Archive for July, 2014

Robbins, Schieffelin, and Vilaça, “Evangelical Conversion and the Transformation of the Self in Amazonia and Melanesia”

July 23, 2014

Robbins, Joel, Bambi B, Schieffelin, and Aparecida Vilaça. 2014. Evangelical Conversion and the Transformation of the Self in Amazonia and Melanesia: Christianity and the Revival of Anthropological Comparison. Comparative Studies in Society and History 56(3):559–590.

Abstract: The last several decades have seen both a renewed anthropological interest in the possibility of cross-cultural comparison and the rapid rise of the anthropology of Christianity. These two trends should be mutually supportive. One of the promises of the anthropology of Christianity from the outset has been that it will allow people to compare how processes of Christianization have unfolded in different parts of the world and to consider how the resulting Christian configurations are similar to and different from one another. But to this point, relatively little detailed comparative empirical work on Christianity has appeared. Our aim here is to contribute to remedying this situation. Drawing on recent theoretical work on comparison, we set comparative work on Christianity on a new footing. Empirically, we examine how processes of Evangelical Christianization have transformed notions of the self in one Amazonian society (Wari’) and two unrelated societies in Melanesia (Bosavi and Urapmin). We define the self for comparative purposes as composed of ideas of the mind or inner self, the body, and relations between people. In our three cases, Christianization has radically transformed these ideas, emphasizing the inner self and downplaying the importance of the body and of social relations. While our empirical conclusions are not wholly unexpected, the extent to which the details of our three cases speak comparatively to one another, and the extent to which the broad processes of Christian transformation they involve are similar, are surprising and lay a promising foundation for future comparative work in the anthropology of Christianity.


Barchas-Lichtenstein, “Jehovah’s Witnesses, endangered languages, and the globalized textual community”

July 22, 2014

Barchas-Lichtenstein. 2014. Jehovah’s Witnesses, endangered languages, and the globalized textual community. Language and Communication DOI: 10.1016/j.langcom.2014.05.006 (pre-publication release)

Abstract: This article explores Jehovah’s Witnesses’ use of Oaxaca Chontal, an endangered language spoken in Mexico. The Witness religion is highly centralized and standardized: Witnesses obeyed instructions to use Chontal because these instructions bore the authority of the Watch Tower Society institution. This article proposes the concept of the globalizing textual community, which synthesizes understandings of community from throughout social science literature, in order to explain how religious identity can supersede national, ethnic, and linguistic identities. A central mechanism of this community is the discourse of the “pure language,” which renders language choice irrelevant even as it provides a warrant for extensive translation.

Droogers, “The Cultural Dimensions of Pentecostalism”

July 22, 2014

Droogers, André. 2014. The Cultural Dimension of Pentecostalism. In The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism, edited by Cecil M. Robeck Jr. and Amos Young, 195-214, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Excerpt: “The scope of this chapter is to draw the map of the pentecostal cultural landscape and make an inventory of actors and factors, patterns and processes. The expansion of Pentecostalism amid profound changes in the world will first lead to a discussion of two recent trends in the world cultural situation: a chance in perspective and a recognition of the human capacity for meaning-making. Subsequently four aspects of the relationship between Pentecostalism and culture receive attention: that Pentecostalism appears to offer a ‘portable identity,’ the question of the degree to which continuity and rupture with the surrounding culture occur, the conversion process, and a repertoire model of a church 0r community. A section on the methodology of the study of the cultural dimension of Pentecostalism appears before the concluding summary …..”

Hancock, “Short-term Youth Mission Practice and the Visualization of Global Christianity”

July 20, 2014

Hancock, Mary. 2014. Short-term Youth Mission Practice and the Visualization of Global Christianity. Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief 10(2): 154-180. 

Abstract: This article examines the visual mediation of evangelical short-term mission and the theologically inflected global imaginary that these forms engender. Recent decades have seen the resurgence of long-term mission and the emergence of short-term mission among US Christians. The latter, combining evangelization, service, and tourism, is a staple within evangelical youth culture. I argue that it is used by Christians to constitute themselves as global formations, while also offering theological frames for global Christianity. Central to this global theological imaginary are visual representations of mission encounters with ethnic, sectarian, and racial Others, which illustrate the global scope of mission and missionaries’ understandings of their own efforts to engage and overcome those differences. Through an analysis of the visual content of four short-term mission agencies’ websites, I examine the mediation of global Christianity in contemporary mission and its recruitment of global Christian subjects.

