I question widely held assumptions that the emergence of the individualist blob is connected with particular currents of Christianity and, more generally, the invocation of religious ideas to explain changes in societal organization. This is tangential to Bloch’s agenda, but I shall return at the end to his concern with personhood. The assumptions I critique are so widespread that they can be taken for granted by the readership of a new internet journal in anthropology. Mauss himself explicitly invoked the Protestant sects in support of his evolutionist argument linking individualism to modernity. True, some anthropologists have countered these notions. Meyer Fortes and many others reported rich inner states among non-Europeans who had not yet been exposed to Christian missionizing. Not everyone was convinced by Alan Macfarlane’s efforts to locate the origins of individualism in England, or by Louis Dumont’s contrasting of the hierarchies of South Asia with the egalitarian individualism of modern Europe. But these writings have been highly influential, as has Marilyn Strathern’s opposition between the Euro-American individual and the “dividual” of Melanesia. In their very different ways, all these scholars tell stories of Western exceptionalism. Bloch avoids a black and white categorization, but he does not tell us how the statistical difference came about. Is the number of diachronics in Madagascar and elsewhere expanding more rapidly than the global population of episodics? Can we identify tipping points? Is this the Rubicon beyond which we find Bloch’s own version of modernity?

It is widely acknowledged that anthropology was for a long time insufficiently reflexive concerning its own origins in Western social thought and, behind this, in specific currents of Christianity. Much of the discussion has focused on the notion of “belief” (Asad 1993; Cannell 2005; cf. Needham 1972). This essay, too, is concerned to probe long histories of Western bias, including distortions in anthropological work on Christianity itself. I focus on Max Weber rather than Mauss because his contributions have been so massively influential for the whole of Western social science. After giving examples of the shadows he casts in contemporary anthropology, I proceed to note recent criticisms and extensions of Weber’s argument with respect to Catholicism. Protestantism and Catholicism are the largest Christian communities worldwide, and it is therefore not surprising that they have dominated studies of Christianity by socio-cultural anthropologists. Large “Eastern” communities have been neglected. They complicate the familiar models: neither “other” in the sense of a Naturvolk, nor “at home in the West” as we have come to define it. I shall take some examples from the burgeoning literature on Eastern Orthodox traditions with these larger issues in mind. Is there a distinctive Eastern Christian person, corresponding to a unique Orthodox culture or civilization – or modernity?

Making good the deficits in studies of Eastern and Oriental Christians is more than a matter of filling gaps in the ethnographic record. The work now getting under way i) exposes distortions in the large corpus of work on Western Christianity; ii) raises more general issues of theory and method in the study of religion; iii) bears directly on larger debates concerning the interplay between ideas and material transformations in longue durée history. My conclusion is that anthropologists should be wary of all attempts to explain a “breakthrough to modernity” in terms of personhood and theologies, whether those of Protestantism or of earlier Axial Age civilizations. The comparative Weberian agenda remains endlessly fascinating; it can perhaps be freed of its most Eurocentric premises and its idealism; but causalities are complex and in future research it may prove advantageous to pay more attention to the ways in which the emergence of churches and sects, asceticism and mysticism, and our notions of interiorized, text-based belief have all been shaped by evolving technologies of production and communication, rather than the other way around.

Lynn et. al., “Glossolalia is associated with differences in biomarkers of stress and arousal among Apostolic Pentecostals”

January 14, 2012

Lynn, Chrisopher Dana,  Jason Paris, Cheryl Anne Frye, and  Lawrence Schell (2011) “Glossolalia is associated with differences in biomarkers of stress and arousal among Apostolic Pentecostals.”  Religion, Brain & Behavior, pagination and volume not available [electronic prepublication release].

Abstract: The influence of glossolalia or ‘‘speaking in tongues’’ on biological stress and arousal is examined in a sample of Apostolic Pentecostals. Glossolalia is a form of dissociation considered by Pentecostals as possession by the Holy Spirit. Dissociation is a psychological term for partitioning of awareness and widely held to moderate stress, yet this has been difficult to affirm in culturally embedded situations. We sought to determine if glossolalic dissociation is associated with biomarkers of stress and arousal (salivary cortisol and alpha- amylase, respectively) on a religious service and a non-service day among 52 participants. We used mixed qualitative and quantitative methods to group participants as high- and low-glossolalists for preliminary comparisons and by status within their respective churches for regression analyses. Results indicate a significant influence of two glossolalia indicators on cortisol and alpha-amylase on both days, in addition to a statistically significant though not robust interaction effect between lifetime glossolalia experience and church status on the non-service day. Combined, these data suggest glossolalia experience is associated with increased physiological stress during worship and reduced stress and arousal beyond the worship context.

Weaver, “Shifting Agency”

January 8, 2012

Weaver, Dorothy C. 2011. Shifting Agency: Male Clergy, Female Believers, and the Role of Icons.Material Religion 7(3):394-419.

Abstract: In Eastern Orthodox traditions, an icon is a religious image, a depiction of a saint or a significant event. Icons are deployed by believers as symbols, teaching tools, and aids to concentration, but they can also function as social agents that decentralize authority normally concentrated in jurisdictional hierarchies. In the Russian Orthodox Church, all but the lowest formal positions are held exclusively by men, even though women make up the majority of the parishioners. Even among male believers, lay men and junior priests are subject to the power of a very few senior priests, abbots, and bishops. But while Church hierarchies control wealth, real estate, assignments, seminaries, and so on, they do not monopolize spiritual power. Heavenly authority supersedes the clergy’s, and, discursively, heavenly participation by means of miraculous icons can limit hierarchs’ power. When parishioners choose to address their problems by appealing to an icon directly rather than submitting a request that it be included in a formal service, they are bypassing the formal Church structure. Priests, monks, and bishops can ask for miracles, but they can not make them. Icons act as leveling mechanisms shifting power from (masculine) authorities to the (predominantly feminine) laity.

Elisha, “Prayer”

January 7, 2012

Elisha, Omri (2012) “Prayer.” A Collaborative Genealogy of Spirituality.

Excerpt: “I lied to a dying man, although I meant every word. It’s a strange thing, to say you intend to do something that you don’t really intend to do, yet feeling as though the words themselves are embraced in such uncompromised truth that they actually exceed their indexical meaning. If there is spirituality in promises, prayers, and praise, can there also be spirituality in the excellence of the lie?”

Yang, “Death, Emotion, and Social Change among the Austronesian-speaking Bunun of Taiwan”

January 6, 2012

 Yang, Shu-Yuan (2011) “Death, Emotions, and Social Change among the Austronesian-Speaking Bunun of Taiwan” Southeast Asian Studies 49(2):214-239

Abstract; Focusing on the analysis of mortuary rites, this article explores how the Bunun, an Austronesian-speaking indigenous people of Taiwan, conceptualize and deal with death in particular historical contexts. It suggests that death rituals should not be treated as self-contained wholes or closed symbolic systems but as busy intersections of multiple social processes. The paper examines how colonial policies and the introduction of Christianity have transformed the ways in which death is dealt with among the Bunun, and how they continue to pose questions on how to deal with rage in grief for this formerly headhunting group by pro- ducing hesitations and disagreements over the moral and social propriety of alternative ritual forms. When the consequences of social change are taken seriously, the extent to which ritual forms organize and shape the experience of mourning needs to be reconsidered.

Jansen and Lang, “Transforming the Self and Healing the Body Through the Use of Testimonies in a Divine Retreat Center, Kera”

January 6, 2012

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.

Seitz, “No Closure”

January 4, 2012

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.

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