Posts Tagged ‘South Asia’

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.

Fernando, “Religion’s ‘state effects'”

March 25, 2014

Fernando, Oshan.  2014. Religion’s ‘state effects’: Evangelical Christianity, political legitimacy, and state formation.  Religion, early online publication.

Abstract: The author argues in this paper that the ‘state effects’ generated by religious movements – even those operating at the margins of societies – require us to consider anew the impact of religious movements on state formation. In Sri Lanka, for instance, evangelicals are a minority. Yet their practice of proselytizing to new audiences was considered ‘unethical,’ generating opposition that was directed not only at them, but also at ruling elites for failing to stem what was seen as an intrusion of incompatible ‘Western’ ideals. Instead of considering how such Christian movements seek to ‘take over’ the functions of the ‘state’ as has been the experience in the United States and parts of Latin America, the author illustrates in this article why it makes more theoretical sense to ask how their activities impinge upon the conceptual frameworks through which the ‘state’ is imagined.

Woods, “Converting houses into churches”

December 3, 2013

Woods, Orlando.  2013.  Converting houses into churches: the mobility, fission, and sacred networks of evangelical house churches in Sri Lanka.  Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (advance online publication).

Abstract: In this paper I examine the processes and politics associated with the formation of evangelical house churches in Sri Lanka. In doing so, I show how the sacred space of the house church is constructed through the development of sacred networks, which emerge when a group of Christians assemble for prayer and worship. Sacred networks grant the house church an important degree of mobility, but they also encourage church fission. Whilst the house church enables evangelical groups to grow in hostile environments like that of Sri Lanka, it is often a superficial form of growth that is unsustainable in the long term. To conclude, I suggest that an understanding of sacred networks can help inject a sense of scalar dynamism into the study of contemporary religious movements.

Mahadev, “Conversion and Anti-conversion in Contemporary Sri Lanka”

October 29, 2013

Mahadev, Neena.  2014.  Conversion and Anti-conversion in Contemporary Sri Lanka: Pentecostal Christian Evangelism and Theravada Buddhist Views on the Ethics of Religious Attraction.  In Proselytizing and the Limits of Religious Pluralism in Contemporary Asia (ARI Springer Asian Series, vol. 4), pp. 211-235.

Abstract: Over the last decade Buddhist nationalist activists have pursued various measures to curb proselytism by Christians who strive to “unethically convert” Sri Lankans born as Buddhists. Sri Lankan Buddhist nationalist discourses reveal suspicions that the act of becoming enculturated into Christianity is detrimental to the person and to the nation in a number of ways. What can such nationalist discourses about “unethical conversions,” and about the instruments used to engender religious attraction, tell us about the politics of perception that inflame antipathies over proselytism, conversion, and apostasy? Analysis of ethnographic material reveals that Buddhist protectionists tend to regard two forms of Christian “gift” to be operative in securing conversions. First, gifts of Christian charity are perceived to be material “allurements” that serve to induce conversions and religious patronage among vulnerable Sri Lankans. Comparatively examining Christian and Buddhist forms of giving (charity and dāna respectively), which engender radically different types of ethical sensibilities about the use of gifts and care as modalities of conversion and religious attraction, helps to illuminate why charity is a significant point of contention between these religious communities. Secondly, Pentecostal Christian charisma—or the notion that God’s Grace is a gift which can be evidenced through miracles of healing—appears to Buddhist skeptics as dubious and harmful means of manipulating Sri Lankans into committing apostasy. Using ethnography to depict how adherents and detractors alike have made spectacles out of charismatic Christian promises of miracles, this essay describes how recent controversies have played out between Buddhist nationalists and Christian evangelists within the Sri Lankan public sphere. Focusing on charity and charismatic miracles as modalities of conversion, this paper illuminates key aspects of the anxieties over new Christian forms of religious propagation, proselytism, and devotion as they have entered into a milieu marked by ethno-religious nationalism, religious protectionism, as well as established ethical sensibilities and religious conventions.

 

 

Kendall, et al. “A sin to sell a statue?”

