Abstract: What is the relation between divine and human action in the world? To understand how a certain group of Christians reckon human capacity and divine authority, I explore articulations of two theological concepts – sin and sovereignty – as they played out in the concerns of a congregation of Baptists in Zimbabwe’s capital city. This paper is situated within emerging conversations between anthropologists and theologians, and from my ethnographic case I argue that contemporary readings of Calvin and of Augustinian notions of original sin offer the anthropologist alternatives to the analytic category of ‘agency’. Beliefs about the limits of human capacity and about God’s control among urban Zimbabwean Baptists shape their engagement with the political realm, and their case contributes to ethnographic explorations of theological and political conceptions of sovereignty.
Release Date: November 15, 2013
Publisher’s Description: Enchanted Calvinism’s central proposition is that Ghanaian Presbyterian communities, both past and present, have become significantly more enchanted–that is, more attuned to spiritual explanations of and remedies for suffering–as they have become more integrated into capitalist modes of production. The author draws on a specific Weberian concept of religious enchantment to frame the discussion of spiritual affliction and spiritual healing within the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, particularly under the conditions of labor migration: first, in the early twentieth century during the cocoa boom in Ghana and second, at the turn of the twenty-first century in the context of the healthcare migration from Ghana to North America. Relying on extensive archival research, oral historical interviews, and participant-observation group interviews conducted in North America, Europe, and West Africa, the study provides evidence that the more these Ghanaian Calvinists became dependent on capitalist modes of production, the more enchanted their lives, and, subsequently, their church became, although in different ways within these two migrations. One striking pattern that has emerged among Ghanaian Presbyterian labor migrants in North America, for example, is a radical shift in gendered healing practices, where women have become prominent healers, while a significant number of men have become spirit-possessed.