Journal of Religion in Africa

Published by Brill Academic Publishers
Online ISSN: 1570-0666
Print ISSN: 0022-4200
Taking its subtitle from a theological college course description, this paper examines the intersections of theological and anthropological ideas of culture, as seen through the eyes of Kenyan evangelists and American missionaries. One of the key concepts developed in the course, and in the broader program of this U.S.-funded nondenominational church in East Africa, is that understanding culture is key to learning and unlocking the spiritual 'personalities' (both godly and satanic) involved in spiritual warfare. Both Kenyans and Americans conceive of warfare as the struggle between secular and Christian worldviews and consider education to be one of the strongest weapons needed to win the battle. However, where U.S. teachers focus on animism and world-religious conflict as evidence of lingering immorality and ungodliness, Kenyans focus on American ethnocentrism and xenophobia as evidence of ongoing cultural misunderstandings and injustice. Analysis is based on examination of mission records and on field research conducted in Nairobi and western Kenya.
The prevailing image of Zär'a Ya'eqob has tended to emphasize the intellectual at the expense of the experiential and political power at the expense of religious power. It is to these relatively neglected aspects of religious life that this article is devoted. It is our purpose here to emphasize the importance of the Cross, the image of the Virgin, the construction of churches and other visual aspects of religious life in Zär'a Ya'eqob's Ethiopia. No other Ethiopian ruler confronted the religious challenges presented by a divided Church and a largely unChristianized empire as systematically and as successfully as Zär'a Ya'eqob. Moreover, he was as sensitive to the daily unspoken truths of religious life as he was to great theological debates and controversies. He understood power in all its manifestations and sought to protect his state, his church, and his people with every means at his disposal. By promoting devotion to both the Cross and the Virgin Mary, he built on the foundations prepared by his parents, especially his father Dawit. He also mobilized Christian symbols which transcended local rivalries and regional loyalties. These symbols, as well as the churches he built, were also particularly suited to visual representation and hence comparatively easy to propagate among Ethiopia's largely illiterate population. They were, moreover, effective instruments of divine power, which brought home not only the message of Christianity's truth, but also its efficacy in the face of the numerous threats that Christians faced on a daily basis.
A series of events in 1807 changed the mission of the early Church Missionary Society in Sierra Leone from one that was designed initially and solely to spread the Christian message in the interior of West Africa to one that included service to the Colony of Sierra Leone. Before 1807, the Society had identified the Susu language as the appointed language to be used in its conversion effort, and it intended to establish an exclusively Susu Mission—in Susu Country and independent of government attachment—that would prepare a vanguard of African catechists and missionaries to carry that message in the Susu language. In 1807, however, the Society's London-based board and the missionaries then present at Sierra Leone made a strategic shift of emphasis to accept government protection and support in return for a bargain of government service, while at the same time continuing with earlier and independent goals of carrying the message of Christianity to native Africans. That choice prepared the Society and its missionaries within a decade to significantly increase the Society's role in Britain's attempt to bring civilization, commerce and Christianity to the continent, and to do it within the confines of imperial policy.
This article examines the Anglican missions established at Cape Coast Castle in 1752 and 1766. The first, established by SPG missionary Thomas Thompson, lasted from 1752 to 1755 and his lack of success, coupled with ill health, formed the basis for the second mission, that of Philip Quaque. Quaque, a Fetu youth sent to England for twelve years, returned to Cape Coast in 1766, remaining there until his death in 1816. Of all the insurmountable obstacles created by the slave trade, the most important obstacle Thompson and Quaque faced was the combination of the coastal desire for education and the European, African and Eurafrican opposition to proselytization. For Quaque, his new identity as a Black Protestant, coupled with little direct or indirect support from the SPG, hindered his endeavors. While the missions of Thompson and Quaque have often been viewed as failures they, along with the growing abolitionist attack upon the slave trade, marked a turning point in the relationship between England and the Gold Coast.
The Franciscan mission to western Guinea between the 1660s and the late eighteenth century operated, from its Bissau centre, a 'Mission to Sierra Leone', whose priests occasionally reached the territory of modern Sierra Leone. Contact was made with the Afro-Portuguese resident in the Sierra Leone estuary, particularly with the Lopes family, and in 1752 a leading member was encouraged to make a 'Donation of Sierra Leone' to the Portuguese crown. This had little meaning and no effect. Hardly anything else is known about the local missionary activities, partly because of the decay of the general mission, but scraps of information about the Catholicism of the Afro-Portuguese appear in Portuguese and English sources.
