Archive for February, 2013

van Klinken, “Transforming Masculinities in African Christianity”

February 28, 2013

van Klinken, Adriaan S.  2013. Transforming Masculinities in African Christianity: Gender Controversies in Times of AIDS. Surrey: Ashgate.

Publisher’s Description: Studies of gender in African Christianity have usually focused on women. This book draws attention to men and constructions of masculinity, particularly important in light of the HIV epidemic which has given rise to a critical investigation of dominant forms of masculinity. These are often associated with the spread of HIV, gender-based violence and oppression of women. Against this background Christian theologians and local churches in Africa seek to change men and transform masculinities.

Exploring the complexity and ambiguity of religious gender discourses in contemporary African contexts, this book critically examines the ways in which some progressive African theologians, and a Catholic parish and a Pentecostal church in Zambia, work on a ‘transformation of masculinities’.

Dulin, “Messianic Judaism as a Mode of Christian Authenticity”

February 28, 2013

Dulin, John. 2013.Messianic Judaism as a Mode of Christian Authenticity: Exploring the Grammar of Authenticity through Ethnography of a Contested Identity. Anthropos 108(1):33-51.

Abstract: While most studies of Messianic Jews focus on how they grapple with anxieties of in-authenticity in relation to the broader Jewish community, this article considers how adherents understand their faith as a unique form of authenticity. On one level, both Messianic Jewish claims of authenticity and critics of Messianic authenticity reflect the same cultural logic of what I call the “evaluative grammar of authenticity.” The evaluative grammar of authenticity values causal/metonymic indexes over manipulated symbols and is undergirded by a suspicion that general appearances are symbolically manipulated in order to mask actual indexical underpinnings. This article argues that the strong stance on Messianic Jewish authenticity in this community is facilitated by the employment of the evaluative grammar of authenticity within a model of reality strongly influenced by the eschatology and epistemology of American Christian fundamentalism. The indexical underpinnings of the cosmos within this model of reality make it logical to conceive of the Messianic Jewish movement as a manifestation of authentic biblical religion. This mode of authenticity is briefly compared to that reflected by critics of Messianic Jewish authenticity who tend to employ this evaluative grammar within a more natural/historical model of reality. This ethnographic example is useful for exploring some of the basic contours of conflicts over authenticity, including how the value-laden domains of knowledge and agency are implicated in these conflicts. It also illustrates how the evaluative grammar of authenticity exemplifies a shared cultural value that, due to its internal logic, tends to engender division and cultural heterogeneity as much, or more, than it engenders cultural consensus.

Lindhardt, “Pentecostalism and politics in neoliberal Chile”

February 27, 2013

Lindhardt, Martin. 2012. Pentecostalism and politics in neoliberal Chile. Ibero Americana (Stockholm) 42(1-2): 59-84. 

Abstract: This article explores historical and contemporary relationships between Pentecostalism and politics in Chile. The first part of the article provides an historical account of the growth and consolidation of Pentecostal religion within changing political environments and sheds light on Pentecostal stances to and involvements with the political sphere. In particular, it focuses on how a culture of political disenchantment has emerged in post- dictatorial neo-liberal Chile, creating a symbolic void that can be filled by religious movements. The second part of the article discusses possible affinities between Pentecostalism as a religious culture and democratic principles and values. It argues that although Pentecostalism may contain certain democratic qualities, there is also a striking compatibility between, on the one hand, Pentecostal theistic understandings of politics and social change, and, on the other, a neo-liberal social order, where political apathy is widespread and where a privatised rather than a communal and associative sense of progress predominates

Lamont, “Lip-Synch Gospel”

February 26, 2013

Lamont, Mark.  2011.  Lip-synch Gospel: Christian Music and the Ethnopoetics of Identity in Kenya.  Africa 80(3): 473-496.

Abstract:  In recent years there has been an outpouring of Kenyan scholarship on the ways popular musicians engage with politics in the public sphere. With respect to the rise in the 1990s and 2000s of gospel music – whose politics are more pietistic than activist – this article challenges how to ‘understand’ the politics of gospel music taken from a small speech community, in this case the Meru. In observing street performances of a new style of preaching, ‘lip-synch’ gospel, I offer ethnographic readings of song lyrics to show that Meru’s gospel singers can address moral debates not readily aired in mainline and Pentecostal-Charismatic churches. Critical of hypocrisy in the church and engaging with a wider politics of belonging and identity, Meru gospel singers weave localized ethnopoetics into their Christian music, with the effect that their politics effectively remain concealed within Meru and invisible to the national public sphere. While contesting the perceived corruption, sin and hypocrisy in everyday sociality, such Meru gospel singer groups cannot rightly be considered a local ‘counter-public’ because they still work their politics in the shadows of the churches.

Rakovic, “In the Haze of the Serbian Orthodoxy”

February 26, 2013

Rakovic, Slavisa. 2012. In the Haze of the Serbian Orthodoxy: ‘Conversion’ to the Ancestral Faith and Falling from the Church: Four Formerly Devout-to-Church Christians Speak. The Anthropology of East Europe Review 30(2).