June 25, 2013

Kendall, Laurel, et al. 2013. Is it a sin to sell a statue? Catholic Statues and the Traffic in Antiquities in Vietnam. Museum Anthropology 36(1): 66-82.

Abstract: When antique wooden saints were offered for sale in a Hanoi shop window, they provoked uncomfortable responses from Catholic observers living outside Vietnam who could not imagine their co-religionists voluntarily selling statues that had once been blessed. To explore this question—how things considered too sacred for commerce came to be sold—we bring together two usually discrete domains of research on material culture: object biographies that trace their movement from local sites of production and use into global markets, and studies on material religion that address how embodied and sensate encounters with the material world are productive of religious experiences and understandings. The social life of things collides with material religion at the place where statues and other religious paraphernalia are first transacted into artifact, art, folk art, or native handicraft. The bridge between these two domains of inquiry is the recognition that object biographies are propelled in part by notions of object agency that assume particular protocols for interactions between people and things.

Woods, “The Spatial Modalities of evangelical Christian growth in Sri Lanka”

March 18, 2013

Woods, Orlando.  2013.  The spatial modalities of evangelical Christian growth in Sri Lanka: evangelism, social ministry and the structural mosaic.  Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.  Early online publication.  p. 1-13.

Abstract: This paper incorporates a melange of ideas into a new understanding of evangelical Christian growth. Existing explanations of growth are well rehearsed within the social sciences, and draw clear distinctions between the characteristics of evangelical organisations and the structural contexts in which they operate. A number of theoretical and empirical assumptions render such explanations applicable in some countries, but not others. Drawing on empirical data from Sri Lanka, I argue that closer examination of the recursive relationship between organisation (agency) and context (structure) will lead to recognition of the fact that growth is a spatially defined process, with evangelical organisations being tied to localities in complex and multifarious ways. A heuristic device – the structural mosaic – is proposed and developed in order to account for the growth of evangelical Christian groups in hostile environments around the world.

Joshi “A Matter of Belief”

September 21, 2012

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

Publisher’s Description:  “Nagaland for Christ” and “Jesus Saves” are familiar slogans prominently displayed on public transport and celebratory banners in Nagaland, northeastern India. They express an idealization of Christian homogeneity that belies the underlying tensions and negotiations between Christian and non-Christian Naga. This religious division is intertwined with that of healing beliefs and practices, both animistic and biomedical. This study focuses on the particular experiences of the Angami Naga, one of the many Naga peoples. Like other Naga, they are citizens of the state of India but extend ethnolinguistically into Tibeto-Burman southeast Asia. This ambiguity and how it affects their Christianity, global involvement, indigenous cultural assertiveness, and nationalist struggle is explored. Not simply describing continuity through change, this study reveals the alternating Christian and non-Christian streams of discourse, one masking the other but at different times and in different guises.

Etter, “‘Women With No One’: Community and Christianity in a Secular South Indian Homeless Shelter”

August 27, 2012

Etter, Connie, (2012) “”Women With No One”: Community and Christianity in a Secular South Indian Homeless Shelter.” Anthropology – Dissertations. Syracuse University, Susan Wadley, Advisor. Paper 96. http://surface.syr.edu/ant_etd/96

Abstract: This dissertation examines daily life and social service practices in a secular homeless shelter for women in Tamil Nadu, south India. The residents of the shelter have diverse backgrounds but local staff members and volunteers describe them collectively as “women with no one”: unwed mothers, orphans, widows, women abandoned or abused by husbands and lovers, former sex workers, prisoners’ wives, and women deemed mentally or physically unfit for marriage. Daily negotiations of belonging take place among this transient and diverse group of marginalized women and equally diverse and transnational care providers. The closed shelter campus provides an opportunity to query the everyday experience of secularism and pluralism. Shelter board members emphasize these concepts as guiding principles of the institution. Indeed, they are touted in many settings as a necessary and laudable framework for democratic life in globalized and increasingly diverse populations. But how do individuals and communities, in everyday life and interactions, understand and engage with such abstract ideals?