Over a period of 150 years African American missionaries sought to spread the Christian Gospel in the 'Black Atlantic' region formed by the Americas, Africa and Britain. Relatively few in number, they have been largely ignored by most historians of mission. As blacks in a world dominated by persistent slavery, ideas of scientific racism and also by colonialism, their lot was rarely a comfortable one. Often called, by a belief in 'divine providence', to the Caribbean and Africa, when employed by white mission agencies they were invariably treated as second-class colleagues. From the late 1870s new African American mission bodies sent men and women to the mission field. However, by the 1920s, black American missionaries were viewed with alarm by the colonial authorities as challenging prevailing racial ideas and they were effectively excluded from most of Africa.
The Basel missionaries in southern Ghana came from a strong religious healing tradition in southwest Germany that, within some circles, had reservations about the morality and efficacy of biomedicine in the nineteenth century. Along with Akan Christians, these missionaries in Ghana followed local Akan healing practices before the colonial period was formalized, contrary to a pervasive discourse condemning local religion and healing as un-Christian. Around 1885, however, a radical shift in healing practices occurred within the mission and in Germany that corresponded to both the Bacteriological Revolution and the formal colonial period. In 1885 the first medical missionary from Basel arrived in Ghana, while at the same time missionaries began supporting biomedicine exclusively. This posed a great problem for Akan Christians, who began to seek Akan healers covertly. Akan Christians argued with their European coreligionists that Akan healing was a form of culturally relative therapy, not a rival theology.
This article deals with the reburial of Bishop Joseph Dupont in Zambia in December 2000, 88 years after he left the country. After a brief précis of the burial itself, I examine the different presentations of Bishop Dupont by scholars, White Fathers, oral literature and the Bemba Catholics in Zambia, exploring the question of who kept his memory alive and for what purposes. It is not sufficient to view Dupont's funeral as an historical oddity, but rather as a manifestation of what Ranger called 'popular Christianity'. To understand this attachment to Dupont by local Catholics, one has to go beyond the official documents and academic literature and consider the historical reconstruction on the ground. As will become clear, this is the only way to explain Bishop Dupont's current heroic status.
Encountering colonialism and Christianity, African people became intertwined with the development of a documentary culture in the Northern Transvaal. In the second half of the nineteenth century Africans, missionaries and settlers produced and read Bibles, codes of law, newspaper articles, translations of religious texts and church declarations. As a result of multifaceted social interaction, African people's attitudes were never an exclusively African business. The article shows how certain peoples cherished the technical skills of reading and writing, while others defined literacy as a subordinate instrument employable only for the attainment of religious goals. It argues that especially missionaries' and Africans' attitudes towards documents changed as a response to the broader economic and social transformations in the area. It also points out how the new Christian elite tried to use literacy as a window to the European reading public and how they produced documents of their own in which they ixed important parameters of African Christianity.
This paper re-examines missionary medicine in Tanganyika, considering its relationship with the colonial state, the impulses that led it to evolve in the way that it did, and the nature of the medical services it offered. The paper suggests that, contrary to traditional depictions, missionary medicine was not entirely curative in focus, small in scale, nor inappropriate to the health needs of the communities in which it was based. Rather, missionary medicine should be considered as a vital aspect of early colonial health services, serving those excluded by the colonial state. Missionary medicine before 1945 was fragmented, small-scale, lacking in resources and overstretched. Its services could not necessarily compete in quality with the best of the state hospitals. But it succeeded, within the local context, in providing a network of health services that stretched into the rural society, and ensured that, where there was a mission hospital, there was an option for the local people to make western biomedicine a choice for healing.
This study focuses on Durban's Grey Street mosque, built by Indian Memon migrants in 1880. This review of the first half-century of the mosque's existence underlines the important social role of mosques, and also questions the notion of homogeneous Muslim community. While the mosque was the most visible symbol of Muslim identity in Natal, it was also a site of contestation, reflecting the class, language, caste and ethnic divisions among Muslims in a diasporic situation. Mosques were built along class and ethnic lines and dominated by traders. As Muslim society matured, there were challenges to the leadership of non-clerical traders who did not tolerate challenges to their authority. Opposition sometimes centred on Imams who commanded the allegiance of the congregation. Mosques did not have an independent life but reflected the prevailing power structures in Muslim society. While outsiders believed that ethnic diversity was subsumed by a unitary Muslim mass, Muslims comprised a community of communities, and the building and management of mosques underlined this fact.
