Abstract: In this article, the author explores the role of religion in social constructions of heterosexual masculinity in South Africa in the context of civil society driven programs to fight sexual and gender-based violence and the spread of HIV. Critically engaging with the concept of hegemonic masculinity and the sociological literature on gender relations in conservative Christian communities, the author examines how Charismatic Christian and Pentecostal communities in the townships of Cape Town negotiate their model of masculinity and gender authority in the context of the prevailing hegemonies of ‘traditional’ and ‘liberal’ masculinity. Based on ethnographic observations and qualitative interviews with Pentecostal men, the author specifies the concrete mechanisms whereby Pentecostalism both contributes to transform but also to reproduce rather than undermine hegemonic masculinity. He finds that Pentecostalism responsibilizes men not because men adopt its sexual ideology but because they adopt its model of personhood.
By: Anna Eisenstein (University of Virginia)
Lydia Boyd’s Preaching Prevention charts two moments in Uganda’s recent history: the roll-out of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Asking what these two cases have in common, Boyd explores Ugandan born again Christians’ engagement with discourses on sexuality and health in the midst of rapid urbanization, neoliberal global health policies, and the international sexual rights movement. In classic anthropological fashion, she finds that “indigenous moral logics” animate and valorize specific sexual practices in this particular historical and cultural context. Far from a unidirectional “export” of American approaches to care and treatment, Ugandan born-again Christians re-oriented and re-purposed US-directed messages about sexuality and personal agency in light of longstanding, locally relevant models of hierarchal interdependence. By documenting the distinctive motivations of Ugandan Christians, the book forms an important corrective to assumptions that Ugandan Christian attitudes and activisms merely parrot American Christianity, or that the beliefs and interests of American and Ugandan Christians are interchangeable.
Publisher’s Description: Preaching Prevention examines the controversial U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) initiative to “abstain and be faithful” as a primary prevention strategy in Africa. This ethnography of the born-again Christians who led the new anti-AIDS push in Uganda provides insight into both what it means for foreign governments to “export” approaches to care and treatment and the ways communities respond to and repurpose such projects. By examining born-again Christians’ support of Uganda’s controversial 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the book’s final chapter explores the enduring tensions surrounding the message of personal accountability heralded by U.S. policy makers.
Preaching Prevention is the first to examine the cultural reception of PEPFAR in Africa. Lydia Boyd asks, What are the consequences when individual responsibility and autonomy are valorized in public health initiatives and those values are at odds with the existing cultural context? Her book investigates the cultures of the U.S. and Ugandan evangelical communities and how the flow of U.S.-directed monies influenced Ugandan discourses about sexuality and personal agency. It is a pioneering examination of a global health policy whose legacies are still unfolding.
Kelly-Hanku, Angela, Peter Aggleton, and Patti Shih. 2014. ‘We call it a virus but I want to say it’s the devil inside’: Redemption, moral reform and relationships with God among people living with HIV in Papua New Guinea. Social Science & Medicine 119: 106-113.
Abstract: There is growing recognition of the importance of religion and religious beliefs as they relate to the experience of HIV, globally and in Papua New Guinea in particular. Based on 36 in-depth qualitative interviews conducted with people living with HIV receiving HIV antiretroviral therapy in 2008, this paper examines the cultural aetiology of HIV of in Papua New Guinea, the country with the highest reported burden of HIV in the Pacific. Narratives provided drew upon a largely moral framework, which viewed HIV acquisition as a consequence of moral failing and living an un-Christian life. This explanation for suffering viewed the individual as responsible for their condition in much the same way that neo-liberal biomedical discourses do. Moral reform and re-establishing a relationship with God were seen as key actions necessary to effect healing on the material body infected with HIV. Religious understandings of HIV drew upon a pre-existing cultural aetiology of dis-ease and misfortune widespread in Papua New Guinea. Understanding the centrality of Christianity to explanations of disease, and subsequently the actions necessary to bring about health, is essential in order to understand how people with HIV in receipt of antiretroviral therapies internalise biomedical perspectives and reconcile these with Christian beliefs.
Burchardt, Marian. 2014. AIDS Activism in the Age of ARV Treatment in South Africa: Christianity, Resource Mobilisation and the Meanings of Engagement. Journal of Southern African Studies 40(1): 59-74.
