On Friday April 17th, I will present a paper titled: "Discerning the Sick Body: Embodied Evidence and Critical Christianity in Samoa" for a panel titled "Politics of Discernment in Christian Practice" organized by Fred Klaits and James Bielo.
Abstract: In Samoa, rising rates of metabolic disorders are interpreted by evangelical Christians as evidence of the need for (re)Christianization. Samoan Pentecostal Christians critique mainline Christianity as a source of suffering, and often posit a relationship between church-based exchange (i.e., public gift-giving) and metabolic disorders (i.e., diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease). Pentecostal Christians have developed an “analytics” of metabolic disorders linking health, wellness, and wealth with divine presence, on the one hand, and disease and wealth with divine distance, on the other. Notably, wealth can indicate wellness or sickness. In this paper, I explore how the body—sick or well, lean or corpulent—is used as an evidentiary medium to discern the ethics of wealth. Reading the body, consumption, and wealth is a form of critical abstraction, which locates material evidence in individual bodies while grounding a institutional critique of mainline Christianity in those same bodies.