Kirsch, Thomas G.
Collective Intimacy in Pentecostal Christianity
2022-09-05, Kirsch, Thomas G., Mahlke, Kirsten, van Dijk, Rijk
Scholars have come up with a wide range of explanations for why Pentecostal Christianity has had such an extraordinary appeal over the last decades for people worldwide. Some have pointed to the great importance Pentecostalism gives to the power of the Holy Spirit, which allows religious practitioners to experience and feel empowered by the immanent presence of God on earth. In this chapter, the author proposes an alternative explanation. He argues that one of the appeals of Pentecostalism lies in the specific pneumatological way in which it deals with what are imagined to be precarious and even socially dangerous forms of intimacy between humans and spirits, as exemplified by spirit-assisted witchcraft. The author provides a general discussion of human-spirit relationships, in which he also introduces the heuristic distinction between ‘dyadic’ and ‘triadic’ constellations of spirit possession.
Family Resemblances in Action : An Introduction to Religiopolitical Activism in Southern Africa
2021, van Dijk, Rijk, Kirsch, Thomas G., Duarte dos Santos, Franziska
The introduction to this special issue argues that in many countries in southern Africa a new phase in the entanglement between the religious and the political has set in. Increasingly, activists in political fields are borrowing from religious registers of discourse and practice, while conversely, activists in the religious domain are adopting discourses and practices originating in the political domain. We suggest that this religiopolitical activism is simultaneously the product of a climate of profound social change and an important transformative force within it. In order to do justice to the complex dynamics of southern African religiopolitical activism in its manifold manifestations, we draw on the concept of ‘family resemblances’. This allows us to examine how the boundaries between religious and political registers are made the object of situated social negotiations. The family resemblances explored in this special issue range from religiopolitical activists’ habitus and their communication strategies via religious leaders’ self-positionings in relation to the political, to the creation of specific religiopolitical spaces.
Practising Ecumenism Through Boundary Work and Meta-Coding
2018-03-04, Kirsch, Thomas G.
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork on religion in Zambia, this article engages critically with approaches that suggest that ecumenism necessarily occurs across socio-religious boundaries. I argue that the objective of ecumenism – namely, good-willed co-operation between religious practitioners who are otherwise separated from each other in terms of their institutional affiliations – can also be attained through boundary work and use of the meta-codes ‘non-Christian – Christian’ and ‘Christian –“real” Christian’. I contend that using these meta-codes in the logic of what has been called ‘fractal recursion’ allows people to stress situationally the existence of commonalities between religious practitioners and/or religious groupings that, at other points in time, are perceived to be different from each other. In this way, the shifting of categorical boundaries produces ecumenical reality effects.
Introduction : Hedging in Demons and the Uncanny
2022, Kirsch, Thomas G., Mahlke, Kirsten, van Dijk, Rijk
In contemporary Mozambique, avenging spirits may be appeased by marrying them to young women. For instance, when the spirit of a man who was a homicide victim keeps haunting the murderer’s family, ritually making it a spirit spouse turns it into an official family member. As this example shows, occult manifestations in the domestic and intimate spheres of life are often perceived to be uncanny, abnormal, defective and inadmissible; yet, under certain conditions they can also be deemed desirable. In the social sciences and humanities, a prominent way of addressing the occult has been to examine it through the lens of local ‘spirit idioms’, that is, with a view to the culturally dependent role of references to spiritual forces in people’s sense-making practices and social constructions of reality. Empirical examples of people becoming deeply concerned about the occult in domestic and intimate spheres of life abound.
Domestic Demons and the Intimate Uncanny
2022, Kirsch, Thomas G., van Dijk, Rijk, Mahlke, Kirsten
This book explores local cultural discourses and practices relating to manifestations and experiences of the demonic, the spectral and the uncanny, probing into their effects on people’s domestic and intimate spheres of life. The chapters examine the uncanny in a cross-cultural manner, involving empirically rich case studies from sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Europe. They use an interdisciplinary and comparative approach to show how people are affected by their intimate interactions with spiritual beings. While several chapters focus on the tensions between public and private spheres that emerge in the context of spiritual encounters, others explore what kind of relationships between humans and demonic entities are imagined to exist and in what ways these imaginations can be interpreted as a commentary on people’s concerns and social realities. Offering a critical look at a form of spiritual experience that often lacks academic examination, this book will be of great use to scholars of Religious Studies who are interested in the occult and paranormal, as well as academics working in Anthropology, Sociology, African Studies, Latin American Studies, Gender Studies and Transcultural Psychology.
Managing Unruliness : The (Anti-)Politics of Volunteer Management Practices in Faith-Based Organizations
2021, Kirsch, Thomas G.
Based on an ethnographic analysis of volunteer management practices in faith-based organizations in Zambia, this article outlines the dilemmas that these organizations face when deploying volunteers. Due to financial constraints, most of these organizations have to rely on voluntary work from local residents in order to realize their goals. I show that when the volunteers’ work is concerned with social problems that are deemed to be controversial, faith-based organizations are at pains to demonstrate that their aims and activities should be categorized as ‘social work’ or ‘humanitarian assistance’, and not as activist (party) political engagement. Yet since volunteers are only loosely linked to these organizations in respect to their formal status, in practice they have a great deal of leeway in how issues are handled. This means that some of them use their commitment to volunteering to pursue their own political agendas. The article explores the strategies that faith-based organizations use to navigate the challenges that this kind of ‘partisan volunteering’ pose.