On February 28, 1993, the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) launched the largest assault in its history against a small religious community in central Texas. One hundred agents armed with automatic and semi automatic weapons invaded the compound, purportedly to execute a single search and arrest warrant. The raid went badly; four agents were killed, and by the end of the day the settlement was surrounded by armored tanks and combat helicopters. After a fifty-one day standoff, the United States Justice Department approved a plan to use CS gas against those barricaded inside. Whether by accident or plan, tanks carrying the CS gas caused the compound to explode in fire, killing all seventy-four men, women, and children inside.
Could the tragedy have been prevented? Was it necesary for the BATF agents to do what they did? What could have been done differently? Armageddon in Waco offers the most detailed, wide-ranging analysis of events surrounding Waco. Leading scholars in sociology, history, law, and religion explore all facets of the confrontation in an attempt to understand one of the most confusing government actions in American history.
The book begins with the history of the Branch Davidians and the story of its leader, David Koresh. Chapters show how the Davidians came to trouble authorities, why the group was labeled a "cult," and how authorities used unsubstantiated allegations of child abuse to strengthen their case against the sect.
The media's role is examined next in essays that considering the effect on coverage of lack of time and resources, the orchestration of public relations by government officials, the restricted access to the site or to countervailing evidence, and the ideologies of the journalists themselves. Several contributors then explore the relation of violence to religion, comparing Waco to Jonestown.
Finally, the role played by "experts" and "consultants" in defining such conflicts is explored by two contributors who had active roles as scholarly experts during and after the siege The legal and consitutional implications of the government's actions are also analyzed in balanced, clearly written detail.
Donald Tuzin first studied the New Guinea village of Ilahita in 1972. When he returned many years later, he arrived in the aftermath of a startling event: the village’s men voluntarily destroyed their secret cult that had allowed them to dominate women for generations. The cult’s collapse indicated nothing less than the death of masculinity, and Tuzin examines the labyrinth of motives behind this improbable, self-devastating act. The villagers' mythic tradition provided a basis for this revenge of Woman upon the dominion of Man, and, remarkably, Tuzin himself became a principal figure in its narratives. The return of the magic-bearing "youngest brother" from America had been prophesied, and the villagers believed that Tuzin’s return "from the dead" signified a further need to destroy masculine traditions.
The Cassowary's Revenge is an intimate account of how Ilahita’s men and women think, emote, dream, and explain themselves. Tuzin also explores how the death of masculinity in a remote society raises disturbing implications for gender relations in our own society. In this light Tuzin's book is about men and women in search of how to value one another, and in today's world there is no theme more universal or timely.
Children in New Religions
Palmer, Susan J Rutgers University Press, 1999 Library of Congress BP603.C48 1999 | Dewey Decimal 200.83
The late 1960s and early 1970s constituted a remarkable period for spiritual experimentation and for the proliferation of new religious groups. Now the children born into these religions have come of age. While their parents made the decision as adults to embrace alternative religious practices, the children have been raised with a very different orientation toward the larger society. While they take their religious communities for granted, many of these children gaze with curiosity at the surrounding secular world which their parents, not they, chose to reject. The contributors to this volume examine children from many different alternative religious movements worldwide, including The Family, Hare Krishna, Wiccans, and Pagans, Messianic Communities, and the Rajneesh (Osho) Movement. The essays explore two general questions: 1) What impact does the presence of children have on a new religion's lifestyle and chance of surviving into the future? 2) Is child abuse more likely to occur in unconventional religions, or are children born into them, the 'new' religions have grown up and have become an important and rapidly changing social force that we cannot reasonably dismiss or wisely ignore
For the Greeks, the sharing of cooked meats was the fundamental communal act, so that to become vegetarian was a way of refusing society. It follows that the roasting or cooking of meat was a political act, as the division of portions asserted a social order. And the only proper manner of preparing meat for consumption, according to the Greeks, was blood sacrifice.
