Archive for November, 2013

Brahinsky, “Cultivating Discontinuity”

November 29, 2013

Brahinsky, Josh. 2013. Cultivating Discontinuity: Pentecostal Pedagogies of Yielding and Control. Anthropology & Education Quarterly 44(4): 399-422.

Abstract: Exploring missionary study at an Assemblies of God Bible college through ethnography and training manuals demonstrates systematic pedagogies that cultivate sensory capabilities encouraging yielding, opening to rupture, and constraint. Ritual theory and the Anthropology of Christianity shift analytic scales to include “cultivation,“ a “third term“ enabling simultaneous apprehension and consolidating of the oppositions (experience–doctrine, revival–church, or spontaneous rupture–restrained continuity) internal and central to Pentecostalism. Further, cultivation complicates valorizations of the disjunctive “event“ as militant radical icon.

Seale-Collazo, “Cross Purposes”

November 29, 2013

Seale-Collazo, James. 2013. Cross Purposes: Love and Purity at a Puerto Rican Protestant High School. Anthropology & Education Quarterly 44(4): 345-362.

Abstract: A “native“ Christian ethnographer finds religious education at this church-sponsored school to pursue two distinct, and occasionally conflicting, curricula: “love“ and “purity.“ The curriculum of love draws on what Turner called liminality and communitas in an effort to promote spiritual “encounters with God,“ whereas the curriculum of purity stresses adult–student hierarchies as students are urged to reject “worldly“ popular culture. Adults were caught between the two goals when one student asserted a gay identity.

Heo, “The Virgin Between Christianity and Islam”

November 28, 2013

Heo, Angie. 2013. The Virgin Between Christianity and Islam: Sainthood, Media, and Modernity in Egypt. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 81(4): 1117-1138.

Abstract: This article investigates what it means for the Virgin Mary to be a common figure between Christianity and Islam. Departing from approaches which emphasize the textual biography and personality of figural saints, it explores the Virgin as a contested image of divine intercession among Muslims and Christians on the ground. Beginning with lived contexts of everyday mediation, it thus situates the “commonness” of the Virgin within the thick practical realities of modern communication and imagination. More specifically, it probes one ethnographic case of a Marian apparition which occurred in Giza in 2009, producing eyewitness observation and critical reflection. My aim is to show how the historical phenomenon of “collective apparitions” provides a distinctive visual-cultural platform for evaluating the communicatively public aspects of saintly mediation. In doing so, this study concretely traces how growing cults of the Virgin Mary shape newly widespread practices of religious identification and differentiation among contemporary Orthodox, Protestants, and Muslims in Egypt.

Film, “God Loves Uganda”

November 12, 2013

Williams, Roger Ross. 2013. God Loves Uganda. 83 min.

Filmaker’s Description:  The feature-length documentary God Loves Uganda is a powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to change African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right.

The film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow Biblical law.

Film, “Enlarging the Kingdom”

November 12, 2013

Butticci, Annalisa and Andrew Esiebo. 2013. Enlarging the Kingdom: African Pentecostals in Italy. 35 min.

Filmmaker’s Description: Enlarging the Kingdom explores the encounter, interactions, and conflicts between Catholicism and African Pentecostalism. By putting in conversation Nigerian and Ghanaian Pastors and Catholic Priests the documentary looks at their diverse understanding of evil forces, authorized and unauthorized forms of relating to the Divine, the making of idols and icons, religious leadership and authority, women access to the pulpit and religious politics of the Italian Nation State. Enlarging the Kingdom offers a unique insight into the challenges of African Pentecostals in Italy and the role of Pentecostal Churches for African immigrant communities.

Day, “Faith on the Avenue”

November 12, 2013

Day, Katie. 2013. Faith on the Avenue: Religion on a City Street. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: In a richly illustrated, revelatory study of Philadelphia’s Germantown Avenue, home to a diverse array of more than 90 Christian and Muslim congregations, Katie Day explores the formative and multifaceted role of religious congregations within an urban environment. Germantown Avenue cuts through Philadelphia for eight and a half miles, from the affluent neighborhood of Chestnut Hill through the high crime section known as “the Badlands.” The congregations along this route range from the wealthiest to the poorest populations in Philadelphia. Some congregants are immigrants who find safety and support in close fellowship, while others are long-time residents whose congregations work actively to provide social services. Cities undergo constant change, and their congregations change with them. As Day observes, some congregations have sprung up in former commercial strips, harboring new arrivals and recreating a sense of home, and others form an anchor for a neighborhood across generations, providing a connection to the past and a hope of stability for the future. Drawing on years of research, in-depth interviews with religious leaders and congregants, and a wealth of demographic data, Day demonstrates the powerful influence cities exert on their congregations, and the surprising and important impact congregations have on their urban environment.