Ritual Textuality: Review Forum (Matt Tomlinson)

July 6, 2014

A Reply to Reviewers

By: Matt Tomlinson (Australian National University)


I am grateful to the reviewers for their engaged readings of Ritual Textuality and to AnthroCyBib for hosting this forum. It is both daunting and exhilarating to watch one’s own book—such an intimately strange creation!—move into conversationsof critique. The reviewers have carefully described the argument and been generous in their responses. Individually and collectively, they raise insightful questions, especially about dimensions of metaphor, the utility of typologies, and the limits of language. I will address each reviewer’s contribution individually. Read the rest of this entry »

Ritual Textuality: Review Forum (Girish Daswani)

July 6, 2014

Tomlinson, Matt. 2014. Ritual Textuality: Pattern and Motion in Performance. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 

By: Girish Daswani (University of Toronto)


This is the kind of book that you will want to read. It is based on twenty-eight months of research in Fiji (Kadavu and Suva) and explores the overlapping themes of Pentecostal Christianity, Methodism, tradition and politics. It is also theoretically insightful and relevant because it takes you beyond Fiji, Christianity, tradition and politics. Tomlinson’s book is both short and eloquently written. It is an Introduction, four chapters and a “Full Stop” (his conclusion) long and is designed to both inform and effectively teach readers how discourse and written texts, which emerge in ritual performances, can be broken down into distinctive patterns. There are four basic patterns to all ritual performances Tomlinson suggests – sequence, conjunction, contrast and substitution – and once you know what these patterns are and how they function and converge, a new door of analysis opens up. All you have to do is walk in. Even if this book is not explicitly framed as an invitation, it implicitly invites you to try these methods for yourself. The content of its pages leaves the reader with important conceptual tools with which to analyze an array of ritual performances in motion and to understand how the various components of these rituals converge in different ways and to varying effects. Read the rest of this entry »

Ritual Textuality: Review Forum (Rodolfo Maggio)

July 6, 2014

Tomlinson, Matt. 2014. Ritual Textuality: Pattern and Motion in Performance. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 

By: Rodolfo Maggio (University of Manchester)


Matt Tomlinson’s Ritual Textuality is a fascinating and capturing interplay between conceptual categories and ethnographic data. From the very beginning of the book the reader is intrigued by the degree of precision with which Tomlinson defines the concepts through which he comprehends the objects of his analysis. Dipping into the introduction, one’s mind’s eye seems to observe a chemist who prepares his tubes and kits himself out for a daring experiment. Read the rest of this entry »

Ritual Textuality: Review Forum (Courtney Handman)

July 6, 2014

Tomlinson, Matt. 2014. Ritual Textuality: Pattern and Motion in Performance. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

By: Courtney Handman (Reed College)


In 1976 Michael Silverstein’s landmark paper outlining the opposition between presupposing and creative indexicality helped usher in a new focus within linguistic anthropology about practice and performance. Dependent upon – indeed dedicated to – Roman Jakobson, Silverstein seemed to pry open a new corner in studies of ritual that focused on the very contingent nature of even the most scripted events. While Levi-Strauss had relegated rituals in “primitive” societies to foregone conclusions – sporting events in which the game only ended when the ritually scripted result had been achieved – and the structural-functionalists had seen in rituals largely the playing out of social structural orders, Silverstein’s focus on creativity (also called entailing indexicality) put some stakes back into the ritual game. Not only should all interactions be seen as more or less ritualized, but all such interactions had serious consequences should those entailments not go according to plan. Read the rest of this entry »

Ritual Textuality: Review Forum (Omri Elisha)

July 6, 2014

Tomlinson, Matt. 2014. Ritual Textuality: Pattern and Motion in Performance. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 

By: Omri Elisha (Queens College, CUNY)


I know I’m not alone when I say that my love of anthropology began with the study of ritual. As an undergraduate I was enchanted by the subject, captivated by all the drama, symbolism, and effervescence of the concentrated cultural tinderbox that was “Ritual.” My first anthropology professor, a master storyteller and something of an ethnographic traditionalist, introduced me to a rich lineage of dissecting ritual anatomies and signs, and of theoretical models revealing hidden patterns and intrinsic functions. Read the rest of this entry »

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