Archive for August, 2012

Brightman, “Maps and Clocks”

August 31, 2012

Brightman, Marc. 2012. Maps and Clocks in Amazonia: the things of conversion and conversation. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 18(3):554-571.

Abstract:

Engaging with the recent interest in materiality in the anthropology of Amazonia, this article focuses on objects which might seem to present a challenge to indigenous systems of thought. Maps and clocks separate and abstract space and time from each other, and from the phenomena of experience, by reducing them to plane and number. Partly for this reason, and partly because of their association with Christian conversion, they may be seen as symbols and instruments of colonialism and of the technological foundations of European power. The article offers an analysis of an Amazonian group’s strong interest in these objects and in the modes of thought which they represent. It concludes with reflections on native historicity and the modalities of cultural change in a context of sustained contact with alterity.

Résumé

Dans la ligne du récent intérêt de l’anthropologie amazoniste envers la matérialité, l’auteur examine des objets qui semblent poser un défi aux systèmes de pensée autochtones. Cartes et horloges dissocient l’espace et le temps et les séparent des phénomènes perceptibles en les réduisant à des plans et des nombres. Pour cette raison, et aussi à cause de leur association à la conversion au christianisme, elles apparaissent comme symboles et instruments du colonialisme et des fondements technologiques de la puissance européenne. Le présent article analyse le vif intérêt d’un groupe amazonien pour ces objets et les modes de pensée qu’ils représentent. Il se conclut par des réflexions sur l’historicité indigène et les modalités du changement culturel, dans un contexte de contact permanent avec l’altérité.

Ingalls “Singing praise in the streets”

August 30, 2012

Ingalls, Monique M.  2012.  Singing praise in the streets: Performing Canadian Christianity through public worship in Toronto’s Jesus in the City parade.  Culture and Religion 13(3): 337-359.  

Abstract: Festivals, parades and other public cultural spectacles are important sites in which communities demarcate their boundaries and attempt to expand them by claiming public space. This article draws from ethnographic fieldwork at Toronto’s Jesus in the City parade, an annual event in which Toronto-area Christians take their message to the city’s downtown in a Carnival-style procession, to explore what Amanda Weidman has called the ‘politics of voice’ in the parade: how religious participants create, contest and negotiate various affiliations in the public sphere through their musical performance of congregational songs. Exploring what sounds are produced and why reveals how parade participants use musical performance on the city stage in their quest to define what it means to be a Christian, an ethnic minority and a Canadian in the twenty-first century.

Durbin, “For Such a Time as This”

August 29, 2012

Durbin, Sean. 2012. “For Such a Time as This”: Reading (and Becoming) Esther with Christians United for Israel.

Abstract: A great deal of work on contemporary Christian Zionism focuses on the apocalyptic eschatology of premillennial dispensationalism, critiquing it from an idealistic perspective that posits a direct line of causality from “belief” to action. Such critiques frequently assert that since Christian Zionists are biblical literalists, they read apocalyptic texts such as Revelation and Ezekiel with the goal of making the events they find predicted in these books come about in the world. This article takes a different approach. Although many Christian Zionists can be considered “literalists,” they read themselves into the text typologically. Special attention is paid to the book of Esther which is shown not to function primarily in a prophetic or apocalyptic role, but as a tool to help Christian Zionists understand political action, construct identity, and strengthen faith.

Etter, “‘Women With No One’: Community and Christianity in a Secular South Indian Homeless Shelter”

August 27, 2012

Etter, Connie, (2012) “”Women With No One”: Community and Christianity in a Secular South Indian Homeless Shelter.” Anthropology – Dissertations. Syracuse University, Susan Wadley, Advisor. Paper 96. http://surface.syr.edu/ant_etd/96

Abstract: This dissertation examines daily life and social service practices in a secular homeless shelter for women in Tamil Nadu, south India. The residents of the shelter have diverse backgrounds but local staff members and volunteers describe them collectively as “women with no one”: unwed mothers, orphans, widows, women abandoned or abused by husbands and lovers, former sex workers, prisoners’ wives, and women deemed mentally or physically unfit for marriage. Daily negotiations of belonging take place among this transient and diverse group of marginalized women and equally diverse and transnational care providers. The closed shelter campus provides an opportunity to query the everyday experience of secularism and pluralism. Shelter board members emphasize these concepts as guiding principles of the institution. Indeed, they are touted in many settings as a necessary and laudable framework for democratic life in globalized and increasingly diverse populations. But how do individuals and communities, in everyday life and interactions, understand and engage with such abstract ideals?

