Bialecki, “Virtual Christianity”

January 18, 2013

Bialecki, Jon. 2012. Virtual Christianity in an age of nominalist anthropology. Anthropological Theory 12(3):295-319.

Abstract: This article claims that the collective object of an anthropology of Christianity should be Christianity as a virtual object, in the sense used by Gilles Deleuze: a field of multiplicitous potential with effects on the formation of the actual. This position is necessitated by the recurrent inability/refusal/demurral of the anthropology of Christianity to define what its exact object is. This inability/refusal/demurral is a symptom that can be traced back to a larger anthropological shift towards a nominalist ontology, a disciplinary tendency which is exemplified in the recent anthropological interest in Deleuzian-derived assemblage theory. After showing how current anthropological uses of Deleuze have neglected his concept of the virtual due to the same nominalist tendency, this article then argues that taking up Deleuze’s virtual realism would reconfigure assemblage theory in such a way that it would make the project of an anthropology of Christianity substantially more intelligible, as well as undoing what appear to be points of contestation internal to the sub-field.

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