Dr Matthew Engelke, a senior lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at LSE, has won the 2009 Victor Turner Prize for his ethnography, A Problem of Presence: beyond scripture in an African church.
A Problem of Presence is a historical ethnography of the Friday Masowe apostolics of Zimbabwe. Members of this Christian movement do not read the Bible, and instead embrace a live and direct faith in which God's presence is immediate and not mediated by a church, written text, or any other material thing. Exploring wider issues of textual authority and material culture, Engelke examines how the Friday Masowe construct a relationship with the divine.
The Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing was established in 1991 by the Society for Humanistic Anthropology in memory of one of the most influential anthropologists of the post-War generation. It has become one of the most prestigious honours in the discipline.
'Turner devoted his career to seeking a language that would reopen anthropology to the human subject, and the prize [is] given in recognition of an innovative book that furthers this project,' says the Society for Humanistic Anthropology.
Dr Engelke will receive the prize, and read from his book, at the American Anthropological Association meetings in Philadelphia on 4 December.
A Problem of Presence has also been awarded the Clifford Geertz Prize from the Society for the Anthropology of Religion in 2008, being recognized as both 'replete with rich historical and ethnographic detail' and 'theoretically sophisticated' by the book prize jury.
Currently on sabbatical, Dr Engelke is busy writing another monograph, based on his most recent research on Christianity and the public sphere in England.
A Problem of Presence: beyond scripture in an African church by Dr Matthew Engelke is published by the University of California Press.
18 November 2009