Posts Tagged ‘Amazonia’

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.

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Luzar and Fragoso, “Shamanism, Christianity, and Culture”

July 3, 2013

Luzar, Jeffrey B. and Jose M. V. Fragoso. 2013. Shamanism, Christianity, and Culture Change in Amazonia. Human Ecology 41(2):299-311.

Abstract: Among many indigenous peoples of Amazonia, shamanism and Christianity co-exist as central cultural elements shaping the ways in which people interpret and interact with the world. Despite centuries of co-existence, the relationship between shamanism and Christianity has entered an especially dynamic era as many of Amazonia’s indigenous peoples abandon Catholicism for Evangelical and Sabbatarian churches. Testing the relationship between Christian church affiliation and shamanism in 23 Makushi and Wapishana communities in southern Guyana, we found that Evangelicals and Sabbatarians are less likely to visit shamans or accept their legitimacy than are Anglicans and Catholics. However, conversion does not necessarily imply a complete rejection of indigenous religious systems as many self-identified Evangelicals and Sabbatarians continue to adhere to some indigenous beliefs and practices. We conclude by positing possible implications of religious conversion for natural resource use on indigenous lands.

Lebner, “A Christian Politics of Friendship on a Brazilian Frontier”

December 11, 2012

Lebner, Ashley. 2012. A Christian Politics of Friendship on a Brazilian Frontier. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 77(4):496-517.

Abstract
This paper explores ethnography of municipal elections, promise-making and miracles to show how Christians problematise both friendship and politics on a settler frontier in Brazilian Amazonia. Bringing these themes together generates new anthropological perspectives on each, while complimenting Derrida’s critique of Schmitt’s friend–enemy distinction – his definition of the political. Yet the main ethnographic point complicates the argument that both Schmitt and Brazilianist anthropologists critiquing clientelism have made: that Christianity reflects and legitimises the political order. In contrast, I show how the problem of friendship, produced through Christian concerns with presence, legitimises and deligitimises politics at once. The overarching message is that politics, friendship (sociality) and Christianity – usually kept analytically separate – are uniquely clarified where they intersect, as they pass through persons, who foreground and background these domains themselves.

Brightman, “Maps and Clocks”

August 31, 2012

Brightman, Marc. 2012. Maps and Clocks in Amazonia: the things of conversion and conversation. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 18(3):554-571.

Abstract:

Engaging with the recent interest in materiality in the anthropology of Amazonia, this article focuses on objects which might seem to present a challenge to indigenous systems of thought. Maps and clocks separate and abstract space and time from each other, and from the phenomena of experience, by reducing them to plane and number. Partly for this reason, and partly because of their association with Christian conversion, they may be seen as symbols and instruments of colonialism and of the technological foundations of European power. The article offers an analysis of an Amazonian group’s strong interest in these objects and in the modes of thought which they represent. It concludes with reflections on native historicity and the modalities of cultural change in a context of sustained contact with alterity.

Résumé

Dans la ligne du récent intérêt de l’anthropologie amazoniste envers la matérialité, l’auteur examine des objets qui semblent poser un défi aux systèmes de pensée autochtones. Cartes et horloges dissocient l’espace et le temps et les séparent des phénomènes perceptibles en les réduisant à des plans et des nombres. Pour cette raison, et aussi à cause de leur association à la conversion au christianisme, elles apparaissent comme symboles et instruments du colonialisme et des fondements technologiques de la puissance européenne. Le présent article analyse le vif intérêt d’un groupe amazonien pour ces objets et les modes de pensée qu’ils représentent. Il se conclut par des réflexions sur l’historicité indigène et les modalités du changement culturel, dans un contexte de contact permanent avec l’altérité.

Vilaca, “Dividuality in Amazonia”

October 4, 2011

Vilaca, Aparecida. 2011. Dividuality in Amazonia: God, the Devil, and the constitution of personhood in Wari Christianity. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 17(2):243-262.

Abstract: This article explores the Christian experience of the Wari’, an Amazonian native group, in light of a central feature of their personhood: its dual composition, both human and animal. Arguing that the centrality of the relation with God has resulted in a more stable human person, the article provides an ethnographic examination of how this relation is produced and maintained. Analytic categories derived from the New Melanesian Ethnography – the notions of the ‘dividual’ and the ‘partible person’– are applied to the Amazonian context, enabling a particular description of the Wari’ person and the Christian God, and the subsequent visualization of some key aspects of the relationship between God and humans. Through this comparative exercise, the article looks to contribute to the dialogue between Amazonianists and Melanesianists that has been unfolding over the past decade or so. It also aims to insert Amazonian ethnography into the anthropological debate on Christianity, today strongly anchored in data and conceptual tools derived from Pacific societies in general and Melanesia in particular.

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