This article explores the tension between Pope Francis as a ‘trickster’ and as a much-needed reformer of the Catholic Church at large. He is an exemplar of the longue durée of an embodied ‘Atlantic Return’ from the Americas to the ‘heart’ of Catholicism (Rome and the Vatican), with its ambivalent, racialized history. Through the mobilization of material religion, sensuous mediations, and the case of the Lampedusa crosses in particular, I engage with an anthropological analysis of Francis as a Criollo and the first-ever Jesuit pope. Examining Francis’s papacy overlapping racial and ethico-political dimensions, I identify coordinates around which the rhetorical, affective, and charismatic force of Francis as a Criollo has been actualized—between, most crucially, proximity and distance, as well as pastoral versus theological impulses. This article advances an understanding of Francis that emerges from a study of the conjuncture of affective fields, political theology, racialized aesthetics, and mediatic interface.
Religious Plurality, Interreligious Pluralism, and Spatialities of Religious Difference
Jeremy F. Walton and Neena Mahadev
The introduction to this special section foregrounds the key distinction between ‘religious plurality’ and ‘interreligious pluralism’. Building from the example of a recent controversy over an exhibition on shared religious sites in Thessaloniki, Greece, we analyze the ways in which advocates and adversaries of pluralism alternately place minority religions at the center or attempt to relegate them to the margins of visual, spatial, and political fields. To establish the conceptual scaffolding that supports this special section, we engage the complex relations that govern the operations of state and civil society, sacrality and secularity, as well as spectacular acts of disavowal that simultaneously coincide with everyday multiplicities in the shared use of space. We conclude with brief summaries of the four articles that site religious plurality and interreligious pluralism in the diverse contexts of Brazil, Russia, Sri Lanka, and the Balkans.
A Decade of <em>Religion and Society</em>
Sondra L. Hausner, Ruy Llera Blanes, and Simon Coleman
This volume of Religion and Society is a special one. First, with this edition we celebrate our 10th anniversary. While our personnel have changed to some degree, our remit has remained largely the same. We present theoretically and methodologically challenging studies of religion through a variety of formats that place religion at the center of analysis and enable those who study religious phenomena to engage in debate and dialogue with each other. In recent years, our approach has also cemented ties with the Society for the Anthropology of Religion, a subsection of the American Anthropological Association. Over the entirety of the last decade, we have continued to publish exceptional interdisciplinary scholarship in social and cultural analyses of religion.
Doing Ritual While Thinking about It?
Religious anthropology and ritual studies have increasingly acknowledged that ritual and religion are subject to criticism. There is still a tendency, however, to argue that doubt, skepticism, and forms of ‘critical reflexivity’ develop somewhere outside the ritual ‘frame’, in connection with external processes. In presenting this special section of Religion and Society, this introduction harks back to past research arising out of structural and performative approaches to rite, introduces the notion of critical reflexivity, and outlines the ways it is used to shed light on overlooked formal aspects of religious rituals. In order to stress the subtle connection between ritual action and (local) reflection on this action as evidenced in situ in the course of performance, linked with internal features of ritual activity, the article evokes two lines of empirical inquiry: institutionalized episodes of ritual assessment and ritual ‘accidents’ that do not necessarily imply ritual ‘failure’.
Ruy Llera Blanes, Sondra L. Hausner, and Simon Coleman
Legacies, Trajectories, and Comparison in the Anthropology of Buddhism
Nicolas Sihlé and Patrice Ladwig
The anthropology of Buddhism may give the impression of already having a well-established lineage. However, understood as a collective endeavor bringing together specialists from different parts of the Buddhist world in a comparative spirit, it remains very much an emerging project. We outline in this introduction some of the striking features of the beginnings of this subfield, such as how it has undergone a process of emancipation from textualist interpretations of Buddhism, and survey some of its main thematic and analytic orientations, pointing in particular to its most substantial ‘long conversation’, on the structure and dynamics of Buddhist religious fields. Throughout, we focus primarily on the period following an assessment of the subfield made by David Gellner in 1990. Finally, we stress the importance and highlight the promise of a comparative anthropology of Buddhism that builds on a critical, reflexive examination of its central concepts.
Religions, Histories, and Comparisons
Simon Coleman, Ruy Llera Blanes, and Sondra L. Hausner
Narratives, Ontologies, Entanglements, and Iconoclasms
Sondra L. Hausner, Simon Coleman, and Ruy Llera Blanes
Materialities, Histories, and the Spatialization of State Sovereignty
Valentina Napolitano, Nimrod Luz, and Nurit Stadler
In the introduction to this special section of Religion and Society, we discuss existing and potentially new intersections of border theories and religious studies in relation to two contested regions—US-Mexico and Israel-Palestine (as part of the history of the Levant)—respectively. We argue for a recentering of borderland studies through an analysis of political theologies, affective labor, and differing configurations of religious heritage, traces, and materiality. We thus define 'borderlands' as translocal phenomena that emerge due to situated political/economic and affective junctures and that amplify not only translocal but also transnational prisms. To explore these issues, we put into dialogue studies on religion, borderlands, walls, and historical/contemporary conditions in the context of US-Mexico and Israel-Palestine borders. In particular, we argue for recentering analyses in light of intensifications of state control and growing militarization in contested areas.