Abstract: During the course of fieldwork at a Christian mission hospital in southern Zambia, I discovered that vernacular healers in the surrounding rural area were being visited by ‘angel spirits’ (bangelo) who offered them efficacious advice on how best to treat the patients under their care. According to the healers who encountered them, these angel spirits physically resembled white people (bakuwa), they dressed in white clothing, and their behaviour was inherently unpredictable. In this article, I consider what the presence of these angel spirits can tell us about moral attitudes towards humanitarian biomedicine in the region. But rather than focusing on these angel spirits alone, I situate them alongside a different non-human actor that has also been strongly identified with humanitarian biomedicine in southern Africa: the munyama or ‘vampire’. By describing the behaviour of the human and non-human actors who have been historically associated with medical humanitarianism in southern Zambia – vampires, angels, and European and American medical missionaries – I argue that it is possible to better understand why people in the region, from the mid-twentieth century to the present-day, have developed such a morally ambivalent attitude towards humanitarian biomedicine.
Abstract: One of the most productive lines of inquiry in the anthropology of Christianity has explored how Christian adherence structures time. The organizing idea here has been rupture, whether the break with the pagan past at conversion or the expected break of the apocalyptic future. In contrast to this “punctuated” view of time, this article examines a Christian temporality focused not on a past or future break, but rather on an expansive present. For Pentecostals on the Zambian Copperbelt, this expansive present is structured by the narrative of the past in the form of scripture, which is perpetually relived. The Pentecostal future is also brought near to the present by the expectations of the prosperity gospel. By expanding the present along these lines, believers reject the logic of submission that structures many forms of both Christian and capitalist time. An analysis of the expansive present therefore moves us beyond the language of rupture that has been central to the anthropology of Christianity. It also speaks to concerns beyond the study of religion by exploring the experience of—and critical engagement with—capitalist time.
Abstract: Anthropological studies of doubt have typically highlighted its productivity, pointing to the space that doubt opens to question established frameworks. This article builds on these observations by exploring an instance of doubt that I argue is unproductive. For Pentecostals on the Zambian Copperbelt, the fact that they do not receive the extravagant riches promised by the prosperity gospel—a Christian movement that is central to their faith—is not usually a problem. Most Pentecostal believers are able to reinterpret small gains in terms of a locally redefined prosperity, and therefore manage the doubts that their lack of wealth produces. For the poorest and most socially marginal believers, however, this kind of productive engagement with doubt is not possible. The productivity of doubt is therefore more an expression of structural factors than of the nature of doubt itself. This suggests that doubt—or at least the ability to mobilize doubt effectively—is a key index of power. This article provides an ethnographic exploration of the failure of the prosperity gospel while also expanding anthropological understanding of what makes doubt productive.
Why has Nevers Mumba, one of Zambia’s most famous Pentecostal leaders, been so unsuccessful in his two presidential bids? Previous analyses have blamed Mumba’s political woes on a presumed Pentecostal belief that politics is a lesser vocation than the pastorate. In contrast to these interpretations, I argue that Pentecostals in Zambia are very committed to the notion that, at least ideally, their leaders should be pastors, and more specifically that they should be effective mediators of the divine covenant established when Zambia was declared a “Christian nation.” The problem with Mumba is, therefore, not that pastors are not supposed to be politicians, but rather that he has failed to convince believers that he is a good mediator. This article opens up new horizons in the study of Pentecostal politics, suggesting that populism in countries with high Pentecostal populations is increasingly defined by the capacity for religious mediation.
