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Christian Moderns: Freedom and Fetish in the Mission by Webb Keane

By Webb Keane

Throughout a lot of the postcolonial international, Christianity has frequently turn into inseparable from rules and practices linking the concept that of modernity to that of human emancipation. To discover those hyperlinks, Webb Keane undertakes a wealthy ethnographic learn of the century-long come upon, from the colonial Dutch East Indies to post-independence Indonesia, between Calvinist missionaries, their converts, and people who face up to conversion. Keane's research in their struggles over things like prayers, choices, and the worth of cash demanding situations conventional notions approximately organisation. via its exploration of language, materiality, and morality, this booklet illuminates a variety of debates in social and cultural thought. It demonstrates the an important position of Christianity in semiotic ideologies of modernity and sheds new mild at the significance of faith in colonial and postcolonial histories.

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Additional resources for Christian Moderns: Freedom and Fetish in the Mission Encounter

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One important narrative about modernity relates that human agency had been misrecognized in the form of fetishes, despots, and demons onto whom it had been projected. In this story, the true character of human agency is eventually revealed and thus recaptured. Since Marx and Feuerbach, if not ;Voltaire, the call to self-recognition, traced across historical time, often /involves realizing that agency falsely imputed to deities is in fact human. Commonly this story of error disabused is taken to lead inexorably to the secular vision of modernity, replacing gods with humans at the center of the action.

3 Ulti- . ~. es back to Thomas Aquinas, who adapted the Aristotelian dIstmctlon between aCCIdent and substance to explain why the Eucharist could be both bread. an~ ~ine ~ac~ident, which is the stuff of experience) and Christ (substance, whIc~ IS m pnnCIpl~ unobservable) (MacCormack 1991: 28; Pelikan 1989: 501). The spIlt represented m these Reformation debates manifests the breakdown of that acci~ent/substancedistinction. Among other things, Calvin's position shows how hard It had become by this historical moment to imagine that the different substances could ~ave the same accidents (an observation lowe to Don Herzog).

This moral narrative has affinities with aspects of Protestantism, especially as it developed in the era of evangelical and Enlightenment challenges. Modernity is certainly a word in danger of meaning everything and nothing. Taken as the outcome of a teleological narrative, any particular characterization of modernity faces a complex and unpredictable world brimming with counterexamples. What makes us think history should even have a single narrative? Yet to pluralize "modernities" invites selfcontradiction (see, for example, Gaonkar 1999).

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