Abstract: Despite its rituals of rupture and discourse of discontinuity, Pentecostalism does not always succeed in dislodging church participants from their pre-existing religious worlds. This paper connects the eclectic, everyday engagements of rank-and-file Pentecostals to a variety of concepts deployed in studies of religious pluralism (e.g. syncretism, hybridity, polyontology, bricolage, and especially the recently theorized butinage). Drawing on empirical evidence from Mozambique, while also glancing comparatively at Brazil, this paper aims to help open new questions regarding Pentecostal religious identity by arguing for the presence of pluralistic impulses within Pentecostalism itself.
Publisher’s Description: Anthropologist Devaka Premawardhana arrived in Africa to study the much reported “explosion” of Pentecostalism, the spread of which has indeed been massive. It is the continent’s fastest growing form of Christianity and one of the world’s fastest growing religious movements. Yet Premawardhana found no evidence for this in the province of Mozambique where he worked. His research suggests that much can be gained by including such places in the story of global Christianity, by shifting attention from the well-known places where Pentecostal churches flourish to the unfamiliar places where they fail.
In Faith in Flux, Premawardhana documents the ambivalence with which Pentecostalism has been received by the Makhuwa, an indigenous and historically mobile people of northern Mozambique. The Makhuwa are not averse to the newly arrived churches—many relate to them powerfully. Few, however, remain in them permanently. Pentecostalism has not firmly taken root because it is seen as one potential path among many—a pragmatic and pluralistic outlook befitting a people accustomed to life on the move.
This phenomenon parallels other historical developments, from responses to colonial and postcolonial intrusions to patterns of circular migration between rural villages and rising cities. But Premawardhana primarily attributes the religious fluidity he observed to an underlying existential mobility, an experimental disposition cultivated by the Makhuwa in their pre-Pentecostal pasts and carried by them into their post-Pentecostal futures. Faith in Flux aims not to downplay the influence of global forces on local worlds, but to recognize that such forces, “explosive” though they may be, never succeed in capturing the everyday intricacies of actual lives.
Abstract: Based on fieldwork among the Makhuwa of northern Mozambique, this essay explores how non-Pentecostal models of transformation shape a people’s manner of relating to Pentecostalism. Radical change has long been constitutive of Makhuwa history and subjectivity. Yet Makhuwa patterns of change, commonly conceived in terms of movement, entail regress as much as egress – circular mobilities that disrupt linear teleologies. State administrators and Pentecostal missionaries attempt to reform local inhabitants by, respectively, ‘sedentarising’ and ‘converting’ them. Deploying their historical proclivity towards mobility, those among whom I worked appear simultaneously eager to partake in resettlement schemes and reluctant to remain settled by them. I argue that their ambivalence towards Pentecostal churches and teachings, in particular, challenges two prevailing assumptions within anthropological studies of Christianity: that discontinuity is definitive, and that it is exceptional to Pentecostalism.
Abstract: Recent scholarship on Pentecostalism in the global South gives the impression of a singular trajectory of inexorable growth. In this chapter, I offer a counternarrative, not in denial of the widely reported statistical evidence but in affirmation of the ambivalence with which individuals behind the statistics experience novelty. In so doing, I bring existential insights to bear on such themes as rupture and discontinuity, which already, but inadequately, suffuse studies of Pentecostal conversion. Ethnographic evidence from northern Mozambique suggests that the “backsliding into heathenism” Pentecostal leaders decry is experienced locally as a capacity, a capacity for mobility and mutability, for shifting places and altering identities. The refusal of ordinary men and women to settle has long frustrated government administrators and religious reformers alike. It threatens to bewilder scholars as well unless we learn to think beyond the classificatory schemes outsiders so readily deploy and insiders so assiduously avoid.
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
Abstract: Scholars of Pentecostalism in Africa have repeatedly shown that this religion generally attracts younger generations who perceive the Pentecostal theology of liberation from the bonds of kinship, tradition, and elders as very powerful. This article contributes to the existing scholarly field by examining how different generations of working women and female students in Mozambique find the Afro-Brazilian Pentecostal teachings and practices attractive, particularly when it comes to reshaping their relationships with kin, (ancestral) spirits, and men. It considers how Afro-Brazilian Pentecostalism is helping both younger and older women to reorder their relationships. Drawing on the concept of heterotopia, the role of age is highlighted to demonstrate that Afro-Brazilian Pentecostalism actively seeks to erase important generational hierarchies and differences, turning them into spiritual issues that affect all women regardless of age or generation.
Abstract: This article discusses the forceful transformation of the female body in Brazilian Pentecostalism in urban Mozambique and argues for an understanding of Pentecostal conversion as embodying spiritual warfare. Presenting the case of avenging spirits, such as the spirit spouse, it explores how spirits interfere in women’s new socio-economic positions and intimate relationships. Pentecostal women learn to stay in control of their body under guidance of the Holy Spirit and a ‘violent’ war against the spirit spouse unfolds. The prevalence of ‘violence’ implies that we should critically question a perception of conversion as bringing healing and harmony.
Abstract: In the context of Mozambican prophet healing, spirit-host relationships unfold between intimacy and alterity. The interweaving of spirits’ and hosts’ biographies in possession is enacted bodily in the form of pains, postures, and punishments, and often pits their wills and well-beings against one another. Spirit possession is an intimate exchange, a bodily and social confluence that invokes the most familiar of interpersonal relationships (spouses, parents and their children). On the other hand, the natures, motives, and agendas of the spirits often remain opaque. As prophets struggle to make sense and make use of the spirits who possess them, the power of the spirits reveals itself in their unknowability and contrariness, the elusiveness and partiality of their profiles. These intimate others both threaten and succor their hosts, to whom they are both kin and strangers, and it is through this dialectic that their special vantage on human suffering comes into view.