Reviewed by: Casey Golomski (University of New Hampshire)
The key values Haynes describes in her innovative book about Pentecostals in a Zambian town are “moving” (ukusela in Bemba) and “moving by the spirit.” Moving means to be visibly, recognizably improving one’s lot, and it can be materialized or realized in growing up, having children, gaining weight, getting an education, or advancing professionally. Things move in a positive sense, and stagnate or regress in a negative sense. “Moving by the spirit” is the newer, Pentecostalized version of ukusela, with the religion offering new evaluative metrics and modalities of relating to others in the Copperbelt. Haynes’s use of vernacular concepts to illuminate anthropological theory was one of my favorite things about the book overall. I can easily envision, when teaching this book, writing the different concepts of “moving” and “moving by the spirit” on the board to illustrate Bantu (Bemba) grammatical structures and show students how local values are religiously reframed. Continue reading
Publisher’s description: This book argues that the runaway popularity of Pentecostal Christianity on the Zambian Copperbelt is a result of this religion’s capacity to produce novel forms of value realization. A close analysis of the relationships that form in Pentecostal churches reveals that Pentecostal social life is structured around an animating idea – a value – called ‘moving by the Spirit.’ Moving by the Spirit entails personal advancement both with regard to material prosperity and religious skill or charisma. While moving by the Spirit makes Pentecostalism attractive, it is difficult for Pentecostal believers to balance prosperity against charisma without reproducing divisions in economic status. These divisions undermine the social world of the church by limiting the access of poorer believers to the relationships with their leaders – relationships through which the value of moving by the Spirit is most effectively realized.
Naomi Haynes, 2016. “Learning to pray the Pentecostal way: language and personhood on the Zambian Copperbelt,” Religion, early online publication: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0048721X.2016.1225906
Abstract: This article examines the role of prayer in the production of the Pentecostal person on the Zambian Copperbelt. While Pentecostal prayer is partly focused on private concerns, and therefore reinforces a classic Protestant notion of bounded, individualised personhood, success in this practice depends on a believer’s ability to incorporate the language of the Pentecostal community. Prayer is also therefore dependent on a model of personhood in which permeability has an important part to play. One of the implications of this latter element of Pentecostal prayer is that it turns individual believers into iconic representations of their communities.
Abstract: This article explores the increasingly common argument that Pentecostal Christianity, far from being apolitical, is very politically engaged. I make two contributions to this discussion. First, my analysis provides a detailed account of how Pentecostal religious life serves as political engagement in an especially significant ethnographic context: Zambia, the only African country to make a constitutional declaration that it is a “Christian nation.” For Zambian Pentecostals, “the declaration” is a covenant with God made according to the principles of the prosperity gospel. By regularly reaffirming that covenant through prayer, believers do political work. My treatment of the prosperity gospel represents the second contribution of this article. Whereas others have argued that the prosperity gospel undermines public engagement, I show how its practices inform the political efforts of Zambian believers. I conclude by reflecting on how changes in the prosperity gospel may shape the future political actions of African Pentecostals.
Abstract: This article offers an analysis of Pentecostal ritual life focused on a core tension in this religion, namely that between the egalitarianism associated with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all believers and the hierarchy that follows from the charismatic authority of church leaders. Drawing on ethnographic material from the Zambian Copperbelt, the author traces out the egalitarian and hierarchical aspects of Pentecostal ritual in order to demonstrate the importance of both of these elements to the social relationships that Pentecostal adherence produces. While the tension between egalitarianism and hierarchy is evident in all Pentecostal groups, on the Copperbelt their interaction produces social results which build on extant cultural models, and which have particular significance in the light of Zambia’s recent economic history. These local resonances in turn allow us to address discontinuity, a central topic in analyses of Pentecostalism, as well as the role of creativity in ritual practice.
Abstract: Building upon debates about the politics of nationalism and sexuality in post-colonial Africa, this article highlights the role of religion in shaping nationalist ideologies that seek to regulate homosexuality. It specifically focuses on Pentecostal Christianity in Zambia, where the constitutional declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation has given rise to a form of ‘Pentecostal nationalism’ in which homosexuality is considered to be a threat to the purity of the nation and is associated with the Devil. The article offers an analysis of recent Zambian public debates about homosexuality, focusing on the ways in which the ‘Christian nation’ argument is deployed, primarily in a discourse of anti-homonationalism, but also by a few recent dissident voices. The latter prevent Zambia, and Christianity, from accruing a monolithic depiction as homophobic. Showing that the Zambian case presents a mobilisation against homosexuality that is profoundly shaped by the local configuration in which Christianity defines national identity – and in which Pentecostal-Christian moral concerns and theo-political imaginations shape public debates and politics – the article nuances arguments that explain African controversies regarding homosexuality in terms of exported American culture wars, proposing an alternative reading of these controversies as emerging from conflicting visions of modernity in Africa.