Posts Tagged ‘Joel Robbins’

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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Meneses et. al., “Engaging the Religiously Committed Other: Anthropologists and Theologians in Dialogue”

January 23, 2014

Meneses, Eloise, Lindy Backues, David Bronkema, Eric Flett, and Benjamin L. Hartley. 2014. Engaging the Religiously Committed Other: Anthropologists and Theologians in Dialogue. Current Anthropology. Preprint – issue, volume, page not available. 

Abstract: Anthropology has two tasks: the scientific task of studying human beings and the instrumental task of promoting human flourishing. To date, the scientific task has been constrained by secularism, and the instrumental task by the philosophy and values of liberalism. These constraints have caused religiously based scholarship to be excluded from anthropology’s discourse, to the detriment of both tasks. The call for papers for the 2009 meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) recognized the need to “push the field’s epistemological and presentational conventions” in order to reach anthropology’s various publics. Religious thought has much to say about the human condition. It can expand the discourse in ways that provide explanatory value as well as moral purpose and hope. We propose an epistemology of witness for dialogue between anthropologists and theologians, and we demonstrate the value added with an example: the problem of violence.

Robbins, “Afterword: Let’s keep it awkward: Anthropology, theology, and otherness”

December 15, 2013

Robbins, Joel. 2013. Afterword: Let’s keep it awkward: Anthropology, theology, and otherness. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 24(3):329-337.

Excerpt: This collection of articles is a very welcome surprise. In the years since writing the 2006 essay on anthropology and theology with which all of the articles to some extent engage, I had become resigned to what seemed to the be the likelihood that the dialogue between anthropology and theology was going to be one that at best built very slowly, and at worst was destined hardly to take place. To be sure, there had been some fits and starts kinds of discussions, but nothing much had happened in the way of sustained conversation. Anthropology and theology appeared to me set to continue to go their separate ways without the benefit of much cross-fertilization. The publication of this collection fundamentally alters this picture. Each of its articles is a substantial contribution in its own right, and taken together they indicate in a way no other collection yet has how productive of fresh anthropological ideas encounters with various kinds of theology can be. And in moving decisively beyond a focus solely on the Christian tradition, they also rescue this nascent engagement from becoming a purely parochial one . . .

Robbins, “Beyond the suffering subject”

August 12, 2013

Robbins, Joel. 2013. Beyond the suffering subject: toward an anthropology of the good. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19(3): 447-462.

Abstract: In the 1980s, anthropology set aside a focus on societies defined as radically ‘other’ to the anthropologists’ own. There was little consensus at the time, however, about who might replace the other as the primary object of anthropological attention. In important respects, I argue, its replacement has been the suffering subject. Tracing this change, I consider how it addressed key problems of the anthropology of the other, but I also suggest that some strengths of earlier work – particularly some of its unique critical capacities – were lost in the transition. The conclusion considers how recent trends in anthropology might coalesce in a further shift, this one toward an anthropology of the good capable of recovering some of the critical force of an earlier anthropology without taking on its weaknesses.

Ghana’s New Christianity: Book Review

May 13, 2013

Gifford, Paul. 2004. Ghana’s New Christianity: Pentecostalism in a Globalizing African Economy.  Bloomington: University of Indiana Press.

By: Joel Robbins (Department of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego)

Paul Gifford is one of the most knowledgeable and prolific scholars of Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa.  He has written both surveys on general topics, such as the public role of Christian churches in Africa, and monographs focused on specific countries, such as a previous one on Christianity and politics in Doe’s Liberia and this one on the charismatic scene in Ghana from 2000 to 2002.  One of the great advantages of Gifford’s breadth of knowledge is that he is able to track the kinds of rapid developments in doctrine that are very much a part of global Christianity today, and to pinpoint differences between churches that are often lumped together under homogenizing rubrics such as Pentecostal and charismatic.  In this book, he trains his eye on the contemporary charismatic mega-Churches of Accra and finds them for the most part very much taken up with the faith or prosperity gospel and its prophetic offshoots.  Over the course of the book, he places their doctrines in historical perspective, considers the reasons for their popularity, and evaluates their effects on Ghanaian political and economic life.

