Posts Tagged ‘space’

Mission Station Christianity: Book Review

June 6, 2014

Hovland, Ingie. 2013. Mission station Christianity: Norwegian missionaries in colonial Natal and Zululand, southern Africa 1850-1890. Leiden and Boston: Brill.

By: Casey Golomski (University of the Witwatersrand)


In Mission Station Christianity, Ingie Hovland gives religious studies scholars and anthropologists a concise and useful case study of the Norwegian Missionary Society’s (NMS) colonial encounters with Zulu peoples in nineteenth century Southern Africa. The book is part of Brill’s interdisciplinary Studies in Christian Mission series that presents historical, global case studies of transcultural missionary movements. This is her first book.  Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Wilford, ‘Sacred Subdivisions’

December 16, 2013

Wilford, Justin.  2012.  Sacred Subdivisions: The Postsuburban Transformation of American Evangelicalism.  New York: NYU Press.

Publisher’s Description:

In an era where church attendance has reached an all-time low, recent polling has shown that Americans are becoming less formally religious and more promiscuous in their religious commitments. Within both mainline and evangelical Christianity in America, it is common to hear of secularizing pressures and increasing competition from nonreligious sources. Yet there is a kind of religious institution that has enjoyed great popularity over the past thirty years: the evangelical megachurch. Evangelical megachurches not only continue to grow in number, but also in cultural, political, and economic influence. To appreciate their appeal is to understand not only how they are innovating, but more crucially, where their innovation is taking place.
In this groundbreaking and interdisciplinary study, Justin G. Wilford argues that the success of the megachurch is hinged upon its use of space: its location on the postsuburban fringe of large cities, its fragmented, dispersed structure, and its focus on individualized spaces of intimacy such as small group meetings in homes, which help to interpret suburban life as religiously meaningful and create a sense of belonging. Based on original fieldwork at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, one of the largest and most influential megachurches in America, Sacred Subdivisions explains how evangelical megachurches thrive by transforming mundane secular spaces into arenas of religious significance.

Hovland, “Mission Station Christianity”

November 6, 2013
Hovland, Ingie. 2013. Mission Station Christianity: Norwegian Missionaries in Colonial Natal and Zululand, Southern Africa 1850-1890. Boston: Brill. 

Publisher’s Description: In Mission Station Christianity, Ingie Hovland presents an anthropological history of the ideas and practices that evolved among Norwegian missionaries in nineteenth-century colonial Natal and Zululand (Southern Africa). She examines how their mission station spaces influenced their daily Christianity, and vice versa, drawing on the anthropology of Christianity. Words and objects, missionary bodies, problematic converts, and the utopian imagination are discussed, as well as how the Zulus made use of (and ignored) the stations. The majority of the Norwegian missionaries had become theological cheerleaders of British colonialism by the 1880s, and Ingie Hovland argues that this was made possible by the everyday patterns of Christianity they had set up and become familiar with on the mission stations since the 1850s.

O’Neill, “Beyond Broken: Affective Spaces and the Study of American Religion”

October 26, 2013

O’Neill, Kevin Lewis.  2013. “Beyond Broken: Affective Spaces and the Study of American Religion.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion.  doi: 10.1093/jaarel/lft059 (early digital publication).

Abstract:  This article addresses the politics of space in the study of American religion. Part 1 argues that an attention to broken space, namely an assumed division between the sacred and the profane as well as between the local and the global, limits the kind of political relationships that the scholar can posit between religion and space. Part 2 proposes the term “affective space” as a flexible analytical tool with broad utility for the study of American religion, one that prompts scholars to address those social processes that constitute felt difference amid an unevenly interrelated world. To animate the production of affective spaces, this article draws on more than a decade of ethnographic research in and on postwar Guatemala.


Brzozowski, “Spatiality and the Performance of Belief”

April 23, 2013

Brzozowski, Grzegorz.  2013.  Spatiality and the Performance of Belief: The Public Square and Collective Mourning for John Paul II.  Journal of Contemporary Religion 28(2): 241-257.