In 1930 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) commemorated fifty years of mission work in central Angola with a celebration that sought to unite thousands of Umbundu Christians into a community. Rituals such as the singing of hymns, daily church services, and bold performances of religious music by the 540-voice Jubilee Choir aimed at reinforcing Christian identity. A historical pageant dubbed the `Three Crosses' was created in order to present a missionary perspective of Angolan history, one that juxtaposed Christian societal improvement with indigenous scenes of death, violence, and ignorance. This paper provides an account of the pageant and argues that its program also transmitted prominent subtexts associated with colonial discourse. Theories of social evolution and racism were widespread among early twentieth-century Americans, and ABCFM missionaries used this rhetoric to preach self-improvement through Christianization by disparaging indigenous Umbundu beliefs. Although providing Western education proved an effective tool for attracting converts and a lasting measure of the ABCFM's influence in Angola, the legacy of the mission preserves these contradictions of colonial missionary work.
The article considers the involvement of Bishop Alfred Tucker and other missionaries of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in the establishment of a British Protectorate in Buganda between 1890 and 1894. These missionaries were drawn, often not unwillingly, into political affairs, both within Uganda and internationally. The contribution made by Tucker was frequently ill-informed and sometimes tendentious. Nevertheless, he sought to uphold the long-standing CMS regulation that missionaries should abstain from any political involvement. The theoretical distinction between the sacred and secular was alien to the intellectual heritage of Uganda, and in practice it was contradicted by the activities of CMS missionaries, who justified their involvement in terms of considering Uganda to be a 'special case'.
Even among historians of Christianity in South Africa sympathetic to the liberation struggle, there has been a tendency to focus on white clergy rather than the involvement of black clergy before the 1960s. This study of James Calata, Anglican priest and African nationalist, attempts to contribute to filling a gap in the existing historiography and also to address some of the problems raised by a biographical approach to history. Like white clergy, Calata faced opposition from the church hierarchy, but for Calata there was also a degree of racism in the way the church treated him, while his opposition was rooted in community, and integrated opposition politics and a struggle for an indigenous expression of Christianity. Calata's own ideological position reflects the ideological generosity (or vagueness) of the ANC. The essay also illustrates the radicalisation of Calata's position in response to increasing repression.
The Union Ibo Bible was more or less the Bible for the Igbo people of southern Nigeria from 1909 to 1970. The creation of Thomas Dennis of the Church Missionary Society and his co-workers, it has been, since its first conception in 1905, a source of ongoing controversy: the development and unification of the Igbo language was at stake. This article re-examines the history of this Bible, its conception, translation and early reception, and argues that the source of its shortcomings lies deeper than the method of translation or the contemporary Igbo desire to learn English. The Union Bible is the product of the missionary conception, fleshed out by a comparison with the Yoruba, of a single Igbo people speaking a single language. The failure of that translation is the result of the premise consequent to this conception of the Igbo, namely that the Igbo language was ready to be 'united'.
This essay examines the reasons why some young Fang men supported Presbyterian missionary Robert Milligan's crusade to establish a Protestant community of converts at the turn of the twentieth century. Milligan presented his work as an example of heroic and muscular Christianity that transformed young Gabonese men. However, his methods of attracting followers appear very similar to those used by local big men: creating kinship networks, providing military support, sharing imported goods and providing access to women for marriage. Fang men and Milligan shared a flexible vocabulary of fatherhood that placed obligations on converts and missionaries alike. Eventually, Milligan's efforts came undone because of problems with other missionaries, but young Fang men continued to turn to missionary patronage, in part to cope with gender tensions and struggles over status.
In 1906-7, in Akwapim, a small kingdom in southern Ghana (then the Gold Coast), a bitter conflict occurred between the king, Nana Kwasi Akuffo, and Kwasi Fianko, a wealthy trader who had been appointed as the king's 'soul' (okra) but who later decided to resign his position and rejoin the Christian community. Two detailed accounts addressed to the Basel Mission were written by an indigenous pastor and his superior, a long-serving missionary. They recount the conflict, the negotiations that ensued, and the complex relations between the king and the Basel Mission community. These reports depict the ambitions and the everyday conduct of a poor king and a wealthy commoner, the one a non-Christian and the other a Christian, in the early years of the twentieth century. They also describe the position of the 'soul' in an Akan court, and the central importance of money in a kingdom lacking important natural resources.
