Juba (South Sudan): studying its changing Christian landscape
Independent since 2011, South Sudan is a rapidly changing country, with huge challenges ahead. As a scholar working on religion from a social science perspective, I am currently studying the changing landscape of Christianity in Juba, the capital.
After a belated landing in Juba on the 23d of November, I will leave on the 2d of December, 2013. Meanwhile, as I do my best to document my study, several pictures are posted on a Flickr Album you can enjoy here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pilgrimseb/sets/721576379507...
Welcome to the World Religion Watch (French-based)
Let's praise the The Observatory for Religious Phenomena (World Religion Watch) for its focus on providing resources in English. This French-based group was founded in 1992, within the framework of a research contract, under the guidance of Bruno Etienne, emeritus Professor at the Institute of Political Studies. It is now led by Professor Raphael Liogier.
After having obtained the status of "seed team", it has since acquired ongoing impetus as a widely acknowledged study group focusing on the sociology and political analysis of religious phenomena. Website here.
An amazing South Sudan refugee's testimony published in France
This is a book to remember. In Je suis encore vivante (transl, "Still Alive"), Mrs Naomi Baki, a young mother and refugee from South Sudan, shares a unique story of survival, from deep South Sudan to France, crossing Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Turkey and Greece, where she stayed for almost 10 years. This is a heart-wrenching story of redemption, from bondage (forced conversion into Islam), to freedom and full refugee status (10 years card residency) granted by France.
For historians, woman's right advocate, social activists, and every reader keen to learn a "bigger-than-life" story of Hope in the midst of persecution and misery, this amazing book (link) is a must-have.
Just edited by the French respected publisher Le Cerf (2013), with the much valuable help of Marie Taurand and Sophie Porteil, this book is not yet translated in English. But it will come!
For being lucky enough to know the author, Mrs Baki, let's say she is also a wonderful and convincing speaker, particularly fluent in English (her mother tongue along with Gbaya, her tribal language).
Regulating religion in Europe: a French author to read
As the French (and Canadian) debate is still quite polarized by "laïcité" (laicity) and the challenge of public regulation of religion, let's have a wider look and remind (among others) the works of Jean-Paul Willaime (link to his page).
A worldwide leading sociologist of religion, Director of studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE, Religious Studies section) and former president of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion (ISSR), visiting professor at the College of Europe, Dr Jean-Paul Willaime is always worth being read.
He has authored many articles in English, including "European Integration, Laïcité and Religion" (link).
A much needed book to understand Health and Wealth Gospel
This growing movement, mostly popular within some Charismatic circles, is taking roots in France. The two biggest Evangelical congregations in Paris, which are Charisma Eglise Chrétienne and Paris Centre Chrétien, could be described as linked to Prosperity Gospel.
This is why Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel (Oxford University Press, 2013), authored by Kate Bowler, is not only needed in America. It is also a great tool for a better understanding of a world-wide movement much more diverse than what most people think. Good review to be read here (link).
The burqa affair in Europe: a major comparative study
In recent years, the wearing of the full-face veil or burqa/niqab has proved a controversial issue in FRANCE and in many multi-cultural European societies. Focussing on the socio-legal and human rights angle, The Burqa Affair Across Europe (Ashgate, 2013), edited by Alessandro Ferrari and Sabrina Pastorelli (linked to my GSRL research team) provides a useful comparative perspective on how the issue has been dealt with across a range of European states as well as at European institutional level.
In so doing, the work draws a theoretical framework for the place of religion between public and private space. With contributions from leading experts from law, sociology and politics, the book presents a comparative and interdisciplinary approach to one of the most contentious and symbolic issues of recent times. Link to the publisher's website.
The connexion: a reliable source of information
The Connexion is the best-selling newspaper for English-speakers in France.
This paper provides essential news and practical information to help its readers understand and integrate into the French community. It is also very well-informed, including topics about religion (which is one of this blog's top interests).
Here is a weblink to discover more about this reliable English-speaking source of information about French society, including laicity ("laïcité") and religion.
Pentecostal narratives, a techne designed to deal with rapid changes?
In a few days, a symposium on Pentecostalism and Transnationalism will be held at the University of Western Sydney. Far from old Europe and France? Not so far actually.
Annalisa Butticci's documentary on African Pentecostals is focused on Italy. And Mark Hutchinson's paper (University of Western Sydney) appears very stimulating to explain Pentecostal narratives in France and Europe. His point is that "internal stories of pentecostals are a source for understanding the movement as a form of ‘techne’ for dealing with rapidly changing contexts, in particular those associated with globalisation". Full program here (PDF).
