How are spiritual power and self-transformation cultivated in street ministries? In Addicted to Christ, Helena Hansen provides an in-depth analysis of Pentecostal ministries in Puerto Rico that were founded and managed by self-identified “ex-addicts.” Richly ethnographic, the book harmoniously melds Hansen’s dual expertise in public anthropology and psychology. Through her interviewees’ stories, she examines key elements of the Pentecostal system: mysticism, ascetic practice, and the idea of other-worldliness. She then shares the strategies of Pentecostal ministries, which, according to street ministries, are the core elements of spiritual victory over addiction: transformation techniques to build spiritual strength and authority through pain and discipline; cultivation of alternative masculinities based on male converts’ reclamation of domestic space; and radical rupture from a post-industrial “culture of disposability.” By contrasting the ministries’ logic of addiction with that of biomedicine, Hansen rethinks roads to recovery while discovering unexpected convergences with biomedicine, revealing the true sway of street corner ministries.
Helena Hansen is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at New York University.