Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Scherz, “Let us make God our banker”

November 7, 2013

Scherz, China. 2013. Let us make God our banker: Ethics, temporality, and agency in a Ugandan charity home. American Ethnologist 40(4): 624-636.

Abstract: Faith in divine intervention affects the ethical and temporal orientations of a community of East African nuns managing a charity home in Central Uganda and leads them to make programmatic decisions that put them at odds with mainstream approaches in development and humanitarianism. By demonstrating that their resistance to long-term planning and audit practices is not the product of material privation or ignorance but, rather, a consciously developed orientation toward time and agency, I bring together concerns from the anthropology of religion and the anthropology of development. Further, by seeking to explain how the sisters come to hold their particular beliefs, I move beyond the elucidation of doctrine to show how mundane forms of practice are central to the formation of ethical subjectivity.

Blanes, “Time For Self Sacrifice”

October 16, 2013

Blanes, Ruy Llera. 2013. Time For Self Sacrifice.  Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology. (early digital release: DOI:10.1080/00141844.2013.806946).

Abstract: In this article I propose an approach to sacrifice through notions of time, memory and expectation, moving away from classical formalist definitions that highlight the ‘nature and function’ of sacrifice, and into ideas of meaning and experience and their insertion in particular ideologies of time. I will argue that sacrifice entails particular temporalities, participating in political and experiential realms of memory and expectation. For this, I will invoke a particular regime of sacrifice: the notion of self-sacrifice, as it circulates among a prophetic and messianic Christian movement of Angolan origin, the Tokoist Church.

Mohr, “Enchanted Calvinism”

October 2, 2013

Mohr, Adam. 2013. Enchanted Calvinism: Labor Migration, Afflicting Spirits, and Christian Therapy in the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. Rochester: University of Rochester Press.

Release Date: November 15, 2013

Publisher’s Description: Enchanted Calvinism’s central proposition is that Ghanaian Presbyterian communities, both past and present, have become significantly more enchanted–that is, more attuned to spiritual explanations of and remedies for suffering–as they have become more integrated into capitalist modes of production. The author draws on a specific Weberian concept of religious enchantment to frame the discussion of spiritual affliction and spiritual healing within the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, particularly under the conditions of labor migration: first, in the early twentieth century during the cocoa boom in Ghana and second, at the turn of the twenty-first century in the context of the healthcare migration from Ghana to North America. Relying on extensive archival research, oral historical interviews, and participant-observation group interviews conducted in North America, Europe, and West Africa, the study provides evidence that the more these Ghanaian Calvinists became dependent on capitalist modes of production, the more enchanted their lives, and, subsequently, their church became, although in different ways within these two migrations. One striking pattern that has emerged among Ghanaian Presbyterian labor migrants in North America, for example, is a radical shift in gendered healing practices, where women have become prominent healers, while a significant number of men have become spirit-possessed.

van Dijk, “Counselling and Pentecostal modalities of social engineering of relationships in Botswana”

October 2, 2013

van Dijk, Rijk.  2013.  Counselling and Pentecostal modalities of social engineering of relationships in Botswana.  Culture, Health & Sexuality (Published Online 27 September 2013).

Abstract: In African societies where HIV and AIDS are widespread, counselling is being used in an attempt to control people’s sexual relationships and has become an important industry. Counselling is centrally placed in many AIDS-related policies in Botswana and is sponsored by both the government and religious organisations. Within the broad spectrum of Christianity, Pentecostal churches are very active. They emphasise the refashioning of relationships by mediating moral imperatives and by engaging with psychological knowledge on personal behaviour and on techniques of counselling in a changing context of sexuality. This paper explores the significance of religious counselling in terms of the disciplining effects concerning personal behaviour and the ways in which this form of communication is generating a wider interest in this society. This is particularly attractive to members of the educated classes who are engaging with Pentecostal counselling as a way of refashioning their domain of intimate relations. Yet, it does not only provide informed ideas on intimate relations – being often one of the proclaimed objectives of counselling – it also produces a communication about intimate matters that is intended to inform a critique of socio-cultural conventions. This is a counter-cultural dynamic of counselling, which has been little noticed in the academic study of counselling practices in Africa.

Naidu and Nzuza, “When God Beckons: Stories of the ‘Call’ in a Pentecostal Church”

September 5, 2013

Nzuza, Maheshvari and Nokwanda Nzuza. 2013. “When God Beckons: Stories of the ‘Call’ in a Pentecostal Church.” Journal of Social Science 36(2): 153-163. 

Abstract: The biblical narratives are inspired texts to the Pentecostals, as they are to many other Christians. Most Pentecostals accept that these biblical narratives offer the guiding templates through which a religious worldview is constructed. This paper is informed by how ‘narratives’ are positioned within Pentecostalism, and similarly adopts ‘narrative’ as a methodological heuristic mechanism. To this end the narratives of a small group of individuals are used as a heuristic device to understand the ‘call’ to ministry, as received and understood by them as they go on to assume pastoral duties within the Church that they belong to. It is felt that such calls to ministry offer a rare window into a decidedly understudied phenomenon within black ministry.

