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Ordinary Lives and Grand Schemes

Ordinary Lives and Grand Schemes: An Anthropology of Everyday Religion

Samuli Schielke
Liza Debevec
Series: EASA Series
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Ordinary Lives and Grand Schemes
    Book Description:

    Everyday practice of religion is complex in its nature, ambivalent and at times contradictory. The task of an anthropology of religious practice is therefore precisely to see how people navigate and make sense of that complexity, and what the significance of religious beliefs and practices in a given setting can be. Rather than putting everyday practice and normative doctrine on different analytical planes, the authors argue that the articulation of religious doctrine is also an everyday practice and must be understood as such.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-507-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)
    Samuli Schielke and Liza Debevec

    A key issue for the anthropological study of religion – especially of large world religions with long-lasting textual and institutional traditions – has been how to account for the complex duality of religion as an everyday practice and a normative doctrine. The problem is evident and well-known. If we ask people to explain how they understand belief, ritual, life and death, and if we look at the way such issues are presented and debated by experts, institutions, authorities and traditions of learning, we commonly gain an image of a specific religious tradition as a comprehensive metaphysical, moral and spiritual order. In such...

  4. 1 Divination and Islam: Existential Perspectives in the Study of Ritual and Religious Praxis in Senegal and Gambia
    (pp. 17-32)
    Knut Graw

    In Senegal and Gambia, as well as in most other African societies, divination forms an important element of religious praxis. Despite of the often private character of divinatory consultation in Senegalese and Gambian society, in most accounts of West African Islamic religious life, the importance of divination and other forms of ritual consultation is acknowledged as a social fact both by the members of these societies as well as by outside observers.¹ In this regard, J. Spencer Trimingham’s statement that ‘the part played by divination cannot be overestimated’ is not exceptional (Trimingham 1959: 119). Similar statements emphasizing the importance of...

  5. 2 Postponing Piety in Urban Burkina Faso: Discussing Ideas on When to Start Acting as a Pious Muslim
    (pp. 33-47)
    Liza Debevec

    Among the Muslim population of the West African state of Burkina Faso, there is a commonly accepted notion that all persons calling themselves Muslims should regularly perform the five daily prayers. In Bobo Dioulasso, the second largest town of Burkina Faso, a country where religious conversion is not uncommon (Langewiesche 2003) and where there is no distinctive Islamic dress code, the question‘I bi seli wa?’(Jula for ‘Do you pray?’) is often used to distinguish a Muslim from a non-Muslim.¹ However, many of my Muslim informants and friends, as well as members of my host family do not pray...

  6. 3 Everyday Religion, Ambiguity and Homosocial Relationships in Manitoba, Canada from 1911 to 1949
    (pp. 48-65)
    Alison R. Marshall

    In this chapter I explore the possible reasons for the emergence of everyday ambiguous and relational behaviours among a mostly male Chinese settlement in the province of Manitoba, Canada from 1911 to 1949 when the last Chinese dynasty had ended and the Chinese Nationalist Party (Zhongguo Guomindang) became the de facto government for Chinese living within and outside China.¹ There were very few Chinese women and children in early settlements because of racist immigration laws that were in place beginning in 1885, when all Chinese immigrants, upon entry to Canada were required to pay a $50 head tax. In 1900,...

  7. 4 ‘Doing Things Properly’: Religious Aspects in Everyday Sociality in Apiao, Chiloé
    (pp. 66-81)
    Giovanna Bacchiddu

    The above statement by David Schneider seems to perfectly capture the spirit of this book, and it quite appropriately sums up the approach to religion that is experienced in Apiao, the small island in southern Chile to which this chapter is devoted.

    In her important review of the complex relationship between anthropological enquiry and Christianity, Fenella Cannell writes that the questions that anthropologists ought to be asking themselves are, ‘what, in any situation is Christianity, and how can one possibly discern its lineaments from that of the social context in which it lives’ (2006: 13).

    Many scholars of communities which...

  8. 5 The Ordinary within the Extraordinary: Sainthood-Making and Everyday Religious Practice in Lesvos, Greece
    (pp. 82-97)
    Séverine Rey

    The process of sainthood-making is usually analysed in connection with the notion of popular religion. However, different kinds of hierarchies hide behind this notion, as emphasized by Liza Debevec and Samuli Schielke in the introduction: not only the pure doctrine of the specialists as opposed to the syncretistic practices of the ordinary people, but also class relations, political power and, as I wish to add, gender hierarchies. My purpose in the present chapter is to analyse the social dynamics at work in one case of sainthood-making: far from being a pure expression of mass veneration, the phenomenon is characterized by...

  9. 6 Say a Little Hallo to Padre Pio: Production and Consumption of Space in the Construction of the Sacred at the Shrine of Santa Maria delle Grazie
    (pp. 98-112)
    Evgenia Mesaritou

    In Catholic Christianity, officially recognized public cults can only be paid to the dead. Nevertheless, it is very often the case that a dead saint’s cult springs from a reputation for sanctity in life. Insofar as they eliminate the need for priestly mediation, living saints pose a problem to the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which fears the development of personalized cults (Eade and Sallnow 1991: 7). The institutional church’s attempts to control these saints’ charisma are not always successful (Coleman and Elsner 1995: 110) during their lifetime, mainly due to their great popularity. After their death, control is more easily regained, primarily,...

  10. 7 Going to the Mulid: Street-smart Spirituality in Egypt
    (pp. 113-130)
    Jennifer Peterson

    Sprinkled, at times heavily, throughout the Islamic and Gregorian calendars, Egypt hosts countless saint festivals across the country every year. They take place in urban centres, villages, oases, convents, and even shrines remote from any permanent human settlement, such as that held for Abul-Hassan Al-Shazli in the arid Red Sea mountains. These events are calledmawalid(sg.mulid), a word derived from the classical Arabicmawlidmeaning birthday, although they typically commemorate the death, rather than birth, of a revered pious figure. In the Islamic context, which applies to the vast majority of such festivals and is the focus of...

  11. 8 Capitalist Ethics and the Spirit of Islamization in Egypt
    (pp. 131-145)
    Samuli Schielke

    As this chapter goes to press in early 2012, Egypt is in a state of transition following the January 25 revolution. Some of what is written in the present tense in the following pages already belongs to the past. I have decided not to rewrite the chapter (originally written between 2008 and 2010) to make it up to date. Things are still changing too quickly to do that. The reader should therefore bear in mind the historicity of this chapter, describing not a lasting condition but rather a unique momentum in a changing world.

    What can already be said with...

  12. Afterword: Everyday Religion and the Contemporary World: The Un-Modern, Or What Was Supposed to Have Disappeared But Did Not
    (pp. 146-161)
    Robert A. Orsi

    The modern world was not supposed to look the way it does in this book. Modern men and women were not – still at this late date (which means this many years from the European Enlightenment[s]) – supposed to be finding saints beneath the soil of a Greek island, or bringing their needs to a deceased southern Italian holy figure who had for years soaked his sacerdotal clothing with blood from miraculous wounds in his hands, feet and side (cloth cherished now by his devout as precious relics), nor were they supposed to be dancing in the alleys of Egyptian cities to...

  13. Contributors
    (pp. 162-164)
  14. Index
    (pp. 165-168)