The fundamental myth is that of Prometheus, who introduced sacrifice and, in the process, both joined us to and separated us from the gods—and ambiguous relation that recurs in marriage and in the growing of grain. Thus we can understand why the ascetic man refuses both women and meat, and why Greek women celebrated the festival of grain-giving Demeter with instruments of butchery.
The ambiguity coded in the consumption of meat generated a mythology of the "other"—werewolves, Scythians, Ethiopians, and other "monsters." The study of the sacrificial consumption of meat thus leads into exotic territory and to unexpected findings.
In The Cuisine of Sacrifice, the contributors—all scholars affiliated with the Center for Comparative Studies of Ancient Societies in Paris—apply methods from structural anthropology, comparative religion, and philology to a diversity of topics: the relation of political power to sacrificial practice; the Promethean myth as the foundation story of sacrificial practice; representations of sacrifice found on Greek vases; the technique and anatomy of sacrifice; the interaction of image, language, and ritual; the position of women in sacrificial custom and the female ritual of the Thesmophoria; the mythical status of wolves in Greece and their relation to the sacrifice of domesticated animals; the role and significance of food-related ritual in Homer and Hesiod; ancient Greek perceptions of Scythian sacrificial rites; and remnants of sacrificial ritual in modern Greek practices.
How did the classical Greek city come into being? What role did religion play in its formation? Athens, with its ancient citadel and central religious cult, has traditionally been the model for the emergence of the Greek city-state. But in this original and controversial investigation, Francois de Polignac suggests that the Athenian model was probably the exception, not the rule, in the development of the polis in ancient Greece.
Combining archaeological and textual evidence, de Polignac argues that the eighth-century settlements that would become the city-states of classical Greece were defined as much by the boundaries of "civilized" space as by its urban centers. The city took shape through what de Polignac calls a "religious bipolarity," the cults operating both to organize social space and to articulate social relationships being not only at the heart of the inhabited area, but on the edges of the territory. Together with the urban cults, these sanctuaries "in the wild" identified the polis and its sphere of influence, giving rise to the concept of the state as a territorial unit distinct from its neighbors. Frontier sanctuaries were therefore often the focus of disputes between emerging communities. But in other instances, in particular in Greece's colonizing expeditions, these outer sanctuaries may have facilitated the relations between the indigenous populations and the settlers of the newly founded cities.
Featuring extensive revisions from the original French publication and an updated bibliography, this book is essential for anyone interested in the history and culture of ancient Greece.
Anthropologists have long sought to engage and describe foreign or “alien” societies, yet few have considered the fluid communities centered around a shared belief in alien beings and UFO sightings and their effect on popular and expressive culture. Opening up a new frontier for anthropological study, the contributors to E.T. Culture take these communities seriously. They demonstrate that an E.T. orientation toward various forms of visitation—including alien beings, alien technologies, and uncanny visions—engages primary concepts underpinning anthropological research: host and visitor, home and away, subjectivity and objectivity. Taking the point of view of those who commit to sci-fi as sci-fact, contributors to this volume show how discussions and representations of otherworldly beings express concerns about racial and ethnic differences, the anxieties and fascination associated with modern technologies, and alienation from the inner workings of government.
Drawing on social science, science studies, linguistics, popular and expressive culture, and social and intellectual history, the writers of E.T. Culture unsettle the boundaries of science, magic, and religion as well as those of technological and human agency. They consider the ways that sufferers of “unmarked” diseases such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome come to feel alien to both the “healthy” world and the medical community incapable of treating them; the development of alien languages like Klingon; attempts to formulate a communications technology—such as that created for the spaceship Voyager—that will reach alien beings; the pilgrimage spirit of UFO seekers; the out-of-time experiences of Nobel scientists; the embrace of the alien within Japanese animation and fan culture; and the physical spirituality of the Raëlian religious network.
Contributors. Debbora Battaglia, Richard Doyle, Joseph Dumit, Mizuko Ito, Susan Lepselter, Christopher Roth, David Samuels
Sorcery has long been associated with the "dark side" of human development. Along with magic and witchcraft, it is assumed to be irrational and antithetical to modern thought. But in The Feast of the Sorcerer, Bruce Kapferer argues that sorcery practices reveal critical insights into how consciousness is formed and how human beings constitute their social and political realities.
