Archive for October, 2013

Bakker, “Sister Churches”

October 30, 2013

Bakker, Janel Kragt. 2013. Sister Churches: American Congregations and Their Partners Abroad. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: The growth of Christianity in the global South and the fall of colonialism in the middle of the twentieth century caused a crisis in Christian missions, as many southern Christians spoke out about indignities they had suffered and many northern Christians retreated from the global South. American Christians soon began looking for a fresh start, a path forward that was neither isolationist nor domineering. Out of this dream the ”sister church” model of mission was born. In this model, rather than Western churches sending representatives into the ”mission field,” they set up congregation-to-congregation partnerships with churches in the global South. In Sister Churches Janel Bakker draws on extensive fieldwork and interviews with participants in these partnerships to explore the sister church movement and in particular its effects on American churches. Because Christianity is numerically and in many ways spiritually stronger in the global South than it is in the global North—while the imbalance in material resources runs in the opposite direction—both northern and southern Christians stand to gain. Challenging prevailing notions of friction between northern and southern Christians, Bakker argues that sister church relationships are marked by interconnectivity and collaboration.

Mahadev, “Conversion and Anti-conversion in Contemporary Sri Lanka”

October 29, 2013

Mahadev, Neena.  2014.  Conversion and Anti-conversion in Contemporary Sri Lanka: Pentecostal Christian Evangelism and Theravada Buddhist Views on the Ethics of Religious Attraction.  In Proselytizing and the Limits of Religious Pluralism in Contemporary Asia (ARI Springer Asian Series, vol. 4), pp. 211-235.

Abstract: Over the last decade Buddhist nationalist activists have pursued various measures to curb proselytism by Christians who strive to “unethically convert” Sri Lankans born as Buddhists. Sri Lankan Buddhist nationalist discourses reveal suspicions that the act of becoming enculturated into Christianity is detrimental to the person and to the nation in a number of ways. What can such nationalist discourses about “unethical conversions,” and about the instruments used to engender religious attraction, tell us about the politics of perception that inflame antipathies over proselytism, conversion, and apostasy? Analysis of ethnographic material reveals that Buddhist protectionists tend to regard two forms of Christian “gift” to be operative in securing conversions. First, gifts of Christian charity are perceived to be material “allurements” that serve to induce conversions and religious patronage among vulnerable Sri Lankans. Comparatively examining Christian and Buddhist forms of giving (charity and dāna respectively), which engender radically different types of ethical sensibilities about the use of gifts and care as modalities of conversion and religious attraction, helps to illuminate why charity is a significant point of contention between these religious communities. Secondly, Pentecostal Christian charisma—or the notion that God’s Grace is a gift which can be evidenced through miracles of healing—appears to Buddhist skeptics as dubious and harmful means of manipulating Sri Lankans into committing apostasy. Using ethnography to depict how adherents and detractors alike have made spectacles out of charismatic Christian promises of miracles, this essay describes how recent controversies have played out between Buddhist nationalists and Christian evangelists within the Sri Lankan public sphere. Focusing on charity and charismatic miracles as modalities of conversion, this paper illuminates key aspects of the anxieties over new Christian forms of religious propagation, proselytism, and devotion as they have entered into a milieu marked by ethno-religious nationalism, religious protectionism, as well as established ethical sensibilities and religious conventions.

 

 

Duncan, “Violence and Vengeance”

October 27, 2013

Duncan, Christopher. 2013. Violence and Vengeance: Religious and Its Aftermath in Eastern Indonesia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Publisher’s Description: Between 1999 and 2000, sectarian fighting fanned across the eastern Indonesian province of North Maluku, leaving thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. What began as local conflicts between migrants and indigenous people over administrative boundaries spiraled into a religious war pitting Muslims against Christians and continues to influence communal relationships more than a decade after the fighting stopped. Christopher R. Duncan spent several years conducting fieldwork in North Maluku, and in Violence and Vengeance, he examines how the individuals actually taking part in the fighting understood and experienced the conflict.

