"After This, Nothing Happened”: Historical Vulnerability and the End of (Cultural) Time in the Gospel of Mark
John Parrish [+]
University of Alberta
The essay attempts a redescription of the concept of “apocalypticism,” so prevalent in scholarly discourse on Christian origins, by reflecting upon the way cultures and histories exist together in colonial situations, and on the possibility of cultural erasure and historical exhaustion. It has long been noted that social groups facing these threats often seem to experiment with “apocalyptic” or “millenarian” ideologies, variously described as “nativistic” or “revitalization” movements, “sects,” or even “crisis cults.” It can be argued that a pattern is perceptible here: a socio-cultural formation on the brink of expiration, whose constituents, facing physical annihilation or cultural assimilation, draw on their native tools of intellectual and ritual (read: “religious”) practices of cultural maintenance in an effort to avoid becoming their own “other,” and maintain their traditional ways of being “selves.” When described in this way, rather than by reference to (primarily Judeo-Christian) notions of “apocalypticism” or “millenarianism,” these movements become anthropologically intelligible, recognizably based on culturally specific “logics,” rather than “exotic” or incomprehensible phenomena.