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This panel will explore the workings of grace and its entanglements with religious, political, economic, and ecological registers of responsibility and obligation in both Christian and non-Christian settings.
Writing in the early 1990s, Julian Pitt-Rivers declared that "surely the anthropology of religion can no more ignore Western theology than the anthropology of law can ignore Western jurisprudence?" (1992, 215). The burgeoning anthropology of Christianity has, to some extent, rectified this lack, and scholars of Christianity are increasingly likely to engage with the theologies and soteriologies that shape their interlocutors' lives. Yet despite its central role in many Christian, and, arguably, non-Christian traditions, the concept of "grace" remains curiously under-theorised in anthropology. This panel seeks to explore grace in cross-cultural perspective. As that which exceeds dynamics of responsibility grounded in reciprocity and obligation - "always something extra" (Pitt-Rivers 1992, 217) - attending to grace promises to shed light on longstanding concerns with power, agency, and change, as well as on newer questions of time, ethics, and affect. Papers may engage with, but are not limited to, the following: What are the processes through which individuals and communities attract, accept, possess, distribute, reject, or exhaust grace? Across what spatial and temporal scales does grace function? In what forms is grace recognised, mobilised, or marginalised? Is grace translatable across different domains and, if so, through what material and immaterial means? How do the "moral ambitions" of grace (Elisha, 2008) animate or frustrate social, economic, or political action? In what ways does grace interact with alternate registers of responsibility, including karma, debt, and law - especially in encounters across difference?