Kapferer focuses on sorcery among Sinhalese Buddhists in Sri Lanka to explore how the art of sorcery is in fact deeply connected to social practices and lived experiences such as birth, death, sickness, and war. He describes in great detail the central ritual of exorcism, a study which opens up new avenues of thought that challenge anthropological approaches to such topics as the psychological forces of emotion and the dynamics of power. Overcoming both "orientalist" bias and postmodern permissiveness, Kapferer compellingly reframes sorcery as a pragmatic, conscious practice which, through its dynamic of destruction and creation, makes it possible for humans to reconstruct repeatedly their relation to the world.
Genii of the River Niger
Jean-Marie Gibbal University of Chicago Press, 1993 Library of Congress BL2470.M35G4813 1994 | Dewey Decimal 966.2
The river Niger, a source of life and danger for the people in impoverished eastern Mali, is also the origin of elaborate mythology. From his travels through Mali and down the Niger in a dugout canoe, Jean-Marie Gibbal has created a personal documentary of the cultures of the region. The result is at once an ethnography of cultures in crisis and a poetic evocation of the environment and people he encountered.
Gibbal portrays the river as the dominant, cohesive force among people in the face of social and environmental strife. He focuses on the Ghimbala healing cult, which centers on the river, and how the cult structures social relations in the region. Gibbal vividly recreations the Ghimbala rites, nocturnal ceremonies of spirit possession and seance which animate the water spirits, or genii, that inhabit the river. The genii, he finds, provide the strength of social identity in a world where famine and competing versions of Islam threaten to overpower traditional culture.
In its original French publication, The Genii of the River Niger was honored with an Alexandra David-Neel literary prize in 1989. Its powerful lyricism, combined with fascinating ethnographic depth, will delight general readers and specialists alike and will stir debates among specialists in African studies, the anthropology of religion, and literature.
Robert H. Schuller’s ministry—including the architectural wonder of the Crystal Cathedral and the polished television broadcast of Hour of Power—cast a broad shadow over American Christianity. Pastors flocked to Southern California to learn Schuller’s techniques. The President of United States invited him sit prominently next to the First Lady at the State of the Union Address. Muhammad Ali asked for the pastor’s autograph. It seemed as if Schuller may have started a second Reformation. And then it all went away. As Schuller’s ministry wrestled with internal turmoil and bankruptcy, his emulators—including Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and Joel Osteen— nurtured megachurches that seemed to sweep away the Crystal Cathedral as a relic of the twentieth century. How did it come to this?
Certainly, all churches depend on a mix of constituents, charisma, and capital, yet the size and ambition of large churches like Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral exert enormous organizational pressures to continue the flow of people committed to the congregation, to reinforce the spark of charismatic excitement generated by high-profile pastors, and to develop fresh flows of capital funding for maintenance of old projects and launching new initiatives. The constant attention to expand constituencies, boost charisma, and stimulate capital among megachurches produces an especially burdensome strain on their leaders. By orienting an approach to the collapse of the Crystal Cathedral on these three core elements—constituency, charisma, and capital—The Glass Church demonstrates how congregational fragility is greatly accentuated in larger churches, a notion we label megachurch strain, such that the threat of implosion is significantly accentuated by any failures to properly calibrate the inter-relationship among these elements.
Sensational media coverage of groups like Heaven's Gate, the People's Temple, and Synanon is tinged with the suggestion that only crazy, lonely, or gullible people join cults. Cults attract people on the fringe of society, people already on the edge. Contrary to this public perception, Marybeth Ayella reveals how anyone seeking personal change in an intense community setting is susceptible to the lure of group influence. The book begins with the candid story of how one keen skeptic was recruited by Moonies in the 1970s -- the author herself.
