Other articles in the special issue are relevant to anthropologists of Christianity. Follow the link above.
van Klinken, Adriaan. 2016. Pentecostalism, Political Masculinity and Citizenship: The Born-Again Male Subject as Key to Zambia’s National Redemption. Journal of Religion in Africa 46(2-3): 129-157.
Abstract: Africa has become a key site of masculinity politics, that is, of mobilisations and struggles where masculine gender is made a principal theme and subjected to change. Pentecostalism is widely considered to present a particular form of masculinity politics in contemporary African societies. Scholarship on African Pentecostal masculinities has mainly centred around the thesis of the domestication of men, focusing on changes in domestic spheres and in marital and intimate relations. Through an analysis of a sermon series preached by a prominent Zambian Pentecostal pastor, this article demonstrates that Pentecostal discourse on adult, middle- to upper-class masculinity is also highly concerned with men’s roles in sociopolitical spheres. It argues that in this case study the construction of a born-again masculinity is part of the broader Pentecostal political project of national redemption, which in Zambia has particular significance in light of the country constitutionally being a Christian nation. Hence the article examines how this construction of Pentecostal masculinity relates to broader notions of religious, political and gendered citizenship.
Publisher’s Description: There has been an extraordinary growth in Pentecostalism in Africa, with Brazilian Pentecostals establishing new transnational Christian connections, initiating widespread changes not only in religious practice but in society. This book describes its rise in Maputo, capital of Mozambique, and the sometimes dramatic impact of Pentecostalism on women. Here large numbers of urban women are taking advantage of the opportunities Pentecostalism offers to overcome restrictions at home, pioneer new life spaces and change their lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Yet, conversion can also mean a violent rupturing with tradition, with family and with social networks. As the pastors encourage women to cut their ties with the past, including ancestral spirits, they come to see their kin and husbands as imbued with evil powers, and many leave their families. Conquering spheres that used to be forbidden to them, they often live alone as unmarried women, sometimes earning more than men of a similar age. They are also expected to donate huge sums to the churches, often money that they can ill afford, bringing new hardships.
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: The aim of this article is to examine Bible reading in the African context and the willingness and enthusiasm to embrace prosperity gospel in Africa. To achieve this objective, a discussion on the developments in biblical interpretation in Africa will first be presented. This will be done by examining three historical periods: colonial, independence and democratisation periods. This will be followed by an outline of migrations that have taken place from traditional religions to different versions of Christianity in different times in Africa. These migrations will be examined in connection with Bible translation. The relationship between prosperity gospel and African people in Africa will be discussed by considering the tools prosperity gospel uses to appeal to African people, namely the religio-cultural and socio-economic factors. The article will then provide its assessment of contextual reading in the prosperity gospel and a conclusion will follow.
Abstract: The article draws on recent fieldwork to explore the intersection between class and Christian faith in the collective worldview of African labour unions in Botswana. Workers across different churches appeal to a Christian God whom they believe supports their struggle for dignity and a living wage. It is this axiomatic faith that underpins the spiritual interpretation of worker vocation and worker solidarity. Moreover, in Botswana, unlike in some neighbouring African countries, no contradiction is perceived between workers’ left-wing, socialist leanings and their Christian faith. Workers’ identities are equally intertwined in their affiliation to their churches and to the labour movement in Botswana. Above all, I argue, following E.P. Thompson and other historians of early British and American labour movements, that the sanctification of labour dignifies for manual workers their physical labour, despite their lack of formal education.
Abstract: Women’s autonomy has frequently been linked with women’s opportunities and investments, such as education, employment, and reproductive control. The association between women’s autonomy and religion in the developing world, however, has received less attention, and the few existing studies make comparisons across major religious traditions. In this study, we focus on variations in levels of female decision-making autonomy within a single religious tradition—Christianity. Using unique survey data from a predominantly Christian area in Mozambique, we devise an autonomy scale and apply it to compare women affiliated with different Christian denominations as well as unaffiliated women. In addition to affiliation, we examine the relationship between autonomy and women’s religious agency both within and outside their churches. Multivariate analyses show that women belonging to more liberal religious traditions (such as Catholicism and mainline Protestantism) tend to have higher autonomy levels, regardless of other factors. These results are situated within the cross-national scholarship on religion and women’s empowerment and are interpreted in the context of gendered religious dynamics in Mozambique and similar developing settings.
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: On the basis of a study of a group of Zambian men identifying both as gay and as Christian, this article explores the negotiation of sexual and religious identity and critically addresses the “surprise” some scholars have expressed about the general religiosity of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) people in Africa. The study demonstrates that participants are not just victims subjected to homophobic religious and political discourses but have agency: resisting discourses of demonization, they humanize themselves by making claims toward the universal category of love—both their own inclination to loving relationships and their share in God’s love. Hence, they claim space for themselves as full citizens of Zambia as a “Christian nation.” This article particularly highlights how some aspects of Pentecostalism appear to contribute to “queer empowerment,” and argues that the religiosity of African LGBTIs critically interrogates Euro-American secular models of LGBTI liberation.
Abstract: This article focuses on four ways of explaining the term masowe in relation to the founder figure, Johane Masowe (1914–1973). First, the term refers to a liminal place or threshold for divine intervention. Johane Masowe claims authority as a prophet by making inexplicit yet obvious references to biblical stories about a sacred wilderness. Second, the term masowe draws attention to problems of displacement caused by colonialism and postcolonial oppression in Zimbabwe. Third, stories told by Johane Masowe’s devotees about the near-death experiences of the prophet turned masowe into a dangerous place wherein Satan-the-Witch caused suffering and death. Although the fourth meaning is yet to be examined more closely, it comes from Masowe Apostles who travel from as far away as Nairobi, Kenya, on pilgrimage to Johane Masowe’s burial shrine in Zimbabwe, thereby hinting at hopes for redemption in the form of life after death.