Publisher’s Description: In postapartheid Cape Town—Africa’s gay capital—many Pentecostal men turned to “ex-gay” ministries in hopes of “curing” their homosexuality in order to conform to conservative Christian values and African social norms. In Desire Work Melissa Hackman traces the experiences of predominantly white ex-gay men as they attempt to forge a heterosexual masculinity and enter into heterosexual marriage through emotional, bodily, and religious work. These men subjected themselves to daily self-surveillance and followed prescribed behaviors such as changing how they talked and walked. Ex-gay men also saw themselves as participating in the redemption of the nation, because South African society was perceived as suffering from a crisis of masculinity in which the country lacked enough moral heterosexual men. By tying the experience of ex-gay men to the convergence of social movements and public debates surrounding race, violence, religion, and masculinity in South Africa, Hackman offers insights into the construction of personal identities in the context of sexuality and spirituality.
Abstract: In this article, the author explores the role of religion in social constructions of heterosexual masculinity in South Africa in the context of civil society driven programs to fight sexual and gender-based violence and the spread of HIV. Critically engaging with the concept of hegemonic masculinity and the sociological literature on gender relations in conservative Christian communities, the author examines how Charismatic Christian and Pentecostal communities in the townships of Cape Town negotiate their model of masculinity and gender authority in the context of the prevailing hegemonies of ‘traditional’ and ‘liberal’ masculinity. Based on ethnographic observations and qualitative interviews with Pentecostal men, the author specifies the concrete mechanisms whereby Pentecostalism both contributes to transform but also to reproduce rather than undermine hegemonic masculinity. He finds that Pentecostalism responsibilizes men not because men adopt its sexual ideology but because they adopt its model of personhood.
Pieterse, Jim. 2016. Managing belief in a hostile world: experiencing gifts of the Spirit at a small Pentecostal Charismatic Church in Pretoria. Anthropology Southern Africa. Early online publication.
Abstract: This article focuses on the infrequency with which “gifts of the Spirit” are experienced during services at a small Pentecostal church in Pretoria, attended mostly by Afrikaans-speaking men who self-identify as homosexual. It aims to shed some light on the ways in which pastors work to shape churchgoers’ perceptions of the world, their place in it, as well as how experiences of marginalisation and suffering relate to spirits (and their absence) that are understood to mediate between heaven and earth. I argue that difficulties related to the cultivation of faith, on which relationships with the divine are constructed, frustrate direct experiences of spiritual gifts. I also show that certain steps are taken in this church, with varying degrees of success, to try and render the invisible corporeally present. An analysis of sermons is folded into a broader discussion of spiritual self-fashioning and the roles of technologies of the self within the church in an attempt to provide an inclusive, broad-based analysis of “gifts of the Spirit” in a Pentecostal Charismatic Church (PCC) that engages with religious belief on its own terms.
Abstract: ‘Spiritual mapping’ is a transnational Pentecostal ‘spiritual warfare’ practice that aims to identify and fight ‘territorial spirits’, or demons that possess specific places. It was unique in Cape Town, South Africa, at the beginning of democracy, because it was both racialized and sexualized. This article examines how Pentecostals in Cape Town employed spiritual mapping techniques to identify and police groups they understood as morally and spiritually ‘dangerous’: black and ‘coloured’ communities and gays and lesbians. I argue that South African spiritual mapping was a response to the material and physical insecurities of democracy, particularly the declining economy, failed promises of the African National Congress, and some of the highest rates of crime in the world.
Abstract: Drawing on interviews with creators of Christian hip hop music in South Africa, this article demonstrates that this genre of popular music and youth culture is utilised as a form of pedagogy to transmit religious beliefs and values to contemporary youth. The pedagogical aspects of hip hop have been recognised in research on the topic, but the religious pedagogical uses of hip hop have been under-analysed within the social sciences. After outlining the global development of hip hop as a pedagogical practice, this article will demonstrate that, under the influence of North American Evangelicalism, South African Christian hip hop attempts to promote Evangelical orthodoxy and orthopraxy in response to the secular and religious practices of South African youth.
Abstract: This paper focuses on the practice of tithing as an extraordinary form of religious giving. Tithing involves habitually giving ten percent of one’s income to the church, and since this is such a significant portion of a person’s income, its giving should reflect that significance. The paper seeks to understand why people tithe, and whether they expect anything in return from the community to which they tithe. In an attempt to find answers, attention is placed on members of the South African division of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, as this denomination has exhibited an upward trend in tithe-giving behaviour over the last decade. The information gathered through participant-observation is analysed by placing it within an anthropological discourse of gift-exchange. Through this lens, the paper argues that tithing functions to produce group solidarity by maintaining the relationships between clergy, laity and their deity.
Abstract: In 1905, Weber contended that uncertainty about their eternal fate forced Protestants to find secular signs of their destiny in their vocations, their frugality and in their ability to work hard and accumulate capital. More than a century later, the ‘Protestant ethic’ has changed irrevocably. Today, the phenomenal rise of Pentecostal–Charismatic Churches has largely displaced the doctrine of predestination and firmly entrenched the prosperity gospel at the very heart of popular Protestantism. In many African PCCs, the pursuit of ‘blessings’ now trumps older concerns over secular vocations and hard work. Indeed, in churches such as the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), Christians are urged to demand ‘miracle jobs’ from God and to reject humble vocations and small salaries, regardless of their qualifications, skills or experience. Based on long-term fieldwork with members of the UCKG in South Africa, this paper examines the work of luck (good and bad) in the lives of ordinary believers, how this new ‘work’ attempts to regulate the flow of money and how it participates in older notions of prosperity, fate and good fortune.
Müller, Retief. 2015. The Zion Christian Church and Global Christianity: negotiating a tightrope between localisation and globalisation. Religion DOI: 10.1080/0048721X.2014.992111 [pre-publication release]
Abstract: South Africa’s Zion Christian Church (ZCC) is a primary example of African Indigenous Christianity. This article discusses some of the ways in which a church such as the ZCC might be simultaneously understood as a localised indigenous group, a ‘constructed indigeneity’, as well as inherently belonging to a wider historical tradition of Global Christianity. The discussion proceeds alongside a critical engagement of the sociologist Robert Wuthnow’s deconstruction of the ‘Global Christianity Paradigm’, as well as an appropriation of the phenomenologist of religion, James Cox’s depiction of ‘indigenous religions’ as an empirically viable theoretical concept, which is demonstrated here as also useful for the purpose of elucidating the type of religiosity encountered in the ZCC. The article makes a plea for a wider acknowledgment of the value of normative approaches to the study of African Christianity and refers to the cultural impact of the theological idea of Incarnation to explain why.
Abstract: Gay men in Cape Town, South Africa joined a Pentecostal ministry in an attempt to produce what they understood as ‘natural’ heterosexual attraction. In this article, I explore how these gay men try to form new selves through what I call ‘desire work’, or physical and emotional micropractices and discipline. Desire is not ‘natural’, but it is produced through a multitude of engagements with cultural norms, public life, political economies, and social forces. New selves are built through concerted bodily changes and comportment [Mahmood, Saba. 2005. Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press], and although gay Pentecostal men shared this process, their success was limited. I understand desire work as a response to a larger context in which many Pentecostals are disaffected with the post-apartheid government and withdraw from politics as a result. Their fears of the uncertainties of democracy pushed them to engage in optimistic fantasies of heterosexual lives, which were not often realised [Berlant, Lauren Gail. 2011. Cruel Optimism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press].