Archive for September, 2012

McGraw, “Tongues of Men and Angels”

September 23, 2012

McGraw, John (2012) “Tongues of Men and Angels: Assessing the Neural Correlates of Glossolalia.” In David Cave & Rebecca Sachs Norris, eds. Religion and the Body: Modern Science and the Construction of Religious Meaning. Leiden: Brill.

First Paragraph: “The accelerating popularity of Charismatic Christianity has brought with it a host of new sensibilities and ritual practices. Glossolalia, or ‘speaking in tongues,’ stands out among these as a particularly dramatic innovation. Typically staid churchgoers, once touched by the Holy Spirit, begin to utter strings of syllables that some claim to be the ‘language of angels.’ Recent neuroimaging studies have highlighted differences in the brains of subjects performing glossolalia in comparison to those same subjects singing a Church hymn. An investigation of the neural correlates of glossolalia highlights the importance of studying the bodily dimensions of ritual practice. But an informed analysis does not reduce social and behavioral complexities to physiological changes; rather, juxtaposing the correlates of human action from a variety of perspectives—in this case the social, the bodily, and the behavioral—suggests productive new approaches to the study of ritual. Having received the attentions of numerous scholars during the 20th and 21st centuries, glossolalia provides an excellent test case for this correlational approach to human action . . .”

Gross, “Incompatible Worlds?”

September 22, 2012

Gross, Toomas. 2012. Incompatible Worlds? Protestantism and Costumbre in the Zapotec Villages of Northern Oaxaca. Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore 51:191-218.

Abstract: In recent decades, Protestant population has grown rapidly in most Latin American countries, including Mexico. The growth has been particularly fast in rural and indigenous areas, where Protestantism is often claimed to trigger profound socio-cultural changes. This article discusses the impact of Protestant growth on customs, collective practices and local identities using the example of indigenous Zapotec communities of the Sierra Juárez in northern Oaxaca. Drawing on the author’s intermittent fieldwork in the region since 1998, most recently in 2012, the article first scrutinises some of the recurring local perceptions of Protestant growth in the Sierra Juárez and their impact on communal life. Particular attention will be paid to converts’ break with various customary practices pertaining to what locally is referred to as usos y costumbres. The article will then critically revise the claims about the culturally destructive influence of Protestantism, suggesting that the socio-cultural changes in contemporary indigenous communities of Oaxaca may actually be caused by more general modernising and globalising forces, and that the transformative role of Protestantism is often exaggerated.

Braunlein, “We are 100% Catholic”

September 22, 2012

Braunlein, Peter J. 2012. “We are 100% Catholic“: Philippine Passion Rituals and Some Obstacles in the Study of Non-European Christianity. Journal of Religion in Europe 5(3):384-413.

Abstract: Philippine Catholicism is usually seen as a variant of a non-European Christianity, which was formerly introduced by Spanish missionaries and colonizers into the Philippine Archipelago. Philippine passion rituals, especially self-flagellation and rites of crucifixion, are commonly interpreted as bizarre phenomena of a pre-modern folk-religiosity or archaic survivals of `our’ past, or as a post-colonial mimicry of European religious history. The perspective on Philippine Christianity is always governed by European discourses, whether religious, scientific, or common sense. This paper is an attempt to question dichotomies such as `European’ and `non-European,’ `modern’ and `pre-modern,’ `authentic’ and `inauthentic,’ etc. In the study of religion such dichotomies, I argue, create problems of conceptualizing diversity within one religious tradition and behind such distinctions lurks the implicit self-perception of the West of being exemplary `modern.’ I use Philippine passion rituals as a hermeneutic challenge. Crucifixions are analyzed as media events and from the actor’s perspective, by historicizing the missionary encounter, and by scrutinizing concepts such as `syncretism’ and `identity.’ `Translation’ and the `histoire croisée’ approach are proposed as helpful analytical tools for the study of Christianity.

Tassi, “Dancing the Image”

September 22, 2012

Tassi, Nico. 2012. “Dancing the Image”: materiality and spirituality in Andean religious “images.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute  18(2):285-310.

Abstract:

In the Christian tradition, representing the divine has often been considered both an impossible and yet necessary endeavour rooted in the human need in certain moments of weakness to visualize God. In this article, based on research findings from fieldwork carried out with urban indigenous groups in La Paz, Bolivia, I suggest that the articulation of local and Catholic representational traditions and practices has produced an understanding of the religious image not so much as an object of detached contemplation or a reference to a religious symbol but rather as an energized element which physically shapes the relationship and exchange between the material and the spiritual world. I suggest that through a study of Andean religious images we may be able to produce an alternative ontological perspective on the relationship between the spiritual, material, and living worlds.

Résumé

Dans la tradition chrétienne, la représentation du divin est souvent considérée comme une gageure impossible et pourtant nécessaire, motivée par la nécessité humaine de visualiser Dieu dans les moments de faiblesse. À partir des matériaux de terrain obtenus auprès de groupes autochtones urbains à La Paz, en Bolivie, l’auteur suggère ici que l’articulation des traditions et pratiques de représentation locales et catholiques a conduit à concevoir l’image religieuse moins comme un objet de contemplation détachée ou une référence à un symbole religieux que comme un élément chargé d’énergie, qui donne physiquement forme à la relation et aux échanges entre le monde matériel et le monde spirituel. L’article suggère qu’à travers l’étude des images religieuses andines, on pourrait élaborer un autre point de vue ontologique sur la relation entre les mondes spirituel, matériel et vivant.

