Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Primary Theme: Identity and Equity
Women in Christianity have frequently been “barred from the pulpit, absent on the stage, and missing in the analysis,” to adapt Elizabeth Brusco’s phrase. This panel begins with the observation that this largely holds true for analysis in the anthropology of Christianity, too. At the same time, there is considerable work within religious studies on both women and men in Christianity. This panel will bring together anthropologists and religious studies scholars in an effort to help fill that gap in the anthropology of religion. The panel engages questions of gender and Christianity through the key concept of “authority,” exploring a range of conditions under which gendered authority is produced in Christian communities. This category is a rich platform for reconsidering the relations between power, decision, and problems of presence. Do Christian communities, counter-intuitively, encourage women to engage with knowledge, and men to engage in affective labor? How do gendered prayer and religious disciplines operate within or disrupt institutional authority? Under what circumstances is Christian women’s knowledge turned into (types of) authority, and when does the gendered technology of Christian institution-building produce (different types of) authority? What are the masculinist logics of authoritative evangelistic purpose? In order to consider these questions from a variety of perspectives, this panel will include two papers that consider themes of gendered authority in Catholicism, two in Protestantism, and the discussant’s work on Pentecostalism. One paper studies Mars Hill Church in Seattle and considers how race and gender are mobilized as affective labor in the development of religious authority. A second paper takes up the theme of men’s engagement with affect as devotional labor in an analysis of Hungarian Catholic couples’ slideshows from pilgrimage trips. The third paper examines how and why Catholic women claim authority through the rejection of contraception. The fourth paper explores the intersection of institutional organization and gender through work on a network of evangelical Lutheran women in early-twentieth-century Norway. Taken together, the papers on this panel engage in an interdisciplinary conversation about what the anthropology of religion can learn from the tools and approaches scholars in religious studies use to study Christian men and women, while also exploring how current conversations in the anthropology of Christianity can bring new perspectives on gender and Christianity.