Archive for February, 2014

Friedner, “The Church of Deaf Sociality”

February 22, 2014

Friedner, Michele. 2014. The Church of Deaf Sociality: Deaf Churchgoing Practices and “Sign Bread and Butter” in Bangalore, India. Anthropology & Education Quarterly 45(1): 39–53.

Abstract: This article ethnographically analyzes the practices of deaf young adults in Bangalore, India. As sign language is not used by families, schools, or other institutions, the church is a crucial educational space. Churchgoing provides deaf young adults with opportunities to orient themselves toward other deaf young adults, to develop new ideas of self and other, and to value sign language.

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Tomlinson, “Bringing Kierkegaard into anthropology”

February 20, 2014

Tomlinson, Matt. 2014. Bringing Kierkegaard into anthropology: repetition, absurdity, and curses in Fiji. American Ethnologist 41(1): 163-175.

Abstract: The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard offers two concepts that can strengthen anthropological analyses of Christianity. The first is “repetition,“ or the act of “recollecting forward,“ which provides a model of transformation that depends neither on deep continuity nor on decisive break. The second is “absurdity,“ the faithful but painful acceptance of paradox as irreducible to logical resolution, which challenges eudemonic understandings of Christianity as a religion oriented toward comfort and satisfaction. I demonstrate the usefulness of Kierkegaard’s concepts through an analysis of indigenous Fijian Methodists‘ interest in repeatedly engaging with curses from ancestors as a way to overcome them.

Krawchuk and Bremer (eds), “Eastern Orthodox Encounters”

February 18, 2014

Krawchuk, Andrii, and Thomas Bremer, eds.  2014.  Eastern Orthodox Encounters of Identity and Otherness: Values, Self-Reflection, Dialogue.  New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Publisher’s Description: From diverse international and multi-disciplinary perspectives, the contributors to this volume analyze the experiences, challenges and responses of Orthodox churches to the foundational transformations associated with the dissolution of the USSR. Those transformations heightened the urgency of questions about Orthodox identity and relations with the world – states, societies, and the religious and cultural other.

The volume focuses on six distinct concepts: Orthodox identity, perceptions of the ‘other,’ critiques of the West, European values, interreligious progress, and new and uncharted challenges that have arisen with the expansion of Russian Orthodox activity.

Contents:

Introduction; Andrii Krawchuk
PART I: THE ECCLESIAL SELF: TRADITIONAL IDENTITIES AND THE CHALLENGES OF PLURALISM
1. Russian Orthodoxy between State and Nation; Jennifer Wasmuth
2. Morality and Patriotism: Continuity and Change in Russian Orthodox Occidentalism since the Soviet Era; Alfons Brüning
3. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church at the Crossroads: Between Nationalism and Pluralism; Daniela Kalkandjieva
4. The Search for a new Church Consciousness in current Russian Orthodox Discourse; Anna Briskina-Müller
PART II: PERCEPTIONS OF THE RELIGIOUS OTHER: DIFFERENCE AND CONVERGENCE
5. Between Admiration and Refusal – Roman Catholic Perceptions of Orthodoxy; Thomas Bremer
6. Apostolic Continuity in Contradiction to Liberalism? Fields of Tension between Churches in the East and the West; Dagmar Heller
7. The Image of the Roman-Catholic Church in the Orthodox Press of Romania, 1918-1940; Ciprian Ghișa
8. ‘Oh, East is East, and West is West…:’ The Character of Orthodox – Greek-Catholic Discourse in Ukraine and its Regional Dimensions; Natalia Kochan
PART III: ORTHODOX CRITIQUES OF THE WEST
9. ‘The Barbarian West’: A Form of Orthodox Christian Anti-Western Critique; Vasilios N. Makrides
10. Anti-western Theology in Greece and Serbia Today; Julia Anna Lis
11. The Russian Orthodox Church on the Values of Modern Society; Regina Elsner
PART IV: ENCOUNTERS WITH EUROPEAN VALUES
12. Eastern Orthodoxy and the Processes of European Integration; Tina Olteanu and Dorothée de Nève
13. The Russian Orthodox Church’s Interpretation of European Legal Values (1990-2011); Mikhail Zherebyatyev
14. The Russian Orthodox Church in a new Situation in Russia: Challenges and Responses; Olga Kazmina
PART V: PROSPECTS FOR RELIGIOUS ENCOUNTER, CONSENSUS AND COOPERATION
15. Neopatristic Synthesis and Ecumenism: Toward the ‘Reintegration’ of Christian Tradition; Matthew Baker
16. Justification in the Theological Conversations Between Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Protestant Churches in Germany; Christoph Mühl
17. Constructing Interreligious Consensus in the Post-Soviet Space: the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations; Andrii Krawchuk
PART VI: EMERGING ENCOUNTERS AND NEW CHALLENGES IN POST-SOVIET CENTRAL ASIA
18. Muslim-Orthodox Relations in Russia: Contextual Readings of A Common Word ; Andrii Krawchuk
19. Radical Islam in the Ferghana Valley; Galina M. Yemelianova

20. Uzbek Islamic Extremists in the Civil Wars of Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan: From Radical Islamic Awakening in the Ferghana Valley to Terrorism with Islamic Vocabulary in Waziristan; Michael Fredholm

Faubion, “The subject that is not one: On the ethics of mysticism”

February 17, 2014

Faubion, James. 2013. The subject that is not one: On the ethics of mysticism. Anthropological Theory 13(4): 287–307.