This six-decade history of textual production in the Nazaretha church seeks to illuminate the changing practices of governance and community in the church during this period. The church's documentary history provides insight into its leaders' efforts to use texts to govern, centralize and discipline their geographically far-flung, often unruly congregations. In addition to focusing on the documentary regime instituted by the church's leaders, this article also explores the reading and writing practices that animated ordinary believers. For laity, as well as for leaders, texts and a general range of literate practices were a means of knitting themselves together in opposition to the incursion of the state, and in distinction to contemporary rival Christians. Finally, this article also seeks to position the texts of Nazaretha leaders and laity as significant material objects in their own right.
This article analyzes the phenomena of dancing and wedding apparel in weddings of rural members of an unusual Protestant denomination of Anabaptist origins in Matabeleland, colonial Zimbabwe. The focus is on gendered aspects of African Christian adaptation of mission teaching amongst Ndebele members of the Brethren in Christ Church. The church in North America was firm at home on the matter of dancing (it was forbidden), and internally conflicted regarding men's garb. In the decades preceding World War II, African members of the church embraced fashionable dress for grooms and dancing at wedding feasts as common practice at BICC weddings. However, in a gendered pattern reflecting Ndebele, colonial and mission ideas of women's subjection, African women's bridal wear adhered to church teaching on Plainness, while African men's did not.
Apolo Kivebulaya was a well-respected Ganda priest who, beginning in the 1890s, established Anglican churches in Toro, Uganda, and in the Boga area of what is now Congo. A CMS colleague, A.B. Lloyd, wrote three popular biographies of Apolo for a British readership that inspired the writing of others. This article examines the style and content of Lloyd's biographies and explores the factors that influenced them, including Keswick spirituality and boys' adventure stories. It demonstrates early twentieth-century expectations of missionary heroism, and suggests that the way in which Apolo has been read in the past has influenced his relative neglect in the present.
Whereas women's prayer groups are a well-known strength of African Christianity in Southern Africa, the evangelistic and pastoral contribution of individual women who were not clergy wives has been under-appreciated. Echoing models from Victorian London and Indian missions, Methodism in South Africa evolved an authorised, paid form of female lay ministry via middle-aged black Biblewomen sponsored and overseen by white Women's Auxiliary groups. The first appointee in the Transvaal and Swaziland District wrote comparatively full reports of emotionally 'hot' revival meetings. In 'hard' kraals she encountered hostility in the form of patriarchal control of women and an unusual proliferation of rival indigenous spirits. Her successors found male drinking an even greater obstacle to a sympathetic hearing. In urban townships along the Witwatersrand, Biblewomen work was less pioneering and more routinised, providing pastoral support to local churches via sick-visiting and following up lapsed members. From 1945-59, some Biblewomen were trained at Lovedale Bible School. The period after 1960 deserves separate exploration. In 1997, a new start was made with a national, autonomous Biblcwomen ministry, though many women, black and white, regretted severing their personal and organisational links of mutual dependence.
In late colonial Uganda, Catholic individuals, communities, institutions and ideals shaped the rise of a popular politics that rejected the colonial alliance between Britain and Baganda oligarchs and called for change. Catholics valued and worked effectively with hierarchies, used elaborate catechisms and questioning in their calls for action, and deployed networks of activist cells and intelligence gathering as they sought community solidarity around their central goals. These methods provided a template for action for the more directly political initiatives of Catholics and lapsed Catholics of the late 1940s in the Bataka Union and the mobilized cotton communities of Masaka and Kampala. The Catholic antecedents of 1940s and 1950s activism help explain elements of activists' initiatives that fail to fit more conventional analytic structures assessing politics through the lenses of class or nationalism.
In 1935 the Church Missionary Society established a station at Salara, in the western part of the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. The station received considerable financial support from the colonial administration, as well as from donors in the United Kingdom, but it was strikingly unsuccessful in its attempts to create a local Christian community, and in the early 1950s the station was abandoned by the CMS. This paper explores the circumstances of this failure, and suggests that missionary work in Salara was undermined by the missionaries' ambivalent attitudes to tradition and modernity. These attitudes derived partly from engagement with colonial officials who were chronically uncertain as to the proper policy to pursue in the Nuba Mountains, and partly from a wider uncertainty in mission attitudes that had come to emphasize the need for a distinctly African form of Christianity but yet remained profoundly suspicious of the reliability of African Christians.
