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Department of Social Anthropology


Senior Research Seminar with Claire Moll (University of Cambridge) and Danny Cardoza (University of Cambridge)

Claire Moll: ‘No te voy a mentir’: The Ethics of speaking falsehoods in Rural El Salvador

In rural El Salvador, one is hard pressed to encounter an interlocutor who will speak clear, true representations of his/her thoughts or reality. Instead, falsehoods, or knowably untrue statements are hallmarks of everyday speech. This is in part due to the lived reality of omnipresent, insecure violence and the accompanying interpersonal expectations that people have of one another. In fact, much of their social lives are positioned around protecting the ‘truth’. Thus, in some cases, telling falsehoods collectively is socially productive and protective. However, this is not to say that all falsehoods are classified as ethically good. On the contrary, people denounce lies and liars as socially destructive. In this article, through a close consideration of the ethnographic data, I theorise that for my Salvadoran informants speaking falsehoods (either as an individual or as a collective) and lying (most often as an individual) are in fact two separate ethical categories for my informants in rural El Salvador.


Danny Cardoza: Decentring salvation: Love, worship, and theocratic politics in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ evangelism

Salvation has been central to the way that the anthropology of Christianity has considered notions of missionary work. While soteriology does feature prominently in many forms of Christian evangelism, either by being emphasized or deemphasized by different theological approaches to the Biblical call to evangelize, missionaries of many denominational stripes often consider the impetus to evangelize to be located elsewhere. In this paper I explore what can be learned about evangelism by decentring salvation and accentuating its other theological motivations. To do so, I will demonstrate the ways Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan understand their street evangelism to be primarily about demonstrating their love for others and worshipping Jehovah. Both notions are subsumed under an ethics of ‘cultivating loving-kindness’, one of Jehovah’s primary virtues, as imitating his attributes constitutes ‘pure worship’. Witnesses argue that the loving-kindness aspect of ‘proclaiming Jehovah’s Kingdom’ is articulated in evangelistic acts that intentionally unsettle local politics—namely ethnic tensions between Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, and Russians—an ethico-political practice that might be overlooked if I were to center my analysis on salvation.

Friday, 12 March, 2021 - 16:15 to 18:00
Event location: 
Online - by email invitation