Jenkins, “The Anthropology of Christianity: Situation and Critique”


Jenkins, Timothy. 2012. The Anthropology of Christianity: Situation and Critique. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 77(4):459-476.


This article seeks to identify and place the recent scholarship termed the ‘anthropology of Christianity’, to offer an account of its originality and achievements, and to point out some limiting tendencies. The argument in brief is this: anthropologists have neglected Christianity for reasons that now seem implausible. There is a small body of work that overtly recognizes this neglect and seeks to rectify it. In this work of rectification, there is a particular relationship to theology; some anthropologists of Christianity seek to rehabilitate Christian categories, drawing on John Milbank’s writing in particular. While applauding this approach, I point to Susan Harding’s work as offering a particular emphasis: it recognizes that when categories of investigation and the phenomenon under examination change simultaneously (which we may term an ‘event’), a more subtle ethnographic and explanatory performance is called for.