Archive for August, 2013

Muehlebach, “The Catholicization of Neoliberalism”

August 28, 2013

Muehlebach, Andrea.  2013.  The Catholicization of Neoliberalism: On Love and Welfare in Lombardy, Italy.  American Anthropologist 115(3): 452–465.

Abstract: In this article, I track the ways in which Catholicism articulates with contemporary neoliberalism. Grounded in an analysis of how neoliberal welfare-state reform in Lombardy, northern Italy, is rendered through core idioms of the Catholic imaginative universe, I argue that the Lombardian case offers general insight into the “moral style” of contemporary neoliberalism. In contrast to the messianic gospel of prosperity exhibited by the Protestant ethic at the turn of the millennium (a gospel that promised instantaneous rushes of wealth through quasi-magical means), the charisma of Catholicized neoliberalism lies not in its rejection of the market but in its injunction that parts of this wealth ought to be redistributed through charitable actions. Catholicized neoliberalism thus hinges on a loving empathetic subject that purportedly repairs the damages of excessive marketization. It couples market rule to moral sentiment, economic rationality to the emotional urgencies of caritas. Although this new culture of feeling and action tends to leave neoliberalism’s basic structural features intact, it also at times allows for the disruption of market rule.

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Medrado, “Community and Communion Radio”

August 28, 2013

Medrado, Andrea.  2013.  Community and Communion Radio: Listening to Evangelical Programmes in a Brazilian Favela.  Communication, Culture & Critique 6(3): 396–414.

Abstract: According to academics and regulators, Evangelical and community radio belong to different sectors. Yet, in the favela, the urban environment and set of airwaves were saturated with religious sounds and programmes. On the basis of an ethnographic study of community radio in the everyday life of a favela, this research indicates that the two are often one and the same as the community radio stations would frequently broadcast Evangelical programming. This article argues that rather than trying to discover community radio’s functions a priori, it is more helpful do so organically, step by step. What emerges is that such functions are multiple—religious, commercial, political—and not necessarily perceived as being paradoxical by their listeners.

Crossland, “Signs of Mission: Material Semeiosis and Nineteenth-Century Tswana Architecture”

August 27, 2013

Crossland, Zoë.  2013.  “Signs of Mission: Material Semeiosis and Nineteenth-Century Tswana Architecture.” Signs and Society 1(1):79-113.

Abstract: The missionary encounter between the London Missionary Society and Sotho-Tswana communities of southern Africa has been explored by Jean and John Comaroff as work that took place at the level of both signs and practices. In this article, I consider what a Peircean semeiotic might offer to this narrative. I argue that it provides ways to disrupt the sometimes binary relationship of signs and practices while also providing opportunities for productive interdisciplinary conversations about the affective, material, and processual nature of changes in belief and practice.

Boyd, “The Problem with Freedom”

August 27, 2013

Boyd, Lydia. 2013. The Problem with Freedom: Homosexuality and Human Rights in Uganda. Anthropological Quarterly 86(3):697-724.

Abstract: The recent backlash against homosexuality in Uganda, culminating in the introduction of the 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, has focused tremendous attention on the role religious activists have played in shaping Ugandan attitudes about sexuality. Drawing on long-term fieldwork among the Ugandan born-again Christians at the center of this controversy, I argue that anti-homosexual rhetoric is animated by something more than a parroting of American homophobia. Rather, it reflects a tension between two divergent frameworks for ethical personhood in Uganda, one related to the Ganda value of ekitiibwa or “respect/honor,” and the other based in a discourse of rights, autonomy, and “freedom.” The born-again rejection of a rights-based discourse is analyzed in relation to broader anxieties generated by a neoliberal emphasis on the autonomous, “empowered” individual during a period of growing inequality and economic and political dissatisfaction in Uganda.

Bakker, “Fragments of a Liturgical World”

August 27, 2013

Bakker, Sarah. 2013. Fragments of a Liturgical World: Syriac Christianity and the Dutch Multicultural Debates. Doctoral Dissertation, Dept. of Anthropology. Santa Cruz, CA: University of California-Santa Cruz.

Abstract: This dissertation explores the reconfiguration of Syriac Orthodox liturgical tradition among Aramaic-speaking Christian refugees in the Netherlands. Under the pressures of Dutch integration policy and the global politics of secular recognition, the Syriac liturgy is rapidly losing its significance as the central axis of social life and kinship-relations in the Syriac Orthodox diaspora. As such, it has become a site for debate over how to be religiously, culturally, and ethnically distinct despite the narrative binary of Christian Europe and the Muslim Middle East that dominates Dutch multiculturalism discourse. Every week, young Syriac Orthodox women and men congregate at their churches to practice singing the liturgy in classical Syriac. What they sing, and how they decide to sing it, mediates their experiments in religious and ethical reinvention, with implications for their efforts at political representation. Singers contend not only with conditions of inaudibility produced by histories of ethnic cleansing, migration, and assimilation, but also with the fragments of European Christianity that shape the sensory regime of secular modernity. Public debates over the integration of religious minorities illuminate this condition of fragmentation, as well as the contest over competing conceptions of ethical personhood inherent in the politics of pluralism in Europe.

