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The Precarious Center

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.

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The Other Secular Modern

An Empirical Critique of Asad

Steve Bruce

Talal Asad explains the marginalization of religion in liberal democracies by invoking the modern state's desire to control. This paper argues that, in the Anglophone world, self-conscious secularism played little or no part in the secularization of public life. The expansion of the secular sphere was primarily an unintended consequence of actions by religious impositionists. Far from leading the promotion of the secular, the state had to be pressed by the demands of religious minorities to reduce the powers of established religion. The state provision of secular social services was usually a reaction to the inability of competing religious organizations to continue their provision. As this review of church–state relations in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand shows, the reduction in the social power of religion owed more to the failure of Christians to agree than to a deliberately secularizing state.

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Introduction

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.

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Encountering the Supernatural

A Phenomenological Account of Mind

Julia Cassaniti and Tanya Marie Luhrmann

In this article we compare the encounter with the supernatural—experiences in which a person senses the immaterial—in Thailand and in the United States. These experiences appear to be shaped by different conceptions of the mind. In the US, there is a sharp, natural division between one's mind and the world; in Thailand, individuals have the moral responsibility to control their minds. These differences appear to explain how people identify and sense the supernatural. In the US, it is an external, responsive agent; in Thailand, it is an energy that escapes from an uncontrolled mind. Here we approach phenomenology—the experience of experience—comparatively, identifying patterns in social expectations that affect the ways in which humans think, feel, and sense. We take an experiential category of life that we know to be universal and use it to analyze cultural concepts that influence the enactment and interpretation of feeling and sensing.

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Belonging in a New Myanmar

Identity, Law, and Gender in the Anthropology of Contemporary Buddhism

Juliane Schober

. Beginning in the 1980s, the Ministry expanded its purview by imposing stringent controls on Christian, Muslim, and Hindu communities to ensure that religious identities would not become a site for fomenting political dissent. In a country governed by

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Portrait

Eileen Barker

Linda Woodhead, James T. Richardson, Martyn Percy, Catherine Wessinger and Eileen Barker

Ivory Tower” (p. 290) and into the messy and complicated arenas of modern life in which the study of religion actually takes place. Her targets are those who pretend that studying religion is like studying patient pathologies in controlled conditions

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Kosher Biotech

Between Religion, Regulation, and Globalization

Johan Fischer

culture that is also highly relevant to kosher production is the call for increased control and self-control in companies “to satisfy the need to connect internal organizational arrangements to public ideals” (ibid.: 10). Staff policies that introduce

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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

specific healing knowledge and power that the congregations claim to hold, but also for complete control over their membership. Indeed, the most decisive feature of the structured organization of the Manaw Seittokpad congregation is a formally rigorous

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Steven Brooke, Dafne Accoroni, Olga Ulturgasheva, Anastasios Panagiotopoulos, Eugenia Roussou, Francesco Vacchiano, Jeffrey D. Howison, Susan Greenwood, Yvonne Daniel, Joana Bahia, Gloria Goodwin Raheja, Charles Lincoln Vaughan, Katrien Pype and Linda van de Kamp

, access to the Muslim home, construed as a hotbed of anti-colonial resistance where Islamic values barred the penetration of French control. Therefore, the last attack on the Muslim/Sufi body was carried out through puériculture (the science of raising

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Pentecostalism and Egalitarianism in Melanesia

A Reconsideration of the Pentecostal Gender Paradox

Annelin Eriksen

became the subject of an extremely elaborate discourse. Sex became a matter of an inner state that should be controlled through confessional practices. On all levels of the social, from state policies on demography and population control, to the