This article proposes “divine kinship” as an analytical tool with which to explore the relation between the divine, “the people”, and their political leaders and advance an ethnographically led comparative anthropology of democracy. More specifically, using the political ethnographies of five localities—North India, Venezuela, Montenegro, Russia, and Nepal—we discuss lived understandings of popular sovereignty, electoral representation, and political hope. We argue that charismatic kinship is crucial to understanding the processes by which political leaders and elected representatives become the embodiment of “the people”, and highlight the processes through which “ordinary people” are transformed into “extraordinary people” with royal/divine/democratic qualities.
Divine kinship and popular democratic politics
Alice Forbess and Lucia Michelutti
The rival hagiographic genealogies of the new Montenegrin polity
This article examines how hero-ancestor-saints came to be drawn into contestations over heritage, economic assets, and ritual between two rival groups of Orthodox clerics and their political and entrepreneurial backers. After Montenegro's secession from Serbia (2006), pro- and anti-Serbian factions of the population have been mobilized under the banners of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) and of the recently formed Montenegrin Orthodox Church (MOC). As spheres of authority are being carved out in the new polity, competing political and sacred genealogies are used to articulate the nation's descent through earlier state projects in the region. This article examines how Orthodox notions of charisma and leadership intersect with the heroic traditions of highland clans and contemporary state processes to create specific forms of authority inscribed in divine kinship genealogies.
Charismatic kinship and leadership across India and Venezuela
This article uses the analytical tool of divine kinship to explore political charisma across Indian and Venezuelan democratic social revolutions. In both contexts, charismatic elected political leaders build their image of strength and action on a wide repertoire of cultural and religious resources that are legitimated by divine kinship. The juxtaposition of the Indian and Venezuelan political ethnographies shows how charismatic kinship inflects lived understandings of popular sovereignty and opens up spaces for holding personality politics accountable.
State-church relationships and the vernacularization of the politics of memory
Since state atheism was abandoned in the 1990s, the Russian Federation entered what can be called a postsecular phase. Religion, formerly limited to the private sphere, reappeared in the public and underwent an astonishing religious revival. During the time of my fieldwork in 2006/2007, a tendency to favor the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and to facilitate its return to the public reached its climax. In this article I draw attention to how the political, the secular, and the religious are interconnected and allow for new vernacular forms of legitimating power and authority. One example is the introduction of new public holidays and public rituals. They connect local and national narratives and relate to ideas about the communality of the Russian people. They create new forms of a divine kinship, which draw heavily on religious and national symbols and merge the sacred and the profane.
Kenneth Bo Nielsen
’ movements in India , pp. 72 – 94 . Essex : Frank Cass . Forbes , Alice , and Lucia Michelutti . 2013 . “From the mouth of God”: Divine kinship in contemporary popular politics . Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 67 : 1 – 18