Ethnographic research, conducted between August 2008 and August 2009, revealed important insights regarding the ideals shaping the secular goals of the shelter, namely women’s social rehabilitation. First, the definition of secularism cannot be assumed and is not universal. Inline with commonsense equations of secularism and pluralism in India, the secular goals of the shelter involved passionate displays of religious conviction, continuous ethical deliberation, and reflection on cultural ideals of womanhood and family. Secularism, in other words, was a religious, cultural, and gendered idea and practice. Second, just as there were many secularisms, many Christianities were embodied and articulated within the shelter. The institution depended on various local and international Christian communities for donations of time and money. They each had different understandings of the relationship between Christianity and women’s social rehabilitation. Third, cultural ideals are fragile. The social stigma faced by women living outside of patriarchal family structures and the forced intimacy of women with diverse backgrounds living together on a closed campus emphasized this fact. Faced with the fragility of social and cultural ideals, women at the shelter took great risks to forge new terms of belonging, community, and womanhood.

Jansen and Lang, “Transforming the Self and Healing the Body Through the Use of Testimonies in a Divine Retreat Center, Kera”

January 6, 2012

Jansen, Eva and Claudia Lang (2011) “Transforming the Self and Healing the Body Through the Use of Testimonies in a Divine Retreat Center, Kerala” Journal of Religious Health [On line publication – pagination, issue and volume information not yet available]

Abstract:  In this article, we analyze the collective healing process that takes place on a weekly basis in the Divine Retreat Center (DRC) in Muringoor, Kerala. We argue that disease in the DRC is understood either as a psycho-somatic or as a spirito-somatic phenomenon. In contrast to other Charismatic communities, however, the body is the locus on which the medical effects of the healing become visible. The whole process is divided into several phases: First, there is a cleansing and disengagement procedure that aims to purify and liberate the participants through confession and counseling. Thereafter comes a climatic phase of personal emptying, transition and re-orientation during which the healing itself takes place. The procedure is finally completed with the person being spiritually ‘‘refilled’’ by the Holy Spirit. The dominant recurring element in the whole process is the continuous statement of healing ‘‘testimonies.’’ As an integral part of the healing proce- dure, these statements are used to share personal experiences among the participants in the center. They are produced in a strict format in order to be spread far beyond through various media (TV, newspaper, Internet, etc.). They thereby constitute a speech genre that follows specific rules and patterns. Through shaping one’s own biography in the frame of the testimonies, so we argue, the actual transformation of the self and therefore the miracle healing takes place.

Misra, “The Missionary Position”

December 6, 2011

Misra, Amalendu (2011) “The Missionary Position: Christianity and Politics of Religious Conversion in India,” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics  17(4):361-381

Abstract: The purpose of this article is to critically examine the politics of religious conversion in India. Since Christianity is the main religion espousing and conducting conversion in ever-larger numbers in India, my focus, in the following pages, is to interrogate the debate surrounding this particular undertaking and the attendant conflict dynamics. This study is organized according to the following framework. First, it situates religious conversion in the context of radical Hindu nationalism. Second, it explores the issue of religious conversion in the theories of identity and globalization. Third, it probes the specifics of Christian conversion in India and investigates the issue within the framework of identity politics and secularism. Fourth, it examines the response and reaction of the radical Hindu nationalists towards religious conversion in general and Christian conversion in particular from the perspective of ethno-religious nationalism. Fifth and finally, it evaluates the dimensions of conflict between Christians and Hindus and how they are played out in the shared social arena.

In conclusion, this article stresses that religious conversion in India is a form of a socioeconomic emancipatory undertaking. Those who feel stifled by the discriminatory caste order prevalent within Hinduism and live a marginal existence embrace this new identity. In the same breath it argues that Christianity in general, and Christian missionaries in particular, have courted criticism, opposition, and violence from radical Hindus, informed citizenry, and the institution of the state, as they are considered an “external other”—accused of undermining the complex sociopolitical order in the country.

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