Posts Tagged ‘Healing’

A Matter of Belief: Book Review

June 9, 2014

Joshi, Vibha. 2012. A Matter of Belief: Christian Conversion and Healing in North-East India. New York: Berghahn Books.

Reviewed by Jessica Hardin (Pacific University)

This is a book about how animism and Christianity are practiced together among Angami people in Nagaland in North-East India. Vibha Joshi provides a wide overview of indigenous religious practices, the contemporary Christian landscape, and colonial/missionary history building on fieldwork spanning from 1985 through to 2011. Most broadly, the book aims to show how Christianity provides a framework for political peace for conflict arising between Naga nationalist groups and the Indian government. Specifically, Joshi argues that Christianity provides a language and organization for reconciliation, even if she remains skeptical of its capacities to truly “heal society.” The motivation for this book is to provide a deep overview of the historical complexity of the emergence of Christianity and the ways Christianity is intertwined with nationalism in North-East India. The book provides a wide scope of historical, political, and geographic context and, as such, is less a book about Christianity per se and more about (1) the relationship between indigenous religions and Christianity in beliefs and practice and (2) the political uses of Christianity from colonialism through to contemporary calls for peace, reconciliation, and unity.

The book is explicitly situated in conversation with the Anthropology of Christianity (5-11). Joshi writes that she did not start this project as a study of Christianity, but instead came to study Christianity through her work with Angami healers. She writes, “one could say that my research at the outset and throughout has focused on Naga as a people, including its healers, some of whom are Christian” (6). Nonetheless, Joshi frames the book as about conversion to Christianity. She explores both “the pragmatic” and “the passionate” (3) dimensions of large-scale conversion and aims to draw attention to the contradictions and tensions that arise when Christianity is put to the work of nationalism, calls for cultural homogeneity, and peace. One of the contradictions that Joshi highlights is that the rituals, attire, and art that expresses Naga-ness, which were originally discouraged by missionaries in the early phases of evangelism, are now taking center stage at public Christian celebrations. Joshi does not expand on how this tension is experienced by her interlocutors as much as suggests points of interaction between indigenous religion, Christianity, and historical context. Overall Joshi asks, “what, then, can a new religion offer, and what is appropriated by the converts?” (7). Read the rest of this entry »

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Klassen, “The Politics of Protestant Healing”

May 14, 2014

Klassen, Pamela.  2014.  The Politics of Protestant Healing: Theoretical Tools for the Study of Spiritual Bodies and The Body Politic.”  Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 14(1): 68-75. 

Excerpt: Spirituality and healing are a potent combination that is as likely to provoke skeptical critique as convinced testimony. Claims that physical healing may occur as a result of spiritual conviction or influence have long been problematic for most medical institutions, while lucrative for some religious ones. In this paper, I argue that scholars of religion who seek to study the confluence of spirituality and healing ethnographically must attend carefully to this tension between skepticism and testimony. As concepts or claims, both spirituality and healing are not exact, fully quantifiable, or fully measureable. The question for the ethnographer, who seeks to set spirituality and healing within cultural and political contexts, then becomes: what forms of legitimation do those testifying to the healing powers of spirituality use to make sense of it, and what forms do skeptics use to render claims of spiritual healing literally incredible? Answering this question requires that any scholar studying the confluence of spirituality and healing attend to how political economies and social imaginaries shape the practices of legitimation that support and constrain spiritual healing.

Gunther Brown, “Feeling is Believing”

May 14, 2014

Gunther Brown, Candy.  2014.  “Feeling is Believing: Pentecostal Prayer and Complementary and Alternative Medicine.”  Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 14(1): 60-67.

Excerpt: Sensory experience is pivotal to postmodern culture. A globalized world seems newly interconnected, yet individuals may feel more isolated than ever before. Scientific technologies and modern medicine have achieved remarkable triumphs and exhibited devastating limitations that leave people unsatisfied and searching for “more.” Modernization has not resulted in secularization, but sources of religious knowing—revealed Scripture, inherited tradition, institutional authority—have become unsettled. Postmoderns want more than intellectual certainty; they long for direct experiences of what is really real. In the United States and globally, many postmodern Christians combine “scientific” medicine with diverse touch-oriented “religious” and “spiritual” healing practices to find healing, reassurance that God is present with them personally, and hope for their future lives on earth and in the world to come.

This essay draws on ten years of ethnographic research, in the United States and across globally diffuse social networks, on Christian prayer for divine healing and participation in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). I argue that touch-oriented healing practices attract adherents by promising sensory experience of the sacred. Bodily experiences in turn shape religious perceptions and may open a revolving door between religious world-views.

Behera, “Mizo Beliefs and the Christian Gospel”

April 10, 2014

Behera, Marina Ngursangzeli.  2014.  Mizo Beliefs and the Christian Gospel: Their Interaction with Reference to the Concepts of Health and Healing.  Studies in World Christianity 20: 39-53.

Abstract: The Mizos of northeast India have their own unique culture and society with indigenous religious beliefs that were closely linked with their everyday needs and their world-views. For the Mizos the world was inhabited by spirits, some benevolent and some evil. The evil spirits were believed to cause all kinds of illnesses and misfortunes, and in order to recover from such illnesses the evil spirits had to be placated by sacrifices known as inthawina which can be understood as ‘ceremonial cures’. The Mizos lived in fear, always afraid of evil spirits, and their religious energies were centred on propitiating these evil spirits through frequent sacrifices. The Puithiams (priests) would officiate at such events. Christianity brought inevitable change in the Mizos’ religious and world-views. Nevertheless, many of the existing pre-Christian beliefs of Mizo society were adopted or modified by missionaries to help the Mizos to understand more fully Christian concepts and beliefs, especially with reference to the concepts of health and healing. It can also be argued that pre-Christian social, religious and cultural beliefs carried in them ‘theologies of life’ which were adopted by missionaries or those spreading the gospel message, thus allowing these practices, as well as Christian doctrines themselves, to be seen in a new light.