Brian Howell, interviewed by Joshua Brahinsky

November 12, 2013

The following is an interview with Brian Howell conducted by Josh Brahinsky in September 2013.

Josh: What motivated this book?

Brian: I would ask students at the beginning of an intro class and would hear about these really extraordinary travel opportunities that they had to places where people don’t normally go: northern Ghana and Mongolia and such places, but what was most striking about it was the ways that they talked about their trips, that they were similar to one another regardless of where they gone in the world including people who gone to Europe versus people who gone to Latin America or remote parts of Asia or Africa. I was struck that something was going on that either these trips had converged in some way, or had been produced in some way. The narratives about them were coming from somewhere, and I was really curious how that happened.

Josh: Was this one of the founding questions of the book? Narrative versus experience, or how was this made? How did this come to be spoken this way?

Brian: When I started doing research into the literature, particularly the anthropology of tourism, I could see that this was an idea many anthropologists have followed up on, looking at how the narratives of particular places shape those experiences of those places. So, what you could call my hypothesis was that the narratives produced around short-term missions were strongly influencing the experience people had of the places that they went when they were calling these short-term missions.
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Short Term Missions: Book Review

November 12, 2013

Howell, Brian (2012) Short-Term Mission: An Ethnography of Christian Travel Narrative and Experience. Downers Groves, Illinois: IVP Academic Press.

By: Joshua Brahinsky (University of California, Santa Cruz)

While anthropology and religion have a checkered and ambivalent dynamic, relations between anthropology and missiology – Christian mission theory – are far more enmeshed and, perhaps, grating. This animates a sharp division between the two.  Anthropologists can imagine religion as out there, a behavior to study, more or less connected to transcendent reality. By contrast, missions, as many have noted, cut much closer to the bone (Priest 2001). Not only was the core anthropological notion of culture likely first articulated among missionaries, but also, by most accounts, missionaries surpass even the most assiduous anthropologist when it comes to their defining practice: ethnography (Herbert 1991). Even an exceptionally long three-year anthropological field stay cannot touch the decades common to missions.  This makes discussions of missions uncomfortable for anthropologists.  Further, simply noticing mission’s effects ties awkward knots within anthropological tales of the noble savage or those that valorize postcolonial agency, especially when that agency involves appropriating previously Western religions (Sanneh 2003). Finally, Short Term Missions (STM), are especially ephemeral phenomena, and as such, easily escape the anthropological eye.  In other words, aside from the significance of a project that involves 1.6 million US youth traveling the world each year, simply talking STM and anthropology together makes Brian Howell’s study of Short Term Missions worthwhile.
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Scherz, “Let us make God our banker”

November 7, 2013

Scherz, China. 2013. Let us make God our banker: Ethics, temporality, and agency in a Ugandan charity home. American Ethnologist 40(4): 624-636.

Abstract: Faith in divine intervention affects the ethical and temporal orientations of a community of East African nuns managing a charity home in Central Uganda and leads them to make programmatic decisions that put them at odds with mainstream approaches in development and humanitarianism. By demonstrating that their resistance to long-term planning and audit practices is not the product of material privation or ignorance but, rather, a consciously developed orientation toward time and agency, I bring together concerns from the anthropology of religion and the anthropology of development. Further, by seeking to explain how the sisters come to hold their particular beliefs, I move beyond the elucidation of doctrine to show how mundane forms of practice are central to the formation of ethical subjectivity.

Hovland, “Mission Station Christianity”

November 6, 2013
Hovland, Ingie. 2013. Mission Station Christianity: Norwegian Missionaries in Colonial Natal and Zululand, Southern Africa 1850-1890. Boston: Brill. 

Publisher’s Description: In Mission Station Christianity, Ingie Hovland presents an anthropological history of the ideas and practices that evolved among Norwegian missionaries in nineteenth-century colonial Natal and Zululand (Southern Africa). She examines how their mission station spaces influenced their daily Christianity, and vice versa, drawing on the anthropology of Christianity. Words and objects, missionary bodies, problematic converts, and the utopian imagination are discussed, as well as how the Zulus made use of (and ignored) the stations. The majority of the Norwegian missionaries had become theological cheerleaders of British colonialism by the 1880s, and Ingie Hovland argues that this was made possible by the everyday patterns of Christianity they had set up and become familiar with on the mission stations since the 1850s.

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