Premawardhana, “Egress and Regress”

Premawardhana, Devaka. 2016. Egress and Regress: Pentecostal Precursors and Parallels in Northern Mozambique, Ethnos, DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2016.1140216 [Pre-publication release]

Abstract: Based on fieldwork among the Makhuwa of northern Mozambique, this essay explores how non-Pentecostal models of transformation shape a people’s manner of relating to Pentecostalism. Radical change has long been constitutive of Makhuwa history and subjectivity. Yet Makhuwa patterns of change, commonly conceived in terms of movement, entail regress as much as egress – circular mobilities that disrupt linear teleologies. State administrators and Pentecostal missionaries attempt to reform local inhabitants by, respectively, ‘sedentarising’ and ‘converting’ them. Deploying their historical proclivity towards mobility, those among whom I worked appear simultaneously eager to partake in resettlement schemes and reluctant to remain settled by them. I argue that their ambivalence towards Pentecostal churches and teachings, in particular, challenges two prevailing assumptions within anthropological studies of Christianity: that discontinuity is definitive, and that it is exceptional to Pentecostalism.

Premawardhana, “Conversion and Convertibility”

Premawardhana, Devaka. 2015. “Conversion and Convertibility in Northern Mozambique.” In What is Existential Anthropology?, eds. Michael Jackson and Albert Piette. New York: Berghahn Books.

Abstract: Recent scholarship on Pentecostalism in the global South gives the impression of a singular trajectory of inexorable growth. In this chapter, I offer a counternarrative, not in denial of the widely reported statistical evidence but in affirmation of the ambivalence with which individuals behind the statistics experience novelty. In so doing, I bring existential insights to bear on such themes as rupture and discontinuity, which already, but inadequately, suffuse studies of Pentecostal conversion. Ethnographic evidence from northern Mozambique suggests that the “backsliding into heathenism” Pentecostal leaders decry is experienced locally as a capacity, a capacity for mobility and mutability, for shifting places and altering identities. The refusal of ordinary men and women to settle has long frustrated government administrators and religious reformers alike. It threatens to bewilder scholars as well unless we learn to think beyond the classificatory schemes outsiders so readily deploy and insiders so assiduously avoid.

Premawardhana, “Transformational Tithing”

Premawardhana, Devaka. 2012. Transformational Tithing: Sacrifice and Reciprocity in a Neo-Pentecostal Church. Nova Religio 15(4):85-109.

Abstract: This article examines a controversy surrounding the theology of prosperity associated with neo-Pentecostalism: the aggressive soliciting of tithes from largely underclass worshippers, and the eagerness of those worshippers to respond beyond what seems financially sound. Drawing on ethnographic research among Cape Verdean immigrants in a Boston branch of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, I argue that a sense of empowerment often accompanies sacrificial tithing. This sense comes through the insertion of worshippers into multiple relations of reciprocity. Those whom I observed submitting to their pastor’s calls to tithe should not, therefore, be glibly dismissed as victims of alienation or brainwashing. Their expressions of devotion are active and creative strategies of self-transformation in response to the precariousness of the migrant’s life-world.