This article centers on the somatic modes through which ghosts, spirits, and other unseen beings are apprehended as felt experiences by the Bidayuh, an indigenous group of Malaysian Borneo. Such experiences reveal a local epistemology of supernatural encounters that associates vision with normality and its suspension with both sensory and social liminality. The second half of the article explores how this model has been extended to contemporary Bidayuh Christianity, thus rendering God, Jesus, and other personages viscerally real in people's lives. Drawing on the ethnography and recent developments in the anthropology of religion, I argue that these 'soul encounters' hold important theoretical and methodological lessons for anthropologists, pushing us to reshape our conceptions of belief, as well as our approaches to the study of ostensibly intangible religious phenomena.
'Sportsex' in Victorian Britain
Thomas Hughes's idealised vision of life at Rugby public school is one of the best-known novels in the English language. It was regarded from the outset as a founding text of 'muscular Christianity'. Contrary to the intentions of its author, it helped to inaugurate the cult of 'manly' athleticism that swept through the English public schools in the second half of the nineteenth-century. I argue that the novel reveals tensions around gender and sexuality that were in play among public schoolboys during the second half of the nineteenth century. These tensions exploded into full public view in the trial of Oscar Wilde in 1895 and were instrumental in helping to establish a structure of homophobia within homosocial settings that has lasted through to the present day.
Evangelical Protestant Conceptions of Faith and the Resonance of Anti-humanism
This article explores the cultural significance of faith among US evangelical Protestants. It is argued that evangelical conceptions of faith provide an idiom for expressing religiosity that transcends conventional notions of belief, which alone do not account for the ideals of evangelical subjectivity. Through an analysis of group rituals in a Tennessee megachurch, along with a discussion of the historical roots of evangelical theology and the growing influence of charismatic Christianity, the article highlights an emphasis on radical intersubjectivity that calls upon the faithful to submit to the totalizing authority of divine agency. It is further argued that evangelical conceptions of faith feature a strand of anti-humanism that resonates with the increasingly authoritarian politics of the post-welfare era, which are explored in relation to the growing phenomenon of altruistic faith-based activism.
The Seventeenth-Century Mexican Primordial Titles
Through the analysis of two exemplary sources pertaining to the genre of the Nahua primordial titles of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the aim of this essay is to contribute further to our understanding of how this distinct Nahua colonial genre can be used for the study of Nahua social memory during Spanish colonial times. More precisely, what this present essay endeavors to identify the subtextual and supra-textual layers in these two sources. Second, it aims to highlight the replicated memory formulas applied in these specific texts; and third, to analyze the role of Christianity in these memory plots. By way of these three aspects, the task of this present study is to demonstrate that customs of remembrance, deeply rooted in the practice of a collective social memory were still cherished and kept vibrant during the mid colonial period.
What Has Changed after Twenty Years in Israel?
Larissa Remennick and Anna Prashizky
Most former Soviet immigrants who arrived in Israel had a secular or atheistic outlook, with only a small minority leaning toward Orthodox Judaism or Christianity. To understand how 20 years of life in the ethno-religious polity of Israel have influenced their religious beliefs and practices, we conducted a survey of a national sample of post-1990 immigrants. The findings suggest that most immigrants have adopted the signs and symbols of the Jewish lifestyle. They celebrate the major religious holidays in some form, and many are interested in learning more about Jewish culture and history. We interpret these changes mainly as an adaptive response aiming at social inclusion in the Israeli Jewish mainstream rather than actually emerging religiosity. Few immigrants observe the demanding laws of kashrut and Shabbat, and even fewer attend synagogues and belong to religious communities. Their expressed attitudes toward state-religion matters reflect their ethno-nationalist stance, which is more typical for ethnic Jews than for partial or non-Jews.