Abstract: This paper is the result of research into the road towards and the road from institutional Orthodoxy and the experiences of four individuals, mutual acquaintances, who in the 1990s found “refuge in a search for meaning of life” in the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC). However, towards the end of the 2000s, they decided to abandon institutionalized religion and to move from the so-called theological-ecclesiastic model of Christian religiosity to an alternative model which negotiates between Christianity as doctrine and non-religious life-styles and “life philosophies”, as they are colloquially termed. Once torn between the conservativeness of institutional Orthodoxy and the modernity of their social environment (friendship groups, networks of people with similar interests, etc.), the four former members of the SOC declare that the SOC today is a community that has problems integrating cosmopolitan worldviews and is incapable of dealing with modernity and the diversity of contemporary society.

Cao, “Renegotiating Locality and Morality”

February 26, 2013

Cao, Nanlai. 2013. Renegotiating Locality and Morality in a Chinese Religious Diaspora: Wenzhou Christian Merchants in Paris, France. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 14(1).

Abstract: This paper explores the social and economic implications of indigenous Christian discourses and practices in the Wenzhou Chinese diaspora in Paris, France. Popularly known as China’s Jerusalem, the coastal Chinese city of Wenzhou is home to thousands of self-started home-grown Protestant churches and a million Protestants. Drawing on multi-sited fieldwork, this study provides an ethnographic account of a group of Wenzhou merchants who have formed large Christian communities at home, along with migrant enclaves in Paris. The study shows how these migrant entrepreneurs and traders have brought their version of Christianity from China to France and how they perceive and deal with issues of illegality, moral contingency, native-place based loyalty and national belonging. It highlights the thoroughly intertwined relationship between an indigenised Chinese Christianity and the petty capitalist legacy of coastal southeast China in a secularised, exclusionary European context, and suggests that Christianity provides a form of non-market morality that serves to effectively legitimate Wenzhou’s pre-modern household economy in the context of market modernity.

Lau, “Mobility, Christianity, and Belonging”

February 26, 2013

Lau, Sin Wen. 2013. Mobility, Christianity, and Belonging: Reflections of an Overseas Chinese Expatriate Wife in Shanghai. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 14(1).

Abstract: This paper explores what it means to be a Christian on the move in a transnational Asia. It provides an account of the reflections of a Singaporean expatriate wife as she searches for a spiritual home in Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It shows how her sense of being Christian is shaped by extra-religious concerns of class, language and nationality. Underscoring the tensions inherent in finding faith in motion, this paper aims to nuance prevalent understandings of religion as havens for people on the move.

Haynes, “On the Potential and Problems of Pentecostal Exchange”

February 25, 2013

Hanyes, Naomi. 2013. “On the Potential and Problems of Pentecostal Exchange.” American Anthropologist 115(1):85-95.

Abstract: In this article, I draw on ethnography from the Zambian Copperbelt to examine the social productivity of the Pentecostal prosperity gospel, a Christian movement centered on the idea that it is God’s will for believers to be wealthy. In the light of the challenges that recent economic history has posed to Copperbelt relational life, Pentecostalism has become an important source of hierarchy—and, therefore, of social organization. This social productivity is evident in the complex patterns of exchange that emerge as believers make gifts to God and religious leaders. An analysis of Pentecostal exchange reveals that the hierarchical relationships forged through religious adherence are often in danger of being undermined by economic concerns, and prosperity gospel practice is therefore continually mobilized to protect these ties. In this discussion, I foreground the position of Pentecostalism among the repertoire of ideas, practices, and beliefs involved in negotiating social life in times of economic uncertainty.

Adogame, “The African Christian Diaspora”

February 14, 2013

Adogame, Afe.  2013. The African Christian Diaspora: New Currents and Emerging Trends in World Christianity.  London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Publisher’s Description: The last three decades have witnessed a rapid proliferation of African Christian communities, particularly in Europe and North American diaspora, thus resulting in the remapping of old religious landscapes. This migratory trend and development bring to the fore the crucial role, functions and import of religious symbolic systems in new geo-cultural contexts. The trans-national linkages between African-led churches in the countries of origin (Africa) and the “host” societies are assuming increasing importance for African immigrants. The links and networks that are established and maintained between these contexts are of immense religious, cultural, economic, political and social importance. This suggests how African Christianities can be understood within processes of religious transnationalism and African modernity.

Based on extensive religious ethnography undertaken by the author among African Christian communities in Europe, the USA and Africa in the last 17 years, this book maps and describes the incipience and consolidation of new brands of African Christianities in diaspora. The book demonstrates how African Christianities are negotiating and assimilating notions of the global while maintaining their local identities.

Cruz (ed.), “Christianity and Culture in the City”

February 14, 2013

Cruz, Samuel (ed.).  2012.  Christianity and Culture in the City: A Postcolonial Approach.  Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books.

Publisher’s Description: Christianity and Culture in the City: A Postcolonial Approach offers an introduction to the broad diversity of contemporary Christianities in a rich, complex, changing, and challenging city context. Cruz focuses upon a variety of changing communities with dynamic and striking cultural experiences, and the volume provides both scholarly and practical insights as to how Christianities in the city relate to and transform city institutions and communities that are undergoing dramatic shifts and invite opportunities for intentional study.

This book offers a provocative interdisciplinary examination to shed light upon the ways in which diverse city communities appropriate Christianity to better engage their economic, cultural, political, and religious environment. A post-colonial theoretical framework will help inform how Christianity serves to empower and reinvent fragmented, oppressed, and struggling city populations. The reader is offered various conceptual, theoretical, and pragmatic insights and knowledge for better interpreting, affirming, and engaging diverse Christianities in the city in a postcolonial era.

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