Charles Hirschkind has given us an insightful and entertaining take on the anthropologist/cognitivist polemics we have experienced in some of our discussions, while asking the serious question of whether the study of prayer allows us “to say anything interesting about universal human attributes or faculties.” Contributors to the conversation have pointed to the ways this question begs at least a couple of others: what counts as interesting? And what do we mean by “universal human attributes or faculties?” On the latter point, respondents have drawn attention to the ways the argument reveals new features of the universalism/particularism dilemma. The former pertains, among other things, to the role of disciplinary divisions in the dispute, a discussion taken up in different ways by various contributors: clearly, what counts as “interesting” depends on what your discipline is interested in.
Ruth Marshall is jointly appointed to Departments for the Study of Religion and Political Science at the University of Toronto. Marshall’s research is interdisciplinary, drawing on political theory, political science, continental philosophy, anthropology, and postcolonial studies. Her publications are based on 13 years of residence and two decades of fieldwork in West Africa, they focus on Pentecostalism in Nigeria and civil war in Côte d’Ivoire, exploring questions of political subjectivity, sovereignty, political theology, and postcolonial politics. Her main publications are her monograph, Political Spiritualities: The Pentecostal Revolution in Nigeria (University of Chicago Press, 2009) and the co-edited Between Babel and Pentecostal: Transnational Pentecostalism in Africa and Latin America. (University of Indiana Press, 2001). Her current book project, Speaking in Tongues: Religion and the Call of the Political is an empirically-informed theoretical exploration of the Pentecostal experience of language and a critical reflection on the figures of "extremist" religion deployed in current continental political philosophy.
Posts by Ruth Marshall
Is it possible to assume that we all know what we’re talking about when we talk about prayer? I argue that unless we all study prayer as practice, the answer to this is no. But what do I mean by “studying prayer as practice,” if the as doesn’t imply anything fundamental about the nature of prayer as such? Simply put, I want to make a plea for a Foucauldian approach to our object of study, which is not to say a theory of it, or any substantive claim about it, but rather a mode of problematizing it.
This project explores the empirical and theoretical implications of the Pentecostal claim that prayer is the “weapon of our warfare”. Focusing on African Pentecostals who see themselves as a new global vanguard with a redemptive mission, I ask what it means to speak of prayer as a weapon, and what are the ethical, political and theological implications of Pentecostal conceptions of warfare.