Jolly, “Material and Immaterial Relations”

September 22, 2012

Jolly, Margaret. 2012. Material and Immaterial Relations: Gender, Rank, and Christianity in Vanuatu. In The Scope of Anthropology: Maurice Godelier’s Work in Context, edited by Laurent Dousset and Serge Cherkezoff, 110-154. London: Berghahn.

Barker, “The Enigma of Christian Conversion”

September 22, 2012

Barker, John. 2012. The Enigma of Christian Conversion: Exchange and the Emergence of New Great Men among the Maisin of New Guinea. In The Scope of Anthropology: Maurice Godelier’s Work in Context, edited by Laurent Dousset and Serge Cherkezoff, 46-66. London: Berghahn.

Joshi “A Matter of Belief”

September 21, 2012

Joshi, Vibha. 2012. A Matter of Belief: Christian Conversion and Healing in North-East India.  Oxford: Berghan Books.

Publisher’s Description:  “Nagaland for Christ” and “Jesus Saves” are familiar slogans prominently displayed on public transport and celebratory banners in Nagaland, northeastern India. They express an idealization of Christian homogeneity that belies the underlying tensions and negotiations between Christian and non-Christian Naga. This religious division is intertwined with that of healing beliefs and practices, both animistic and biomedical. This study focuses on the particular experiences of the Angami Naga, one of the many Naga peoples. Like other Naga, they are citizens of the state of India but extend ethnolinguistically into Tibeto-Burman southeast Asia. This ambiguity and how it affects their Christianity, global involvement, indigenous cultural assertiveness, and nationalist struggle is explored. Not simply describing continuity through change, this study reveals the alternating Christian and non-Christian streams of discourse, one masking the other but at different times and in different guises.

Baldacchino “Markets of piety and pious markets”

September 20, 2012

Baldacchino, Jean-Paul.  2012.  Markets of piety and pious markets: the Protestant ethic and the spirit of Korean capitalism.  Social Compass 59(3): 367-385.

Abstract: The author takes a historical and ethnographic approach to the rise of Korean Protestantism and its relationship to Korean modernization and capitalist development. He argues that while theories of Asian capitalism have looked at the ways a Confucian work ethic has helped the development of Asian capitalist economies, this perspective ignores the overarching concern with regional identity. This approach has also tended to ignore the diversity of religious landscapes in East Asia. The author argues that the phenomenal rise of Protestantism in South Korea has to be located within the context of processes of modernization. Exploring ethnographically the nature of Korean Protestantism reveals a theological doctrine of Puritanism, which shares ‘elective affinities’ with the capitalist ethic. Adopting a Weberian approach the author undertakes a detailed analysis of the sermons and ritual life of one Korean church in Seoul and relates this to larger historical and economic processes in South Korea.

Lindhardt, “Who bewitched the pastor and why did he survive the witchcraft attack? Micro-politics and the creativity of indeterminacy in Tanzanian discourses on witchcraft”

September 19, 2012

Lindhardt, Martin (2012) “Who bewitched the pastor and why did he survive the witchcraft attack? Micro-politics and the creativity of indeterminacy in Tanzanian discourses on witchcraft.” Canadian Journal of African Studies / La Revue canadienne des e ́tudes africaines 46(2): 215–232 

Abstract: Many Tanzanians share a basic understanding of the occult as a moving force in the visible world. But at the same time, notions of the occult are characterised by indeterminacies in meaning, thereby allowing for multiple interpretations of particular events. This article explores various readings of two particular incidents that both occurred within a suburb of the city of Iringa in South-central Tanzania. First a Lutheran pastor started suffering from a paralyzed shoulder and a few weeks later an old woman was found lying naked outside of his home in the middle of the night. While both incidents were widely ascribed to witchcraft the article shows how particular interpretations were embedded in and reflective of a dense social climate, characterised by different kinds of tension, inequalities, suspicions of corruption and by religious and medical pluralism and competition. The article argues that the very opaqueness and uncertainty of witchcraft knowledge enabled a variety of actors with different stakes to make claims to truth, spiritual status and moral identity.

Kaell, “Of gifts and grandchildren: American Holy Land souvenirs”

September 19, 2012

Kaell, Hillary (2012) “Of gifts and grandchildren: American Holy Land souvenirs.” Journal of Material Culture. 17(2):133–151

Abstract: Despite significant scholarship in anthropology and tourism studies related respectively to gifts and souvenirs, little is known about why and to whom people give souvenir gifts. Using an American case study, this article shows how Holy Land pilgrimage and its attendant gift-giving are a crucial way that older women navigate tensions specific to the consumer culture and religious patterns of the 21st-century US. By giving souvenirs, pilgrims uphold the importance of individuality (as consumers and as believers), while also fulfilling what they believe is their special responsibility to bolster collective faith, particularly amongst networks of female friends and family. Crucial in this endeavor is how pilgrims negotiate the fluid line between commodity and religious object. Sometimes they imbue these commercial objects with divine presence, thereby creating powerful tools for asserting ‘soft’ authority at home. At other times, they present religious souvenirs as commodities, downplaying their spiritual value in order to circumvent rejection.

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