Ethnographic research, conducted between August 2008 and August 2009, revealed important insights regarding the ideals shaping the secular goals of the shelter, namely women’s social rehabilitation. First, the definition of secularism cannot be assumed and is not universal. Inline with commonsense equations of secularism and pluralism in India, the secular goals of the shelter involved passionate displays of religious conviction, continuous ethical deliberation, and reflection on cultural ideals of womanhood and family. Secularism, in other words, was a religious, cultural, and gendered idea and practice. Second, just as there were many secularisms, many Christianities were embodied and articulated within the shelter. The institution depended on various local and international Christian communities for donations of time and money. They each had different understandings of the relationship between Christianity and women’s social rehabilitation. Third, cultural ideals are fragile. The social stigma faced by women living outside of patriarchal family structures and the forced intimacy of women with diverse backgrounds living together on a closed campus emphasized this fact. Faced with the fragility of social and cultural ideals, women at the shelter took great risks to forge new terms of belonging, community, and womanhood.

Coleman, “Encountering the archive”

August 24, 2012

Coleman, Simon (2012) “Encountering the archive.” The Immanent Frame. http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2012/08/24/encountering-the-archive/ (accessed August 24, 2012).

Excerpt: Where on earth to begin with the rich but deeply disturbing material presented to us on BishopAccountability.org? (For an example, see the documents relating to the Province of St. Barbara.) How to confront the archive’s huge volume but also the extent of its moral charge?

I also have a number of questions about what we are, or should be, looking at—the proper boundaries of the object of our inquiry.

Is this a particularly American phenomenon? After all, clerical sexual abuse has been reported in many parts of the world, even if nation-wide inquiries have been instituted in just a few places, such as the U.S. and Ireland. And is this an exclusively Christian (or even Catholic) phenomenon? In fact, a Chicago Tribune story from 2011reported the laxity of control over Buddhist monks who engage in sexual abuse in the U.S., though interestingly the tenor of the story implies that the problem was the lack of central control of such priests, whereas in the cases we’re looking at here there are clear problems with the center itself.

But can we even say that this is an exclusively or an especially religious phenomenon and be sure that the levels of abuse we’ve witnessed in the archive greatly exceed those in society at large? That last question has to be asked, even if the answer seems likely to be in the affirmative.

A more historical question relates to the framing and trajectory of the issue in the archive itself and whether, for instance, we can discern a shift away from an exclusively spiritual framing of behavior by church officials towards one where both legal and psychiatric languages are being brought in, if sometimes also conspicuously ignored.

Thinking about the archive in terms of the history of Christianity prompts another question for me. I wonder about the extent to which invoking history suggests both causality and context. In other words, does locating these sexual acts in the context of the history of Christianity or Catholicism either explain them or explain them away? The answer to both of these questions should, I think, be “no,” but we still need to look for patterns and shifts in the trajectories of opinion or activity that we might deem to be significant. In what follows, I use different histories to show how they inflect my readings of the archives, though I do not attempt to connect these four historical fragments in a systematic way . . .

 

Pype “Fathers, Patrons and Clients in Kinshasa’s Media World”

August 15, 2012

Pype, Katrien.  Fathers, Patrons and Clients in Kinshasa’s Media World: Social and Economic Dynamics in the Production of Television Drama.  In Working in the Global Film Industries: Creativity, Systems, Space, Patronage.  Bloomsbury Academic.  Pp. 123-141.
Abstract: This chapter attempts to tackle the social and economic structures that define the production and outlook of television serials in Kinshasa. Since 1996, Kinshasa’s mediascape has witnessed a significant transformation. In that year, President Mobutu ordained a freedom of press, which led many wealthy individuals (politicians, entrepreneurs and religious, especially Christian, leaders) to set up their own television channels. With the proliferation of television stations, the production of local television drama increased. Totally in line with the charismatization of Kinshasa’s society, the post-Mobutu teleserials are immersed within the ideology of Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity. The most popular television serials are those that visualize a spiritual battle between God and the Devil. Many of Kinshasa’s drama groups are also affiliated with Pentecostal-charismatic churches. This not only influences the storylines, but it also shapes the social organization of the television acting groups.
The main questions addressed are: how are the television actors positioned within the hierarchies of the television station and the church? And, how do television actors make a livelihood out of appearing on the small screen? The analysis will focus on the diverging forms of patronage and clientelism that are at play among (1) the actors and between actors, (2) the drama group and the heads of television channels, (3) the dramatic artists and the pastors, and (4) the actors and the powerful (“Big Men”) in Kinshasa. It will be argued that Kinshasa’s dramatic artists occupy diverging positions within the patron-client axis, which offer them not only power and authority, but which also allow these professional artists to earn a livelihood. These relationships thus bear an economic significance in Kinshasa’s precarious society.