"When religion comes to an end" (Conference to be held in Brussels)
A very stimulating conference will focus on "When religion comes to an end... Political and Social factors in the demise of religions". Organized by the BABEL association, it will be held in Brussels (9-11 september, 2013).
Among the speakers, Paul Airiau will analyze the collapse of priest-recruitment in contemporary catholic France.
French Protestant History on iTunes
Who wants to discover French protestants in an easy, user-friendly way? Wait a minute, iTunes has something for you. The Protestant Library was created as an extension of the Internet site www.museeprotestant.org, of the Virtual Museum of French Protestantism (Pasteur Eugène Bersier Foundation of French Protestant History).
The first volume, "History of Protestant France" exposes the main characteristics of Protestant France from the XVIth to XXth century: of Calvin's time to the Edict of Nantes and to the 1905 law, including the period of the “Desert”. Click here for more (link)
British and Commonwealth Methodism in London (Matthew Wood)
On Monday afternoon, the 13th of May, 2013, the GSRL research team (Paris, France) had the opportunity to listen to a fascinating in-depth analysis of "the price of enthusiasm: British and Commonwealth Methodism in the "Global City".
The main point of Matthew Wood's topic was to study interactions at a local Methodist level in London, in order to understand better the cultural challenges of remixing Methodist identity today through the impact of migrations.
Levenson Prize 2013 for a groundbreaking book on religion in China
As a colleague of both in the French GSRL team, I very proudly recommand Vincent Goossaert and David A. Palmer The Religious Question in Modern China (University of Chicago Press, 2011), a groundbreaking book which obtained the 2013 AAS CIAC Levenson Book Prize!
The Religious Question in Modern China, co-authored by Vincent Goossaert and David Palmer, is a tour de force account of Chinese religiosity over the past century and across mainland China, the "new Chinese states" of Taiwan and Singapore, and diaspora communities in Southeast Asia and further afield.
It digests and makes legible a huge body of research (including their own major monographs) to a general China readership that often ignores or stereotypes religion in and from China. For those who study Evangelicals, lots of up-to-date material and analysis will also be found there. A must-read!
Diaspora of Brazilian religions
Thanks to Cristina Rocha & Manuel A. Vásquez, a new book on the Diaspora of Brazilian Religions (Brill, 2013) sheds a much-need light on these new trends.
Attitudinal change towards Jews and Muslims in France (conference)
France is a particularly interesting case study because it hosts both the largest Jewish community in Europe and the largest Muslim community. The electoral rise of the National Front since the mid 80s has polarised the political debate around the issues of immigration and national identity.
This is why this international conference about the evolution and reconfiguration of prejudice towards minorities (Jews and Muslims) in contemporary France is so strategic. Organized by Nonna Mayer, Vincent Tiberj and Tommaso Vitale, it will be held in Sciences Po Paris (France from the 18th to the 20th April 2013. Program here (PDF).
Grand Rabbi of France resigns after scandal
In the last 10 days, observers of the French religious scene have been amazed by this news: the Grand Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has been accused of plagiarism and cheating on his CV, pretending he obtained an "agregation de philosophie", a prestigious but extremely difficult to obtain achievement. After both accusations appeared to be true, Rabbi Gilles Bernheim finally resigned today after having refused to do so.
As a high moral authority, publically involved in the defense of traditional marriage in the current French debate around same-sex marriage, Gilles Bernheim has shocked many.
More news about it on Thelocal.fr (link).
Multiple Modernities and Postsecular Societies
The French like big concepts, with a capital letter, and ONE definition, once for all. Modernity, Liberty, Equality, Republic... Inherited from an Imperial past, a Republican model filled with messianism and a Catholic culture (centralized and absolute), this mindset is still around, but it is less and less prevailing.
Excellent news! Which does not mean we favor a relativist approach, far from that. But a healthy and ballanced thinkink requires that concepts and frameworks should always be put into perspective and into context. One of the scholars who has helped to reach a more nuanced and dewesternized view on Modernity is Schmuel Eisenstadt, who edited in 2002 a very important book on multiple modernities.
Good news: this globalized and dewesternized view on current world changes is reassessed in a new collective research just released by Ashgate. Its title: Multiple modernities and postsecular societies. (click here to continue)
War in Mali: a reminder that France is not "soft" on jihadists
Many different streams have built up the French left-wing tradition, including a growing trend in favour of multiculturalism, and a lasting pro-palestinian stance.