Abstract: The outburst of collective mourning for the death of Pope John Paul II in April 2005 in Piłsudski Square in Warsaw presented an exceptional case of intense religious emotions, expressed through an unprecedented variety of visual forms in a secular public space beyond the limitations of domestic and traditional worship spheres. Using displays of this emotion as a focus, this article considers how complementary theoretical frameworks can generate nuanced accounts of the dynamic intersection of such a space and the performance of belief in late modernity. Drawing on Danièle Hervieu-Léger’s concepts of strategies of religious spatialisation, Jeffrey Alexander’s theory of space as a mise-en-scene for cultural performance, and Erika Fischer-Lichte’s understanding of effects of space in shaping the nature of performance art, I argue that space must be understood as integral to such acts of believing. The meanings and uses of space should be understood as subject to the continuation or disruption of particular chains of memory, the operation of particular institutional strategies and resources, and the ways in which the material environment itself enables or precludes different forms of religious and cultural performance. Space as a condition of performance of belief thus binds together various levels of analysis: from the macro-level of institutional strategies to the micro-dynamics of individual behaviour. These levels of the theoretical framework will be followed along the analysis of stages in the material transformation of the Square. This perspective challenges privatised, propositional accounts of belief, further demonstrating that belief is inseparable from embodied emotion and action, the negotiation of various forms of institutional power, and the affordance of space and material objects.

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.

Tremlett, “Two shock doctrines”

December 19, 2012

Tremlett, Paul-Francois.  2012.  Two shock doctrines: From Christo-disciplinary to neoliberal urbanisms in the Philippines.  Culture and Religion 13(4): 405-423.

Abstract:  In this essay, I contrast two moments of shock to open Christianity in the Philippines to a spatial analysis. I begin by framing the Spanish colonial period and the Christianisation of the Philippines as a spatial shock. The Philippines was spatially transformed through colonial projects such as urbanism, intensive agriculture and resource extraction that, taken together, can be understood in the first instance as processes of unmapping, where environments once alive and animated by meaningful relations between peoples and places were reconfigured as empty, and in the second instance as the instantiation of a new sensorium with profound consequences for how Filipinos would, thereafter, experience the world. I dwell initially on Spanish urban practices and the optical power of the planned town as the emplacement of a Christo-disciplinary sensorium that rendered local populations legible and visible to colonial power, generating new types, compositions and combinations of subjects and establishing new points of coordination for Filipino bodies and minds. I then move ‘forward’ in time to consider a second and rather more contemporary spatial shock. Here, the organising logic of the Christo-disciplinary sensorium is under threat as a new urban morphology and a new mobile religiosity mark the emergence of a new, neoliberal sensorium.

Brightman, “Maps and Clocks”

August 31, 2012

Brightman, Marc. 2012. Maps and Clocks in Amazonia: the things of conversion and conversation. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 18(3):554-571.


Engaging with the recent interest in materiality in the anthropology of Amazonia, this article focuses on objects which might seem to present a challenge to indigenous systems of thought. Maps and clocks separate and abstract space and time from each other, and from the phenomena of experience, by reducing them to plane and number. Partly for this reason, and partly because of their association with Christian conversion, they may be seen as symbols and instruments of colonialism and of the technological foundations of European power. The article offers an analysis of an Amazonian group’s strong interest in these objects and in the modes of thought which they represent. It concludes with reflections on native historicity and the modalities of cultural change in a context of sustained contact with alterity.


Dans la ligne du récent intérêt de l’anthropologie amazoniste envers la matérialité, l’auteur examine des objets qui semblent poser un défi aux systèmes de pensée autochtones. Cartes et horloges dissocient l’espace et le temps et les séparent des phénomènes perceptibles en les réduisant à des plans et des nombres. Pour cette raison, et aussi à cause de leur association à la conversion au christianisme, elles apparaissent comme symboles et instruments du colonialisme et des fondements technologiques de la puissance européenne. Le présent article analyse le vif intérêt d’un groupe amazonien pour ces objets et les modes de pensée qu’ils représentent. Il se conclut par des réflexions sur l’historicité indigène et les modalités du changement culturel, dans un contexte de contact permanent avec l’altérité.

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