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Social Anthropology: Events


Vice: immorality and the household among rural Nicaraguan Pentecostals

Vice: immorality and the household among rural Nicaraguan Pentecostals
Speaker: Dr David Cooper # UCL
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Date and Time
30th Mar 2016 16:00 - 30th Mar 2016 18:00
Meeting Room 4, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15A George Square

Christianity Working Group Seminar

In a Latin American context, Joel Robbins’ influential injunction to adequately theorise Christian rupture resonates with widespread tendencies in the analysis of neoliberalism. With neoliberalism depicted as a destructive, individualist tide violently undermining collectivisms of all kinds, conversion to Pentecostalism frequently appears as part of a sweeping political-economic dislocation, shaking individuals out of an apparently more communitarian, Catholic past. Evangelical assertions of personal transformation appear to mirror these depictions of dramatic socio-economic overhaul, and commentators frequently view the two as playing into each other as part of a broad individualising process.

By exploring how the Pentecostal project of overcoming ‘vice’ (vicio) has taken shape among converts in rural Nicaragua, this presentation will develop a critical perspective on this putative convergence. I will suggest that while opposition between collectivisms and individualisms speak neatly to our own political concerns, this analytical trope fails to grasp the texture of immorality as it is constructed by Nicaraguan Pentecostals. Understanding the specific form vice assumes in this context requires that we analyse Pentecostalism’s intensive concern with immorality in relation to a set of assumptions surrounding the viability of the rural household. This ethic of domesticity is highly gendered, emphasises the intense volatility of gendered capacities, and centres upon consequent problems regarding how the potentials of men and women can be contained within the concerns of the household. The Pentecostal injunction to eliminate vice gains its local potency not from some congruence with prevailing macroeconomic policy, but from the promising solution it offers to an abiding problem of incorporation integral to rural domesticity. And if this is the case, models of rupture require considerable qualification.

Edinburgh Students