For years the Network of Christian Anthropologists has been meeting at the American Anthropological Association meetings as an informal way to get Christian Anthropologists together. For the years I have been attending, this has been an important source of contacts (very much living up to the idea of a "network"). Now Ed Zehner has proposed the idea of going legit and gaining more official recognition from the AAA by forming an official interest group. This need not replace the Network nor the various fora the Network has spawned (e.g., the Fishnet listserv), but this interest group would provide a more professionalized forum for discussing the questions of Christian identity, subjectivity and perspective within the practice and profession of anthropology.
With sufficient support, the group could eventually gain the right to propose panels or other events at the annual meetings. Our existence would provide greater legitimacy to the Christian voice as a voice in the professional world.
At one time it made sense to keep a low profile. Hostility towards Christians ran high and most Christian anthropologists were closely associated with mission organizations whose work could be compromised by drawing attention to their presence in the field. Now, however, we see a moment for change. Articles by scholars such as Robert Priest have appeared in top journals from Christian scholars promoting their views (see also my article here). Secular scholars (e.g. Joel Robbins and Fenella Cannell) have begun to take the study of Christianity (and thus Christians) more seriously. Momentum is on the side of speaking out with a Christian voice that engages the issues important to anthropologists more widely (such as secularism, belief, religious experience, and ethnographic representation.)
We hope many will post and comment here as topics arise.
Soli Deo Gloria.
5 days ago