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.

Mohr, “Enchanted Calvinism”

October 2, 2013

Mohr, Adam. 2013. Enchanted Calvinism: Labor Migration, Afflicting Spirits, and Christian Therapy in the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. Rochester: University of Rochester Press.

Release Date: November 15, 2013

Publisher’s Description: Enchanted Calvinism’s central proposition is that Ghanaian Presbyterian communities, both past and present, have become significantly more enchanted–that is, more attuned to spiritual explanations of and remedies for suffering–as they have become more integrated into capitalist modes of production. The author draws on a specific Weberian concept of religious enchantment to frame the discussion of spiritual affliction and spiritual healing within the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, particularly under the conditions of labor migration: first, in the early twentieth century during the cocoa boom in Ghana and second, at the turn of the twenty-first century in the context of the healthcare migration from Ghana to North America. Relying on extensive archival research, oral historical interviews, and participant-observation group interviews conducted in North America, Europe, and West Africa, the study provides evidence that the more these Ghanaian Calvinists became dependent on capitalist modes of production, the more enchanted their lives, and, subsequently, their church became, although in different ways within these two migrations. One striking pattern that has emerged among Ghanaian Presbyterian labor migrants in North America, for example, is a radical shift in gendered healing practices, where women have become prominent healers, while a significant number of men have become spirit-possessed.

Luhrmann, “Making God real and making God good: Some mechanisms through which prayer may contribute to healing”

June 30, 2013

Luhrmann, Tanya. 2013. Making God real and making God good: Some mechanisms through which prayer may contribute to healing. Transcultural Psychiatry published online 21 June (Early View). DOI: 10.1177/1363461513487670.

Abstract: Many social scientists attribute the health-giving properties of religious practice to social support. This paper argues that another mechanism may be a positive relationship with the supernatural, a proposal that builds upon anthropological accounts of symbolic healing. Such a mechanism depends upon the learned cultivation of the imagination and the capacity to make what is imagined more real and more good. This paper offers a theory of the way that prayer enables this process and provides some evidence, drawn from experimental and ethnographic work, for the claim that a relationship with a loving God, cultivated through the imagination in prayer, may contribute to good health and may contribute to healing in trauma and psychosis.

Rio and Eriksen, “Missionaries, Healing, and Sorcery”

May 2, 2013

Rio, Knut and Annelin Eriksen. 2013. Missionaries, Healing, and Sorcery in Melanesia: A Scottish Evangelist in Ambrym Island, Vanuata. History and Anthropology 24(3).

Abstract: Melanesian people have recently become highly occupied with history as an arena for moral scrutiny and causal explanations for contemporary failures. On the island of Ambrym in Vanuatu, this form of ontological worry goes back to the first missionaries on the island, the Murray brothers. This article takes us back to events in the 1880s when the missionaries were active on Ambrym, and searches into their social position. Drawing on the diary of Charles Murray, the main argument unfolds around his involvement in the realm of men’s ritual powers, how he himself played his part as a highly knowledgeable magician and how his downfall came about by challenging a manly realm of knowledge and power and his wider inclusion of women and lesser men in his church.

Williams, “Spirit Cure: A History of Pentecostal Healing”

December 8, 2012

Williams, Joseph. 2013. Spirit Cure: A History of Pentecostal Healing. New York: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: Joseph W. Williams examines the changing healing practices of pentecostals in the United States over the past 100 years, from the early believers, who rejected mainstream medicine and overtly spiritualized disease, to the later generations of pentecostals and their charismatic successors, who dramatically altered the healing paradigms they inherited. Williams shows that over the course of the twentieth century, pentecostal denunciations of the medical profession often gave way to ”natural” healing methods associated with scientific medicine, natural substances, and even psychology. By 2000, figures such as the pentecostal preacher T. D. Jakes appeared on the Dr. Phil Show, other healers marketed their books at mainstream retailers such as Wal-Mart, and some developed lucrative nutritional products that sold online and in health food stores across the nation. Exploring the interconnections, resonances, and continued points of tension between adherents and some of their fiercest rivals, Spirit Cure chronicling adherents’ embrace of competitors’ healing practices and illuminates pentecostals’ dramatic transition from a despised minority to major players in the world of American evangelicalism and mainstream American culture.

Corwin, “Changing God, Changing Bodies: The Impact of New Prayer Practices on Elderly Catholic Nuns’ Embodied Experience”

November 5, 2012

Corwin, Anna (2012) “Changing God, Changing Bodies: The Impact of New Prayer Practices on Elderly Catholic Nuns’ Embodied Experience.” Ethos 40(4):390-410.

Abstract:  I focus this study on changes in the prayer lives of U.S. Catholic nuns following Vatican II; widespread institutional change in the Catholic Church that, among other things, transformed U.S. Catholic nuns’ lives. In the article, I combine a phenomenological model of embodiment with narrative analysis to show how institutional linguistic prayer practices transform elderly nuns’ embodied experience as they age. Drawing on naturalistic video- and audio-recordings gathered over three years in a Catholic convent in the Midwestern United States, I show how changing communicative and embodied prayer practices following Vatican II have impacted U.S. Catholic nuns’ (1) understanding of the divine, (2) relationship with the divine, (3) embodied experience of the divine, and (4) how these changes have impacted their experiences of and interpretation of physical states including illness and pain. Overall, I offer insight into how changes in the nuns’ linguistic practice of prayer impact the nuns’ documented success in managing loneliness and chronic pain at the end of life.

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