South Africa's churches grew or declined so quickly in the years after 1960 that by 1991 the country's religious map had been redrawn. This article charts and offers explanations for such developments. Almost all Christian churches grew substantially in the first half of the twentieth century but mainline churches were dominant. They continued to grow numerically into the 1960s and 1970s, but were beginning to shrink as a proportion of the expanding population. By contrast, Roman Catholic, African Independent and smaller independent denominations were growing quickly. By the 1990s, mainline Protestant churches were suffering considerable decline and Roman Catholicism's growth had stalled. African Independent and other churches continued to grow rapidly. A matrix of forces help to explain this phenomenon-including the political situation, socio-economic pressures, secularisation and particular religious factors. A comparative perspective shows South Africa's churches to have much in common with African and global trends.
This paper examines the role of African Initiated Churches (AICs) in the lives of African migrant laborers in Israel. Its aim is to attain a deeper understanding of religion and church affiliation among African migrant laborers in Israel from the perspective of the Africans themselves. It traces the creation and development of the AICs in Israel, including the various services and activities that the churches provided for their members in the social, economic and political arenas. It argues that the African churches in Israel occupied a particularly large and central place in their members' lives compared to migrant churches in other western diasporas, taking on roles of other traditional social, economic, political and civil actors in Africa. The paper examines the AICs' multiple adaptations to unique conditions in Israel and to the needs of their membership. Though many of the patterns identified are similar to those found in other diaspora communities, certain features of Israel and its society, mainly those connected to the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and the limited civic horizon open to non-Jews, made for substantial differences. These features forced Africans to create their own Afro-Christian space to fulfill their needs and became the key anchors in the spiritual, emotional and practical lives of the African migrants in Israel. Finally this article argues that the churches became the main space for the production of a sense of belonging within the Israeli civic context, in spite of the fact that the migrants' religious identities and institutions were not used as vehicles for recognition or channels for gaining legitimacy in Israel's public sphere.
Interest in the question of youth and Islam in West Africa stems from the overwhelming demographic weight of youth and their relatively recent incursion into the public domain, as well a wave of Islamic revivalism that has swept across Africa from the late 1970s on. In this paper, we propose to examine the sociopolitical role of young men in Islamic revivalist movements that occurred in urban centers in Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Senegal in the 1980-1990s. Such movements were particularly popular among secularly educated young men who attended French-speaking schools. While the role of young men in revivalist movements suggests new configurations of authority and charisma, their religious agency remains closely embedded within relationships that extend across generations. Here, we examine instances of conflicts between generations and pay attention to sites of negotiation, such as mosques and voluntary associations.
This article examines how the major Angolan churches engaged with the search for peace from 1991 to 2002, the crucial period from the Bicesse Accords to the Luena Memorandum following the death of Jonas Savimbi, which ended the years of cyclical military conflict and broken peace agreements. It sets out how the churches analysed the causes of the conflict between the MPLA-led government and the UNITA rebel movement, as well as what they believed was required to bring about peace. This analysis is unique in Angola as no other national civic voice consistently engaged with the peace agenda over this period. The article also examines ecumenical initiatives to restore peace through the formation of COIEPA, the inter-ecclesial peace committee, following the return to war in 1998, initiatives that were strongly resisted by the government as it pursued its military strategy of bringing peace to Angola by fighting a final and decisive war.
Garifuna religion is derived from a confluence of Amerindian, African and European antecedents. For the Garifuna in Central America, the spatial focus of authentic religious practice has for over two centuries been that of their former homeland and site of ethnogenesis, the island of St Vincent. It is from St Vincent that the ancestors return, through spirit possession, to join with their living descendants in ritual events. During the last generation, about a third of the population migrated to the US, especially to New York City. This departure created a new diasporic horizon, as the Central American villages left behind now acquired their own aura of ancestral fidelity and religious power. Yet New-York-based Garifuna are now giving attention to the African components of their story of origin, to a degree that has not occurred in homeland villages of Honduras. This essay considers the notion of 'leaving' and 'joining' the African diaspora by examining religious components of Garifuna social formation on St Vincent, the deportation to Central America, and contemporary processes of Africanization being initiated in New York.
