Werbner, “Holy Hustlers, Schism, and Prophecy”

Werbner, Richard (2011) Holy Hustlers, Schism, and Prophecy: Apostolic Reformation in Botswana. Berkeley, UC Press.

Publisher’s Description: This book examines the charismatic Christian reformation presently underway in Botswana’s time of AIDS and the moral crisis that divides the church between the elders and the young, apostolic faith healers. Richard Werbner focuses on Eloyi, an Apostolic faith-healing church in Botswana’s capital. Werbner shows how charismatic “prophets”–holy hustlers–diagnose, hustle, and shock patients during violent and destructive exorcisms. He also shows how these healers enter into prayer and meditation and take on their patients’ pain and how their ecstatic devotions create an aesthetic in which beauty beckons God. Werbner challenges theoretical assumptions about mimesis and empathy, the power of the word, and personhood. With its accompanying DVD, Holy Hustlers, Schism, and Prophecy integrates textual and filmed ethnography and provides a fresh perspective on ritual performance and the cinematic.

Klaits “Asking as Giving”

Klaits, Frederick (2011) “Asking as Giving: Apostolic Prayers and the Aesthetics of Well-Being in Botswana” Journal of Religion in Africa 41(2):206-226

Abstract: Drawing on an ethnographic description of hymns, prayers, and requests for material goods among Apostolic Christians in Botswana, this article considers how styles of asking bring aspects of the person to the attention of divine and human others. Apostolic believers regard personal well-being under circumstances of vulnerability as hinging in part on styles of prayer and asking, which entail forms of both self-assertion and engagement with the personhood of others. Experiences of vulnerability compel Apostolics’ awareness of how partible aspects of their persons, including the voice, move among them so as ideally to build up well-being. Thus prayers to God as the ultimate source of well-being frame persons in aesthetic terms so that they may be well apprehended by divine and human others. In light of Mauss’s theory of the gift, the article considers how verbal requests can foster well-being by conveying aspects of the person to divine and human hearers in ways that assert personal standing while sustaining moral consideration. An avenue is presented for comparative inquiry into the ways in which asking opens spaces of agency and obligation in religious and humanitarian discourses.

Werbner, “The Charismatic Dividual and the Sacred Self”

Werbner, Richard (2011) “The Charismatic Dividual and the Sacred Self” Journal of Religion in Africa 41(2):180-205

Abstract: The notion of `a break with the past’ foregrounds the individual as the new person reborn in Christian churches. Against that, across southern Africa Apostolic churches still face moral and metaphysical predicaments of the person being individual and, alternatively, dividual. The dividual is here taken to be someone who is composite or partible and permeated by others’ emotions and shared substances, including body dirt or sexual and other fluids. These personal predicaments are often experienced as dangerously unsettling—in need of careful spiritual regard, guidance and inspired remedy lest the person suffer ill-being, perhaps even occult harm. Dividuality opens the vulnerable person both to witchcraft attack (enemies may use organic bits for occult purposes, with malicious intent) and to pollution in contact with birth and death. In response, Apostolic church services constitute reformation. They reject indigenous tradition in forms of occult practice with charms and organic medicines—it is a sinful tradition, against God’s commandments and not Christian—but they do not deny the existence of witchcraft; nor do they start wholly afresh, even with the baptised. Apostolics find themselves earthly beings needing help and protection from God in heaven. As faithful Christians and hopeful of temporary relief, they confront the predicaments of alternative personhood within an ongoing war of good and evil. To get closer to God, if only vicariously, Apostolics turn to charismatic prophets as mediators through whom the Word of God can be heard, effectively and powerfully, and whose very bodies speak revealingly, in the gestures and postures of trance, to the needy condition of the faithful. Following a comparison with Catholic Charismatics in New England, this article addresses linguistic and phenomenological questions of Word, self and other with evidence from observed prophetic mediation by young men in séances of Eloyi, a transnational Apostolic church, and its offshoot church, Connolius, at Botswana’s capital. Included are issues of awesome narration, vicarious suffering, empathy with others, sacred cosmetics, and visionary realization.