There is no doubt that anthropology needs new approaches for understanding dramatic change, a new way of figuring the relationship between structure and subjectivity (often abusively assimilated by anthropologists to consciousness or the individual person), which I take to be part of the gambit of the project of an anthropology of Christianity. There is also a real need for a renewal of critical thought on the problems of exploitation, oppression, injustice—on the devastating ravages of late neoliberal capitalism on the masses of the Global South, which are also the populations most engaged in the new wave of conversions. Nothing testifies to this more dramatically or poignantly than the recent wave of self-immolations that has swept across North Africa in the past weeks, nor, might I add, to the ongoing force of a sacrificial politics. But can we really claim that something called Global Christianity (a shorthand, here, for its Pentecostal or charismatic forms), if not able to provide a model for emancipatory action, might, in dialogue with the atheist, post-foundational left, give us something better to think with?Read the rest of Falling on the sword of the spirit.
Ruth Marshall is an assistant professor in the Department for the Study of Religion and the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on Africa, especially West Africa, with a focus on transnational religion, war and violence, youth militias, citizenship, ethno-nationalism, autochthony, and international interventionism. She is the author of Political Spiritualities: The Pentecostal Revolution in Nigeria (University of Chicago Press, 2009) as well as numerous articles in journals and edited volumes.