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BEYOND CHARISMA: Religious Movements as Discourse / Vol. 46, No. 1 (Spring 1979)

Johannes Fabian, Guest Editor
Arien Mack, Journal Editor

Charisma, once a secret password among theologians, political sociologists, and anthropologists, has now definitely entered—some will say infested—everyday language. As is often the case, the popular success of a word only hides its conceptual decline. Pop sociology scavenges on ideas that are dead or dying. This collection of essays contains ample evidence for the concept's demise, but should not be taken as a premature eulogy. Its main concern is with the future of anthropological inquiry of religious movements.

The main purpose of assembling these papers been to provide a forum for their findings and to begin to develop a systematic approach to movements conceived as interpretive and critical continuation of prophetic discourse. These essays, then, are efforts to push the anthropological study of religious enthusiasm to the limits currently recognized in the discipline. In order to show the reader where we feel these frontiers are, it will be necessary first to give a brief overview of the "territory" they cover. We can then attempt to formulate a rationale for approaching movements "as discourse." The order in which the papers will be presented (their "systematic" connection) must, at this point, remain the sole responsibility of the editor.

In this paper I wish to re-examine the movement metaphor which I put forth as an analytic device in a typology of African religious movements more than a decade ago. Of course, I am not the first to use the movement metaphor in relation to these emergent religions; it has long been applied to new religions which appear dynamic in relation to established ones. I tried, however, in my particular analysis to graph the parameters of movement at first in relation to two dimensions, the expressive-instrumental and traditional-acculturated, and subsequently in relation to a third, the redemptive-therapeutic. The main purpose of these two articles was to move away from too static a conception of religious movements. There was, I felt, a tendency, despite the movement metaphor, to be too easily satisfied with typologizing them. There was a failure to assess the phases through which they passed. The purpose was to develop a dynamic typology.

Contrasts two forms of inquiry used in a 1970–71 study on the "sunsum edwuma" ("working with spirits") healing ritual of the Ghanaian healing movement begun in 1913, the Church of the Twelve Apostles, whose results demonstrate the inadequacy of simple classificatory inquiry and the importance of an appreciation of events whose interpretations are axiomatic to the participants.

Glossolalist metalinguistics must be explained, I say, in order to get a complete picture of Pentecostal beliefs and behavior. And another reason for doing so is that we can add to the information we have-far from adequate as it is—on naive and prescientific notions about the nature of language and linguistic behavior. This paper is presented with this goal in mind.

A 1964 study relates contemporary Kongo cosmology to the Kongo prophet movement of 1921 in an examination of the intentions of prophetic acts following the hardships of early colonial days between 1880 and 1920.

Discusses the Talk of Koriki, a contact cult in the tradition of the Daribi, an interior Papuan people, which was addressed to the coming of the Europeans after 1930 and involved a range of peoples in the Karimui-Upper Purai region of Papua-New Guinea.

For anthropologists who study religious movements, fieldwork often means direct and total involvement. Empathy with the research "object" helps, but is not enough. As a rule, the anthropologist must have communicative competences, which are acquired only through intensive and prolonged interaction with charismatic leaders and their followers. Almost inevitably, such engagement affects the choice of theoretical positions. In this essay, I should like to approach the problem from a different direction. Fieldwork, with the involvement it demands, is but one phase in the arduous task of interpretation. Theoretical perspectives and personal attitudes may change (again) through critical reflection, or simply through developments in a scholar's intellectual career. It may then become a problem to extricate oneself from the immediacy of experience, to seek degagement.

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