"Webb Keane's book demonstrates, once again, that nothing illuminates the puzzles of modernity as effectively as cross-cultural studies of colonial encounters. His careful, interdisciplinary, and penetrating analysis of the semiotics of conversion to Dutch Calvinism in the
Indonesian island of Sumba and his skillful blending of theological and anthropological issues will make this book a model for studies of religious conversion. It truly deserves a wide readership."Dipesh Chakrabarty, author of Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference
"Christian Moderns is a wonderful exploration of the boundaries between material things, words, and agents, and the implications of their separation and interconnection for the master trope of modernity.
In a rich and challenging analysis, . . . the book shows how a Christian modernity was negotiated and inhabited. The elaborate care with which Keane argues this thesis is truly impressive. I do not know of any other anthropological book on the same theme that can compare with it."Talal Asad, author of Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam
"Christian Moderns is the kind of book every anthropologist would like to have written. Keane moves easily between the large and small picture: modernism, purification, and Protestantism; a religious conversion or the changing value of meat on the
Indonesian island of Sumba.
In developing a semiotic ideology, he is able to address at once verbal and material culture, ritual speech and exchange, innerness and sincerity, agency, intentionality and fetishism, and the mutual misrecognitions of the missionary and the 'pagan.' I know of no book that is as sensitive to the embedded, the spiritual, conundra, of religious contact and conversion and yet remains rigorous in argument."Vincent Crapanzano, author of Serving the Word: Literalism in America from the Pulpit to the Bench
In this remarkable work, Webb Keane juxtaposes European religious disputes with an ethnographic account of Christian conversion in
Indonesia. Abiding dilemmas of western social sciencehe argueshave their source in language ideologies that anthropologists share with the Protestant missionaries who preceded them. Anxieties about objectification, agency, and the erasure of materiality have been crucial to Calvinism. They are no less central to colonial modernization projects and our own logics of inquiry.
In lucid prose, Keane builds a powerful argument about semiosis and material life that is sure to stimulate important debate."Susan Gal, co-author of The Politics of Gender After Socialism