By Matthew Engelke
Situating the Masowe case inside of a large comparative framework, Engelke exhibits how their rejection of textual authority poses an issue of presencewhich is to claim, how the non secular topic defines, and claims to build, a courting with the religious global in the course of the semiotic potentials of language, activities, and items. Written in a full of life and obtainable variety, an issue of Presence makes vital contributions to the anthropology of Christianity, the heritage of religions in Africa, semiotics, and fabric tradition studies.
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Additional info for A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church
But there remains in social scientiﬁc analysis, in part because of Saussure’s legacy, a tendency (1) to assume language exists on an ideational plane; and (2) to reaﬃrm (implicitly if not explicitly) the Western default distinctions between what is material and what is immaterial (Irvine 1989; Keane 2003). These tendencies have in no small measure hampered the development of a semiotics in which material culture plays a key role. In Saussure we have what Miller calls “the humility of objects” (1987, 85–108).
Since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 Chitungwiza has spread northward and Harare has spread southward—the southern areas of Harare being some of the poorest and also where much of the industry is located—such that, by the time I conducted the bulk of my ﬁeldwork, they formed a massive urban complex. Many of the people I knew who lived in Chitungwiza worked in Harare (or spent time looking for work in Harare). The Juraniﬁri Santa congregation drew people from all parts of the urban area as well as from the Seke communal lands that surround Chitungwiza.
Similarly, Catholic and Protestant disagreements on transubstantiation can be said to hinge on questions of representation as literal or nonliteral presence. Clearly, then, to deﬁne representation is not enough, because it skirts these social, semiotic, and metaphysical loadings. “What we need,” Pitkin concludes, “is not just an accurate deﬁnition, but a way of doing justice to the various more detailed applications of representation in various contexts—how the absent thing is made present, and who considers it so” (1967, 10).