Boyd, “The Problem with Freedom”

August 27, 2013

Boyd, Lydia. 2013. The Problem with Freedom: Homosexuality and Human Rights in Uganda. Anthropological Quarterly 86(3):697-724.

Abstract: The recent backlash against homosexuality in Uganda, culminating in the introduction of the 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, has focused tremendous attention on the role religious activists have played in shaping Ugandan attitudes about sexuality. Drawing on long-term fieldwork among the Ugandan born-again Christians at the center of this controversy, I argue that anti-homosexual rhetoric is animated by something more than a parroting of American homophobia. Rather, it reflects a tension between two divergent frameworks for ethical personhood in Uganda, one related to the Ganda value of ekitiibwa or “respect/honor,” and the other based in a discourse of rights, autonomy, and “freedom.” The born-again rejection of a rights-based discourse is analyzed in relation to broader anxieties generated by a neoliberal emphasis on the autonomous, “empowered” individual during a period of growing inequality and economic and political dissatisfaction in Uganda.

James, “Themes in Spirit Possession in Ugandan Christianity”

July 3, 2013

James, R. 2013. Themes in Spirit Possession in Ugandan Christianity. International Journal of Modern Anthropology.

Abstract: Spirit possession and the belief in witches and their curses is common in Uganda. This paper discerns a number of common themes that run through many of these experiences. In particular, sex as a motif for deviance and evil is noted as a common feature of many of the possession stories and all contact with spirits is seen as fundamentally dangerous. There is also some commonality in the content of some stories recounted by interviewees. This paper compares the observations and interviews conducted in Uganda and their common themes with Eni’s book Saved from the Powers of Darkness, with Ugandan cultural traditions and Ugandan experiences of terrorism to probe the origins of their conceptualisations. Through these comparisons it is possible to note Nigerian influence in at least some Ugandan expressions of the experience of spirit possession. However, Ugandan, rather than Nigerian, traditions and experiences are probably more important overall. Besides the traditions that are noted as influences on the way in which spirit possessions are expressed and experienced, the possibility for the breaking of witches’ curses being a cohesive of community activity is noted, as is a connection between the casting out of spirits and the resolve (or at least desire) to live a better, morally reformed, life in accordance with what is being preached in a church. This paper notes evidence that supports Horton’s suggestion that spirit possession is the theorisation of the world in order to understand and affect it.

Adogame, “African Pentecostalism”

June 12, 2013

Adogame, Afe. 2013. Reconfiguring the Global Religious Economy: The Role of African Pentecostalism. In Spirit and Power: The Growth and Global Impact of Pentecostalism, Donald E. Miller, Kimon H. Sargeant, and Richard Flory, eds, 185-203. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

van Klinken, “Imitation as Transformation of the Male Self How an Apocryphal Saint Reshapes Zambian Catholic Men”

June 11, 2013

van Klinken, Adriaan. 2013. Imitation as Transformation of the Male Self How an Apocryphal Saint Reshapes Zambian Catholic Men. Cahiers d’études africaines 1-2(209-210): 119-142.

Abstract: St Joachim, who according to the apocryphal Protoevangelium Jacobi is the father of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the patron saint of a Catholic Men’s Organization in Zambia which promotes him as model of Catholic manhood. Through a case study of this organization, this article explores the intersections of religion, men and masculinity in a contemporary African Catholic context, in relation to broader discussions on African masculinities. The focus is on the practice of imitation of St Joachim and its effects on masculinity as the symbolic, discursive and performative construction of embodied male gender identity. Two theoretical concepts inform the analysis, being the notion of imitation as a hermeneutical process and Michel Foucault’s conceptualization of the technologies or hermeneutics of the self. The article shows how a sacred text is mobilized and inspires a communal imitative practice through which men are shaped, and shape themselves, after a religious ideal of masculinity.

Ghana’s New Christianity: Book Review

May 13, 2013

Gifford, Paul. 2004. Ghana’s New Christianity: Pentecostalism in a Globalizing African Economy.  Bloomington: University of Indiana Press.

By: Joel Robbins (Department of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego)

Paul Gifford is one of the most knowledgeable and prolific scholars of Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa.  He has written both surveys on general topics, such as the public role of Christian churches in Africa, and monographs focused on specific countries, such as a previous one on Christianity and politics in Doe’s Liberia and this one on the charismatic scene in Ghana from 2000 to 2002.  One of the great advantages of Gifford’s breadth of knowledge is that he is able to track the kinds of rapid developments in doctrine that are very much a part of global Christianity today, and to pinpoint differences between churches that are often lumped together under homogenizing rubrics such as Pentecostal and charismatic.  In this book, he trains his eye on the contemporary charismatic mega-Churches of Accra and finds them for the most part very much taken up with the faith or prosperity gospel and its prophetic offshoots.  Over the course of the book, he places their doctrines in historical perspective, considers the reasons for their popularity, and evaluates their effects on Ghanaian political and economic life.

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