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Jenkins, “The Anthropology of Christianity: Situation and Critique”

December 11, 2012

 

Jenkins, Timothy. 2012. The Anthropology of Christianity: Situation and Critique. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 77(4):459-476.

Abstract

This article seeks to identify and place the recent scholarship termed the ‘anthropology of Christianity’, to offer an account of its originality and achievements, and to point out some limiting tendencies. The argument in brief is this: anthropologists have neglected Christianity for reasons that now seem implausible. There is a small body of work that overtly recognizes this neglect and seeks to rectify it. In this work of rectification, there is a particular relationship to theology; some anthropologists of Christianity seek to rehabilitate Christian categories, drawing on John Milbank’s writing in particular. While applauding this approach, I point to Susan Harding’s work as offering a particular emphasis: it recognizes that when categories of investigation and the phenomenon under examination change simultaneously (which we may term an ‘event’), a more subtle ethnographic and explanatory performance is called for.

Robbins, “Why is There No Political Theology among the Urapmin”

December 3, 2012

Robbins, Joel. 2012. Why is There No Political Theology among the Urapmin?: On Diarchy, Sects as Big as Society, and the Diversity of Pentecostal Politics. In Christian Politics in Oceania, eds. Matt Tomlinson and Debra McDougall. London: Berghahn Books.

Robbins, “Spirit Women”

June 5, 2012

Robbins, Joel. 2012. Spirit Women, Church Women, and Passenger Women. Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 157(1):113-133.

Abstract: As anthropologists increasingly study Christianity in Melanesia, data has become available which allow us to address comparative questions about its differential impact in various societies of the region. In this article, I look at how conversion to Christianity has transformed women’s roles in one society in Papua New Guinea and one in Vanuatu. In particular, I examine what Christian values have meant for the construction of new gender roles. In addition, I compare changes in women’s roles in these two Christianized societies to the situation in another rapidly changing Papua New Guinea society where Christianization is not a dominant social trend in order to explore how Christianity might be seen to align women with culturally dominant values in ways other kinds of cultural change do not. In the course of the article, I also consider what my analysis has to say about the value of comparing Christian societies across the Melanesian region for the broader project of theorizing the role of religion in shaping contemporary social transformations in this region and beyond.

Smith, “From dividual and individual selves to porous subjects”

March 7, 2012

Smith, Karl (2012) “From dividual and individual selves to porous subjects” The Australian Journal of Anthropology [Pages and Issue not available – advance/pre-publication version]

Abstract: The distinction between understanding persons as dividuals versus individuals began to develop in the latter half of the twentieth century. Originating in Louis Dumont’s comparative work into the differences between Western and Indian subjects in the 1950s, it perhaps reached its zenith in the 1980s when Marilyn Strathern used it to differentiate between Melanesian and Western concepts of the person. By the end of the century, critique and reconceptualisation of the individual:dividual distinction was so well established in the anthropological literature that its explanatory capacity was largely negated. The aim of this paper is to attempt to clarify the different modes of personhood that the dividual:individual distinction sought to elucidate by introducing a useful distinction between the self and the human subject and further developing Charles Taylor’s distinction between porous and buffered selves.

Dundon, “The Gateway to the Fly: Christianity, Continuity, and Spaces of Conversion in Papua New Guinea”

February 26, 2012

Dundon, Alison (2012) “The Gateway to the Fly: Christianity, Continuity, and Spaces of Conversion in Papua New Guinea” in Lenore Manderson, Wendy Smith, & Matt Tomlinson (eds) Flows of Faith: Religious Reach and Community in Asia and the Pacific (Springer, New York).

Abstract: By foregrounding space and the role it plays in the experience and recollection of conversion, Dundon illustrates how people conceptualise conversion to Christianity as meaningful. Her analysis of cultural continuity in terms of the parallels between practices and experiences of the ancestors and those of the missionaries draws attention to the importance of the places in which Gogodala live and move, and how they imagine the place to which they will travel to when they die (Wabila/Heaven). Conversion to Christianity, instigated by UFM missionaries and the establishment of the first UFM stations, churches and educational and health facilities, is perceived as a rupture, but not as traumatic and destructive. Rather, conversion is understood as a disjuncture between ‘before’ (when the ancestors did not know where they came from and its significance) and ‘now’ (when this has been revealed to them over time and through the spaces opened up between mission, church and community).

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