ARTICLES BY:
John Dulin, Susan Rasmussen, Noelle Stout, Victor Igreja,
Nurit Stadler, Ayala Fader and Owen Gottlieb

Volume 88, #3

Summer 2015

Volume 88, #3 • Summer 2015

 

ARTICLES

 

Reversing Rupture: Evangelicals’ Practice of Jewish Rituals and Processes
of Protestant Inclusion

John Dulin, University of California, San Diego

ABSTRACT—This article explores how an Evangelical community in southern California can embrace disparate worship modalities—formalistic/anti-formalistic, Jewish/Christian—as legitimate and acceptable moral options. It argues that a major engine driving the acceptance of a previously excluded worship form is the way that Jewish rituals become framed within a particular Christian model of time. The meta-ritual discourse of religious leaders and lay people connects the ritual context to other moments in Christian narratives, opening up a pocket of biblical temporality where divine phenomena can crystallize into material worship forms. The model of time I discuss instantiates different aspects of Christian metaphysics—immanence/transcendence, spirit/absence/incarnation—that manifest at distinct moments, allowing these moments to be evoked to legitimize multiple worship modalities. The ethnography and argument presented here suggests that attention to discourses that connect different temporal contexts may help us understand how theological ideas drive shifts toward both exclusion and greater inclusion of disparate worship forms in Christian communities. [Keywords: Christianity, millenarianism, ritual, time, semiotic ideology, Messianic Judaism, dispensationalism]

 

An Ambiguous Spirit Dream and Tuareg-Kunta Relationships in
Rural Northern Mali

Susan Rasmussen, University of Houston

ABSTRACT—Spirit-themed dreams—whether visitations or soul travels—are altered states that pose special challenges to the anthropologist. They are rooted in subjective personal experience, but their meanings are shaped by culturally and socially constructed religious knowledge and power. This article offers a case study of one Tuareg man’s dream of an elderly female spirit, based on my fieldwork in a small rural community in northern Mali, where residents include Tamajaq-speaking, Muslim, semi-nomadic, and socially-stratified Tuareg, as well as Arabic-speaking Kunta, with whom the Tuareg residents have cultural ties but also longstanding tensions. This case study does not represent all local experience, but does illustrate an individual’s experience and interpretation of widespread social, religious, and political predicaments in that village and region. Many Tuareg, whose own cosmological and social systems are at odds with but also influenced by those of North African Islam, express ambivalence toward Kunta efforts to impose more “orthodox” Islamic practices. In this specific case, I explore the meaning of reticence surrounding the spirit’s name and analyze the spirit’s multiple and interpenetrating identities. More broadly, the article shows how dreaming, though psychological and subjective, is also situated in wider contexts of historical, sociopolitical, and religious encounters; further, it reveals how the cultural models pondered in dreaming (as well as waking interpretations of dreams) can involve cultural dissonance and mixed sentiments, rather than agreed upon models, and can refer not solely to past, but also to future concerns. I argue that several possible “kaleidoscopic” identities emerge to describe this spirit figure, which reflect interweaving but also contentious models of gender and religion in the dreamer’s community. The article shows the importance of ambiguity in dreams and ambivalence in dreamers as an index of intersecting but also colliding systems of meaning, contested social changes, and opposed interests. [Keywords: Dreams, spirit possession/mediumship, religion, gender, Africa]

 

When a Yuma Meets Mama: Commodified Kin and the Affective Economies of Queer Tourism in Cuba

Noelle Stout, New York University

ABSTRACT—This article, I explore the kinship imaginaries that emerged between gay male tourists from North America and Europe and Cuban male sex workers and their families within the context of Havana’s queer erotic economies. Whereas male sex workers throughout Latin America and the Caribbean tended to conceal their male clients from their families, Cuban sexual laborers in this study incorporated queer foreigners into kinship imaginaries. Such bonds often conferred the rights and obligations of kin, while “blood” kinship was increasingly described in and subject to financial terms. Motivated by money rather than “blood” or “choice,” kinship ties fostered between foreign gay men and younger male sex workers prompt a rethinking of non-normative kin ties as an alternative to dominant systems of kinship and suggest the political and economic roots of familial bonds more broadly. [Keywords: Kinship, tourism, gender and sexuality, sex work, Latin America and the Caribbean, Cuba]

