Marshall, “Christianity, Anthropology, Politics”

Marshall, Ruth.  2014.  Christianity, Anthropology, Politics.  Current Anthropology.  Early online publication.

Abstract: In this article I engage with the conceptual difficulties that studying Christianity poses for anthropology, revisiting and expanding on the critical moves made in the development of the subfield, especially in debates among Robbins, Haynes, Cannell, Garriott, and O’Neill. In particular, I consider the theoretical challenges and the political implications involved in elaborating an adequate concept of Christianity or the Christian. I argue that studying Christianity as a “tradition” implicates the anthropologist in much more than the study of “a religion,” and while Asad’s approach to the study of Islam is methodologically sound, applying it to the case of Christianity involves specific challenges. I use my reading of these methodological and conceptual challenges to critically consider the ways in which anthropology engages with alterity as an epistemological or ethical ground and the political implications of this engagement. Finally, I offer some methodological insights drawn from my study of Pentecostal Christianity that might assist the researcher in studying these specific forms of Christian practice today.