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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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Bialecki, Jon. In press. Anthropology, Theology, and the Challenge of Immanence. In Lemons, J. D., ed., Theologically Engaged Anthropology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fountain, Philip and Lau, Sin Wen, eds. 2013. Anthropological Theologies: Engagements and Encounters. Special issue, Australian Journal of Anthropology 24, 3.
Green, Sarah. 2014. Anthropological Knots: Conditions of Possibilities and Interventions. Hau 4, 3: 121.
Handman, Courtney. 2015. Critical Christianity: Translation and Denominational Conflict in Papua New Guinea. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Haynes, Naomi. 2014. Affordances and Audiences: Finding the Difference Christianity Makes. Current Anthropology 55, S10: S35765.
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.
Robbins, Joel. 2006. Anthropology and Theology: An Awkward Relationship? Anthropological Quarterly 79, 2: 285–94.
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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