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The Chaco Skies

A Socio-cultural History of Power Relations

Alejandro Martín López and Agustina Altman

ABSTRACT

This article looks into notions of the sky among the Guaycurú aboriginal groups in the Argentine Chaco within the context of the socio-religious changes they have undergone since the eighteenth century. By using ethno-astronomy and anthropology of religion perspectives, and based on our own ethnographic and documentary work, we have analyzed both the continuities and the ruptures in the Guaycurú skies. In doing so, we have found that social relations between humans and non-humans shape the Guaycurú experience of celestial space. These bonds have a strongly political character as they are structured around power asymmetries. The colonial experience, including Christian missions, has imposed modernity on these groups as an overall horizon of possibilities. However, the Guaycurú have sought to redefine modernity, creating their own ‘modernity paths’.

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Eschatology, Ethics, and Ēthnos

Ressentiment and Christian Nationalism in the Anthropology of Christianity

Jon Bialecki

ABSTRACT

Christian nationalism, a long-running and arguably increasingly influential political force, appears to consist mainly of an open set of affectively charged but cognitively underdetermined concepts and images that are capable of being constituted in a number of widely divergent forms. Despite this potential variety, the various instantiations of Christian nationalisms documented by the anthropology of Christianity tend to have similar features, even as they are actualized in quite different milieux and understood as being responses to quite different threats. Drawing on ethnographic work in the United States, this article argues that this recurrent crystallization of Christian nationalism into the specific form under certain conditions—the adoption of a temporally ambivalent eschatology, an ethics oriented around mimesis, and, most of all, an outward-facing ressentiment—works to self-catalyze the production of a racialized Christian nationalism that envisions itself at once as an entitled majority and as an embattled minority.

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The Ethics of Collective Sponsorship

Virtuous Action and Obligation in Contemporary Tibet

Jane Caple

ABSTRACT

A significant strand of anthropological work on Buddhist generosity practices in Therāvādin and Tibetan Buddhist societies has examined their role in reproducing and reinforcing social and economic hierarchies. Inspired by the recent ‘moral turn’ in anthropology, this article addresses the moral dimensions of these practices by analyzing debates, decisions, and judgments about what to sponsor and how to do so during times of accelerated ‘modernizing’ change. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in northeastern Tibet (Amdo) conducted between 2008 and 2015, I focus on a mode of collective sponsorship that has, in different contexts, been considered good, problematic, or even wrong. The moral grounds for such evaluations show that sponsorship is evaluated and experienced not only as a Buddhist practice but also as a social and economic practice with direct consequences for both individuals and communities. The moral stakes of generosity practices are shown to extend beyond individual ethics to the common good.

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Introduction

Religions, Histories, and Comparisons

Simon Coleman, Ruy Llera Blanes, and Sondra L. Hausner

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Introduction

Legacies, Trajectories, and Comparison in the Anthropology of Buddhism

Nicolas Sihlé and Patrice Ladwig

ABSTRACT

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.

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Bülent Diken

ABSTRACT

Winter Sleep is the latest film from Nuri Bilge Ceylan, a Turkish director and screenwriter who has received international acclaim. For the purpose of social and cultural analysis, this article critically focuses on the film’s key themes and maneuvers that have diagnostic value from a social theoretical viewpoint. These themes are religion, the relationship between religion and capitalism, and symbolic exchange. Organized around these topics, the article examines the religion-capitalism-symbolic exchange nexus by analyzing the motifs of formation, intervention, and intelligibility as these themes arise. This site of intersection is the conceptual pivot around which the article configures itself. It explores Winter Sleep based on what the film shows and says on screen, how its thought processes emerge, and at what points this thought supports or conflicts with dominant societal opinions.

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Portrait

J. D. Y. Peel

Marloes Janson, Wale Adebanwi, David Pratten, Ruth Marshall, Stephan Palmié, Amanda Villepastour, and J. D. Y. Peel

Edited by Richard Fardon and Ramon Sarró

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The Religious Foundations of Capoeira Angola

The Cosmopolitics of an Apparently Non-religious Practice

Sergio González Varela

ABSTRACT

Scholars commonly associate the religiosity of capoeira with the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé, although some consider capoeira to be exclusively a martial art or even a sport. From the vantage point of the leaders of capoeira Angola groups, their individual power comes from a set of magical attributes that go beyond the influence of Afro-Brazilian religions. In this article, I explore an alternative form of spirituality that is based on the existence of spiritual beings such as the ancestors and the dead mestres (leaders). I argue that these entities emerge only in capoeira performances, affecting ritual action in such a way as to constitute an alternative form of religion that co-exists with Candomblé. By focusing on the effects that these spirits have in the configuration of charismatic personal power, it is possible to delineate cosmological attributes that make capoeira a potential religious practice in its own right.

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Erick White

ABSTRACT

Anthropological studies of spirit possession in Theravada Buddhist worlds continue to be strongly shaped by many of the theoretical presumptions embedded in the analytic models proposed by the earliest generation of scholars. The ability of subsequent theoretical developments in the discipline to influence analyses of spirit possession, Theravada Buddhism, and the relationship between them has been hindered in recent decades by the limited institutionalization of the anthropology of Buddhism as a shared, comparative research agenda. This article re-examines anthropological models of spirit possession in Theravada Buddhist South and Southeast Asia in light of three theoretical developments in anthropology in the final decades of the twentieth century—the critique of culture, the rise of practice theory, and the historical turn. Incorporating these developments more fully will, it is argued, advance a more analytically robust and empirically nuanced framing of both Buddhism and spirit possession as objects of future anthropological study.

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Ritual Tattooing and the Creation of New Buddhist Identities

An Inquiry into the Initiation Process in a Burmese Organization of Exorcists

Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière

ABSTRACT

The Manaw Seittokpad congregation, an organization of Burmese exorcists with headquarters in Bago, presents some unique features, such as a rigorous registration procedure during the initiation process. Exorcism is linked to superhuman figures, or weikza, at the center of a religious domain often characterized as a form of Buddhist esotericism. Based on observation of rituals during this congregation’s annual conventions in Bago, the initiation process is analyzed with reference to an anthropological understanding of rites of passage and religious conversion. The article shows how undergoing these rites induces healed patients to enter a specific community formed by the members of the congregation. Furthermore, the acquisition of a new ‘truly’ Buddhist identity is understood as a process equivalent to an ‘internal conversion’. Finally, the contrastive use of ritualism is seen as a way to construct the practice of exorcism in the weikza domain as a specific ‘path’ within the Burmese religious field.