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.
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.