Abstract: Any anthropological approach to ethics that gives a central place to subjects and the positions they might occupy is obliged sooner or later to address an apparent paradox, instances of which are widespread. They occur in those many ethical systems that valorize a condition that can hardly be characterized without equivocation: the subject that is not one. We commonly think of such a (non-)subject as a mystic. A useful starting point in coming to terms with the mystic rests in the distinctive place in which he or she typically stands in relation to any given ethical domain – a place decidedly not at the center, at the axial conjunction that the ethical Everyperson occupies. Victor Turner’s treatment of liminality provides a useful analytical precedent, but it does not of itself adequately clarify either the specific ethical difference or the specific ethical function of mysticism as such. Crucial to both is the mystic’s generation in practice of what turns out to be a very real paradox of self-reference, the thinking and acting out of the proposition that ‘this ethics is not an ethics’. The upshot is that the mystic as (non-) subject confronts the ethical system in which or by which he or she resides with its logical and its social incompleteness. No wonder, then, that mystics are rarely beloved of ethical absolutists, whose absolutism – by their very being, and whether or not wittingly – they call into question. No wonder, on the other hand, that moral-ethical liberals so often find them beyond the pale. The ethical paradox of the mystic is insu- perable – but all the more socioculturally significant in being so.

 

Strhan, “Christianity and the City”

February 17, 2014

Strhan, Anna. 2014 Christianity and the City: Simmel, Space, and Urban Subjectivities. Religion and Society: Advances in Research. 4(1): 125-149.

Abstract: This article examines the growing scholarly interest in urban religion, situating the topic in relation to the contemporary analytical significance of cities as sites where processes of social change, such as globalization, transnationalism, and the influence of new media technologies, materialize in interrelated ways. I argue that Georg Simmel’s writing on cities offers resources to draw out further the significance of “the urban” in this emerging field. I bring together Simmel’s urban analysis with his approach to religion, focusing on Christianities and individuals’ relations with sacred figures, and suggest this perspective opens up how forms of religious practice respond to experiences of cultural fragmentation in complex urban environments. Drawing on his analysis of individuals’ engagement with the coherence of God, I explore conservative evangelicals’ systems of religious intersubjectivity to show how attention to the social effects of relations with sacred figures can deepen understanding of the formation of urban religious subjectivities.

Saint-Blancet and Cancellieri, “From invisibility to visibility?”

February 14, 2014

Saint-Blancet, Chantal and Adriano Cancellieri.  2014.  “From invisibility to visibility?: The appropriation of public space through a religious ritual: the Filipino procession of Santacruzan in Padua, Italy.  Social & Cultural Geography. Early online publication.

Abstract: Mainly employed as domestic workers and care providers since the 1980s, Filipino migrants have been, and still are, largely invisible in Italian public space. Since 1991, once a year, on the last Sunday of May, they transform the streets of Padua, city of Saint Anthony, into their own temporary ‘sacred space’ celebrating the finding of the Holy Cross (Santa Cruz). Based on ethnographic research and in-depth interviews, the paper analyses the preparation of the ritual and the embodied performance as a means to interpret the Filipino local and transnational territorialisation in the Italian context. The discussion underlines how the Italian setting affects the relationship between the sacred and the secular and between majority and minority religions in the urban texture. Urban space being the symbolic arena where identity and the process of boundary making are inscribed, we consider public space as a social process constituted by three levels: accessibility, temporary appropriation and visibility. Drawing on this immigrant religious ritual, we apply this perspective to look at the interactions between local society and newcomers and the blurring boundaries between religious and non-religious in the ambiguous Italian public space.

The Anthropology of Protestantism: Book Review

February 14, 2014

Webster, Joseph. 2013. The Anthropology of Protestantism: Faith and Crisis among Scottish Fishermen. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

By: Matt Tomlinson (Australian National University)

This book is an innovative attempt to understand the relationship between language and materiality in terms of the Protestant doctrine of consubstantiation, “that view of the Christian Eucharist that attempts to explain the real (material and spiritual) presence of the body and blood of Jesus as existing alongside the real material presence of the bread and the wine” (208). It is anthropology with a theological aura, but also a skillfully crafted ethnography that will appeal to scholars who don’t normally mix the anthro- and the theo-.

