Christianity and Discipline

  • Joe Webster (Invited speaker)

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course


    Whose sins do the Brethren confess? The strange case of Protestant confiteor Drawing inspiration from Robert Hertz’s (1922 [1994]) seminal but little read essay ‘Sin and Expiation in Primitive Societies’ and applying it to Scottish Protestantism, I want to call into question conventional anthropological understandings of confession as that which is fixated upon ‘the production of inner truth’ (Carr 2013). Taking a step away from these explicitly Foucauldian notions of confession seems a helpful way of expanding our understanding of sin and expiation – as Hertz himself did almost a century ago – to encompass much more than ‘automatic outward reflections of reflexively realized inwardness’ (Carr 2013: 35). Indeed, as I will argue for the Brethren of Gamrie, far from ‘persist[ing] in the belief that confession lets the things inside out into words’ (ibid. 47), for these ultra-conservative Scots-Protestants, the opposite is true, namely confession lets the things outside in into the body. Thus, rather than offer the idle promise of transcending the ‘dual symbolic classification’ (Needham 1973) of any inside/outside dichotomy, I set myself the (perhaps equally immodest) task of reversing the direction in which confessional ‘signs’ are imagined to move, that is, from inside-out to outside-in.
    Event typeWorkshop
    LocationEdinburgh, United Kingdom