Society for the Anthropology of Religion Biennial Meeting

  • Joe Webster (Organiser)

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


    Panel Title: The Morality of Millenarianism Paper Title: Eschatological Agency: Moral Freedom and Prophecy Fulfilment on Land and at Sea By reflecting upon fieldwork among Brethren deep sea fishermen in Gamrie, NE Scotland, this article explores how two sources of authority – Biblical apocalyptic prophecy and the agentive acts of individual Christians – were imagined to relate to each other. More specifically, by using the term ‘eschatological agency’, I consider how local Christian fishermen placed themselves at the centre of ‘end times’ events by first reading and then fulfilling such prophecy. How, in this context, are we to understand what it means to be a moral actor or a free agent? These questions are made more complex still by attending to the ways in which Gamrie’s Christian fisher-families obfuscated their own agency by attributing all human actions to either God or the devil, while at the same time working tirelessly to identify and enact various ‘signs of the times’ that collectively evidenced the nearness of the end of the world. Here, ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ is given a new double meaning; not only does it create the semiotic conditions necessary for its own apocalyptic realisation, but also creates the material conditions necessary for the apocalyptic realisation of the Brethren self and community. This paper offers an ethnographic sketch of that self and community, and, in so doing, attempts to query recent anthropological pairings of freedom and morality through a re-examination of the notion of authority.
    Event typeConference
    LocationSan Diego, United States