Against that paradigm of crisis–critique–historical consciousness, in which phenomena need to be given a proper categorical frame of reference to achieve the fullness of their historical meaning, this essay turns to the theological figure of “tribulation” in order to animate another tradition of thinking the difficulty of the present.
The best place to begin in bringing theology and anthropology closer together is with someone who did not write as if the two were separate, even opposed disciplines. Zora Neale Hurston carried out ethnographic fieldwork on behalf of Franz Boas, and yet, writing in multiple genres, articulated a theological vision that meshed the universal God with particular human experience: “Nothing that God ever made is the same thing to more than one person.”
A common denominator among most scholarship on the relationship between theology and anthropology is lack of specificity around which and whose anthropology and theology we’re talking about. This overly generalized frame has privileged white, male, Eurocentric intellectual traditions and misses the generative possibilities of a more specific interdisciplinary exchange.
Our modest proposal is for those of us who work in political theology to listen to the Americas and to do so, insofar as possible, ethnographically.
Given the magnitude of the challenges we face the task of resistance remains a communal, provisional, necessarily (ie meaningfully) contradictory, broken labour shared between sites of theory and practice.