Lebner, “A Christian Politics of Friendship on a Brazilian Frontier”

December 11, 2012

Lebner, Ashley. 2012. A Christian Politics of Friendship on a Brazilian Frontier. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 77(4):496-517.

Abstract
This paper explores ethnography of municipal elections, promise-making and miracles to show how Christians problematise both friendship and politics on a settler frontier in Brazilian Amazonia. Bringing these themes together generates new anthropological perspectives on each, while complimenting Derrida’s critique of Schmitt’s friend–enemy distinction – his definition of the political. Yet the main ethnographic point complicates the argument that both Schmitt and Brazilianist anthropologists critiquing clientelism have made: that Christianity reflects and legitimises the political order. In contrast, I show how the problem of friendship, produced through Christian concerns with presence, legitimises and deligitimises politics at once. The overarching message is that politics, friendship (sociality) and Christianity – usually kept analytically separate – are uniquely clarified where they intersect, as they pass through persons, who foreground and background these domains themselves.

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