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Christian Difference. A Review Essay

  • Matt Tomlinson (a1)

The discipline called the “anthropology of Christianity” began to gain traction in the early to mid-2000s when interested scholars focused on Christianity as an object of collaborative and comparative cross-cultural analysis. Along with several landmark works of Joel Robbins, one foundational text is Fenella Cannell's edited volume The Anthropology of Christianity, published in 2006. In her introductory essay, Cannell poses a pointed question for the volume and the discipline itself: “What difference does Christianity make?” Bracketing the question of whether “difference” can or should be defined (Green 2014), several anthropologists have taken inspiration from Cannell, including Naomi Haynes (2014) in the concluding essay to a recent special issue of Current Anthropology, and myself and Debra McDougall (2013) in an edited volume on Christian politics in Oceania. Difference, as the criterion by which continuity and transformation are evaluated, is arguably the key concept for an effective anthropological engagement with Christianity.

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Handman Courtney. 2015. Critical Christianity: Translation and Denominational Conflict in Papua New Guinea. Berkeley: University of California Press.
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Lemons J. Derrick, ed. In press. Theologically Engaged Anthropology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Meneses Eloise, Backues Lindy, Bronkema David, Flett Eric, and Hartley Benjamin L., eds. 2014. Engaging the Religiously Committed Other: Anthropologists and Theologians in Dialogue. CA Forum. Current Anthropology 55, 1.
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Robbins Joel. 2013. Beyond the Suffering Subject: Toward an Anthropology of the Good. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19, 3: 447–62.
Robbins Joel, Schieffelin Bambi B., and Vilaça Aparecida. 2014. Evangelical Conversion and the Transformation of the Self in Amazonia and Melanesia: Christianity and the Revival of Anthropological Comparison. Comparative Studies in Society and History 56, 3: 559–90.
Tomlinson Matt and McDougall Debra, eds. 2013. Christian Politics in Oceania. New York: Berghahn.
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Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
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