Moving by the Spirit: Pentecostal Social Life on the Zambian Copperbelt: Book Review

Haynes, Naomi. 2016. Moving by the Spirit: Pentecostal Social Life on the Zambian Copperbelt. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Reviewed by: Casey Golomski (University of New Hampshire)

The key values Haynes describes in her innovative book about Pentecostals in a Zambian town are “moving” (ukusela in Bemba) and “moving by the spirit.” Moving means to be visibly, recognizably improving one’s lot, and it can be materialized or realized in growing up, having children, gaining weight, getting an education, or advancing professionally. Things move in a positive sense, and stagnate or regress in a negative sense. “Moving by the spirit” is the newer, Pentecostalized version of ukusela, with the religion offering new evaluative metrics and modalities of relating to others in the Copperbelt. Haynes’s use of vernacular concepts to illuminate anthropological theory was one of my favorite things about the book overall. I can easily envision, when teaching this book, writing the different concepts of “moving” and “moving by the spirit” on the board to illustrate Bantu (Bemba) grammatical structures and show students how local values are religiously reframed. Continue reading

Webb, “Palang Conformity and Fulset Freedom: Encountering Pentecostalism’s ‘Sensational’ Liturgical Forms in the Postmissionary Church in Lae, Papua New Guinea”

Webb, Michael. 2011. “Palang Conformity and Fulset Freedom: Encountering Pentecostalism’s ‘Sensational’ Liturgical Forms in the Postmissionary Church in Lae, Papua New Guinea.” Ethnomusicology 55(3):445-472.

Excerpt: In this article I take up Meyer’s recent call to scholars of Christianity: “global Christianity requires attention to aesthetics, understood in the broad sense” (2010:759). I concentrate on the shift in Lutheran worship music practices apparent in congregations in the vicinity of Lae, toward what might be considered a Melanesian Pentecostal or “sanctified” aesthetic (see Scandrett-Leatherman 2008; Yong 2010:175–81, 205–10). Meyer’s (2010) notion of “sensational forms” informs my approach. These are Pentecostal worship practices that are both ap- pealing to the senses and spectacular, and through which participants “sense the presence of the Holy Spirit with and in their bodies” (Meyer 2010:742; emphases in original). Sensational forms, Meyer explains, are “an excellent point of entry into processes of religious transformation” (ibid.:751). More specifically, I con- tribute to the ethnomusicological study of global Christianities by examining the local formation and social and cultural persuasiveness of one of Pentecostalism’s key sensational forms, its liturgy of “praise and worship” (Meyer 2010:751).

Following a description of the field setting and research scope, and a discussion of terminology, I provide a historical sketch of the musical activities and processes that have contributed to the formation of this Lutheran social imaginary in Morobe Province, this local dawning in Papua New Guinea of a new, Lutheran, Christian understanding of the world. Fast-forwarding, I report the emergence of new forms of local Christian musical expression around the time of national political independence in the mid 1970s, produced both in the context of the then-nascent popular music industry in Papua New Guinea, and as a result of encounters around the country with Pentecostal Christianity. Papua New Guineans were certainly attracted by Pentecostalism’s “enchanted theology of creation and culture” (Smith 2010a:39–41) and saw a vision of a new Christian imaginary in Charismatic revivalism and its musical liturgies.

Against this background, drawing on my recent fieldwork among Lutheran and Pentecostal congregations in and near Lae, I consider how, in Morobe Province, new Pentecostal praise and worship music might be understood as “a performative religious critique” (Smith 2010b:688). The gravitation toward Pentecostalized liturgies, I suggest, indicates—among other things—an increaseing dissatisfaction with the kind of temporality aesthetics that have come to govern the Lutheran imaginary, particularly as encoded within its hymnody. I frame the shift in worldview that has been underway from the mission era to the postmissionary church in terms of the transition, desired and/or actual, from acoustic guitar-accompanied to electric band-accompanied liturgy.5 For reasons including its ability to carve out a sonic space, bodily enliven worship, and create worship flow, many Lutheran congregations are, not without resistance from various directions, embracing amplified rock-based church music as the preferred musico-liturgical mode. The acoustic guitar, now pejoratively referred to as palang (Tok Pisin,6 plank or board), is being superseded by electric band worship known as fulset (PNG English,7 full set—of rock band instruments). The contrast in languages as “vessels of meaning” here is noteworthy, with Tok Pisin a local-national language and (localized) English a national/global language. Through interviews with church administrators, leaders, and musicians; discussion of repertoires; and analysis of exemplary praise and worship songs in liturgical performance, as well as field observations, I probe ways in which a new “ecumenical” imaginary is being formed.

Freeman, “Pentecostalism and Development: Churches, NGOs and Social Change in Africa”

Freeman, Dena, ed.  (2012) Pentecostalism and Development: Churches, NGOs and Social Change in Africa. New York: Palgrave McMillan. 

Publisher’s description: The practice and discipline of development was founded on the belief that religion was not important to development processes. As societies developed and modernised, it was assumed that they would also undergo a process of secularisation. However, the prominence of religion in many countries and its effects on people’s social, political and economic activities calls this assumption into question. Pentecostal Christianity has spread rapidly throughout Africa since the 1980s and has been a major force for change. This book explains why and shows how Pentecostalism articulates with local level development processes. As well as exploring the internal model of ‘development’ which drives Pentecostal organisations, contributors compare Pentecostal churches and secular NGOs as different types of contemporary development agents and discern the different ways in which they bring about change. At the heart of this book, then, is an exploration of processes of individual and social transformation, and their relevance to understandings of the successes and failures of development.

Brahinsky, Josh (2012) “Pentecostal Body Logics: Cultivating a Modern Sensorium”

Brahinsky, Josh. 2012. Pentecostal Body Logics: Cultivating a Modern Sensorium. Cultural Anthropology. 27(2):215-238.

Abstract

Pentecostals put intensive study into bodies, texts, practices and their interrelationships so as to effectively cultivate a sensory culture – sensorium – and invite authoritative religious experience. This ethnographic study follows a Pentecostal sensorium from its crucial institutionalization in early Assemblies of God practice to more contemporary manifestations at Bethany University and among the Promise Keepers. It traces the historical mutations of what I call the body logics – or portable sensory dynamics – that are central to Pentecostal pedagogies of conversion and commitment, especially in their relatively easy transposition to new contexts and ambivalent but productive relationship to modern secularity. Further, it argues that religiously inflected sensory aptitudes, and perhaps even mind-body dynamics, emerge through a process of careful cultivation and nurturance.