Drawing on an ethnographic description of hymns, prayers, and requests for material goods among Apostolic Christians in Botswana, this article considers how styles of asking bring aspects of the person to the attention of divine and human others. Apostolic believers regard personal well-being under circumstances of vulnerability as hinging in part on styles of prayer and asking, which entail forms of both self-assertion and engagement with the personhood of others. Experiences of vulnerability compel Apostolics' awareness of how partible aspects of their persons, including the voice, move among them so as ideally to build up well-being. Thus prayers to God as the ultimate source of well-being frame persons in aesthetic terms so that they may be well apprehended by divine and human others. In light of Mauss's theory of the gift, the article considers how verbal requests can foster well-being by conveying aspects of the person to divine and human hearers in ways that assert personal standing while sustaining moral consideration. An avenue is presented for comparative inquiry into the ways in which asking opens spaces of agency and obligation in religious and humanitarian discourses.
The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a Brazilian Pentecostal church which in little more than a decade has had considerable success in southern Africa, is analyzed as a new phenomenon in the region's religious world, bypassing the West and straddling existing ecclesiastical typologies. However, its success has been limited virtually to three countries in the region, and the reasons for its appeal in democratic South Africa and post-Marxist Mozambique and Angola are examined. In the Lusophone sphere, its Brazilian cultural heritage and media power have made it a powerful social force; and in the new South Africa (despite the strong contrast in race relations with its Brazilian homeland), it has found a country with similar levels of development and similar inequalities, within which it has been able to fill a niche in the local religious field newly emerged from apartheid, and to begin a process of South Africanization.
The commonalities of eastern Africa's history from colonial occupation to the formation of nation states and their post-postcolonial decay, the region's shared experiences with the religions of the book—fist Islam and later Christianity—and its shared struggle with the physical, social, political and epistemological predicament of HIV/AIDS, make East Africa, with its cultural and historical diversity, a suitably coherent field to study the relationship between religion and the experience of AIDS-related suffering. The papers in this issue explore how AIDS is understood and confronted through religious ideas and practices, and how these, in turn, are reinterpreted and changed by the experience of AIDS. They reveal the creativity and innovations that continuously emerge in the everyday life of East Africans, between bodily and spiritual experiences, and between religious, medical, political and economic discourses. Countering simplified notions of causal effects of AIDS on religion (or vice versa), the diversity of interpretations and practices inserts the epidemic into wider, and more open, frames of reference. It reveals East Africans' will and resourcefulness in their struggle to move ahead in spite of adversity, and goes against the generalised vision of doom widely associated with the African AIDS epidemic. Finally, it shows that East Africans understand AIDS not as a singular event in their history, but as the culmination of a century-long process of changing spiritual imaginaries, bodily well-being and livelihoods. Intimately connected to political history and economic fortunes, it presents itself at present as an experience of loss and decay, yet it remains open-ended.
The introduction to this second special issue aims to probe the epistemological conditions of possibility of African Americanist anthropology. In particular, it highlights the problematic of definitions of units of analysis in the comparative logic on which this particular field of inquiry has long been based. Given the conceptual instability of the categories 'Africa' and 'America' discussed in the previous number of this special double issue, attention is given to how scholars variously became implicated in the creation of 'African horizons', and to potential ways in which past approaches might not only be opened up to 'symmetrical analyses', but in fact transcended.
This paper uses a comparative perspective to analyze how multiracial congregations may contribute to racial reconciliation in South Africa. Drawing on the large-scale study of multiracial congregations in the USA by Emerson et al., it examines how they help transform antagonistic identities and make religious contributions to wider reconciliation processes. It compares the American research to an ethnographic study of a congregation in Cape Town, identifying cross-national patterns and South African distinctives, such as discourses about restitution, AIDS, inequality and women. The extent that multiracial congregations can contribute to reconciliation in South Africa is linked to the content of their worship and discourses, but especially to their ability to dismantle racially aligned power structures.
