Posts Tagged ‘West Africa’

Kallinen, “Christianity, fetishism, and the development of secular politics in Ghana”

June 17, 2014

Kallinen, Timo.  2014. Christianity, fetishism, and the development of secular politics in Ghana: A Dumontian Approach.  Anthropological Theory 14(20: 153-168.

Abstract: The paper discusses the impact of Christianity on the institutions of divine kingship and chiefship among the Asante people of Ghana during the late pre-colonial and colonial periods. The thrust of the paper is that separate categories of religion and politics emerged in Asante society as the colonial administration sought to facilitate missionary work and conversion while at the same time they supported the chiefs as the secular rulers of the country. The analysis is based on Dumont’s ideas on the differentiation of the political category and the characteristics of the modern state. Dumont’s own work on secularization focused on long-term historical developments that were markedly different from the abrupt changes described here. Nevertheless, his ideas help us significantly in comprehending the profoundness and radicality of this transformation. Additionally, the aim of the paper is to provide some historical background for understanding debates about the nature and value of traditional chieftaincy in present-day Ghana.

Yidana, “From Divine Word to Divine Wealth”

May 27, 2014

Yidana, Adadow.  2014. From Divine Word to Divine Wealth: Sociological Analysis of the Developmental Phases of Pentecostal Churches in Ghana.  Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 2(2): 346-354.

Abstract: There is an ongoing debate regarding the proliferation of Pentecostal churches in Africa and Ghana in particular. Consequently, Pentecostal denominations are seen as routes through which people gain fame and make wealth. Using a data collection in Ghana in the city of Tamale between July and December 2013, this paper provides an analysis of the different developmental phases of Pentecostal churches in Ghana. The results points to an increasing numbers of Pentecostal churches in Ghana. This increased is partly due to the increasing number of educated elites who have taken advantage of the economic potential in establishing Pentecostal churches. The paper reveals that the real intention of almost all pastors who have planted their churches is to see it grow to become a mega church or reaching a true entrepreneurial stage. The paper further reveals that it is not just a one stop journey, but has to pass through stages before achieving the self fulfilling stage. The paper thus concludes that in as long as the industry remains lucrative, a number of educated elites will join the vacation.

Grätz, “Christian religious radio production”

March 4, 2014

Grätz, Tilo.  2014.  Christian religious radio production in Benin: The Case of Radio Maranatha.  Social Compass 61(10: 57-66.

Abstract: The author focuses on a Christian broadcaster in Parakou, northern Benin, and analyses its main production structures, its programming, and the actors and their motives involved. It demonstrates how religious media, themselves an assemblage of institutions, actors, significations and infrastructures, participate in consituting the religious domain. Religious culture in Parakou and, more generally, in Benin is not dictated by religious authorities alone: it is made by pastors, lay presenters and their listeners – especially when they participate in interactive radio shows, or join a listeners’ club. Both producers and listeners find new avenues to live their faith. Radio producers and their listeners occupy new spaces to live their faith and gain new media experiences to valorise their skills and knowledge, as well as to experience themselves as part of a larger religious community.

Stornig, “Sisters Crossing Boundaries”

October 8, 2013

Stornig, Katharina.  2013.  Sisters Crossing Boundaries: German Missionary Nuns in Colonial Togo and New Guinea, 1897–1960.  Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Publisher’s Description: The last third of the 19th century witnessed a considerable increase in the active participation of women in the various Christian missions. Katharina Stornig focusses onthe Catholic case, and particularly explores the activities and experiences of German missionary nuns, the so-called Servants of the Holy Spirit,in colonial Togo and New Guinea in the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. Introducing the nuns’ ambiguous roles as travelers, evangelists, believers, domestic workers, farmers, teachers, and nurses, Stornig highlights the ways in which these women shaped and were shaped by the missionary encounter and how they affected colonial societies more generally. Privileging the sources produced by nuns (i.e. letters, chronicles and reports) and emphasizing their activities, Sisters Crossing Boundaries profoundly challenges the frequent depiction of women and particularly nuns as the largely passive observers of the missionizing and colonizing activities of men. Stornig does not stop at adding women to the existing historical narrative of mission in Togo and New Guinea, but presents the hopes and strategies that German nuns related to the imagination and practice of empire. She also discusses the effects of boundary-crossing, both real and imagined, in the context of religion, gender and race.

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.

Daswani, “On Christianity and Ethics”

August 13, 2013

Daswani, Girish. 2013. On Christianity and Ethics: Rupture as ethical practice in Ghanian Pentecostalism. American Ethnologist 40(3):467-479.

Abstract: Rupture, a common principle of the Pentecostal Christian faith, can also give rise to ethical disputes among believers. The study of such disputes provides insight into the ways ethical practice shapes the institutional continuities and the personal inconsistencies of a Christian life. All believers learn what Pentecostal rupture is, but they have different opinions about how it is achieved, and, once born again, they differ on what constitutes good or right religious observance. I suggest that approaching rupture as ethical practice allows for a better understanding of the religious subject’s response to an incommensurability of values and practices internal to Pentecostalism.

Cinnamon, “American Presbyterian Missionaries”

July 24, 2013

Cinnamon, John M. 2013. American Presbyterian Missionaries, Enslavement, and Anti-Slavery in Nineteenth-Century Gabon. Social Sciences and Missions 26(1): 93-122.

Abstract: When American Presbyterian and Congregationalist missionaries arrived in the Gabon Estuary in the 1840s, they entered a world marked by vibrant commerce; violence and inequality; widespread slavery and slave-trading; British, French, and U.S. Anti-Slavery Patrols; and incipient French colonialism. This article draws on the published accounts by two U.S. missionaries, John Leighton Wilson, who served in Gabon from 1842 to 1851, and Robert Hamill Nassau, who worked on Corisco Island, the Gabon Estuary and Ogowe River, and the southern Cameroon coast from 1861 to 1906. Together, their writings provide insights into early colonialism and especially the long decline of enslavement and slave trading. While Wilson witnessed the establishment of Libreville in the 1840s, Nassau encountered slave trading first on Corisco and later on the Ogowe during the period of French colonial exploration. Both men, shaped by their African experiences as well as their respective social locations in the United States, held strong views on African domestic slavery and the slave trade. Wilson, from the South, was an ambivalent abolitionist who railed against the Atlantic Slave trade while hesitating to denounce slavery and racial inequality in his native South Carolina. Nassau, from New Jersey and educated at conservative Princeton University, was prompted above all by the missionary impulse. He sought to convert and “uplift” formerly enslaved Africans while nevertheless underlining their “servile” characters and benefitting from their labor as docile, socially vulnerable mission workers.

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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Leichtman, “From the Cross”

March 4, 2013

Leichtman, Mara A. 2013. From the Cross (and Crescent) to the Cedar and Back Again: Transnational religion and politics among Lebanese Christians in Senegal. Anthropological Quarterly 86(1):35-75.

Abstract: This article examines the changing relationship between religion, secularism, national politics, and identity formation among Lebanese Christians in Senegal. Notre Dame du Liban, the first Lebanese religious institution in West Africa, draws on its Lebanese “national” character to accommodate Lebanese Maronite Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christians in Dakar, remaining an icon of “Lebanese” religion, yet departing from religious sectarianism in Lebanon. As such, transnational religion can vary from national religion, gaining new resonances and reinforcing a wider “secular” ethno-national identity.

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