Rather than dismiss religion as a facade for the political and economic motivations of the regional elite, Duncan explores how and why participants came to perceive the conflict as one of religious difference. He examines how these perceptions of religious violence altered the conflict, leading to large-scale massacres in houses of worship, forced conversions of entire communities, and other acts of violence that stressed religious identities. Duncan’s analysis extends beyond the period of violent conflict and explores how local understandings of the violence have complicated the return of forced migrants, efforts at conflict resolution and reconciliation.

O’Neill, “Beyond Broken: Affective Spaces and the Study of American Religion”

October 26, 2013

O’Neill, Kevin Lewis.  2013. “Beyond Broken: Affective Spaces and the Study of American Religion.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion.  doi: 10.1093/jaarel/lft059 (early digital publication).

Abstract:  This article addresses the politics of space in the study of American religion. Part 1 argues that an attention to broken space, namely an assumed division between the sacred and the profane as well as between the local and the global, limits the kind of political relationships that the scholar can posit between religion and space. Part 2 proposes the term “affective space” as a flexible analytical tool with broad utility for the study of American religion, one that prompts scholars to address those social processes that constitute felt difference amid an unevenly interrelated world. To animate the production of affective spaces, this article draws on more than a decade of ethnographic research in and on postwar Guatemala.

 

Herbal, “Turning to Tradition”

October 24, 2013

Herbal, (The Rev.) D. Oliver.  2014.  Turning to Tradition: Converts and the Making of an American Orthodox Church.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: Recent years have seen increasing numbers of Protestant and Catholic Christians converting to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. In this book D. Oliver Herbel examines Christian converts to Orthodoxy who served as exemplars and leaders for convert movements in America during the twentieth century. These convert groups include Carpatho Rusyns, African Americans, and Evangelicals.

Religious mavericks have a long history in Americaa tradition of being anti-tradition. Converts to orthodoxy reject such individualism by embracing an ancient form of Christianity even as they exemplify it by choosing their own religious paths. Drawing on archival resources including Rusyn and Russian newspapers, unpublished internal church documents, personal archives, and personal interviews, Herbel presents a close examination of the theological reasons for the exemplary converts’ own conversions as well as the reasons they offered to persuade those who followed them. He considers the conversions within the context of the American anti-tradition, and of racial and ethnic tensions in America. This book offers the first serious investigation of this important trend in American religion and the first in-depth investigation of any kind of African-American Orthodoxy.

Hardin, “Fasting for Health, Fasting for God”

October 19, 2013

Hardin, Jessica A. 2013. Fasting for Health, Fasting for God: Samoan Evangelical Christian Responses to Obesity and Chronic Disease. In Reconstructing Obesity: The Meaning of Measures and the Measures of Meaning. Edited by Megan McCullough and Jessica Hardin, 107-130. New York: Berghahn.

Excerpt: The motivation to write this paper was sparked during conversations with public health practitioners and Pacific scholars after returning from preliminary fieldwork trips over the course of three years. Whenever I would mention to Pacific scholars working in the United States or public health practitioners working with Pacific islanders that I was doing research on fasting, the response was generally: “Samoan people fast?” This motivated me to explore why the Samoan practice of fasting seems like such a contradictory idea.

The first part of this puzzle is that anthropologists often associate Samoans with lavish food presentations as a key dimension of exchange relationships; this association informs not only social relationships but also bodily idioms and subjectivity. For many public health practitioners, Samoa elicits an image of fast foods, fatty meats, obesity, and attendant diseases. The question arises, then, how and why is the practice of fasting a common topic of discussion among Samoan Christians when it seems, at least on the surface, to contradict Samoan food ideologies and anthropological understanding of the connection between consumption, body size, and abundance? How is fasting appropriated into a food ideology that values large body sizes and views eating as a central dimension of sociality?

%d bloggers like this: