Archive for January, 2014

Radford, “Contesting and negotiating religion and ethnic identity”

January 28, 2014

Radford, David.  2014.  “Contesting and negotiating religion and ethnic identity in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan.”  Central Asian Survey (Published online 23 January 2014).

Abstract: Post-Soviet Central Asia has inherited a set of circumstances conducive to the revitalization of religion. The renewal of Muslim awareness and identity in Central Asia may not be surprising, but the growth of Christianity is, especially in its Protestant form within indigenous Muslim communities. This article, based on qualitative field research, reviews one example of this development: the process of conversion to Protestant Christianity among Muslim Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan. A prominent aspect of this social movement has been the ways in which Kyrgyz Christians have entered into a dynamic process of engaging with issues of identity and what it means to be Kyrgyz – a process that has sought to locate their new Christian religious identity within, rather than on the margins of, familial and ethnic identity, and one that challenges the normative understanding of Kyrgyz identity: that to be Kyrgyz is to be Muslim. While providing the context for Kyrgyz conversion, this discussion primarily focuses on the way Kyrgyz Christians utilize a number of different discursive strategies to contest normative Kyrgyz identity constructs and to legitimize a Kyrgyz Christian identity.

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Hartch, “The Rebirth of Latin American Christianity”

January 27, 2014

Hartch, Todd.  2014.  The Rebirth of Latin American Christianity.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: Predominantly Catholic for centuries, Latin America is still largely Catholic today, but the religious continuity in the region masks great changes that have taken place in the past five decades. In fact, it would be fair to say that Latin American Christianity has been transformed definitively in the years since the Second Vatican Council. Religious change has not been obvious because its transformation has not been the sudden and massive growth of a new religion, as in Africa and Asia. It has been rather a simultaneous revitalization and fragmentation that threatened, awakened, and ultimately brought to a greater maturity a dormant and parochial Christianity. New challenges from modernity, especially in the form of Protestantism and Marxism, ultimately brought forth new life. In The Rebirth of Latin American Christianity, Todd Hartch examines the changes that have swept across Latin America in the last fifty years, and situates them in the context of the growth of Christianity in the global South.

Meneses et. al., “Engaging the Religiously Committed Other: Anthropologists and Theologians in Dialogue”

January 23, 2014

Meneses, Eloise, Lindy Backues, David Bronkema, Eric Flett, and Benjamin L. Hartley. 2014. Engaging the Religiously Committed Other: Anthropologists and Theologians in Dialogue. Current Anthropology. Preprint – issue, volume, page not available. 

Abstract: Anthropology has two tasks: the scientific task of studying human beings and the instrumental task of promoting human flourishing. To date, the scientific task has been constrained by secularism, and the instrumental task by the philosophy and values of liberalism. These constraints have caused religiously based scholarship to be excluded from anthropology’s discourse, to the detriment of both tasks. The call for papers for the 2009 meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) recognized the need to “push the field’s epistemological and presentational conventions” in order to reach anthropology’s various publics. Religious thought has much to say about the human condition. It can expand the discourse in ways that provide explanatory value as well as moral purpose and hope. We propose an epistemology of witness for dialogue between anthropologists and theologians, and we demonstrate the value added with an example: the problem of violence.

Chipumuro, “Pastor, Mentor, or Father? The Contested Intimacies of the Eddie Long Sex Abuse Scandal”

January 22, 2014

Chipumuro, Todne. 2014. “Pastor, Mentor, or Father? The Contested Intimacies of the Eddie Long Sex Abuse Scandal.” Journal of Afrcana Religions 2(1):1-30.

Abstract: In September 2010, four young African American men filed lawsuits against Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church alleging that Long had sexually abused them as teens. Though the case generated a number of discussions about the institutional politics underwriting clerical privilege, missing was detailed attention to the interior social dynamics that connected the religious participants. Informed by an examination of the case’s legal texts and related local and electronic media, this article examines how the relationships between Long and his accusers were differentially constructed as pastoral relationships, mentorship ties, and spiritual kinship bonds. Applying anthropological frameworks that demonstrate how different forms of sociality can intersect to reinforce social structures, I use this timely investigation to argue that despite the variegated and con- tested character of the relationships, all are mutually organized by the social logic of patriarchy and the complex intimacies mediating contemporary Afro-Protestant religious belonging.

Interview, Matthew Engelke and ‘God’s Agents’

January 18, 2014

In October 2013 the University of California Press published God’s Agents: Biblical Publicity in Contemporary England, an ethnography by Matthew Engelke. AnthroCyBib caught up with Dr. Engelke on October 27, 2013 to talk about his new book. The following is the transcript of this author interview. We would like to thank the Center for Digital Scholarship at Miami University for assistance in recording and video editing.

Publisher’s Description: The British and Foreign Bible Society is one of the most illustrious Christian charities in the United Kingdom. Founded by evangelicals in the early nineteenth century and inspired by developments in printing technology, its goal has always been to make Bibles universally available. Over the past several decades, though, Bible Society has faced a radically different world, especially in its work in England. Where the Society once had a grateful and engaged reading public, it now faces apathy—even antipathy—for its cause. These days, it seems, no one in England wants a Bible, and no one wants other people telling them they should: religion is supposed to be a private matter. Undeterred, these Christians attempt to spark a renewed interest in the Word of God. They’ve turned away from publishing and toward publicity to “make the Bible heard.”

