Bompani and Brown, “A ‘religious revolution?'”

Bompani, Barbara and S. Terreni Brown.  2015. A “religious revolution”? Print media, sexuality, and religious discourse in Uganda. Journal of Eastern African Studies 9(1): 110-126.

Abstract: Recently, Uganda has made international headlines for the controversial Anti-homosexuality Bill and for a set of tight measures that have limited the freedom of sexual minorities. This article argues that Uganda’s growth of Pentecostal-charismatic churches (PCCs) is playing a major role in influencing and defining the Ugandan public sphere, including (but not limited to) the ways in which sex and sexuality are conceptualized by and within Uganda’s print media. This article suggests that the socially conservative nature of PCCs is highly influential in shaping the way print media write about sex and sexuality. This is because Pentecostal-charismatic (PC) constituencies constitute a considerable numerical market that print media cannot ignore. Second, PCs actively work toward influencing and shaping public policies, politics, and public spaces, like newspapers, that discuss and address public morality and decency in the country. As this article will show, within a highly “Pentecostalized” public sphere, alternative public discourses on sexuality are not allowed.

Lauterbach, “Religion and Displacement in Africa”

Lauterbach, Karen.  2014.  Religion and Displacement in Africa: Compassion and Sacrifice in Congolese Churches in Kampala, Uganda.  Religion and Theology 21: 290-308.

Abstract: This article is about the role of religion in contexts of displacement. The article looks at the role churches and church leaders play in the lives of refugees and more particularly the assistance that these actors provide. The analytical approach is to take into consideration both religious ideas and experiences as well as the everyday practices of people and the socio-economic structures within which they live. The empirical focus is on Congolese Christian congregations in Kampala, Uganda that for the most are founded and attended by refugees. I analyse the forms of assistance that are provided to refugees, how this is conceptualised as well as the practices in a perspective that includes the intersection between religious ideas (compassion and sacrifice) and ideas around social relationships, gift-giving and reciprocity.

Baird, “Conservation implications of the diffusion of Christian religious ideals”

Baird, Timothy D.  2014. Conservation implications of the diffusion of Christian religious ideals in rural Africa.  Population and Environment.  October 2014.

Abstract: Throughout developing countries, major world religions are spreading into areas important for biodiversity conservation, and little is know about the potential effects of this expansion. This paper examines the effect of religious ideals on mechanisms that underlie changes in population growth, economic development, and land conversion within a polygamous, agro-pastoral society near Tarangire National Park in northern Tanzania where Christianity is spreading rapidly. Mixed qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis are used to (1) identify primary Christian ideals and church messages within local communities regarding family planning, development, and land use; and (2) estimate the association between church membership and household measures of family size, school enrollment, and land use controlling for other factors. Findings indicate that the effects of church messages and membership may be consistent with conversation goals to limit population growth, promote local development, and encourage certain land uses over others.

Kidula, “Music in Kenyan Christianity”

Kidula, Jean Ngoya. 2013. Music in Kenyan Christianity: Logooli Religious Song. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Publisher’s Description: This sensitive study is a historical, cultural, and musical exploration of Christian religious music among the Logooli of Western Kenya. It describes how new musical styles developed through contact with popular radio and other media from abroad and became markers of the Logooli identity and culture. Jean Ngoya Kidula narrates this history of a community through music and religious expression in local, national, and global settings. The book is generously enhanced by audiovisual material on the Ethnomusicology Multimedia website.

Testing Prayer: Book Review

Brown, Candy Gunther. 2012. Testing Prayer: Science and Healing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

By: Anna I. Corwin (UCLA)

In 2010, Candy Gunther Brown and her research team published a compelling and controversial article in Southern Medical Journal arguing that proximate intercessory prayer, performed in their study by Pentecostals in Mozambique, significantly improved the hearing and vision of a number of prayer recipients.  This claim – that prayer can heal – has been a flash point, setting off debates and controversies about the nature of prayer for generations.  This article was no different.  Brown’s book Testing Prayer: Science and Healing, sets out to reconcile some of the interest as well as the controversy Brown faced following her team’s empirical study of intercessory prayer.  She grapples with questions of whether prayer should be studied, how, and by whom.  Drawing on her background as a historian and ethnographer, Testing Prayer uses an interdisciplinary approach to address the question of efficacy, focusing specifically on global practices of Pentecostal prayer, and ultimately leading to a proposal for a multi-pronged approach to the study of efficacy in healing prayer. Continue reading

Lamont, “Lip-Synch Gospel”

Lamont, Mark.  2011.  Lip-synch Gospel: Christian Music and the Ethnopoetics of Identity in Kenya.  Africa 80(3): 473-496.

Abstract:  In recent years there has been an outpouring of Kenyan scholarship on the ways popular musicians engage with politics in the public sphere. With respect to the rise in the 1990s and 2000s of gospel music – whose politics are more pietistic than activist – this article challenges how to ‘understand’ the politics of gospel music taken from a small speech community, in this case the Meru. In observing street performances of a new style of preaching, ‘lip-synch’ gospel, I offer ethnographic readings of song lyrics to show that Meru’s gospel singers can address moral debates not readily aired in mainline and Pentecostal-Charismatic churches. Critical of hypocrisy in the church and engaging with a wider politics of belonging and identity, Meru gospel singers weave localized ethnopoetics into their Christian music, with the effect that their politics effectively remain concealed within Meru and invisible to the national public sphere. While contesting the perceived corruption, sin and hypocrisy in everyday sociality, such Meru gospel singer groups cannot rightly be considered a local ‘counter-public’ because they still work their politics in the shadows of the churches.

