The practice of Holy Spirit possession: Experiencing God in three pentecostal communities
This thesis seeks to analyze Holy Spirit possession in Pentecostal communities through case studies in Jamaica, Ghana and Papua New Guinea. This study will contribute to the comparative concerns of the growing subfield of the anthropology of Christianity as well as address the lack of in-depth studies of Pentecostal rituals in the anthropological study of Pentecostalism. It is argued that the traditional anthropological study of spirit possession, while showing the similarity of possession phenomena among institutional and traditional religions, is somewhat limited by privileging either explanatory or interpretive approaches and by its traditional focus on non-Christian, small-scale spirit cults. In order to organize Holy Spirit possession for cross-cultural comparison, this thesis will review and suggest the usefulness of Emma Cohen’s typology of executive and pathogenic forms of possession. Finally, building on a theoretical orientation of skilled learning as well as Catherine Bell’s notion of ritualization, it will be argued that through the practice of Holy Spirit possession the Pentecostal’s life-world is continuously being reworked and defined. In the study of Pentecostalism and Pentecostals, anthropologists need to take this practice seriously, not only in specific instances of possession, but also what this might mean for Pentecostal conceptions of personhood that informs belief and behavior.
Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Anthropology.