Ayella's personal experience fueled her interest in studying the cult phenomenon. This book focuses on her analysis of one community in southern California, The Center for Feeling Therapy, which opened in 1971 as an offshoot of Arthur Janov's Primal Scream approach. The group attracted mostly middle-class, college-educated clients interested in change through intense sessions led by licensed therapists. At the time of the Center's collapse in 1980, there were three hundred individuals living in the therapeutic community and another six hundred outpatients.
Through interviews with twenty-one former patients, the author develops a picture of the positive changes they sought, the pressures of group living, and the allegations of abuse against therapists. Many patients contended that they were beaten, made to strip before the group and to engage in forced sex, forced to have abortions and give up children, and coerced to donate money and to work in business affiliated with the Center.
The close of the Center brought yet more trauma to the patients as they struggled to readjust to mainstream life. Ayella recounts the stories of these individuals, again and again returning to the question of how personal identity is formed and the power of social influences. This book is a key to understanding how "normal" people wind up in cults.
Legitimating New Religions
Lewis, James R Rutgers University Press, 2003 Library of Congress BP603.L49 2003 | Dewey Decimal 200.904
James R. Lewis has written the first book to deal explicitly with the issue of how emerging religions legitimate themselves. He contends that a new religion has at least four different, though overlapping, areas where legitimacy is a concern: making converts, maintaining followers, shaping public opinion, and appeasing government authorities. The legitimacy that new religions seek in the public realm is primarily that of social acceptance. Mainstream society's acknowledgement of a religion as legitimate means recognizing its status as a genuine religion and thus recognizing its right to exist. Through a series of wide-ranging case studies Lewis explores the diversification of legitimation strategies of new religions as well the tactics that their critics use to de-legitimate such groups. Cases include the Movement for Spiritual Inner Awareness, Native American prophet religions, spiritualism, the Church of Christ-Scientist, Scientology, Church of Satan, Heaven's Gate, Unitarianism, Hindu reform movements, and Soka Gakkai, a new Buddhist sect.
Since many of the issues raised with respect to newer religions can be extended to the legitimation strategies deployed by established religions, this book sheds an intriguing new light on classic questions about the origin of all religions.
A broadly interdisciplinary study of the pervasive secrecy in America cultural, political, and religious discourse.
The occult has traditionally been understood as the study of secrets of the practice of mysticism or magic. This book broadens our understanding of the occult by treating it as a rhetorical phenomenon tied to language and symbols and more central to American culture than is commonly assumed.
Joshua Gunn approaches the occult as an idiom, examining the ways in which acts of textual criticism and interpretation are occultic in nature, as evident in practices as diverse as academic scholarship, Freemasonry, and television production. Gunn probes, for instance, the ways in which jargon employed by various social and professional groups creates barriers and fosters secrecy. From the theory wars of cultural studies to the Satanic Panic that swept the national mass media in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Gunn shows how the paradox of a hidden, buried, or secret meaning that cannot be expressed in language appears time and time again in Western culture.
These recurrent patterns, Gunn argues, arise from a generalized, popular anxiety about language and its limitations. Ultimately, Modern Occult Rhetoric demonstrates the indissoluble relationship between language, secrecy, and publicity, and the centrality of suspicion in our daily lives.
Yoruba culture has been a part of the Americas for centuries, brought from Africa during the transatlantic slave trade and maintained in various forms ever since. In Oduduwa’s Chain, Andrew Apter explores a wide range of fascinating historical and ethnographic examples and offers a provocative rethinking of African heritage in Black Atlantic Studies.
Focusing on Yoruba history and culture in Nigeria, Apter applies a generative model of cultural revision that allows him to identify formative Yoruba influences without resorting to the idea that culture and tradition are fixed. For example, Apter shows how the association of African gods with Catholic saints can be seen as a strategy of empowerment, explores historical locations of Yoruba gender ideologies and their variations in the Atlantic world, and much more. He concludes with a rousing call for a return to Africa in studies of the Black Atlantic, resurrecting a critical notion of culture that allows us to transcend Western inventions of African while taking them into account.