Abstract: This article explores the dynamics of Christian AIDS activism in South Africa. Using social movement theory’s approaches to resource mobilisation, I ask how the availability of different kinds of resources affects organisation and outcomes. Focusing on several Christian activist groups in Cape Town, and on the cultural logics whereby activist networks are extended into rural areas, I argue that resource mobilisation takes on different configurations and rationalities when conjugated with the prevailing system of relationships of patronage and dependency between activist groups and donors. By illustrating the way in which AIDS activism has spilled over into the religious domain in South Africa, I also highlight how, in the process, this activism and the projects it initiated have reshaped Christianity as a public religion.
Abstract: This article addresses the rise of faith-based emergency relief by examining the US President’s Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS (PEPFAR), a public health intervention focused on the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. It argues that the theological turn in humanitarian aid serves to amplify ongoing dynamics in the domestic politics of sub-Saharan African states, where social services have assumed the form of chronic emergency relief and religious organizations have come to play an increasingly prominent role in the provision of such services. In the context of an ongoing public health crisis, PEPFAR has institutionalized the social authority of the Pentecostal and charismatic churches, leading to a semantic confluence between the postcolonial politics of emergency and the Pentecostal/Pauline theology of kairos or event. Far from being confined to the space of foreign aid, however, the faith-based turn in humanitarianism is in keeping with ongoing reforms in domestic social policy in the United States. While on the one hand the sustained welfare programmes of the New Deal and Great Society have been dismantled in favour of a system of emergency relief, on the other hand the federal government has intensified its moral, pedagogical and punitive interventions into the lives of the poor. The wilful transfer of welfare services to overtly religious service providers has played a decisive role in this process. The article concludes with a critical appraisal of the links between African and North American Pentecostal-evangelical churches and questions the revolutionary mission ascribed to Pauline political theology in recent political theory.
Abstract: In African societies where HIV and AIDS are widespread, counselling is being used in an attempt to control people’s sexual relationships and has become an important industry. Counselling is centrally placed in many AIDS-related policies in Botswana and is sponsored by both the government and religious organisations. Within the broad spectrum of Christianity, Pentecostal churches are very active. They emphasise the refashioning of relationships by mediating moral imperatives and by engaging with psychological knowledge on personal behaviour and on techniques of counselling in a changing context of sexuality. This paper explores the significance of religious counselling in terms of the disciplining effects concerning personal behaviour and the ways in which this form of communication is generating a wider interest in this society. This is particularly attractive to members of the educated classes who are engaging with Pentecostal counselling as a way of refashioning their domain of intimate relations. Yet, it does not only provide informed ideas on intimate relations – being often one of the proclaimed objectives of counselling – it also produces a communication about intimate matters that is intended to inform a critique of socio-cultural conventions. This is a counter-cultural dynamic of counselling, which has been little noticed in the academic study of counselling practices in Africa.
Publisher’s Description: Studies of gender in African Christianity have usually focused on women. This book draws attention to men and constructions of masculinity, particularly important in light of the HIV epidemic which has given rise to a critical investigation of dominant forms of masculinity. These are often associated with the spread of HIV, gender-based violence and oppression of women. Against this background Christian theologians and local churches in Africa seek to change men and transform masculinities.
Bochow, Astrid and Rijk van Dijk. 2012. “Christian Creations of New Spaces of Sexuality, Reproduction, and Relationships in Africa: Exploring Faith and Religious Heterotopia.” Journal of Religion in Africa 42(4):325-344.
Abstract: In many African societies today Christian churches, Pentecostals in particular, are an important source of information on sexuality, relationships, the body, and health, motivated in part by the HIV/AIDS pandemic but also related to globally circulating ideas and images that make people rethink gender relations and identities through the lens of ‘romantic love’. Contextualizing the contemporary situation in the history of Christian movements in Africa, and by applying Foucault’s notion of heterotopia, this introduction and the subsequent papers show that Christian doctrines and practices are creating social spaces of altering relational ethics, identities and gender roles that appeal especially to upwardly mobile women.
Abstract: The born-again discourse is a central characteristic of Pentecostal Christianity in Africa. In the study of African Christianities, this discourse and the way it (re)shapes people’s moral, religious, and social identities has received much attention. However, hardly any attention has been paid to its effects on men as gendered beings. In the study of men and masculinities in Africa, on the other hand, neither religion in general nor born-again Christianity in particular are taken into account as relevant factors in the construction of masculinities. On the basis of a detailed analysis of interviews with men who are members of a Pentecostal church in Lusaka, Zambia, this article investigates how men’s gender identities are reshaped by becoming and being born-again and how born-again conversion produces new forms of masculinity. The observed Pentecostal transformation of masculinity is interpreted in relation to men’s social vulnerability, particularly in the context of the HIV epidemic in Zambia.