Archive for June, 2012

Kyriakakis, “Traditional African Religion, Cosmology, and Christianity”

June 30, 2012

Kyriakakis, Ioannis. 2012. “Traditional African Religion, Cosmology, and Christianity.” Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies. 11(32):132-154.

Abstract: In this article I am applying the anthropological term of “cosmology” to the study of Christianity in order to place plural Christian settings under a wider methodological perspective. I am drawing on the findings of my fieldwork in Southwestern Ghana, where I met twelve different Christian denominations and five traditional healers operating in one village. I am sketching a concise image of the local Nzema cosmology and then I am launching an attempt to present its Christian equivalent. Informed by the situation in the field, by general history of Christianity, as well as by my personal understanding of it, my cosmological investigation yields three different Christian cosmologies, which all coincide side by side in African contexts. I see, thus, pluralism as inherent to Christianity itself, rather than as an outcome of cultural encounter between Christianity and local pre-
Christian religion.

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Mayblin, “Madness of Mothers”

June 13, 2012

Mayblin, Maya. 2012. The Madness of Mothers: Agape Love and the Maternal Myth in Northeast Brazil. American Anthropologist 114(2): 240-252.

Abstract: In Northeast Brazil, the question of whether motherhood predisposes a woman to love her children, and whether children can be socialized effectively even in the absence of love, is a source of debate. I explore how motherhood references different configurations of the essential nature of things by charting how concepts of mother love map onto the Christian concept of agape. The analogical link between mother love and agape, I argue, offers people a set of conceptual tools for reflecting on a range of problems emerging from contrasting ontologies implicit within local forms of Christianity. Problems include the nature of the human-divine relation, the concept of primal animation, and the profound imbalance of power that a creature-Creator relationship entails. Debates about motherhood can thus be understood in terms of “ontopraxis,” whereby social agents situate themselves in relation to shared ontological categories and negotiate ambiguous and even contradictory cosmological schemes.

Stark and Smith “Pluralism and the Churching of Latin America”

June 10, 2012

Stark, Rodney and Buster G. Smith.  (2012).  Pluralism and the Churching of Latin America.  Latin American Politics and Society 54(2): 35-50.

Abstract:

Reliable data on Protestant and Catholic membership in 18 Latin American nations show that Protestants have recruited a larger percentage of the population in many nations than previously estimated. Analysis of these data shows that, as predicted by the theory of religious economies, the Catholic Church has been invigorated by the Protestant challenge: Catholic mass attendance has risen to unprecedented levels, and is highest in nations where Protestants have made the greatest gains.

Woodberry “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy”

June 7, 2012

Robert D. Woodberry. 2012. The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy. American Political Science Review 106 (2): 244-274.

Abstract:

This article demonstrates historically and statistically that conversionary Protestants (CPs) heavily influenced the rise and spread of stable democracy around the world. It argues that CPs were a crucial catalyst initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, and colonial reforms, thereby creating the conditions that made stable democracy more likely. Statistically, the historic prevalence of Protestant missionaries explains about half the variation in democracy in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania and removes the impact of most variables that dominate current statistical research about democracy. The association between Protestant missions and democracy is consistent in different continents and subsamples, and it is robust to more than 50 controls and to instrumental variable analyses.

Voiculescu “To Whom God Speaks”

June 5, 2012

Voiculescu, Cerasela.  (2012). To Whom God Speaks: Struggles for Authority Through Religious Reflexivity and Performativity Within a Gypsy Pentecostal Church.  Sociological Research Online, 17(2): 10.

Abstract:

By limiting Gypsy Travellers’ mobility, the state has restricted their subjectivities and their mobile lifestyles. In this context, Pentecostalism, an egalitarian doctrine based on the privatization of relations with God, creates new spaces for Gypsy Travellers’ self-expression, and further premises for their ethnic and cultural revivalism. Through a symbolic interactionist approach, this paper argues that Gypsy Travellers obtain individual authority through religious reflexivity and performativity. It examines ethnographically the inter- and intra-personal religious conversations among believers in a Gypsy Pentecostal church in Edinburgh, UK. It shows the ways in which Gypsy Travellers use internal dialogues with God and symbolic interactions with significant others in the church as means of self-expression. God is the relational conversational partner and facilitates the believer’s self-mediation. It is the symbolic interface and signifier who can delegate authority to believers or preachers. Through the process of self-mastery, the practitioners of religious reflexivity gain control over themselves and perform authority in front of others. Thus, internal dialogues and symbolic interactions become the important experiential domains of a complex dramaturgy of Gypsy believers’ struggles for individual and collective authority.