 

Intersections of Sensorial Perception and Imagination in Divination Practices
in Post-war Mozambique

Victor Igreja, University of Queensland

ABSTRACT—Following a long-term analysis of diverse divination practices in central Mozambique, this article examines how the civil war (1976–1992) and developments since the war’s end (2004–2010), which triggered new forms of consumption of mass media technologies such as television and film, significantly changed the role played by clients and their visual senses and imaginative abilities in the production of divinatory knowledge. These novel forms of client engagement in divination have increased the popularity of divination practices while also revealing the possibilities and constraints attached to processes of identity transformation through media technologies. Televised and film-based divination have helped to publicly expose the activities and culprits of serious evil-doings, but they have also shaped the identities of divination clients by offering a meta-commentary that denounces their own links to evil and witches in everyday life. [Keywords: Sensorial perception, divination, imagination, war violence, Mozambique]

 

Appropriating Jerusalem through Sacred Places: Disputed Land and Female Rituals at the at the Tombs of Mary and Rachel

Nurit Stadler, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

ABSTRACT—Due to deep-seated political tensions and intermittent violence between various streams of the city’s three major religions, Jerusalem’s sacred landscape is in the midst of significant change. One of the most salient expressions of this phenomenon is the renaissance of female saint shrines, most notably the Tomb of Mary and the proximate Tomb of Rachel the Matriarch. At these sites, female symbols, imagery rituals, and materiality have become powerful tools for asserting political claims that pertain to land and belonging. I will take stock of this phenomenon through the lens of different ethno-religious groups in Israel/Palestine that are availing themselves of female symbols (such as fertility, suffering, and maternal care) to advance various objectives. I find that these symbols have charged valences within minority communities. For members of the country’s hegemonic denominations, Rachel is the Jewish people’s “eternal mother” as well as a national symbol of the “return of the exiles” to their homeland. At the same time, local Catholic and Orthodox Christians view Mary to be “the mother of minorities” who suffered on behalf of and continues to provide succor for the weak. As a minority, Christians in Israel/Palestine employ this image of the Virgin as part of their effort to struggle with their weakening grip over the territories. Viewing the Virgin as a protector of minority groups is a departure from the vast majority of the Christian world, where Mary constitutes a national symbol that reinforces social belonging. In sum, I show how, amid the ongoing religious struggle, both female icons and their respective sacred venues are mobilized by different groups for the sake of challenging the political order and reshaping the landscape. [Keywords: Sacred places, pilgrimage, anthropology of religion, Jerusalem, sacred tombs, sacred architecture, land claims]

 

Occupy Judaism: Religion, Digital Media and the Public Sphere

Ayala Fader, Fordham University
and Owen Gottlieb, Rochester Institute of Technology

ABSTRACT—This article provides an analysis of Occupy Judaism, an explicitly religious expression of Jewish protest, which occurred simultaneously with Occupy Wall Street, the direct democracy movement of 2011. Occupy Judaism, like Occupy Wall Street, took place both in physical spaces of protest in New York City and digitally, through mobilizing and circulating debate. The article focuses on the words and actions of Daniel Sieradski, the public face and one of the key founders of Occupy Judaism, supplemented by the experiences of others in Occupy Judaism, Occupy Wall Street, and Occupy Faith (a Protestant clergy-led initiative). We investigate what qualified as religion in the public sphere of Occupy Wall Street, the implications of activities that blurred the lines between religious and secular in the context of public protest, and the relationship of these place-based activities to digital practice. The article emphasizes the importance of ethnographically investigating both physical protest and digital debate, which in this case created the potential for Jewish leftist religion to occupy a new space in the public sphere for a short time in 2011. Attention to the mediation of religion in the public sphere has implications for rethinking what constitutes the political, the religious, and the secular, as well as how digital practices may be implicated in debates over these terms. [Keywords: Occupy Wall Street, digital media, religion, public sphere, Judaism, social media, social protest, political protest]