Posts Tagged ‘Pentecostalism’

May 30th, 2017

Practice and performance in ritual language

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Practice and performance in ritual languageDoes it make a difference to think of ritual language such as prayer in terms of a relation between practice and performance? I do not mean this in the sense that a musician practices an instrument in preparation for a concert performance, or an athlete practices in preparation for performance in a competition. I mean it in the sense of practice as carrying out a particular activity in a regular or habitual way, in contrast to performance as a marked or highlighted form of action distinct from everyday action and addressed to an actual or imagined audience. Someone may engage in the practice of singing every day, but may also sing every day for an audience, real or imagined. One can identify a continuum of “degree of performance” between informal everyday speech and formal ritual utterance. . . .

Focusing specifically on prayer as a mode of utterance present both in ritual events and in everyday life allows for a rethinking of practice and performance as simultaneous modalities of action. The simultaneity of performance and practice in this theoretical or conceptual sense is not the same as the collapsing of performance into practice in prayer that I observed ethnographically. In this sense, any act of prayer has both a practical and a performative component. Practice is guided by a logic while performance is impelled by a rhetoric. Both are necessary features of prayer as ritual language.

September 18th, 2013

CFP: Remixing Religion

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The University of Texas at Austin has announced a call for papers for the upcoming interdisciplinary graduate student conference, “Remixing Religion,” to be held at UT Austin on April 4, 2014. Please send paper titles and abstracts (300 words or less) to by November 27, 2013.

August 28th, 2012

A hard road for an atheist preacher

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In an article in this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, Robert F. Worth writes about the four days he spent with Pentecostal preacher turned itinerant atheist speaker Jerry DeWitt.

April 18th, 2012

Contradictions of religious freedom and religious repression

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The collapse of the Soviet Union marked the end of seventy years of anti-religious policies—of a period in which religious expression was severely curtailed and religious institutions were always controlled, at times co-opted, and at other times brutally repressed, with the aim of effecting the demise of religion, an aim which was never fully realized. The post-1991 era was radically different, at least in those newly independent countries that adopted and implemented liberal laws regarding religious expression and organization. It might be expected that religious leaders and practitioners would have a straightforwardly positive view of this widening scope for religious activities, but this turned out not always to be the case.

April 18th, 2011

De-provincializing Oprah

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In Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon, Kathryn Lofton holds up a lustrous mirror to the polymorphously perverse dynamics of boom and bust, surplus and lack, and redemptive optimism and paranoid anxiety that characterize America (and much of the world) at the turn of the twenty-first century…. [Her] insight into the intense and extensive contemporary intra-activity of materiality and spirituality is a powerful explanatory tool. For example, it helps explain the explosive growth of global Neo-Pentecostal networks and cultures, which operate through mass media and popular culture to spread a gospel of health and wealth based on the notion that spiritual salvation, economic success, and physical well-being are mutually implicative.

February 28th, 2011

Falling on the sword of the spirit

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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?

December 17th, 2010

Blinded by the light, or, Why can’t liberals see?

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Where a century ago liberal Christians (and even some anthropologists) were citing Marx and Bergson in the hope of transforming their tradition into an anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movement of revolution and revitalization, the current merger of continental philosophy and what Ruth Marshall has called Pentecostal “political spiritualities” seems driven more by anthropologists’ theoretical musings than by a broad Pentecostal reception of Žižek or Badiou (although this too is changing). With this earlier liberal Christian engagement in mind, I was particularly struck by a metaphor common to several of the essays (in Global Christianity, Global Critique), in which liberals—both secular and Christian—are diagnosed with blindness, or, more broadly, with a sensual deficit that disables them from seeing the distorting effects of their own triumphalist rationalism.

December 1st, 2010

Culture, nature, and mediation

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Matthew Engelke is right: religion is about mediation. Ironically so, because it is about the divine; but because the divine is never directly available, religion must instead be about how the divine is indirectly manifest. . . . Because religion is about mediation, it naturally refuses any duality of nature and culture. Reality, as the true nature of things, is sacred, but it must be mediated by particular human relations and practices. Culture, therefore, can be neither merely arbitrary nor totally opposed to nature, since it is what truly discloses the latter.

November 10th, 2010

The indispensability of form

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The salience of ideas and practices that emphasize rupture from previous social settings and modes of thought should not blind us to the fact that Pentecostalism arises as a new social-aesthetic formation. Next to the indeed remarkable emphasis placed on rupture and newness, as well as on the possibility of miraculous divine intervention in Pentecostal accounts, we should not overlook that Pentecostal religiosity also entails authorized and socially shared practices and techniques that are required for the event of divine intervention to occur. In other words, the call for a “break with the past,”  deliverance from “evil spirits,” taking “Christ as personal savior,” being “born again”  and “filled with the Holy Spirit,” all of which emphasize newness, rupture, and an immediate encounter with the divine, is voiced—over and over again—in an established manner that is characteristic of Pentecostal religiosity.

October 29th, 2010

Virtual Christianity

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Whether this issue of South Atlantic Quarterly succeeds or fails, it will do so on the basis of its core gambit: that the post-Marxist explosion in Pauline literature, by authors such as Badiou and Žižek, and the post-cold war explosion in Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity have, if not some kind of commensurability, then at least enough intelligibly contrasting elements to serve as the crux of a discussion. This is already a dicey proposition, given the gulf between the abstract rigors of philosophy and the populist accessibility of most modes of contemporary religiosity. Perhaps the biggest challenge is not locating the identity and difference between these two conceptual objects, however, but instead agreeing preliminarily that they both have referents of some sort—that we can speak intelligibly of either a “Pauline Turn” or “Global Christianity” in the first place. We must start out then, it seems, with the question of categories, at least as a preliminary grid to be abandoned later.

December 16th, 2009

How important was Oral Roberts?

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The passing of another iconic televangelist has led to a flurry of media coverage.  How important was Oral Roberts?

September 29th, 2008

What does Azusa have to do with Washington?

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Does a candidate’s faith matter?  That seems to be one of the more pressing questions being asked in opinion pieces and on blogs these last few weeks.  Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s evangelicalism has raised eyebrows on the left and hopes on the right. […]

September 25th, 2008

Perplexed by Pentecostalism

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Lost in the discussion of Sarah Palin’s religion is an appreciation for the diversity of American Pentecostalism, past and present.