Introduction

Lenience in Systems of Religious Meaning and Practice

in Social Analysis
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  • 1 University of Edinburgh maya.mayblin@ed.ac.uk
  • 2 University of Glasgow diegomalara@hotmail.it
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Abstract

Questions of discipline are, today, no less ubiquitous than when under Foucault’s renowned scrutiny, but what does ‘discipline’ in diverse religious systems actually entail? In this article, we take ‘lenience’ rather than discipline as a starting point and compare its potential, both structural and ideological, in religious contexts where disciplinary flexibility shores up greater encompassing projects of moral perfectionism as opposed to those contexts in which disciplinary flexibility is a defining feature in its own right. We argue that lenience provides religious systems with a vital flexibility that is necessary to their reproduction and adaptation to the world. By taking a ‘systems’ perspective on ethnographic discussions of religious worlds, we proffer fresh observations on recent debates within the anthropology of religion on ‘ethics’, ‘failure’, and the nature of religious subjects.

Contributor Notes

Maya Mayblin is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. Her work focuses on Brazil/Latin America and more recently Britain. Her research spans a range of topics that include ritual and religion, Catholicism, sexuality and gender, politics, institutions, and sacrifice. She is the author of Gender, Catholicism, and Morality in Brazil: Virtuous Husbands, Powerful Wives (2010) and co-editor of The Anthropology of Catholicism: A Reader (2017). She is currently completing a second monograph on Brazilian priests in party politics, and conducting new research on civil celebrants and secular rituals in contemporary Britain. E-mail: maya.mayblin@ed.ac.uk

Diego Malara is an anthropologist working as a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Glasgow. He has carried out fieldwork among Ethiopian Orthodox Christians in central and northern Ethiopia and more recently in Britain. His work focuses on Orthodox Christianity, spirit possession, ethics, media and technology, kinship and care, and visual ethnography. He has published articles on themes such as love and hierarchy, exorcism, and religious healing. He is the director of the documentary short film The Devil and the Holy Water (2016). E-mail: diegomalara@hotmail.it

Social Analysis

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