Posts Tagged ‘Belief’

Collins and Dandelion, “Transition as Normative”

May 2, 2014

Collins, Peter and Pink Dandelion. 2014. Transition as Normative: British Quakerism as Liquid Religion. Journal of Contemporary Religion 29(2): 287-301.

Abstract: This article presents a consideration of the ways in which current Quaker belief and practice exemplify the condition identified by Zygmunt Bauman as liquid modernity. After a brief overview of Bauman’s thesis, we describe recent patterns of believing within British Quakerism within its socio-cultural context. While belief has been cast as marginal by scholars of this group, with the creation of habitus centred on behavioural codes or values narratives among participants, the way of believing within British Quakerism has rather unusual significance. An ortho-credence of ‘perhapsness’ maintains an approach to believing that is forever ‘towards’, with any truth considered to be solely personal, partial or provisional. From a rationalist liberal faith position, British Quakers have become cautious about theological truth claims that appear final or complete. They accept the principle of continuing revelation, a progressivist theology in which transition becomes sociologically normative. While wider Christianity may be in transition, British Quakers see perpetual modulation (liquifaction) of belief and practice as both logical and faithful.

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Boyer, “Why ‘belief’ is hard work”

December 29, 2013

Boyer, Pascal. 2013. Why “belief” is hard work: Implications of Tanya Luhrmann’s When God Talks Back. Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3(3): 349-57.

Excerpt: Tanya Luhrmann’s When God talks back (Luhrmann 2012), henceforth GTB, is a fitting companion volume to her first (and equally important) book Persuasions of the witch’s craft (Luhrmann 1989). The two books address a similar issue— briefly, how belief, far from being a simple matter of receiving and accepting information, requires complex cognitive processes, some of which can be illuminated by meticulous ethnographic investigation. The situations are certainly different. The London practitioners of “witchcraft” among whom Tanya Luhrmann did her first fieldwork engaged in practices widely perceived as ridiculous, indeed preposterous. Their stated beliefs were eclectic and generally couched in rather inchoate metaphors. By contrast, American evangelicals practice a respected version of mainstream Christianity. What makes them special is a clearly articulated belief that God can, precisely, talk back.

 

Stromberg, “Christian Charismatics”

July 27, 2013

Stromberg, Peter. 2013. Christian Charismatics, Anthropologists, and Truth: A review essay on Tanya Luhrmann’s When God Talks Back. Pastoral Psychology.

Abstract: Throughout her career, anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann has inquired into the nature of belief. One focus of her efforts has been the question of how outsiders can grasp the beliefs of groups whose fundamental convictions differ from their own. In the work reviewed here, these concerns play out in a study of the Vineyard church, a charismatic Christian group. As she presents her ethnographic account of the group, Luhrmann also addresses theoretical questions about the evaluation of truth across different cultural contexts.

Strhan, “Practising the Space Between”

April 23, 2013

Strhan, Anna.  2013.  Practising the Space Between: Embodying Belief as an Evangelical Anglican Student.  Journal of Contemporary Religion 28(2): 225-239.

Abstract: This article explores the formation of British evangelical university students as believers. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted with a conservative evangelical Anglican congregation in London, I describe how students in this church come to embody a highly cognitive, word-based mode of belief through particular material practices. As they learn to identify themselves as believers, practices of reflexivity and accountability enable them to develop a sense of narrative coherence in their lives that allows them to negotiate tensions that arise from their participation in church and from broader social structures. I demonstrate that propositional belief—in contexts where it becomes an identity marker—is bound up with relational practices of belief, so that distinctions between ‘belief in’ and ‘belief that’ are necessarily blurred in the lives of young evangelicals.

Schram, “One mind: Enacting the Christian congregation among the Auhelawa”

April 13, 2013

Scrham, Ryan. 2013. One mind: Enacting the Christian congregation among the Auhelawa, Papua New Guinea. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 24(1):30-47.

Abstract: This article examines the relationship between Christian worship and the production of religious identity among Auhelawa speakers of Normanby Island, Papua New Guinea. Auhelawa people live in a society in which a locally developed form of Christianity has emerged from a long engagement with missionaries. In the colonial era, missionaries spoke in terms of light and darkness to mediate their contradictory aims of both authentic personal conversion and total social change. Today Auhelawa believe that their society has been changed, and that this change entails a new way of thinking as well as acting, though like the missionaries they also struggle to express the relationship between the two. Viewing themselves as already converted, Auhelawa today use an ideology of ‘one mind’—unity in purpose which is subjectively felt and outwardly expressed—to resolve how their collective worship relates to individual belief. This framing of ritual, embedded in church prayer and music, however, is always incomplete. I argue this not only points to an important step in the process of formation of congregations, but also suggests why Christianity globally is both unitary yet also so strikingly diverse.