Robbins, “Spirit Women”

June 5, 2012

Robbins, Joel. 2012. Spirit Women, Church Women, and Passenger Women. Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 157(1):113-133.

Abstract: As anthropologists increasingly study Christianity in Melanesia, data has become available which allow us to address comparative questions about its differential impact in various societies of the region. In this article, I look at how conversion to Christianity has transformed women’s roles in one society in Papua New Guinea and one in Vanuatu. In particular, I examine what Christian values have meant for the construction of new gender roles. In addition, I compare changes in women’s roles in these two Christianized societies to the situation in another rapidly changing Papua New Guinea society where Christianization is not a dominant social trend in order to explore how Christianity might be seen to align women with culturally dominant values in ways other kinds of cultural change do not. In the course of the article, I also consider what my analysis has to say about the value of comparing Christian societies across the Melanesian region for the broader project of theorizing the role of religion in shaping contemporary social transformations in this region and beyond.

Ryle, “Burying the Past-Healing the Land”

June 5, 2012

Ryle, Jacqueline. 2012. Burying the Past-Healing the Land: ritualising reconciliation in Fiji. Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 157(1):89-111.

Abstract: This article discusses a high-profile traditional reconciliation ceremony staged in Fiji in November 2003. It describes how human agency is reflected in the state of the land and in people’s social relations, past and present; how human agency is seen to spiritually disturb or reconcile the land, its innate ancestral powers and their influence on people’s relations and the land; and how the efficacy of ancestral spirituality of the land may affect change, punishing or rewarding people’s actions. And it discusses how the power of the Holy Spirit can bring about change through exorcising the land of ancestral spiritual power and un-blocking what Pentecostal Christians describe as demonic spiritual strongholds.

Barker, “Secondary Conversion”

June 5, 2012

Barker, John. 2012. Secondary Conversion and the Anthropology of Christianity in Melanesia. Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 157(1):67-87.

Abstract: Anthropologists have in recent years turned their attention to Christianity in Melanesia. Much of this new work treats Melanesian Christianity in terms of the confrontation between indigenous “tradition” and global “modernity”. However useful for long-term analysis, such dualistic framing distorts our understanding of the present, which is instead characterized by growing sectarianism and secondary conversions. I call for three changes in the ways anthropologists typically approach contemporary Melanesian Christianity. First, we need to understand secondary conversion primarily in historical terms, as a shift from localized forms of Christianity to newly introduced ones. Second, more attention needs to be paid to the lively forms of Christianity emerging in urban areas. Finally, I suggest that the domination of anthropology in the social science of Melanesia creates its own distorting lens and other disciplinary viewpoints should be encouraged and incorporated.

Ernst, “Changing Christianity in Oceania”

June 5, 2012

Ernst, Manfred. 2012. Changing Christianity in Oceania: a regional overview. Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 157(1):29-45.

Abstract: The article summarizes major changes in religious affiliation in Oceania since World War II and especially over the past 20 years by linking the increasing diversification of Christianity in the region to globalization processes and the impact of rapid social change on societies and individuals. Based on the presentation of data the author provides evidence that new forms of Christianity, mainly of pentecostal-charismatic origins, have experienced high growth rates at the expense of the established historic mainline churches. These developments mirror very much what has been observed in other parts of the southern hemisphere. Predictions are that in two or three decades from today Oceanic Christianity will have a distinguished pentecostal-charismatic flavour. The author predicts that without fundamental reflection and renewal the future perspectives for the historic mainline churches are gloomy. According to the author they seem to be ill prepared to face the manifold challenges in their societies at the beginning of the 21st century and may lose their unique dominant status they held over the past 150-200 years in the respective island nations.

Coleman, “Christianities in Oceania”

June 5, 2012

Coleman, Simon. 2012. Christianities in Oceania: Historical Genealogies and Anthropological Insularities. Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 157(1): 13-28.

Abstract: I explore the themes contained in this special issue by asking how papers prompt us to ask: What difference does Christianity make—to “culture”, to relations with the state or nation, to the self? This question must be inflected by the realization that Christianity has a long-standing history in Oceania, and has become part of the religio-political landscape that contemporary believers inhabit and sometimes react against. Posing the question also involves an examination of how papers juxtapose versions of history (broader processes of reproduction and transformation over time) with religiously-motivated historiographies (how Christians themselves understand and construct the present in relation to the past). I use these reflections to argue for the usefulness of exploring distinctions and resonances among three orientations towards culture discernible in the papers as a whole: those of being “of”, “against” and “for” culture.

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