Abstract: Christian churches control substantial areas of land in Africa. While intensifying struggles over their holdings are partly due to the increased pressure on land in general, they also reflect transformations in the relations through which churches’ claims to land are legitimized, the increased association of churches with business, and churches’ unique positioning as both institutions and communities. This article presents the trajectory of relations between church, state and community in Uganda from the missionary acquisition of land in the colonial era to the unravelling of church landholding under Museveni. Drawing on long‐term ethnographic fieldwork, the authors argue that claims to church land in contemporary Uganda draw on: 1) notions of belonging to the land; 2) views about the nature of churches as communities; 3) discontent regarding whether customary land owners gave churches user rights or ownership; and 4) assessment of the churches’ success in ensuring that the land works for the common good. The article develops a novel approach to analysing the changing meaning of the landholdings of religious institutions, thus extending ongoing discussions about land, politics, development and religion in Africa.
Abstract: This article identifies two responses to social challenge by charismatic Pentecostal churches in Nigeria. I argue that churches taking a centripetal position are either socially passive or they collude with corrupt leaders and groups who undermine efforts toward political, social and human improvement; yet, in their engagement with society they offer spiritual solutions to myriad social and political problems. Conversely, churches taking a centrifugal approach try to confront political and social problems, but these churches are relatively few and located primarily in Lagos, although they are growing in influence. I conclude that charismatic Pentecostalism in Nigeria currently is shifting from strictly spiritual solutions to sociopolitical problems to an emphasis on meeting social needs in practical ways.
Abstract: The author argues in this paper that the ‘state effects’ generated by religious movements – even those operating at the margins of societies – require us to consider anew the impact of religious movements on state formation. In Sri Lanka, for instance, evangelicals are a minority. Yet their practice of proselytizing to new audiences was considered ‘unethical,’ generating opposition that was directed not only at them, but also at ruling elites for failing to stem what was seen as an intrusion of incompatible ‘Western’ ideals. Instead of considering how such Christian movements seek to ‘take over’ the functions of the ‘state’ as has been the experience in the United States and parts of Latin America, the author illustrates in this article why it makes more theoretical sense to ask how their activities impinge upon the conceptual frameworks through which the ‘state’ is imagined.
Coleman, Simon. 2012. Christianities in Oceania: Historical Genealogies and Anthropological Insularities. Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 157(1): 13-28.
Abstract: I explore the themes contained in this special issue by asking how papers prompt us to ask: What difference does Christianity make—to “culture”, to relations with the state or nation, to the self? This question must be inflected by the realization that Christianity has a long-standing history in Oceania, and has become part of the religio-political landscape that contemporary believers inhabit and sometimes react against. Posing the question also involves an examination of how papers juxtapose versions of history (broader processes of reproduction and transformation over time) with religiously-motivated historiographies (how Christians themselves understand and construct the present in relation to the past). I use these reflections to argue for the usefulness of exploring distinctions and resonances among three orientations towards culture discernible in the papers as a whole: those of being “of”, “against” and “for” culture.
Excerpt: “In this Essay, using a wide-ranging set of examples, I wish to provide some background on the emergent discussion on limitations on religious freedom in Africa, especially how these relate to the current debates on family law that are the subject of this Symposium. My general objectives are (1) to consider the legitimate and illegitimate ways in which African state and non-state actors seek to regulate religious practice; (2) to examine how particular religious groups may be disproportionately affected by these measures; (3) to demonstrate how interference with manifestations of religion often leads to abuses of related rights and freedoms (e.g. women’s and ethnic minorities’ rights, and rights of political participation, expression, and association); (4) to broaden and update the concept of religious practice; and (5) to consider how the African examples of restrictions on and regulation of religious practice challenge Western assumptions about the nature of religion as an essentially private and internal affair. Using two East African examples, I then provide more specific discussion of how attempts to introduce domestic relations bills and Sharia law reflect these changing entanglements of religion and state in neoliberal Africa. Part I provides some background on pertinent religious and legal developments in Africa. Part II examines the dialectics of regulation and recognition of religious freedom in select contexts. Part III discusses other types of restriction, such as land ownership, harassment, granting permits, and media use and access. Part IV focuses on the plight of traditional or indigenous African religions in relation to religious freedom. Part V links the manipulation of religious freedom issues to public and policy debates regarding customary law in Uganda and Kenya.”
Abstract: We explore the tensions evident among Nigerian Pentecostals in London between social and ideological insularity on the one hand, and a more outward-oriented, expansive orientation on the other. Analysis of these stances is complemented by the exploration of believers’ actions within a material but also metaphorical arena that we term “London-Lagos.“ Such themes are developed specifically through a focus on believers’ relations with Nigerian and British state systems in relation to child-rearing—an activity that renders parents sometimes dangerously visible to apparatuses of the state but also raises key dilemmas concerning the proper and moral location of socialisation into Christian values. We show how such dilemmas are embodied in a play, written by a Nigerian Pentecostalist, termed “The Vine-Keepers.“