Abstract: The anthropological study of value has gained much currency in recent years. This article speaks to the importance of Pentecostal practices in understanding the qualitative aspects of value in Ghana. It demonstrates how practices relating to wealth accumulation and redistribution are in interaction with ethical evaluations about the character of charismatic Christian prophets. The moral evaluation of wealth of certain prophets, and the links perceived between their use of wealth and their character, tell us something about the moral climate in contemporary Ghanaian society, where wealth cannot simply be measured quantitatively (through acquiring riches), but also ought to be assessed qualitatively (discerned through the quality of one’s acts).
Excerpt: This chapter is concerned with the relationship between entrepreneurship and religion. It examines the making of Pentecostal churches and pastoral careers as a form of entrepreneurship and discusses what the religious dimension adds to our understanding of how entrepreneurship unfolds in Africa today. The chapter analyzes in particular how striving for and attaining social and economic aspirations can be fulfilled through a pastoral career in Pentecostal churches in Ghana. What is remarkable is that young men and women are able to ‘become someone’ in society, achieve status, and accumulate wealth through the making of pastoral careers in a general context where the possibilities for social climbing are constrained.
By: Jörg Haustein (SOAS, University of London)
Wariboko’s book is an important contribution to the by now substantial array of studies on Nigerian Pentecostalism, and yet it is one of a kind. Instead of providing another historical, political, or socio-economic analysis of the “Pentecostal explosion” in Africa’s most populous country, Wariboko seeks to unlock its secrets from within, by producing a philosophical analysis of Nigerian Pentecostal spirituality and theology. His closest conversation partner is Ruth Marshall, whose influence is acknowledged at the outset and implicitly or explicitly engaged throughout the book.
Abstract: Experiential and mediatized, Pentecostal Christianity is one of the most successful cases of contemporary religious globalization. However, it has often grown and expanded transnationally without clear authoritative contours. That is the case in contemporary Ghana, where Pentecostal claims about charismatic empowerment have fed public anxieties concerning the fake and the occult. This article examines how Pentecostalism’s dysfunctional circulation is countered within seminaries, or Bible schools, by specific strategies of pastoral training. First, I revisit recent debates on Protestant language ideology in the anthropology of Christianity, and stress Pentecostalism’s affinity with notions of flow and saturation of speech by divine presence. Second, I move to data collected in the Anagkazo Bible and Ministry Training Center, and investigate this institution’s pedagogical framing of Pentecostalism’s otherwise erratic flow of speech and power according to two normative operations: Biblical figuration and the emic notion of transmission as ‘impartation’. I conclude by stressing how the metapragmatics of figuration and impartation in Anagkazo requires an understanding of religious circulation that exceeds the dominant scholarly focus on religion-as-mediation.
Abstract: This article seeks to shed light on the relationship between material development and spiritual empowerment among Pentecostal churches in Northern Cameroon. Field studies show that several Pentecostal churches recently have been established in the area, and that they are “negotiating space” in order to find places and areas where they can influence the local community. Due to the strong Muslim control over the economy in the region, the new churches have little focus on prosperity, but the material and developmental discourse focus on entrepreneurship through education and hard work. The article concludes that the relative success achieved by the churches is connected to their focus on global mobility, local flexibility, spiritual authority and human dignity.
Abstract: Beauty pageants in Nigeria have become highly popular spectacles, the crowned winners venerated for their beauty, success and ability to better society through charity. This paper focuses on the Carnival Calabar Queen pageant, highlighting how pageants, at the nexus of gender and the nation, are sites of social reproduction by creating feminine ideals. A divinely inspired initiative of a fervently Pentecostal First Lady, the pageant crowns an ambassador for young women’s rights. While the queen must have ‘grace and beauty’ and be ‘ever prayerful’, the discussion unravels emic conceptions of feminine beauty, religiosity and respectability. Yet, young women also use pageantry as a ‘platform’ for success, hoping to challenge the double bind of gender and generation they experience in Nigeria. The discussion pays particular attention to how young women, trying to overcome the insecurities of (urban) Nigerian life, make choices to negotiate individualism with community, and piety with patriarchy. Ethnographically, this paper situates beauty pageants in the region’s past and present practices that mould feminine subjectivities. Contributing young women’s experiences to recent literature on the temporalities of African youth, the paper’s explicit focus on how new subjectivities form through action illuminates important themes regarding agency, resistance and notions of the religious self. In doing so, it furthers current analyses of Pentecostalism, seeking a more nuanced understanding of gender reconfiguration and demonstrating how religious subjects can be formed outside church institutions.
Abstract: This article historicizes the contemporary Pentecostal movement in Nigeria by examining relationships between Nigerian prophets, British missionaries, and American evangelists in the 1930s and 1940s. First, the article challenges assumptions about the genealogy and chronology of Nigerian Pentecostalism by taking a close look at the beginnings of the Christ Apostolic Church. Then, it discusses new evidence which reveals the surprising influence of a marginal American evangelist and renegade British missionary on the church’s doctrine. Making use of a wide range of evidence from Nigerian, Welsh, and American archives, the article argues that while the Aladura movement may have had indigenous origins, its development made significant use of foreign support and did so much earlier than has been appreciated by previous studies. The larger significance of this argument is that it shows the mutual constitution of American, British, and Nigerian Pentecostalism; instead of emerging first in the US and UK and then being taken to Africa, Pentecostalism’s development across the Atlantic was coeval.
Abstract: This article explores the cultural change generated by Pentecostalism among Liberian refugees in Ghana, who fled from their nation’s civil wars to a refugee camp in Ghana’s Central Region. Anthropologists of religion have argued that Pentecostal conversions have in large parts become popular because they enable a “break with the past.” Liberian converts, as well, seek to distance themselves from a past that is mired in conflict. To this end, they connect to global Pentecostal networks in an attempt to overcome their marginal status. In so doing, many of them reject aspects of their past, which they associate with the Liberian civil wars, for example traditional belief systems, ethnic identity, and the Liberian gerontocracy. Yet, as the ethnographic examples illustrate, this “break with the past” is rarely complete. This study’s findings are related to debates on whether anthropology of religion should focus on “continuity” or “discontinuity” in exploring religious conversions. The author argues that the religious experiences of Liberians in exile can only be understood by paying attention to the interplay and tensions between continuity and discontinuity.
Abstract: This paper examines the contextualization of the Jesus story by Ghanaian Christians. It approaches it through the analysis and evaluation of inherent ideas in their songs, sermons and practices that reflect their interpretation of the Christian experience in relation to primal religion and culture, and the Bible. The results show that Ghanaian Christians do not play down the ubiquity of evil in the world. Nonetheless, they see in Jesus Christ the incomparable, victorious Saviour who has made it possible for believers to overcome the evils of this world. Accordingly, they insist that in Christ believers can enjoy “full” and “complete” salvation in every area of life.
Abstract: In August 2010, Côte d’Ivoire commemorated fifty years of independence. Local Pentecostal churches likewise celebrated the jubilee, marking the liberation of slaves after seven times seven years of servitude as promised in Leviticus 25: 8–10. This reading of independence was closely linked to the incumbent president’s political project of refondation based on a premillennial understanding of the interrelatedness of past, present and future. In this article, I explore Pentecostal political rhetoric and performances of the past during the jubilee celebrations, and the post-electoral crisis of 2010–2011. Drawing on empirical research into memory at work in Côte d’Ivoire, I question the instrumentalist paradigm used in analysis of religious ways of thinking about the world. By emphasizing performances of the past and collective memory, I explain how being born-again is enacted as politics and how politics are perceived in terms of faith.