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Department of Social Anthropology


Dr Anna Strhan (University of York)

Evangelicals, Ethics, and the Aporia of Community

This paper draws on fieldwork conducted with two evangelical churches in London to explore the different ways in which each imagines and enacts particular forms of difference and belonging in relation to their local areas. Exploring the growing significance of the idea of 'mess' as a moral good in charismatic and open evangelicalism in the UK, I suggest that this turn to 'mess' is shaped both by a strategy of differentiation from conservative evangelicalism - which emphasizes a desire for hierarchical order within church, self, society - and by a desire for an ethics of responsiveness to the everyday needs of those in their local area, which is marked by heightened socio-economic polarization. Drawing on Emmanuel Levinas's writing on ethics, I consider how this embrace of mess and ethics of responsiveness within some evangelical churches at the same time reveals an aporia in what community means for them. I conclude by suggesting that exploring how groups engage with and construct ideas of 'order', 'coherence' and 'mess' has significant implications for understanding how different groups respond to fragmented experiences of social life, heightened in the context of a global city, as well as for understanding the ways in which they enact modes of difference and belonging in the contemporary moment.

Friday, 25 May, 2018 - 16:15 to 18:00
Event location: 
Edmund Leach Room Department of Social Anthropology Free School Lane, Cambridge