Much of the credit for the vitality of Christianity in southern Africa has gone to the African Initiated Churches that date their birth to earlier 'Ethiopian' and 'Zionist' movements. Yet far from being compromised, as they are often portrayed, those African Christians remaining in the mission churches often played a critical role in the naturalization of the faith. In the churches of the American Zulu Mission, the largest mission body in colonial Natal, one of the most important moments in this process occurred at the end of the nineteenth century when participants in a revival, led in part by a young Zulu Christian named Mbiya Kuzwayo, employed the theology of Holiness to dramatically alter the nature of their lived Christianity and bring about an internal revolution that gave them effective control of their churches.
In contrast to many previous studies that follow the perspective of colonial administrators and portray Muslim religious leaders or marabouts as essentially political actors who seek political and economic advantage, this paper proposes a new perspective on marabouts under French colonial rule. Focusing on three prominent representatives of the Tijaniyya Sufi order, Seydou Nourou Tall (d. 1980) and Ibrahima Niasse (d. 1975) from Senegal, and Sidi Benamor (d. 1968) from Algeria, the present study shifts the emphasis to the religious motivation behind marabouts' activities. Against the dominant perspective that reduces their activities to mere reactions to colonialism or strategies to gain followers or resources, we show how the three Tijani leaders engaged with colonial modernity. They worked to spread Islam and toward other specific religious objectives within the Islamic sphere. After accepting the reality of French rule and having established a good rapport with the administration, they were able to pursue some of their own religious agendas beyond the purview of the colonial state, French colonial attempts to control their activities notwithstanding.
In the last decades, African Muslim societies have experienced multiple processes of modernization, as, for instance, in the sphere of education. As a consequence, the number of African Muslims literate in African languages has grown tremendously and so has the number of texts, including religious texts, published in these languages. At the same time, the Qur'ān has been translated into many African languages, and these translations of the Qur'ān have triggered disputes among religious scholars on the translatability of the Qur'ān as well as the interpretative orientation of these translations. The disputes over the translation and interpretation of the Qur'ān into African languages might contribute to the emergence, in sub-Saharan Africa, of a tradition of scholarly debates that would stress contextualized interpretations of the text.
In this contribution, I present a few examples of practices in present-day African Christian Churches in which photographs 'do magic' and are used to heal or harm. To counter a tendency, inherent in this topic, of exoticizing and othering, I not only give examples of African 'photo magic' but also include European ones, examples that in the 'standard' or 'official' histories of Western photography are missing. In addition, I try to work out the interdependence and the mutual mirroring of Western and African practices and discourses, i.e., aspects of their interculturality, against the background of the Christian Eucharist and cult of relics. For it is in the Eucharist and relics that the paradoxes of simultaneous presence and absence as well as substance and representation are dealt with, paradoxes that will reappear in the photographic practices in Kenya and Uganda. Thus, I attempt to interpret Ugandan and Kenyan photo magic in Christian churches as variations of the Eucharist.
This introductory essay focuses on the epistemological questions involved in qualifying religious phenomena as 'African', whether on the African continent itself or elsewhere. Taking its departure from the fact that the very term 'Africa' is heteronymic in origin, it argues for a perspective that treats 'Africa' and 'Africanness' not as ontological givens, but as problems to be empirically investigated in regard to both the historical forces and discursive formations that lastingly 'Africanized' the continent and its inhabitants, and in regard to the various strategies by which actors both on the continent and outside of it have turned contextually specific notions of 'Africanity' into socially salient predicates of their strategies of identification.
The international growth of Pentecostalism has seen a rush of congregations in Africa, many of which have tapped into a range of both local and global trends ranging from neo-liberal capitalism to tele-evangelism to youth music. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this discussion focuses on the main Johannesburg congregation of a grouping of churches that have successfully engaged with aspects of socio-economic transformation in post-apartheid South Africa. Such engagement has involved conspicuous alignment with aspects of contemporary South African society, including an acceptance of broader policy projects of the nation state. I argue that the use of a variety of symbolic and thematic elements of a secular nature in the Sunday services of this church reminds and inspires congregants to consider wider social perspectives without challenging the sacred realm of faith.
In the scholarship of recent decades, religion has been accorded little power as a source of social change, either 'from above' (via changes at the macro-level) or 'from below' (at the micro-level). However, as the attention of various disciplines has been drawn to developing societies, an awareness of the potential influence of religion has grown. Based on research in a South African township, conducted after the macro-transition to democratic government, this article explores the social and economic mechanisms at work in a variety of Christian churches. It argues that their capacity to effect social change 'from below' is uneven, and that the most powerful are those which maximise four variables: indoctrination, religious experience, exclusion and socialisation. These variables are often highest in Pentecostalism, and in certain types of AIC. The differential impact of church types on their members is then illustrated with reference to financial, social and cultural behaviour.