Or, How a Finnish Peasant Can Become an African Folk Hero
This article sets out to locate a particular postcolonial museum in its historical context, concentrating on local responses to change. It focuses on the specific historical interaction between villagers in northern Namibia and Finnish missionaries, and demonstrates that the dynamics of this interaction have led the villagers to remember the past in terms of a cleavage between pagans and Christians that is played out in the regular performances that take place for foreign visitors at the Nakambale museum. I argue that the performance of ‘tradition’ allows local people to transform the narrative presented in the physical layout of the museum into one that both emphasizes their own historical agency and demonstrates their contemporary Christian identities. The traditional/modern dichotomy implied by the museum’s narrative of the civilizing influence, brought by Christianity, provides them with an opportunity to do just that.
A Dialogue between Brazilian Social Sciences and the Anthropology of Christianity
Cecília L. Mariz and Roberta B.C. Campos
This article aims to show how the hegemonic interpretation of Pentecos- talism in Brazil has difficulty recognizing changes caused by these churches to 'local' cultures. We argue that this tendency can be explained by a widespread adherence to structuralist theories of society combined with an unwillingness to accept the reimag- ining of a national culture historically built up by Brazilian social science. We suggest that the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God has been the Pentecostal church most studied by Brazilian researchers because it provides a powerful means to indicate the strength of 'Brazilian culture'. Through our analysis of more recent studies, we point out the salience of these debates to wider questions relating to the emergent anthropology of Christianity, concluding that since neither discontinuities nor continuities can be denied in the field, the focus on one or the other dimension should be seen as a methodological choice rather than an orientation specifically arising from empirical observation.
Religious Leadership among African Christians
Thomas G. Kirsch
This article addresses a long-standing conundrum in the anthropology of religion concerning the ambiguous status of religious leaders: they are subjects of power in that they are able to exert power over others, yet they are objects of power in that they rely on empowerment through others. Taking African-initiated Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity in Zambia as my example, I argue that church leaders' strategies to stabilize their authority have unintended consequences since these strategies can contribute to the precariousness of their positions. By drawing fundamental distinctions between themselves and members of the laity as regards their own extraordinariness, church leaders raise high expectations about their own capacities that may turn out to be impossible to fulfill. Yet even the opposite strategy of strengthening one's authority by embedding oneself in socio-religious networks can eventually lead to a destabilization of church leaders' authority because it increases their dependence on factors that are beyond their control.
An Overdue Tribute
Dale K. Van Kley
Robert R. Palmer wrote his first book, Catholics and Unbelievers in Eighteenth Century France, under the influence of his mentor at Cornell University, Carl L. Becker. Whereas Becker had claimed that the "enlightened" French philosophes were more indebted to Christianity than they recognized, Palmer argued that French Catholic apologists in the eighteenth century were also more "enlightened" than they knew. The two theses are complementary sides of Becker's wider point that beneath an intellectual debate in the public sphere there lay certain shared assumptions that make discussion possible, or what Alfred Whitehead had called a common "climate of opinion." Devoted to the subsequent historiography of Palmer's subject, this article argues that although research has since vindicated aspects of Palmer's portrait of French "enlightened" Jesuits, it has also altered Palmer's picture of French Jansenists as being globally unenlightened. This development in historiography enlarges Palmer's own notion of a "climate of opinion," while challenging the coherence of recent notions of a single "Catholic Enlightenment."
Studies on Religious Anti-syncretism in the Western Rhodopes, Bulgaria
This essay questions the thesis of the supposed syncretic nature of the religion of Bulgarian-speaking Muslims, an idea still espoused in Bulgarian ethnography and popular among the Rhodope Christian population. It examines the Muslim motivations for attending Christian holy places in the Rhodopes, particularly the Monastery of St George in Hadzhidimovo, to gather evidence from the actual participants. It shows that the local Muslims and Christians offer incompatible interpretations of the Muslim practice. Furthermore, it takes into account Muslim and Christian testimonies on how Muslims behave in the monastery of St George, and how their gestures are interpreted by both groups. Although the Muslim narratives betray a rather anti-syncretic attitude to Christianity, the Christians sometimes tend to see them as actual crypto-Christians. In my conclusions I stake out a position in the recent polemic between Glenn Bowman and Robert Hayden concerning the specificity of interactions between dissenters at sacred shrines.