Oral Presentation Session - Cosponsored Status Awarded
Sponsored by: Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Cosponsored by: Society for the Anthropology of Work
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Violence
Secondary Theme: Resilience
Precarity is a condition embedded in how people make sense of existence. The frailty of aging bones makes movement impossible; the persistence of local unemployment renders health a fleeting necessity; the distant roars of war weapons make shelters fragile and eventually lethal. Precarity describes "conditions that threaten life in ways that appear to be outside of one’s control,” as Judith Butler writes, and in the words of Anne Allison, it is “a modality of being marked by indeterminacy that is less the exception than the condition of our times.”
Anthropological reflections on precarity tend to characterize it as a predicament of twenty-first century neoliberal capitalism that affects, albeit differentially, all those living (human and non-human) amidst the ashes of grand modernist projects and the looming climate catastrophes of the age of the Anthropocene. Yet there is also something pervasive and ubiquitous about precarity, and as an existential condition the knowledge of how to live with it is often thought of as the domain of religious and spiritual traditions. Indeed, as the work of Vincanne Adams, Andrea Muehlebach, and others explores, new cultures of religious and ethical affect, labor, and citizenship have emerged alongside neoliberal intensification of marketization and the withdrawal of service provision by the state.
This panel addresses the usefulness of “precarity” as a theoretical framework in the anthropological study of religious and ethical traditions. How does precarity shape, compete with, inform, become, and result from religiosity and ethical forms of life? What are the material forms that precarity takes, and how is it manufactured, sensed, fixed, embodied, or embraced? How do different traditions respond to conditions undermining their own stability or right to exist, and how does a sense of hope and wholeness perdure in the midst of institutional precarity? What forms of power, authority, and agency are invoked in the ethical and aesthetic practices that guide practitioners as they grapple with the instability and the impermanence of life? And how do narratives of suffering and injustice sever or suture the political and the theological? The six papers in this panel take up these questions through ethnographic and theoretical engagement with contemporary life-worlds across a multiplicity of religious traditions and sites of precarity.