Anthropology Lecture Series
of Anthropology is pleased to host prominent anthropologists from
around the nation for public lectures. Lectures are held in the evenings and
all members of the public are welcome to attend the FREE events.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 6 pm
In the Anthropology Museum, Old Main 252
Kimberly J. Marshall, University of Oklahoma
Dancing in the Spirit: Navajo Pentecostalism and the Alternative Agencies of Non-Human Actors
Since 1950, Neo-Pentecostalism has grown exponentially among
Navajos of the US Southwest. Calling
themselves Oodlání (‘Believers’), this Navajo-led, Navajo-speaking, and
independently operating religious movement now claims the exclusive allegiance
of up to 20% of the Navajo population. On any summer night, the lighted white
tents of Oodlání revivals dot the high-desert landscape. Inside, to the
accompaniment of music blasted through enormous generator-powered PA systems,
dozens of Navajo bodies are rocking, bobbing, swaying, spinning, and shuddering
in an impressive display of what anthropologists of religion might call spirit
possession. For Oodlání, however, these inspired believers are charismatically
"filled” with the Holy Spirit, and their erratic movements are better
understood as a "dance.”
In this talk, I discuss the spread of neo-Pentecostalism
among Navajos and show how expressive culture at tent revivals (such as
"dancing in the Spirit”) reveals that neo-Pentecostalism is both incorporative
of Navajo culture and resistant to it.
Specifically, I explore how the charismatic practice of "dancing in the
Spirit” demonstrates that Navajo Pentecostals understand the agency of
non-human actors in importantly novel ways.
About the anthropologist: Kimberly J. Marshall serves as Assistant Professor of
Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma, where she teaches
courses on Native North America, social theory, and the anthropology of
religion. With a background in Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Marshall is
broadly interested in theorizing expressive culture and culture change.
Specifically, she works with Diné Oodlání (Navajo ‘Believers’), a growing
movement of Navajos who practice charismatic neo-Pentecostal Christianity. She
has recently begun exploring the ways that expressive forms (and the ideas they
carry) travel along social networks.