Ryan Schram's Anthrocyclopaedia

Anthropology presentations and learning resources

User Tools

Site Tools

View page as slide show

Western modernity as culture, ii

Western modernity as culture, ii

Ryan Schram

Mills 169, A26

ryan (dot) schram (at) sydney.edu.au

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Available at http://anthro.rschram.org/1002/12.2


Haynes, Naomi. 2015. “‘Zambia Shall Be Saved!’: Prosperity Gospel Politics in a Self-Proclaimed Christian Nation.” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 19 (1): 5–24. doi:10.1525/nr.2015.19.1.5.

Christianity as site of conjuncture

Christianity is based on individualism

  • Personal, sincere confession
  • Equality of all believers qua moral subjects
  • Individual responsibility for one's relationship to God

Prosperity theology is individualism without asceticism

  • Prayers to God must be answered.
  • Health, success and wealth are what God wants for believers.
  • Not an ascetic morality

If prosperity theology is a reciprocal exchange with God, where does this idea come from?

Return to the Urapmin

  • The conversion of Urapmin also meant the end of place taboos, creating a “free time” (Robbins 2004, 220).
  • Since the original revival, the Urapmin church periodically goes through intense periods of millennial expectation, followed by a return to normal routines (p. 159).
  • During periods of millennial anticipation, people hold healing services called Spirit disko, in which many people, especially women, experience possession and can cast out sin (p. 282).

Christianity and social integration

  • Salvation is individual and private, but social meaning is always partly shared.
  • Urapmin individual selves are only imagined as the negation of their social existence: free time, the end of the world.
  • Urapmin Christianity becomes a social force in collective forms. The alimal (family) is a replacement society, oriented toward the value-rational goal of redemption, but only for a time.

The social context of prosperity theology

  • Pentecostal churches are start-up enterprises of Christianity
  • Pastors of prosperity churches often hold themselves up as examples of success, and thus as moral models.
  • The pastor's “charisma” (compelling message, not likeability or popularity) creates a congregation of fellow believers, i.e. a new social identity.
  • Haynes: Prosperity is “socially productive”–The blessed can bless others (Haynes 2013, 87).

Liberal and neoliberal social contracts

The liberal social order is based on individual rights guaranteed by membership in a public, egalitarian political community.

The “neoliberal” social order is arguably a rejection of this social contract–a replacement of “individual rights” with private autonomy in a market where everything is for sale.

Does prosperity theology support or resist this change?


Haynes, Naomi. 2013. “On the Potential and Problems of Pentecostal Exchange.” American Anthropologist 115 (1): 85–95. doi:10.1111/j.1548-1433.2012.01537.x.

———. 2004. Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society. University of California Press.

A guide to the unit

1002/12.2.txt · Last modified: 2016/10/17 20:41 by ryans