7.8/10
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Holy Ghost People (1967)

| Documentary
A study on a small Pentecostal congregation in Scrabble Creek, West Virginia.

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A study on a small Pentecostal congregation in Scrabble Creek, West Virginia.

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Edited into Holy Ghost People (2013) See more »

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Ecstasy, community, democracy, spontaneity: ethnography
21 October 2010 | by (Oakland, California, USA) – See all my reviews

This is a great ethnographic film that lets its subjects speak for themselves. Instead of depicting pentecostal Christians as outside "normal" Christianity, it portrays their humanity in their care for one another, their egalitarian organization, the sensory/emotional depth of their experience, and the beauty of their music, dance and testimony. My students (anthropology of religion) immediately saw connections to Durkheim (collective effervescence), Carnival (permission to break from everyday norms), the sensibilities of Burning Man (spontaneity, no spectators, self-reliance, personalization of religious/spiritual experience) Marcel Mauss (reciprocity), and Max Weber (the Protestant work ethic: "the sin of idleness"). I strongly disagree with the professed anthropologist above who characterized the subjects as "deviant." This plays into normative/dominant notions of "good" religion as emotionally controlled, non-spontaneous, and yoked to norms of middle class citizenship. Anthropologists should know that religious experience is infinitely varied and no single variation is "normal."


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