The Possession at Loudun
Michel de Certeau University of Chicago Press, 2000 Library of Congress BF1517.F5C4713 2000 | Dewey Decimal 133.426094463
It is August 18, 1634. Father Urbain Grandier, convicted of sorcery that led to the demonic possession of the Ursuline nuns of provincial Loudun in France, confesses his sins on the porch of the church of Saint-Pierre, then perishes in flames lit by his own exorcists. A dramatic tale that has inspired many artistic retellings, including a novel by Aldous Huxley and an incendiary film by Ken Russell, the story of the possession at Loudun here receives a compelling analysis from the renowned Jesuit historian Michel de Certeau.
Interweaving substantial excerpts from primary historical documents with fascinating commentary, de Certeau shows how the plague of sorceries and possessions in France that climaxed in the events at Loudun both revealed the deepest fears of a society in traumatic flux and accelerated its transformation. In this tour de force of psychological history, de Certeau brings to vivid life a people torn between the decline of centralized religious authority and the rise of science and reason, wracked by violent anxiety over what or whom to believe.
At the time of his death in 1986, Michel de Certeau was a director of studies at the école des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris. He was author of eighteen books in French, three of which have appeared in English translation as The Practice of Everyday Life,The Writing of History, and The Mystic Fable, Volume 1, the last of which is published by The University of Chicago Press.
"Brilliant and innovative. . . . The Possession at Loudun is [de Certeau's] most accessible book and one of his most wonderful."—Stephen Greenblatt (from the Foreword)
Key essays that explore a range of attitudes toward clergy and ritual
This book discusses the depictions of the cult and its personnel in the twelve prophetic books commonly referred to as the Book of the Twelve or the Minor Prophets. The articles in the volume explore the following questions: How did these prophetic writers envision the priests and the Levites? What did they think about the ritual aspects of ancient Israelite faith, including not only the official temple cult in Jerusalem but also cultic expressions outside the capital? What, in their views, characterized a faithful priest and what should the relationship be between his cultic performance and the ways in which he lived his life? How does the message of each individual author fit in with the wider Israelite traditions? Finally, who were these prophetic authors, in which historical contexts did they live and work, and what stylistic tools did they use to communicate their message?
Essays investigate the ways in which key texts in the Book of the Twelve endorse, criticize, seek to reform, or seek to abolish the cult and clergy
Articles focus on the books of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Zephaniah, Zechariah, and Malachi, but include other texts
Exploration of how the attitudes towards cult and clergy in these key texts tie in with the attitudes found elsewhere in the Book of the Twelve
Secrets and snakes, rock and gospel, guilt and grace.
The Psalms of Israel Jones is the story of a father and son’s journey towards spiritual redemption. This novel tells the tale of a famous father trapped inside the suffocating world of rock and roll, and his son who is stranded within the bounds of conventional religion.
When Reverend Thomas Johnson receives an anonymous phone call, he learns his Dylanesque rock star father is acting deranged on stage, where he’s being worshipped by a cult of young people who slash their faces during performances. In his declining years, Israel Jones has begun to incite his fans to violence. They no longer want to watch the show—they want to be the show.
Eager to escape troubles with his congregation as well as gain an apology from his dad for abandoning his family, Reverend Johnson leaves town and joins Israel Jones’s Eternal Tour. This decision propels him to the center of a rock and roll hell, giving him one last chance to reconnect with his father, wife, congregation—and maybe even God.
The Psalms of Israel Jones is the 2010 Hackney Literary Award winner for an unpublished manuscript.
According to Christian theology, fallen angels share key similarities with human beings because they share our outcast condition. Cast to Earth and wandering in search of respite, their chief activity is their engagement and dialogue with humanity.
With this probing new contribution to the study of Christianity, Armando Maggi examines this dialogue, exploring how evil spirits interacted with mankind during the early modern period. Reading innumerable treatises on demonology written during the Renaissance, including Thesaurus exorcismorum, the most important record of early modern exorcisms, Maggi finds repeated attempts to define the language exchanged between the fallen progeny of Adam, and the most notorious fallen angel of them all, Satan. Using points of departure taken from de Certeau and Lacan, Maggi shows that Satan articulates his language first and foremost in the mind. More than speaking, the devil tries to make human beings understand his language and speak it themselves. Through sodomites, infidels, and witches, then, the devil is able to infect humanity as it appropriates his seductive rhetoric.
