Item – Theses Canada

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Westman, Clinton,1971-
Understanding Cree religious discourse.
Ph. D. -- University of Alberta, 2008
Ottawa :Library and Archives Canada = Bibliothèque et Archives Canada,[2009]
4 microfiches
Includes bibliographical references.
Pentecostalism, a relatively new branch of Christianity focused on acquiring God's spiritual gifts as the early church did, is a major movement in Aboriginal communities across the Canadian north. By conducting some 14 months ethnographic fieldwork in northern Alberta (primarily Trout Lake and Peerless Lake), I have begun to study this religion in its social context. Using ethnographic and historical methods, I trace the development of Cree Pentecostalism from sect to majority status. I also assess the function of the Cree language, and attend to the role of discourse in general, in Cree Pentecostal worship. I examine the relationship between Pentecostal conversion and other trends and movements in Cree society, and document the relationship between Pentecostal practice and that of other religious networks. By conducting most of my fieldwork in Trout Lake, a community where census data indicate that Pentecostals are in the majority, I am able to consider Pentecostals as more than a fringe group, while also querying whether or not Pentecostalism actually is the majority religion in the community. I take a tripartite approach, using the classical cultural-historical approach of Boasian anthropology, combined with the broad scope of relevant data seen in the interpretive turn of Geertz, Turner, and Douglas, as amplified by Hymes, Tedlock and others under the rubric of discourse analysis; thirdly, I open up the intellectual scope of the thesis to emphasize experiences of the spiritual as well as discourses about spiritual ideas--in this way I emphasize the description of cultural and personal transformations, set firmly within the context of holism and interpretive thick description, as the cutting edge of ethnographic practice. Using scholarly literature from global Pentecostalism and North American Christianity, including works by Cox, Meyer, Lawless, Titon, Luhrmann, and Harding, I suggest that Pentecostal practice depends on learning a new linguistic register, and overall is strongly dependant on discourse and genre. This opens the door to assessing how Christian practices interact with or translate local culture and meaning systems. In assessing these questions I assess theoretical perspectives developed by Sahlins, Thompson, Dombrowski, Preston, Laugrand, Robbins, Schieffelin, Goulet, Philips Valentine, and others.