Reid, “Finding Kluskap”

August 19, 2013

Reid, Jennifer. 2013. Finding Kluskap: A Journey into Mi’kmaw Myth. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Publisher’s Description: The Mi’kmaq of eastern Canada were among the first indigenous North Americans to encounter colonial Europeans. As early as the mid-sixteenth century, they were trading with French fishers, and by the mid-seventeenth century, large numbers of Mi’kmaq had converted to Catholicism. Mi’kmaw Catholicism is perhaps best exemplified by the community’s regard for the figure of Saint Anne, the grandmother of Jesus. Every year for a week, coinciding with the saint’s feast day of July 26, Mi’kmaw peoples from communities throughout Quebec and eastern Canada gather on the small island of Potlotek, off the coast of Nova Scotia. It is, however, far from a conventional Catholic celebration. In fact, it expresses a complex relationship between the Mi’kmaq, Saint Anne, a series of eighteenth-century treaties, and a cultural hero named Kluskap.

Finding Kluskap brings together years of historical research and learning among Mi’kmaw peoples on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The author’s long-term relationship with Mi’kmaw friends and colleagues provides a unique vantage point for scholarship, one shaped by not only personal relationships but also by the cultural, intellectual, and historical situations that inform postcolonial peoples. The picture that emerges when Saint Anne, Kluskap, and the mission are considered in concert with one another is one of the sacred life as a site of adjudication for both the meaning and efficacy of religion—and the impact of modern history on contemporary indigenous religion.

Testing Prayer: Book Review

August 16, 2013

Brown, Candy Gunther. 2012. Testing Prayer: Science and Healing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

By: Anna I. Corwin (UCLA)

In 2010, Candy Gunther Brown and her research team published a compelling and controversial article in Southern Medical Journal arguing that proximate intercessory prayer, performed in their study by Pentecostals in Mozambique, significantly improved the hearing and vision of a number of prayer recipients.  This claim – that prayer can heal – has been a flash point, setting off debates and controversies about the nature of prayer for generations.  This article was no different.  Brown’s book Testing Prayer: Science and Healing, sets out to reconcile some of the interest as well as the controversy Brown faced following her team’s empirical study of intercessory prayer.  She grapples with questions of whether prayer should be studied, how, and by whom.  Drawing on her background as a historian and ethnographer, Testing Prayer uses an interdisciplinary approach to address the question of efficacy, focusing specifically on global practices of Pentecostal prayer, and ultimately leading to a proposal for a multi-pronged approach to the study of efficacy in healing prayer. Read the rest of this entry »

Coleman, “Only (Dis-)Connect: Pentecostal Global Networking as Revelation and Concealment”

August 15, 2013

Coleman, SImon. 2013.  Only (Dis-)Connect: Pentecostal Global Networking as Revelation and Concealment. Religions 4(3):367-390.

Abstract: Contemporary forms of Pentecostalism, such as that of the Faith Movement, are often represented as inherently global, constituting a religion ‘made to travel’ and to missionize across the world. I argue that while much attention has been paid to proselytization as a catalyst in encouraging transnational activities among such Christians, more analysis is needed of how Pentecostalists represent each other in the construction of global imaginaries. The imagined and enacted networks that result assert connections between like-minded believers but also valorize the power of distance in the creation of landscapes of religious agency whose power is illustrated through such tropes as ‘number’, ‘mobility’, ‘presence’ and ‘conquest’. I juxtapose two Prosperity-oriented movements, that of the Swedish Word of Life and the Nigerian Redeemed Christian Church of God, to indicate further how Christians who appear to be conjoined via common forms of worship appear, from another perspective, to be inhabiting and moving across disjunct global landscapes and cartographies as they engage in very different forms of mobility.

Iozzio, “Liturgical Anthropology of a Soulful Sister”

August 14, 2013

Iozzio, M. J.  2013.  Liturgical Anthropology of a Soulful Sister: Thea Bowman, FSPA.  Journal of Religion, Disability & Health 17(3): 317-326.

Abstract: This article considers the potential contribution to theology and disability studies of the life work of Sister Thea Bowman, an African American Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, a Faulkner scholar, an educator par excellence, and a woman of spirit, song, and dance. I propose that Bowman offers a liturgical key to accepting difference and overcoming divisions. I explore two works in particular, her introduction to the first African American Catholic Hymnal and her address to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to see the change that liturgy can make in Catholic faith communities.

Yong, “Disability in the Christian Tradition”

August 14, 2013

Yong, Amos.  2013.  Disability in the Christian Tradition: Overview and Historiographic Reflection.  Journal of Religion, Disability & Health 17(3): 236-243.

Abstract: This article summarizes and overviews Brian Brock and John Swinton’s Disability in the Christian Tradition: A Reader (2012), and reflects on its contribution from a historiographic perspective. In particular, this discussion explores how the lens of disability invites new approaches to the history of the Christian tradition that opens up fresh perspectives on narrating Christian history, recounting the history of Christian thought, and reconsidering the theological legacies of major thinkers.

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