Posts Tagged ‘Nationalism’

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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Martin, “Nationalism and religion; collective identity and choice”

December 20, 2013

Martin, David.  2014.  Nationalism and religion; collective identity and choice: the 1989 revolutions, Evangelical Revolution in the Global South, revolution in the Arab World.  Nations and Nationalism 20(1): 1-17.

Excerpt: Let me restate my primary focus in this lecture. I explore the dialectic between the autonomous powers of religion and nationalism, and between collective identity and choice, in my three revolutionary transformations. I am canvassing three contemporary transformations to query how far nationalism remains the main game in town in the light of major transnational religious movements and in the light of the transnational and personal imaginaries of young people with access to the internet. The revolutions of 1989 look like evidence for the resilience of ethno-religion as a vehicle of collective identity, although there were also major outcrops of inner conscientious dissent at work in combination with transnational religious influences, notably the Catholic Church. Evangelical Christianity in the Global South looks like personal choice and a collective transnational identity on a collision course with nationalism, including nationalist religion: the Catholic Church in Latin America, and in Africa and Asia the nationalist constructions and postcolonial mobilisations of intellectual and political elites. At the same time, there have been intermittent alliances between Evangelicalism and nationalism. As for the Arab revolutions, it depends on who is doing the looking. Some see them as nationalism disguised, others as religion taking over from nationalism as the vehicle of collective identity, though with a significant margin of pluralism, inwardness and maybe choice.

Coleman, “Landscape, nation and globe: Theoretical nuances in the analysis of Asian Christianity”

June 4, 2013

Coleman, Simon. 2013. Landscape, nation and globe: Theoretical nuances in the analysis of Asian Christianity. Culture and Religion: An Interdisciplinary Journal 14(2):241-245.

Abstract: This brief afterword comments on the papers from this special issue, arguing that each explores current complexities of interactions between national and transnational orientations, but also helps to nuance understandings of the global through the invocation of history. As a result, we not only observe the interplay between colonial and post-colonial regimes of religion and politics, but also gain an appreciation of transnational religious impulses that were in operation well before the last few decades of explicitly ‘global consciousness’. Christianisation has a significant history in the regions covered, but it cannot be understood through crude, unilinear models of development or progress.

Durbin, ” ‘I am an Israeli'”

May 3, 2013

Durbin, Sean. 2013. “I am an Israeli”: Christian Zionism as American redemption. Culture and Religion 14(2).

Abstract: This article argues that discourse used to define and understand Israel by prominent American Christian Zionists is a discourse of national idealisation. Drawing on Durkheim’s (2008) notion of symbols as sources of social solidarity, I argue that this imagined Israel reflects conservative social and military values that are shared among Christian Zionists and their supporters – values which many in this broad category see the United States failing to uphold. Following this, I show how one of America’s most prominent pastors – John Hagee – and his organisation – Christians United for Israel – have taken on the role of a contemporary Jeremiah, criticising the American government for not adequately supporting Israel. This article concludes by considering how Christian Zionists are calling America to renew and align itself with God by ‘blessing’ Israel, and acting like Israel.

Leichtman, “From the Cross”

March 4, 2013

Leichtman, Mara A. 2013. From the Cross (and Crescent) to the Cedar and Back Again: Transnational religion and politics among Lebanese Christians in Senegal. Anthropological Quarterly 86(1):35-75.

Abstract: This article examines the changing relationship between religion, secularism, national politics, and identity formation among Lebanese Christians in Senegal. Notre Dame du Liban, the first Lebanese religious institution in West Africa, draws on its Lebanese “national” character to accommodate Lebanese Maronite Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christians in Dakar, remaining an icon of “Lebanese” religion, yet departing from religious sectarianism in Lebanon. As such, transnational religion can vary from national religion, gaining new resonances and reinforcing a wider “secular” ethno-national identity.

Cao, “Renegotiating Locality and Morality”

February 26, 2013

Cao, Nanlai. 2013. Renegotiating Locality and Morality in a Chinese Religious Diaspora: Wenzhou Christian Merchants in Paris, France. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 14(1).

Abstract: This paper explores the social and economic implications of indigenous Christian discourses and practices in the Wenzhou Chinese diaspora in Paris, France. Popularly known as China’s Jerusalem, the coastal Chinese city of Wenzhou is home to thousands of self-started home-grown Protestant churches and a million Protestants. Drawing on multi-sited fieldwork, this study provides an ethnographic account of a group of Wenzhou merchants who have formed large Christian communities at home, along with migrant enclaves in Paris. The study shows how these migrant entrepreneurs and traders have brought their version of Christianity from China to France and how they perceive and deal with issues of illegality, moral contingency, native-place based loyalty and national belonging. It highlights the thoroughly intertwined relationship between an indigenised Chinese Christianity and the petty capitalist legacy of coastal southeast China in a secularised, exclusionary European context, and suggests that Christianity provides a form of non-market morality that serves to effectively legitimate Wenzhou’s pre-modern household economy in the context of market modernity.