Webster’s ethnographic subjects are elderly fishermen and their wives in the northeast Scottish village of Gamrie. They provide a boatload of evidence that they live in a world that is, as the author puts it, both modern and enchanted. Many are members of Brethren churches and radical individualists as well as strict fundamentalists. As individualists, they distrust any authority except their own, leading one critic to characterize their attitude as “every man is his own skipper and he can go wherever he likes” (59; n.b., as they go wherever they like, they are likely to be watched by their neighbors, who keep binoculars at home “to see what others were up to further down the brae” [6]). As fundamentalists, they hold the Bible to be literally true, and they enthusiastically track signs of the end of the world.

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Morgain, “Living Water”

February 7, 2014

Morgain, Rachel. 2014. Living Water: Christian Theologies and Interethnic Relations in Fiji. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 15(1): 65-84.

Abstract: In multiethnic Fiji, where ethnic relations are often seen as fraught and potentially charged with conflict, and where religion closely follows lines of ethnicity, attempts by Christian churches to mediate interethnic relations and build multiethnic congregations can face difficult challenges. In this article, two contrasting Christian theologies are explored, both of which draw on theologies of water as a means of mediating interethnic engagements. In these examples, processes of forging interethnic relationships are seen as variously harmonious and dissonant, unifying and separating. Drawing connections between the layered imagery of water employed in these Christian contexts and wider Pacific imaginaries of water in baptism and in the ocean, I explore these shifting processes of forging interethnic relationships in the contested context of contemporary Fiji.

Yamane, “Becoming Catholic”

February 4, 2014

Yamane, David.  2014. Becoming Catholic: Finding Rome in the American Religious Landscape.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: Conversion has been an essential element of Christianity, and especially of Roman Catholicism, for centuries–from the Apostle Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus to the spiritual transformations of such prominent modern individuals as Cardinal Newman, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Thomas Merton, and G.K. Chesterton. In a 1926 essay, Chesterton expressed reluctance to describe his conversion, on account of “a strong feeling that this method makes the business look much smaller than it really is.”

As David Yamane shows in Becoming Catholic, the business was not only spiritually but literally very large, and growing ever larger: roughly 150,000 Americans join the Catholic Church each year, and more than one in fifty American adults is a Catholic convert. Altogether, these 5.85 million individuals are the fifth-largest religious group in America. In this first significant study of the phenomenon of Roman Catholic conversion in the contemporary United States, Yamane provides an in-depth look at the process of adult initiation in the twenty-first century Catholic Church, including the new process of spiritual formation–called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)–that was ushered in by Vatican II. The RCIA process, which has become an integral part of Catholic parish life, takes individuals on a journey through four distinct, formative periods, punctuated by elaborate ritual transitions, before they are finally baptized at Easter.

Drawing on years of observational fieldwork and candid interviews with more than 200 individuals undergoing the initiation process, Yamane follows would-be Catholics through all four stages of the RCIA and offers an incisive new perspective on what it means to choose Catholicism in America today.

Lindholm (ed.), “The Anthropology of Religious Charisma”

February 3, 2014

Lindholm, Charles.  2013.  The Anthropology of Religious Charisma: Ecstasies and Institutions.  New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Publisher’s Description: How can the irrational force of charisma co-exist within rationalized religious institutions? To answer this question, this book provides the first comparative anthropological explorations of charisma as it occurs among Charismatic Catholics, Evangelical Protestants, Sufis, Hassidic Jews, Buddhist cultists, and Native American shamans in locations ranging from Massachusetts to Syria; from Taiwan to the Dominican Republic; from Angola to the jungles of Paraguay, from Rome to Brooklyn. These cases reveal how various religious traditions incorporate ecstatic charismatic experiences within their overarching organizational systems, and so provide new insight into the nature of religion today.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Charisma in Theory and Practice; Charles Lindholm
PART I: PERFORMING CHARISMA
1. Performing the Charismatic Ritual; Keping Wu
2. Knowledge and Miracles: Modes of Charisma in Syrian Sufism; Paulo G. Pinto
PART II: GENDERING CHARISMA
3. Female Sufis in Syria: Charismatic Authority and Bureaucratic Structure; Gisele Fonseca Chegas
4. The Gender of Charisma: Notes from a Taiwanese Buddhist Transnational NGO; C. Julia Huang-Lemmon
5. Residual Masculinity and the Cultivation of Negative-Charisma in a Caribbean Pentecostal Community; Brendan Jamal Thornton
PART III: CHARISMA AND POLITICS
6. Extraordinary Times: Charismatic Repertoires in Contemporary African Prophetism; Ruy Llera Blanes
7. The Routinization of Improvisation in Avá-Guaraní Shamanic Leadership; Eric Michael Kelley
PART IV: POSTHUMOUS CHARISMA
8. Unruly Miracles: Embodied Charisma and Modern Sainthood, from Padre Pio to “Papa Buono”; Sara M. Bergstresser
9. Habad, Messianism, and the Phantom Charisma of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Scheerson; Yoram Bilu

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