Lindhardt, “Who bewitched the pastor and why did he survive the witchcraft attack? Micro-politics and the creativity of indeterminacy in Tanzanian discourses on witchcraft”

Lindhardt, Martin (2012) “Who bewitched the pastor and why did he survive the witchcraft attack? Micro-politics and the creativity of indeterminacy in Tanzanian discourses on witchcraft.” Canadian Journal of African Studies / La Revue canadienne des e ́tudes africaines 46(2): 215–232 

Abstract: Many Tanzanians share a basic understanding of the occult as a moving force in the visible world. But at the same time, notions of the occult are characterised by indeterminacies in meaning, thereby allowing for multiple interpretations of particular events. This article explores various readings of two particular incidents that both occurred within a suburb of the city of Iringa in South-central Tanzania. First a Lutheran pastor started suffering from a paralyzed shoulder and a few weeks later an old woman was found lying naked outside of his home in the middle of the night. While both incidents were widely ascribed to witchcraft the article shows how particular interpretations were embedded in and reflective of a dense social climate, characterised by different kinds of tension, inequalities, suspicions of corruption and by religious and medical pluralism and competition. The article argues that the very opaqueness and uncertainty of witchcraft knowledge enabled a variety of actors with different stakes to make claims to truth, spiritual status and moral identity.

Kollman, “Generations of Catholics in Eastern Africa: A Practice-Centered Analysis of Religious Change”

Kollman, Paul (2012) “Generations of Catholics in Eastern Africa: A Practice-Centered Analysis of Religious Change” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 51(3):412–428

Abstract: This article considers how well Martin Riesebrodt’s practice-centered theory of religion addresses religious change among Catholics in eastern Africa. Two arguments are advanced using a generational change scheme. First, Riesebrodt’s focus on religious practices assists in understanding many changes that African Catholics and their communities have experienced over time. It acknowledges believers’ perspectives and the impact of missionaries, and it generates comparative insights across different cases. However, Riesebrodt’s approach has limitations when developing a comparative perspective on historical transformation in these communities. Therefore, his focus on the objective meaning of interventionist religious practices needs supplementing: (1) capturing religious change within a given religion requires attention both to practices and their subjective appropriation by believers, and (2) in the forging of collective identities, theological reflection by elites helped connect Catholic practices to preexisting worldviews and Catholic practices marked generational change by distinguishing Catholics from other African Christians.

Farhadian, “Introducing World Christianity”

Farhadian, Charles E.  (2012) Introducing World Christianity. Madden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Publisher’s Description: This interdisciplinary introduction offers students a truly global overview of the worldwide spread and impact of Christianity. It is enriched throughout by detailed historic and ethnographic material, showing how broad themes within Christianity have been adopted and adapted by Christian denominations within each major region of the world.

  • Provides a comprehensive overview of the spread and impact of world Christianity
  • Contains studies from every major region of the world, including Africa, Asia, Latin America, the North Atlantic, and Oceania
  • Brings together an international team of contributors from history, sociology, and anthropology, as well as religious studies
  • Examines the significant social, cultural, and political transformations in contemporary societies brought about through the influence of Christianity
  • Takes a non-theological approach, focusing instead on the impact of and response to Christianity
  • Discusses Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox forms of the faith
  • Features useful maps and illustrations
  • Combines broader discussions with detailed regional analysis, creating an invaluable introduction to world Christianity

This is an engaging multidisciplinary introduction to the worldwide spread and impact of Christianity. Bringing together chapters from leading scholars in history, sociology, anthropology, and religious studies, this book examines the major transformations in contemporary societies brought about through the influence of Christianity.

Each chapter shows how the broad themes within Christianity have been adopted and adapted by Christian denominations within each major region of the world. In this way, the book paints a global picture of the impact of Christianity, enriched by detailed historic and ethnographic material for each particular region. Throughout, the chapters examine Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox forms of Christianity. The combination of broader perspectives and deep analysis of particular regions, illuminating the social, cultural, political, and religious features of changes brought about by Christianity, makes this book essential reading for students of world Christianity.

Han, “If You Don’t Work, You Don’t Eat”

Han, Ju Hi Judy (2011) ‘“If You Don’t Work, You Don’t Eat”: Evangelizing Development in Africa.’ In New Millennium South Korea: Neoliberal Capital and Transnational Movements, ed. Jesook Song. London: Routledge.

Excerpt:  Work or else starve – these unkind words were uttered partly out of frustration. Two South Korean Christian missionaries from Global Mission Frontier (GMF) were presenting a week-long economic development seminar to approximately 30 local government officials and municipal employees crowded inside a modest hotel room in Mwanza, Tanzania. The seminar leader, Deacon Shin, had begun by introducing himself as hailing from the prosperous land of Samsung and the LG Group (two of the world’s biggest conglomerates) but he failed to impress – the participants had never heard of these corporate brands. “How about Hyndai?” Deacon Shin asked in disbelief. “You must surely have seen all the Hyundai advertising during the World Cup?” Apparently not. Deacon Shin shook his head in dismay, and explained that there are large, powerful companies from Korea, and that their very success stands as proof of the miracle of Korean economic development . . . It was then that Deacon Shin suddenly instructed everyone to stand up and stretch  – and shout after him, “You don’t work, you don’t eat!” When some chuckled, he said firmly, “This is in the Bible!” and pointed to the Bible in his hand. Indeed, there it was in Second Thessalonians of the New Testament: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” He explained that this verse captured the key to Korea’s economic miracle, and rallied the class in fist-pumping chants for several minutes: “No work, no eat! No work, no eat!”