Searching for Africa in Brazil is a learned exploration of tradition and change in Afro-Brazilian religions. Focusing on the convergence of anthropologists’ and religious leaders’ exegeses, Stefania Capone argues that twentieth-century anthropological research contributed to the construction of an ideal Afro-Brazilian religious orthodoxy identified with the Nagô (Yoruba) cult in the northeastern state of Bahia. In contrast to other researchers, Capone foregrounds the agency of Candomblé leaders. She demonstrates that they successfully imposed their vision of Candomblé on anthropologists, reshaping in their own interest narratives of Afro-Brazilian religious practice. The anthropological narratives were then taken as official accounts of religious orthodoxy by many practitioners of Afro-Brazilian religions in Brazil. Capone draws on ten years of ethnographic fieldwork in Salvador de Bahia and Rio de Janeiro as she demonstrates that there is no pure or orthodox Afro-Brazilian religion.
Challenging the usual interpretations of Afro-Brazilian religions as fixed entities, completely independent of one another, Capone reveals these practices as parts of a unique religious continuum. She does so through an analysis of ritual variations as well as discursive practices. To illuminate the continuum of Afro-Brazilian religious practice and the tensions between exegetic discourses and ritual practices, Capone focuses on the figure of Exu, the sacred African trickster who allows communication between gods and men. Following Exu and his avatars, she discloses the centrality of notions of prestige and power—mystical and religious—in Afro-Brazilian religions. To explain how religious identity is constantly negotiated among social actors, Capone emphasizes the agency of practitioners and their political agendas in the “return to roots,” or re-Africanization, movement, an attempt to recover the original purity of a mythical and legitimizing Africa.
Shamanism, History, and the State
Nicholas Thomas and Caroline Humphrey, Editors University of Michigan Press, 1996 Library of Congress GN470.2.S53 1994 | Dewey Decimal 291.14
The literature on shamanism and related topics is extensive, but has in general been biased toward curing and trance; the political and historical significance of shamanic activities has been largely neglected. The contributors to Shamanism, History, and the State--distinguished anthropologists and historians from England, Australia, and France--show that shamanism is not static and stable, but always changing as a result of political dynamics and historical processes.
Contributors are Tamsyn Barton, Sysan Bayly, Mary Beard, Maurice Bloch, Peter Gow, Roberte N. Hamayon, Stephen Hugh-Jones, Caroline Humphrey, and Nicholas Thomas.
"The importance of this collection lies in the painstaking, many-sided ways in which it shows 'shamanism' to be a multifarious and continuously changing 'dialogue' or interaction with specific, local contexts. . . . Thus, rather than tackling the issue in principle, this collection tries to demonstrate through 'case studies' just how different 'shamanism' becomes if seen through a lens sensitive to history and the influence of institutions, such as the state, which seem far removed from it. I think the demonstrations add up to an impressive force." --Michael Taussig
"This new, ably edited volume provides . . . chapters that are rich in historic detail and that provide insights into general cultural processes and social interactions." --Historian
Nicholas Thomas is Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellow, Department of Prehistory and Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra. He is the author of Out of Time: History and Evolution in Anthropological Discourse. Caroline Humphrey, author of Karl Marx Collective: Economy, Society and Religion in a Siberian Collective Farm, is Fellow of King's College and Lecturer in Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge.
In Spiritual Citizenship N. Fadeke Castor employs the titular concept to illuminate how Ifá/Orisha practices informed by Yoruba cosmology shape local, national, and transnational belonging in African diasporic communities in Trinidad and beyond. Drawing on almost two decades of fieldwork in Trinidad, Castor outlines how the political activism and social upheaval of the 1970s set the stage for African diasporic religions to enter mainstream Trinidadian society. She establishes how the postcolonial performance of Ifá/Orisha practices in Trinidad fosters a sense of belonging that invigorates its practitioners to work toward freedom, equality, and social justice. Demonstrating how spirituality is inextricable from the political project of black liberation, Castor illustrates the ways in which Ifá/Orisha beliefs and practices offer Trinidadians the means to strengthen belonging throughout the diaspora, access past generations, heal historical wounds, and envision a decolonial future.