God’s Agents is a study of how religion goes public in today’s world. Based on over three years of anthropological research, Matthew Engelke traces how a small group of socially committed Christians tackle the challenge of publicity within what they understand to be a largely secular culture. In the process of telling their story, he offers an insightful new way to think about the relationships between secular and religious formations: our current understanding of religion needs to be complemented by greater attention to the process of generating publicity. Engelke argues that we are witnessing the dynamics of religious publicity, which allows us to see the ways in which conceptual divides such as public/private, religious/secular, and faith/knowledge are challenged and redefined by social actors on the ground.

Interview Participants: Matthew Engelke, James Bielo, Jon Bialecki, Naomi Haynes, Tom Boylston

BIELO: Welcome to this Author Interview hosted by AnthroCyBib: the anthropology of Christianity bibliographic blog. We are thrilled to be talking with Dr. Matthew Engelke. Matthew, welcome.

ENGELKE: Thanks.

BIELO: Matthew Engelke teaches in the Department of Anthropology at the London School of Economics. Earlier this month, Matthew’s second ethnography, God’s Agents: Biblical Publicity in Contemporary England, was published by the University of California Press in the Anthropology of Christianity book series. His first book, A Problem of Presence, was awarded both the Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing and the Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion. I’m James Bielo, and I co-curate AnthroCyBib with my colleagues Jon Bialecki, Naomi Haynes, and Tom Boylston, who are also taking part.

BIELO: Matthew, can you tell us a bit about how the God’s Agents project got started?

ENGELKE: So, the project really got started because I was interested in following on from the Apostolics in Zimbabwe, who reject the authority of the Bible. And at that point in my thinking I was still very much interested in the Bible qua text. And, I thought that, having looked a bit at the ways in which the British and Foreign Bible Society operated in Africa that it would be very interesting to go from a group that completely rejected the Bible to a group that whole-heartedly embraced it. Read the rest of this entry »

van Klinken, “Gay rights, the devil, and the end times”

January 13, 2014

van Klinken, Adriaan S. 2013. Gay rights, the devil, and the end times: public religion and the enchantment of the homosexuality debate in Zambia. Religion 43(4): 519-540.

Abstract: This article contributes to the understanding of the role of religion in the public and political controversies about homosexuality in Africa. As a case study it investigates the heated public debate in Zambia following a February 2012 visit by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who emphasised the need for the country to recognise the human rights of homosexuals. The focus is on a particular Christian discourse in this debate, in which the international pressure to recognise gay rights is considered a sign of the end times, and Ban Ki-moon, the UN and other international organisations are associated with the Antichrist and the Devil. Here, the debate about homosexuality becomes eschatologically enchanted through millennialist thought. Building on discussions about public religion and religion and politics in Africa, this article avoids popular explanations in terms of fundamentalist religion and African homophobia, but rather highlights the political significance of this discourse in a postcolonial African context.

Hunt, “Christian Lobbyist Groups”

January 10, 2014

Hunt, Stephen.  2014.  Christian Lobbyist Groups and the Negotiation of Sexual Rights in the UK.  Journal of Contemporary Religion 29(1): 121-136.

Abstract: Although sexual minority rights have not necessarily generated polarised views within Christian churches and organisations, the subject has tended to forge an arena of contestation between liberal and conservative constituencies. Theological differences have frequently been manifested through the mobilisation of ‘cause’ groups lobbying the political realm and public opinion in order to advance their contrasting standpoints. Based on a survey of documentation and supplementary materials produced for public consumption, this article considers responses of the conflicting rights petitions of Christian cadres either endorsing or opposing minority sexual rights and the relevant legislative enactments in the UK. The article seeks to illuminate how these competing constituencies further their causes while at the same time devaluing the rights claims of their adversaries.

Jennings, “Breaking Free to the Limit”

January 10, 2014

Jennings, Mark.  2014.  Breaking Free to the Limit: Playing with Foucault, Otto, and Pentecostal Experience.  Journal of Contemporary Religion 29(1): 33-45.

Abstract: This article explores different phenomenological approaches to understanding one of the central elements of Pentecostal spirituality: the ecstatic experience of the divine (often referred to as the ‘encounter’ of the divine). The article begins with a description, based upon participant observation, of a typical church service at ‘Breakfree’ Pentecostal church in suburban Perth, Western Australia. I then outline two phenomenological categories—one theistic, one non-theistic—which shed light on the significance of this experience. These categories are Rudolf Otto’s ‘numinous’ and Michel Foucault’s ‘limit experience’. It is demonstrated that neither of these can be prioritised, as both require an a priori position on the status of the divine. Instead of choosing one or the other, it is argued that both Otto and Foucault provide a resource for understanding and assessing the Breakfree encounter. The article concludes with the observation that a more playful methodology—one that allows the scholar to draw on theistic and non-theistic categories simultaneously—is required.

Krause, “Space in Pentecostal Healing”

January 9, 2014

Krause, Kristine. 2014. Space in Pentecostal Healing Practices among Ghanian Migrants in London. Medical Anthropology 33(1): 37-51.

Abstract: In this article I analyze different spatial practices related to Pentecostal healing, drawing on fieldwork with Pentecostal believers who have migrated from Ghana to London, UK. I explore the relationship between space and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit by looking at how points of contact with the divine are created in the personal life of people and at the sites where the casting out of demons takes place. Unlike in other spirit-centered healing traditions, the Christian Holy Spirit is not conceived of as embodied in specific places, but rather is spatially unbound. To manifest, however, the Holy Spirit requires specific spatial qualities and esthetics.

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