Fabian, “Talk about Prayer”

Fabian, Johannes. 2015. Talk About Prayer: An Ethnographic Commentary. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Publisher’s Description: Talk about Prayer is an experiment in writing ethnography, a commentary on a conversation with Mama Régine Tshitanda, the leader of a Charismatic prayer group (groupe de prière) in Lubumbashi (Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo) and members of her family in 1986. Fabian’s research on expressions and practices of popular culture, including popular religion, was conducted during two visits to Katanga in 1985 and 1986. He discusses controversial issues in the study of the Global Charismatic Movement as seen at the time and gives a detailed account of the circumstances and events that led to the recorded meeting and how the ethnographic document on which this book is based was made. Central to the book is the authors understanding of anthropology of religion, in that research should be based on communicative ethnography, an approach that involves confrontation between researchers and interlocutors as well between their views of the world. Talk about Prayer is one such argument for keeping open the debate on a critical stance toward religion.

Statham, “Teetotalism in Malawian Protestantism”

Statham, Todd.  2015. Teetotalism in Malawian Protestantism: Missionary Origins, African Appropriation.  Studies in World Christianity 21(2): 161-182.

Abstract: Although beer had a profound cultural, economic and religious significance among traditional societies in central Africa, teetotalism – in other words, abstinence from alcohol – has become widespread in Malawian Protestantism (as elsewhere in African Christianity), and in many churches it is regarded as a mark of true faith. This article examines the origins of the antipathy to alcohol in the Presbyterian missionaries who evangelised Malawi in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who drew a parallel between the ‘problem of drink’ among the working poor in their home culture and central Africans, to urge sobriety and its concomitant values of thrift and hard work among their converts. Yet research shows that it was new Christians in Malawi themselves (and not the missionaries) who took the lead in making temperance or teetotalism a criterion for church membership. By drawing upon the experiences of other socially and politically marginalised groups in the British Empire at this time, it is suggested that these new Christians were likely motivated to adopt temperance/teetotalism in order to assert to foreign missionaries their ability to lead and control their own churches and countries.

Pype “Fathers, Patrons and Clients in Kinshasa’s Media World”

Pype, Katrien.  Fathers, Patrons and Clients in Kinshasa’s Media World: Social and Economic Dynamics in the Production of Television Drama.  In Working in the Global Film Industries: Creativity, Systems, Space, Patronage.  Bloomsbury Academic.  Pp. 123-141.
Abstract: This chapter attempts to tackle the social and economic structures that define the production and outlook of television serials in Kinshasa. Since 1996, Kinshasa’s mediascape has witnessed a significant transformation. In that year, President Mobutu ordained a freedom of press, which led many wealthy individuals (politicians, entrepreneurs and religious, especially Christian, leaders) to set up their own television channels. With the proliferation of television stations, the production of local television drama increased. Totally in line with the charismatization of Kinshasa’s society, the post-Mobutu teleserials are immersed within the ideology of Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity. The most popular television serials are those that visualize a spiritual battle between God and the Devil. Many of Kinshasa’s drama groups are also affiliated with Pentecostal-charismatic churches. This not only influences the storylines, but it also shapes the social organization of the television acting groups.
The main questions addressed are: how are the television actors positioned within the hierarchies of the television station and the church? And, how do television actors make a livelihood out of appearing on the small screen? The analysis will focus on the diverging forms of patronage and clientelism that are at play among (1) the actors and between actors, (2) the drama group and the heads of television channels, (3) the dramatic artists and the pastors, and (4) the actors and the powerful (“Big Men”) in Kinshasa. It will be argued that Kinshasa’s dramatic artists occupy diverging positions within the patron-client axis, which offer them not only power and authority, but which also allow these professional artists to earn a livelihood. These relationships thus bear an economic significance in Kinshasa’s precarious society.