Bandak, “Problems of Belief: Tonalities of Immediacy among Christians of Damascus”

December 11, 2012

Bandak, Andreas. 2012. Problems of Belief: Tonalities of Immediacy among Christians of Damascus. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 77(4):535-555.

Abstract

This article examines the different effects Christianity has among Christians of Damascus. Instead of focusing on devout subjects, I trace out the ramifications Christianity has in different settings. Christianity sets different kinds of foregrounds and backgrounds which in this article are attended to during the Feast of the Holy Cross. During this Christian feast, a great variety of themes are brought into play with different kinds of relations to what it is to be a Christian in Damascus. I argue that what I term tonalities of immediacy is a fertile way to understand how contingencies and histories are played upon in concrete situations. The problem of belief, I argue, is not settled by pointing to a particular Christian and Western heritage or to default reactions against imagined certainties; rather the interplay between faith and scepticism may be a productive lens through which to grasp local Christian concerns.

Bandak and Jørgensen, “Foregrounds and Backgrounds – Ventures in the Anthropology of Christianity”

December 11, 2012

Bandak, Andreas and Jonas Adelin Jørgensen. 2012. Foregrounds and Backgrounds – Ventures in the Anthropology of Christianity. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 77(4):447-458.

Abstract
In this introduction, we take our point of departure in the question: what difference does Christianity make? We argue that the anthropology of Christianity must encompass believers, skeptics and observers, in that the differences Christianity makes never are simple or singular. We pose the play between foregrounds and backgrounds as a viable way to venture, but argue that this must be paired with a focus on the particular assemblage made in and across contexts. The effect of Christianity is therefore best conceived of in the very bundling of affects, forms, ideologies and practices. We contend that a focus on Christianity within anthropology should not be conceived as yet another subdisciplinary move, but is a focus that revitalizes the discipline of anthropology writ large. The theoretical elaboration on foregrounds and backgrounds we argue is of purchase beyond the focus on Christianity.

Bielo, “Belief, Deconversion, and Authenticity”

August 12, 2012

Bielo, James S. 2012. Belief, Deconversion, and Authenticity among U.S. Emerging Evangelicals. Ethos 40(3):258-276.

Abstract: In this article I examine the status of belief among U.S. evangelicals organizing under the moniker of the “emerging church.” As part of their cultural critique of the conservative Christian subculture, many emerging evangelicals recast their standpoint toward the role of propositional doctrine in their definition of an authentic Christian self. I join with colleagues in the anthropology of religion, in particular the anthropology of Christianity, who are rethinking the nature of belief as a form of relational commitment. I argue that emerging evangelicals seek a faith where human–human relationships are a precondition for human–divine relations to flourish. To achieve their desired sense of community emerging evangelicals create ritual structures that foster a highly relational religiosity. I illustrate this recasting of belief through analyses of narrative and institution making, grounded in three years of ethnographic fieldwork.

Kline, “The Quaker Journey”

August 12, 2012

Kline, Douglas A. 2012. The Quaker Journey and the Framing of Corporate and Personal Belief. Ethos 40(3):277-296.

Abstract: The British Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) illustrates the management of personal and corporate belief and experience without the use of creedal statements or centralized religious authority. This builds on the work of anthropologists like James Fernandez and Peter Stromberg who introduce forms of consensus responsible for maintaining unity in religious communities. While their work expanded anthropological understanding on diverse interpretations of common symbols, this article builds on their observations to show how the use of tropes also encourages unity. Quakers incorporate diversity and a notion of continuing revelation into their communal belief system, and individual participants are encouraged to explore personal belief. Since the Quaker corporate belief model accommodates change, tensions shift to maintaining identity among the theologically diverse interpretations of truth. To accomplish some homogeneity Friends also employ a journey trope to frame diversity and manage the potential tension between corporate and personal understanding.

Cassaniti, “Agency and the Other”

August 12, 2012

Cassaniti, Julia. 2012. Agency and the Other: The Role of Agency for the Importance of Belief in Buddhist and Christian Traditions. Ethos 40(3):297-316.

Abstract: Belief is important in some religious experiences and not in others. Why? I address the question here through an analysis of belief in two different religious communities in Northern Thailand. In the Northern Thai Buddhist community of Mae Jaeng the Thai term for belief is rarely evoked, while in the nearby Christian community of Mae Min it occurs often. Tying belief to ideas about causation, I argue that the different prominence of belief in the two communities relates to ideas about personal agency. In the Christian community belief creates personal agency through the mediation of an external agentive Other, while in the Buddhist community personal agency is seen to be constructed through natural processes that render belief unnecessary. In making this argument I offer a critique of the ubiquity of belief as part of religious experience, and push for further research on the intersections of belief, agency, and intersubjectivity in psychological anthropology.

 

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