By Matthew Engelke
Situating the Masowe case inside a extensive comparative framework, Engelke exhibits how their rejection of textual authority poses an issue of presencewhich is to claim, how the spiritual topic defines, and claims to build, a dating with the non secular global during the semiotic potentials of language, activities, and items. Written in a full of life and available type, an issue of Presence makes vital contributions to the anthropology of Christianity, the historical past of religions in Africa, semiotics, and fabric tradition studies.
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Additional resources for A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church
For the conservative Christian, the Bible is often as much presence as representation. In semiological terms it is the sign without a divide—“the coalescence” of signiﬁer and signiﬁed in which the “Bible as book is to biblical truth as God’s word in its materiality is to God’s truth” (Crapanzano 2000, 56). Although the Bible is central to liberal theologies as well, there is an important sense in which Schleiermacher and others have tried to push beyond Scripture. They have done this in part, I want to argue, by suggesting that the materiality of the Bible can be a barrier to reaching Christian truths.
For Schleiermacher, “the barrier to reason and understanding . . is to be overcome by feeling, by an immediate, sympathetic, and con-genial understanding” (Gadamer 1989, 191). His suggestion is that authentic Christianity is experienced, not grasped, either cognitively or physically—that its qualities are immaterial in the sense that they cannot be located outside of that experience as an object of knowledge. The opposition in play here is between sensation and apprehension, in which the former is superior because insigniﬁcant in its materiality.
During ﬁeldwork, I kept a small green notebook in my car, and after leaving a church session I would try to produce useful “mnemonic jottings” (Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw 1995, 31–35) that could be written up into full notes later—usually that evening. I was especially eager to capture key words and phrases that speakers used and any new songs we heard, made easier by the fact that ritual speech often involved repetitions (see chapter 5). 16 Lazarus provided me with invaluable copies of his notes, totaling several hundred pages, when I left the ﬁeld.
A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church by Matthew Engelke