This work presents in detail a description of archaeological data from the Iron II temple complex at Tel Dan in northern Israel. Davis analyzes the archaeological remains from the ninth and eighth centuries, paying close attention to how the temple functioned as sacred space. Correlating the archaeological data with biblical depictions of worship, especially the “textual strata” of 1 Kings 18 and the book of Amos, Davis argues that the temple was the site of “official” and family religion and that worship at the temple became increasingly centralized. Tel Dan's role in helping reconstruct ancient Israelite religion, especially distinctive religious traditions of the northern kingdom, is also considered.
For the Yaka of Southwestern Zaire, infertility is a tear in the fabric of life, and the Khita fertility ritual is a trusted way of reweaving the damaged strands. In Weaving the Threads of Life Rene Devisch offers an extended analysis of the Khita cult, which leads to an original account of the workings of ritual healing.
Drawing on many years among urban and rural Yaka, Devisch analyzes their understanding of existence as a fabric of firmly but delicately interwoven threads of nature, body, and society. The fertility healing ritual calls forth forces, feelings, and meanings that allow women to rejoin themselves to the complex pattern of social and cosmic life. These elaborate rites—whether simulating mortal agony and rebirth, gestation and delivery, or flowering and decay; using music and dance, steambath or massage, dream messages or scarification—are not based on symbols of traditional beliefs. Rather, Devisch shows, the rites themselves generate forces and meaning, creating and shaping the cosmic, physical, and social world of their participants.
In contrast to current theoretical methods such as postmodern or symbolical interpretation, Devisch's praxiological approach is unique in also using phenomenological insights into the intent and results of anthropological fieldwork. This innovative work will have ramifications beyond African studies, reaching into the anthropology of medicine and the body, comparative religious history, and women's studies.
Beginning in the 1960s in California, erstwhile music producer Tony Alamo became interested in authoritarian religion and, along with his charismatic wife, Susan, began gathering followers. By the 1970s, Tony Alamo Christian Ministries had established particularly strong footholds in Arkansas, as well as maintaining outposts in California. The ministry gained a legion of followers, with branches not only in the USA but in places as diverse as Africa and Sri Lanka. Even through their leader’s eventual imprisonment under federal charges (related to transporting minors across state lines for sexual purposes), Alamo’s vision survived—and his community survives him today.
Whispering in the Daylight: The Children of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and Their Journey to Freedom is based on numerous interviews from group members and, more importantly, on interviews with the children—second and third-generation followers. Author Debby Schriver chronicles how this group was formed, documenting its many abuses and its gradual adoption of cult-like behaviors and practices. Like many cult leaders, Tony Alamo had different faces. The public saw him as a somewhat self-important but harmless music promoter and designer of bedazzling denim jackets. Schriver chronicles firsthand the condemnation, rejection, and torment that the second-generation survivors of Tony Alamo’s abuses experienced. Schriver’s interviews, particularly those with children, illuminate the real horrors of the Alamos’ behavior, ranging from economic exploitation, extreme forced fasts, and beatings, that resulted in permanent injury.
Schriver’s extensive research—including interviews with Tony Alamo himself, harrowing visits to Alamo compounds, and witnessing gut-wrenching confrontations between freed children and their unreformed parents—tells the story of a closed group whose origins and history are unlikely ever to be definitively unraveled.
DEBBY SCHRIVER has spent her career working with students, parents, and staff in the departments of student life and employee training and development at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is the author of In the Footsteps of Champions: The University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers, the First Three Decades, coauthor, with Jenny Moshak, of Ice ’n’ Go: Score in Sports and Life, and coeditor, with Lucia McMahon of To Read My Heart: The Journal of Rachel Van Dyke, 1810–1811.