The Social Life of Prayer Anthropological Engagements with Christian Practice
This book brings the theme of prayer into anthropological discussion. Across diverse significant ethnographic case studies, five anthropologists attend to prayers and how they are performed and seen to intervene in the social world.
The studies include Pentecostals in Zambia, Charismatic Christians in Ghana, Protestants in Scotland, Eastern Orthodox Christians in Romania, and Catholics in Syria. Across these ethnographic cases, the book argues that focusing on the social life of prayer offers a significant way to engage with matters close to people. Prayers are a way to map affect and the affective relationships people hold in what they are oriented towards and care about. Taking its cue from Marcel Mauss, the book invites us to go beyond the individual and see how prayers always point to a broader social landscape of obligation and affective investment. Focusing on the social life of prayers, the book posits, accordingly entices a particular form of situated comparison of diverse Christian traditions that pushes the scholarly conversation on Christianity to consider central questions of agency, responsibility and subjectivity. Taking up prayer as the object of study, this book offers novel anthropological perspectives on Christian life and practice.
The chapters in this book were originally published a special issue of Religion.
Introduction: The Social Life of Prayers: Affect, Obligation and the Formation of Religious Character
1. Praying for salvation: a map of relatedness
2. Learning to pray the Pentecostal way: language and personhood on the Zambian Copperbelt
3. Praying until Jesus returns: commitment and prayerfulness among charismatic Christians in Ghana
4. ‘I’ve tempted the saint with my prayer!’ Prayer, charisma and ethics in Romanian eastern orthodox Christianity
5. Repeated prayers: saying the rosary in contemporary Syria