Howell, “Short-Term Mission: An Ethnography of Christian Travel Narrative and Experience”

August 14, 2012

Howell, Brian (2012) Short-Term Mission: An Ethnography of Christian Travel Narrative and Experience. Downers Groves, Illinois: IVP Academic Press.

Publisher’s Description: Over the past few decades, short-term mission trips have exploded in popularity. With easy access to affordable air travel, millions of American Christians have journeyed internationally for ministry, service and evangelism. Short-term trips are praised for involving many in global mission but also critiqued for their limitations.

Despite the diversity of destinations, certain universal commonalities emerge in how mission trip participants describe their experiences: “My eyes were opened to the world’s needs.” “They ministered to us more than we ministered to them.” “It changed my life.”

Anthropologist Brian Howell explores the narrative shape of short-term mission (STM). Drawing on the anthropology of tourism and pilgrimage, he shows how STM combines these elements with Christian purposes of mission to create its own distinct narrative. He provides a careful historical survey of the development of STM and then offers an in-depth ethnographic study of a particular mission trip to the Dominican Republic. He explores how participants remember and interpret their experiences, and he unpacks the implications for how North American churches understand mission, grapple with poverty and relate to the larger global church.

A groundbreaking book for all who want to understand how and why American Christians undertake short-term mission.

Beatty, “The Tell-Tale Heart”

August 13, 2012

Beatty, Andrew.  2012.  The Tell-Tale Heart: Conversion and Emotion in Nias.  Ethnos 1:1-26.

Abstract: In this article, I use historical and ethnographic data to analyse the Great Repentance, a violently emotional conversion movement that swept through the Indonesian island of Nias from colonial conquest around 1915, with recurrences until the 1960s. Against rationalist and materialist explanations, I argue for a constitutive role for emotion in the conversion process. I show how the techniques and idioms of Protestant missionaries suppressed indigenous meanings and encouraged a native emphasis on ‘the speaking heart’. The existential dilemmas of modern Christians in Nias, their sense of exclusion, can be accounted for by the paradoxical ethical and affective legacy of the repentance movement. The article is a contribution to both the study of emotion in historical perspective and to the analysis of conversion.

Bielo, “Belief, Deconversion, and Authenticity”

August 12, 2012

Bielo, James S. 2012. Belief, Deconversion, and Authenticity among U.S. Emerging Evangelicals. Ethos 40(3):258-276.

Abstract: In this article I examine the status of belief among U.S. evangelicals organizing under the moniker of the “emerging church.” As part of their cultural critique of the conservative Christian subculture, many emerging evangelicals recast their standpoint toward the role of propositional doctrine in their definition of an authentic Christian self. I join with colleagues in the anthropology of religion, in particular the anthropology of Christianity, who are rethinking the nature of belief as a form of relational commitment. I argue that emerging evangelicals seek a faith where human–human relationships are a precondition for human–divine relations to flourish. To achieve their desired sense of community emerging evangelicals create ritual structures that foster a highly relational religiosity. I illustrate this recasting of belief through analyses of narrative and institution making, grounded in three years of ethnographic fieldwork.

Kline, “The Quaker Journey”

August 12, 2012

Kline, Douglas A. 2012. The Quaker Journey and the Framing of Corporate and Personal Belief. Ethos 40(3):277-296.

Abstract: The British Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) illustrates the management of personal and corporate belief and experience without the use of creedal statements or centralized religious authority. This builds on the work of anthropologists like James Fernandez and Peter Stromberg who introduce forms of consensus responsible for maintaining unity in religious communities. While their work expanded anthropological understanding on diverse interpretations of common symbols, this article builds on their observations to show how the use of tropes also encourages unity. Quakers incorporate diversity and a notion of continuing revelation into their communal belief system, and individual participants are encouraged to explore personal belief. Since the Quaker corporate belief model accommodates change, tensions shift to maintaining identity among the theologically diverse interpretations of truth. To accomplish some homogeneity Friends also employ a journey trope to frame diversity and manage the potential tension between corporate and personal understanding.

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