Most of the literature on African independent churches (AICs) in South Africa has not paid much attention to their economic and developmental role. In contrast, this article will show how AICs are involved in important economic activities such as voluntary mutual benefit societies, savings clubs, lending societies, stokvels (informal savings funds), and burial societies that control millions of South African rand. In light of firsthand empirical research, this article investigates these kinds of activities, and analyses independent churches' developmental role. This will allow us to better understand how these communities play a strong and supportive function among Africans in a deprived economic situation. In a period of socio-political transformation in South Africa, AICs are able to answer the needs of the people and their hunger to rebuild an identity. My major critique of classical research on AICs is the failure of the literature to address `social change' in a theoretically adequate way, as something more than just descriptions of `traditional' social structures away from interpretations of modernity.
In this article, I attempt to distinguish between five responses to the political situation in South Africa made by evangelicals before and after the end of apartheid in April 1994. I characterize the adherents of these positions as the conservatives, the pragmatists, the protagonists of the Third Way, the protagonists of the 'alternative' community and the liberationists. I then attempt to demonstrate their influence in the transformation of South African society towards democracy by undertaking a series of typological case studies of prominent representatives of these positions. In the process, I attempt to unpack some of the theological and political thinking that underlies and explains each position.
The focus of this article is the concept of enacted destiny, which was identified among charismatic Christians of West African origin in Berlin. Different from more fatalistic concepts of destiny, it combines a strong notion of free agency with a strong notion of a good, almighty, and immanent God. The imaginary of enacted destiny is constituted by two components: 1. presituational religious empowerment by which charismatic Christians can reduce complexities, anxieties, and insecurities in the context of decision making; and 2. postsituational sense-making by which divine agency is ascribed to an originally ambiguous situation. Both components temporally embrace the actions of West African charismatic Christians in Berlin. Actions thereby become the means through which God becomes immanent in the everyday lives of West African charismatic Christians in Berlin and enacted destiny a category of movement toward convergence of human and divine agency.
This article considers the role played by Roger Bastide in the development of studies of religions and cultures of African origin in Brazil. Bastide's interpretation of syncretism in religious phenomena has left its imprint on Afro-Brazilian studies. I will analyze two paradigms used by this author in his treatment of the logic of syncretism: the 'principle of compartmentalization' and the opposition between material acculturation and formal acculturation. I will show how, within the Afro-American religious universe, one finds two types of differentially defined syncretism: an Afro-African syncretism, prior to slavery, that lays the foundation for the idea of a basic unity of African culture, and an Afro-western syncretism that one must fight today. The notion of 'ritual panafricanism', which accounts for this 'positive' syncretism between religions with a similar ancestry, revives the Afro-Brazilian vision of 'unity in diversity' that is largely inspired by Bastidian theories.
Current approaches to classifying African Christianities include generalizing approaches like Ogbu Kalu's assertion of ongoing revival and particular studies associated with the anthropology of Christianity. Here I argue for a generational approach to African Christian communities, noting what has been achieved and what remains to be done.Two recent ethnographies show the promise in the anthropology of Christianity for fruitful comparative approaches to African Christianity. Dorothy Hodgson's study of Catholic evangelization of the Maasai and Matthew Engelke's examination of a Zimbabwean independent church both develop concepts—inculturation and semiotic ideology, respectively—that prioritize African theological work in making Christianity suitable for African believers. Such conceptual approaches can include African Christians overlooked in past classifications and promote insightful comparisons. However, concepts that offer a comparative framework to address sociological belonging to mission-founded churches are still needed for a generational approach to African Christian communities.
Of all the different kinds of work my father performed, none fascinated me so much as his skill with gold. No other occupation was so noble, no other needed such a delicate touch; and moreover, this sort of work was always a kind of festival: it was a real festival that broke the monotony of ordinary working days (The African Child, p 22).
Top-cited authors
Andrew Apter
  • University of California, Los Angeles
Birgit Meyer
  • Utrecht University
John Lonsdale
  • Trinity College, Cambridge, UK (Title E Fellow)
Jean Comaroff
  • Harvard University
John Comaroff
  • Harvard University