Lau, “Mobility, Christianity, and Belonging”

February 26, 2013

Lau, Sin Wen. 2013. Mobility, Christianity, and Belonging: Reflections of an Overseas Chinese Expatriate Wife in Shanghai. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 14(1).

Abstract: This paper explores what it means to be a Christian on the move in a transnational Asia. It provides an account of the reflections of a Singaporean expatriate wife as she searches for a spiritual home in Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It shows how her sense of being Christian is shaped by extra-religious concerns of class, language and nationality. Underscoring the tensions inherent in finding faith in motion, this paper aims to nuance prevalent understandings of religion as havens for people on the move.

Kaell, “Trash Talk: US Pilgrims in Israel-Palestine”

October 16, 2012

Kaell, Hillary (2012) “Trash Talk: US Pilgrims in Israel-Palestine.” Anthropology News 53(8):12-13.

Opening Paragraph: “Each year nearly 300,000 US Christians walk where Jesus walked,’ traveling halfway around the world to visit biblical sites in Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). As they tread hallowed ground, gaze from bus windows, and snap photos at panoramic lookouts, these pilgrims notice trash: litter, abandoned cars, unkempt houses. Garbage is always present at idealized sites, of course, but most tourists overlook it (Urry, 2002). In the Holy Land, however, it is too symbolically resonant to ignore. In fact, ‘trash talk’ serves a crucial role in the trip’s discourse. It offers US pilgrims a way to speak in a moral register about Israelis and Palestinians without engaging regional politics directly, which most try hard to avoid.”

McAlister, Elizabeth (2012) “From Slave Revolt to a Blood Pact with Satan: The Evangelical Rewriting of Haitian History”

May 7, 2012

McAlister, Elizabeth. 2012. “From Slave Revolt to a Blood Pact with Satan: The Evangelical Rewriting of Haitian History” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 42(2) [Pagination not available – Pre-publication electronic distribution]

Abstract: Enslaved Africans and Creoles in the French colony of Saint-Domingue are said to have gathered at a nighttime meeting at a place called Bois Caïman in what was both political rally and religious ceremony, weeks before the Haitian Revolution in 1791. The slave ceremony is known in Haitian history as a religio-political event and used frequently as a source of inspiration by nationalists, but in the 1990s, neo-evangelicals rewrote the story of the famous ceremony as a “blood pact with Satan.” This essay traces the social links and biblical logics that gave rise first to the historical record, and then to the neo-evangelical rewriting of this iconic moment. It argues that the confluence of the bicentennial of the Haitian Revolution with the political contest around President Aristide’s policies, the growth of the neo-evangelical Spiritual Mapping movement, and of the Internet, produced a new form of mythmaking, in which neo-evangelicals re-signified key symbols of the event—an oath to a divine force, blood sacrifice, a tree, and group unity—from the mythical grammar of Haitian nationalism to that of neo-evangelical Christianity. In the many ironies of this clash between the political afterlife of a slave uprising with the political afterlife of biblical scripture, Haiti becomes a nation held in captivity, and Satan becomes the colonial power who must be overthrown.

Kuropatkina, “Pentecostals and the Russian ‘National Idea'”

April 12, 2012

Kuropatkina, Oksana. 2012. The “New” Pentecostals and the Russian “National Idea.” Religion, State, and Society 40(1):133-144.

Abstract: This article considers the role and place of ‘New’ Pentecostals (Neo-Pentecostals) in modern social, cultural and political processes in Russia and their attempts to contribute to creating a new ‘national idea’ for postsoviet Russian society. I look at the context of current debate on the latter subject: socialists call for a reproduction of the Soviet experience; others call for building an ‘Orthodox Russia’; others support a ‘conservative synthesis’ which looks back at previous experience of state-building with a multiconfessional and multiethnic character and involves building a religious and moral basis on Orthodoxy and other ‘traditional religions’; yet others support the liberal model and the integration of Russia into the western world. In this context I consider various aspects of Pentecostal participation: their current practical activities (charitable activity and support for democracy and human rights); the building of a theocratic (Christian) state; the study of the Russian religious heritage and an attempt to synthesise Orthodox and Protestant (Evangelical) traditions; and prayer for the country in the apocalyptic perspective.

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