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From the Throes of Anguished Mourning

Shi‘i Ritual Lamentation and the Pious Publics of Lebanon

Fouad Gehad Marei

Abstract

Drawing on a study of Shi‘i ritual lamentation in Lebanon, this article examines how religious actors and pious publics employ literary, recitational, theatrical, and socio-technological methods to cultivate imaginal engagements with the other-worldly. These methods are analyzed, demonstrating how they locate pious Shi‘is in religious meta-narratives that transcend the linearity of time, taking place simultaneously in the Elsewhere and in the here-and-now. I argue that this produces transposable and lasting dispositions that constitute the Shi‘i self, immerses subjects in this-worldly-oriented modes of religiosity, and bestows upon Shi‘i politics and the imagined community a profound emotional legitimacy. I posit that cultivated engagements with the Elsewhere are constitutive experiences in modes of religiosity that emphasize a symbiosis between human action and metaphysical intervention, thus complicating the question of agency and intentional action.

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Introduction

The Personal and the Political

Simon Coleman and Sondra L. Hausner

The central task of our journal is to present outstanding work on religion. Through our focus on individual scholars in the Portrait section, we are also able to consider how such work is produced, and our hope is to reveal the intellectual, institutional, political, and personal factors behind research that has helped us to revive and reconstruct our field. The subject of this year's Portrait, Talal Asad, has famously addressed questions about the category of religion in unusually productive and provocative ways. Published here for the first time, Asad's autobiographical observations take the reader through some of the key relationships and events of his life, from a remarkable childhood during which he witnessed the violence of Partition first-hand, to what happened in 1950 when he arrived in London from Pakistan and began to discern the problems behind “the local version of modern civilization into which [he] was being unevenly assimilated,” to the process of becoming an anthropologist and an ethnographer.

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Introduction

Elsewhere Affects and the Politics of Engagement across Religious Life-Worlds

Omar Kasmani, Nasima Selim, Hansjörg Dilger, and Dominik Mattes

Imagine a divided mountain-scape. A line of ceasefire. Fog. Imagine coming to a clearing. In a mist-covered, militarized order of here and t/here, affection makes way where vision or bodies cannot. Mothers call out to daughters; sons identify their mothers’ voices in two-way traffics of sound. So long as the vocal exchange lasts, somewhere along the disputed territory of the Golan Heights, an Elsewhere opens.

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Learning the Elsewhere of ‘Inner Space’

The Affective Pedagogy of Post-Secular Sufi Healing in Germany

Nasima Selim

Abstract

How is access to the Elsewhere facilitated through affective pedagogy in a contemporary Sufi setting in Germany? This article draws analytical lessons from Inayati healing seminars that took place in the summer of 2013. Participants were instructed to feel the Elsewhere of ‘inner space’ in the material/corporeal realities by attuning to breath, sonic resonance, collective movement, and attentive listening. The affective pedagogy of the teacher extended the spatial-temporal coordinates of the Elsewhere (as framed by Mittermaier) to include ‘fleeting affects’ among its unknown elements. These pedagogic tactics entangled religious and secular life-worlds with aesthetic and therapeutic traditions. Learning to feel the unknown affects emanating from the Elsewhere in this setting aimed to provide existential resources to cope with the everyday struggles of post-secular life.

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Politicizing Elsewhere(s)

Negotiating Representations of Neo-Pentecostal Aesthetic Practice in Berlin

Dominik Mattes

Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic research in a Nigerian-based Pentecostal church in Berlin, this article explores the discussions that emerged when my scholarly representations of the congregants’ aesthetic engagements with the Elsewhere diverged from the church leadership's expectations. More specifically, it interrogates my representational practice in relation to the stakes of the diasporic congregation, which is operating at the political margin of Berlin's widely diverse religious landscape. In exploring the collision of my analytical focus on the affect-charged elements of the believers’ routines of connecting to the Elsewhere with the church's emphasis on affective discipline and moderation, the article demonstrates how aesthetic practices that engage with the Elsewhere not only have a religious but inevitably also a political bearing.

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Portrait

Talal Asad

Talal Asad, Jonathan Boyarin, Nadia Fadil, Hussein Ali Agrama, Donovan O. Schaefer, and Ananda Abeysekara

Autobiographical Reflections on Anthropology and Religion, Talal Asad

For Talal, Jonathan Boyarin

On Anthropology as Translation, Nadia Fadil

Friendship and Time in the Work of Talal Asad, Hussein Ali Agrama

Talal Asad’s Challenge to Religious Studies, Donovan O. Schaefer

Finding Talal Asad in and beyond Buddhist Studies: Agency and Race in Modern Pasts, Ananda Abeysekara

Open access

Albert I. Baumgarten

Abstract

Purity and Danger, published in 1966, remains Dame Mary Douglas's most famous book and “The Abominations of Leviticus” its most widely read chapter. In 2005, only two years before her death and in preparation for the Hebrew translation of Purity and Danger, which appeared in 2010, Douglas wrote a preface for that publication. With the likely interests of the Hebrew reader in mind, the preface expresses Douglas's final reflections on the history of her engagement with “The Abominations of Leviticus.” It includes a restatement of her conclusions in light of Valerio Valeri's work, in which she found the preferred approach to the questions she had asked over the years. This article presents Douglas's preface after setting it in the context of her contributions.

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Marla Frederick, Yunus Doğan Telliel, and Heather Mellquist Lehto

COVID-19, Religious Markets, and the Black Church, Marla Frederick

Can You See the Big Picture? COVID-19 and Telescoping Truth, Yunus Doğan Telliel

Learning from Religious Diasporas in Pandemic Times, Heather Mellquist Lehto

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Weapons for Witnessing

American Street Preaching and the Rhythms of War

Kyle Byron

Abstract

Drawing on observations of the performances of street preachers in the United States—as well as the texts that inform them—this article explores the concept of rhythm within and beyond the anthropology of religion. More specifically, it develops an expansive concept of rhythm as multiple and interactive, focusing not on a singular rhythm, but on the rhythmic translations that shape the practice of street preaching. First, I argue that the material rhythms of urban infrastructure constrain the narrative rhythms of the street preacher's sermon, producing a distinct homiletics. I then suggest that the ideological rhythms of war animate the narrative rhythms of the street preacher's sermon, linking military strategies with tactics of evangelism. Examining the material, narrative, and ideological rhythms of streets, sermons, and military doctrine, this article advances an analytic framework whereby the intersecting rhythmic tensions that shape performance can be registered.

Open access

Alena Minchenia

Abstract

This article analyzes divisions within Belarusian protest communities by focusing on a particular group: the professional protesters. In Belarus, this group occupies a crucial position in between the international structures of democracy promotion and the internal attempts of political mobilization against the politics of President Aliaksandr Lukashenka. Performativity as an analytical perspective is employed to define positionality of professional protesters in relation to other political subjects and within the system of democracy promotion. The article shows implications of neoliberal rationality for social and political changes for protest communities in Belarus. It argues that the financial assistance obtained by protest professionals, as well as nondemocratic leadership style of the oppositional leaders, fills the Belarusian protest field with suspicions and accusations, add to a hierarchical and exclusionary way of participation in decision-making, and alienate activists from protest politics.