The Social Life of Prayers
Thematic Issue on The Social Life of Prayer
Edited by Andreas Bandak
Taylor & Francis Online, 2017
In this introduction the theme of prayer is brought into an anthropological discussion. Attending to prayers and how they are performed and seen to intervene in a social world is a significant way to engage with matters close to people.
As argued in this introduction, prayers are a way to map affect and affective relationships people hold in what they are oriented towards and care about. Here a social perspective on prayer taking its cue from Marcel Mauss is particularly relevant as it invites us to go beyond the individual and see how prayers always point to a broader landscape.
The reason for honing in on the social life of prayers is that it entices a particular form of situated comparison of diverse forms of Christianity that thereby pushes the anthropology of Christianity to consider central questions of agency, responsibility and subjectivity.
This introduction argues that attending to the social life of prayers can be seen as a way of mapping affect. Prayers in different ways attest to the implicatedness of human beings in a social world. Furthermore, prayer works as a didactic tool and is in itself an internal scale of comparison and evaluation in various Christian formulations.