No wonder if according to polls, about 9 out of 10 French muslims voted for François Hollande (former leader of the Socialist Party) at the last presidential elections (2012).
However, it would be a mistake to conclude that the current French authorities play "soft on radical islam" and jihadists.
All the contrary! (click here to continue)
Face of France's 'Good King Henri IV' reconstructed
For lovers of French political and religious History, this is great news: the face of "Good Henri IV", the highly revered French king who died 400 years ago in 1610, has been reconstructed by a team of French researchers led by Philippe Charlier. Using scans of the skull believed to belong to the monarch, they created a very lively portrait of what Henry the fourth (a former Huguenot) looked like.
"Bravo"! (link here)
Studying religion and society, Sociological Self-Portraits
"How do you study religion and society? In Studying religion and society, edited by Phil Zuckerman and Titus Hjelm, some of the most famous names in the field explain how they go about their everyday work of studying religions in the field. They explain how the ideas for their projects and books have come together, how their understanding of religion has changed over the years, and how their own beliefs have affected their work."
Among them, French sociologist Jean-Paul Willaime (GSRL) explains, from page 175 to page 185, how he came to study protestantism in a Catholic and Secular context. A must read!
Religion as communication, God's talk
"Why do Gods persist in contemporary society? Religious revival and vitality all over the world contradict the vision of continuing declining of belief. This linear process of eclipse of the sacred in modern society has been proved wrong. Religion indeed is an expert system competent in ultimate meanings of human being and social order. "
Professor Enzo Pace is pleading for a more integrative approach of religion drawing from systems theory to consider religion as a very powerful (and unique) means of communication between the visible and the invisible.
A very stimulating book published by Ashgate (2011)
Happy new year !
2012, the Year when French "cellar Evangelicals" came into fame
As far as France is concerned, I choose the huge media attention on "cellar Evangelicals" after a tragic accident that happened in Stains (Paris subburbs) on the 8th of April, 2012 (Easter).
Paris is not only the "city of light". It is also a multicultural metropolis where poverty, unemployment, high property prices and sometimes difficult relations with local authorities mean that minority religion have a hard time finding decent worship places.
For many years, media attention was mainly focused on islam. Scholar Gilles Kepel rightly highlighted a "cellar islam", lacking proper space in French subburbs.
Back from South Sudan and Hope for a New nation Festival
At the HOPE FOR A NEW NATION Festival I've been to, there were apparently up to 94,000 attenders in 2 days. Amazing!
French Evangelicals through an American lens (GetReligion)
In our last post, we just highlighted the paper published by the Christian Science Monitor on French Evangelicals. A few days after, the GetReligion website (worth a visit!) released a critical review of this paper, written by George Conger.
Although it may be a little bit severe, it is inspiring (read also the comments).
French Evangelicals screened by the Christian Science Monitor
Evangelicals accuse French officials of discrimination (Global Post)
Immigrant Evangelical churches are a fast-growing movment in France. Mostly related to the Francophone world (According to the La nouvelle France protestante 2011 book, there is around 40 millions of French-speaking protestants in the World), they are often poor, and have a hard time finding proper worship places.
French Evangelicals on the move: the CNEF holistic evangelism
Connexion (June 2012) is the CNEF magazine (written in French). Its third issue is the opportunity to get a confirmation that social work, social Gospel and solidarity are back on the map for French Evangelicals, after a few post World War II decades during which these themes became old-fashioned.
Under the umbrella of the CNEF organization, evangelism appears to be defined in a holistic way, starting from the individual to reach social level. One of the reasons of this emphasis may rely on the CNEF distinctives.
Atheism and Secularism: more and more studied
A new leading figure of the European research field on African churches
Remember Annalisa Butticci’s name (picture left) : as the Padova International Conference on Pentecostalism reaches its end today, she’s the one to be praised (along with her mentor Enzo Pace) for boosting studies on Pentecostal and immigrant churches in Latin Europe.
After having completed her Ph.D in Sociology and Methodology for Social Science Research from the Catholic University of Milan (Italy), she conducted an ambitious field work, both in Nigerian immigrant churches and in Nigeria (she spent 8 months in Lagos), and she just achieved an amazing task in organizing such a large and successful conference in Padova. (Click to continue)
Kingdom Theology : a shift within Health and Wealth Gospel?
I was not the only one : several fascinating studies have been presented, including one describing a theological schift occuring within the Health and Wealth Gospel trend in Nigerian Pentecostalism.