Althouse, P. (2001). Towards a Theological Understanding of Pentecostal Appeal to Experience. Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 38(4), 399411.

In order to understand Pentecostalism, one needs to understand the appeal Pentecostals make to experience. This essay examines how a number of Pentecostal scholars have attempted to define religious experience. It then suggests that a typology developed by the late theologian George Schner can help clarify the Pentecostal appeal to experience–understood as confessional rather than philosophical.


Anderson, A. (2000). Zion and Pentecost: The Spirituality and Experience of Pentecostal and Zionist/Apostolic Churches in South Africa. Pretoria: University of South Africa Press.

The former principal of Tshwane Theological College, South Africa, presents in this work his extensive research of the Zion and Pentecostal churches in southern Africa, conducted while he was a researcher in the Pentecostalism Project of the University of South Africa. Allan Anderson is now the director of the Research Unit for New Religions and Churches at the University of Birmingham, Selly Oak, England. Describing and distinguishing the different types of African Pentecostalism, he traces the various church groups back to their nineteenth-century roots in Mpumalanga (Eastern Transvaal), influenced by the Zion City, Ohio, revival and the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles. He provides a spirited overview of the context, significance, and growth of the resulting church communities, comparing their worship, liturgies, preaching, and development.


Anderson, A. (2004). An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Global Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christianity in all its diversity is the fastest expanding religious movement in the world today. Allan Anderson, a former Pentecostal minister and authority on global Pentecostalism, aims to make more visible the ‘non-western’ nature of Pentecostalism without overlooking the importance of the movement emanating from North America. Offering an innovative interpretation of Pentecostalism, he takes seriously the contributions of the Majority World to its development and, concentrating on its history and theology, reflects on the movement’s development and significance throughout the world. Anderson also examines those theological issues that helped form a distinctive spirituality and how this relates to different peoples and their cultures. Finally, Anderson discusses the development of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity in the different countries from its origins at the beginning of the twentieth century to its theological emphases in the present day, together with the impact of the processes of globalization.


Anderson, A. (2005). ‘New African initiated Pentecostalism and charismatics in South Africa’, Journal of Religion in Africa, 35(1), 66–92.

The new Pentecostal churches in South Africa, while not as numerically significant as those elsewhere in Africa, follow similar patterns. Tracing the rise of white megachurches in the 1980s and the subsequent emergence of black Charismatic churches similar to those found elsewhere in Africa, this article outlines their ambivalent relationship with the apartheid regime and the increasing disillusionment of black Pentecostals in the run-up to the 1994 elections. It traces the roles of Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders in the new South Africa and the impact of African Charismatic preachers from elsewhere, pilgrimages to other Pentecostal centres and other factors of globalization. After a survey of different Pentecostal churches, it discusses how new South African Pentecostals illustrate Coleman’s dimensions of a globalized Charismatic Christianity.


Asamoah-Gyadu, J.K. (2004). African Charismatics: Current developments within independent indigenous Pentecostalism in Ghana. Brill, Leiden.

The material presented in this book formed the substance of Asamoah-Gyadu’s Ph.D thesis. In his study,the author wanted to investigate how the general recession of Christianity in the modern West coincidedwith the accession of faith in the Southern continents, particularly Africa south of the Sahara. But hefurthermore wanted to give attention to a specific form of Christianity, described as the religion of the HolySpirit, otherwise known as Pentecostal Christianity. The book is divided into two parts, the first sectionfocussing on major historical and socio-theological developments that have occurred within Ghanaianindependent indigenous Pentecostalism. The second part examines the key themes associated with thetheological orientation of the Charismatic Ministries.


Badstuebner J. (2003). “Drinking the Hot Blood of Humans”: Witchcraft Confessions in a South African Pentecostal Church. Anthropology and Humanism, 28(l), 8-22.

Giant cats flying to America and cities under the sea off Cape Town are part of a cascade of imagery brought forth in the confessions ofbom-again witches. Now Christian, these exwitches confess stories of murder and bloodshed to packed audiences in townships in the Eastern and Western Cape provinces of South Africa. The confessions reveal occult realms in deep engagement with the particular experiences of young, poor, black women in South Africa. These confessions are performances of risky agency in a country in which acts of witchcraft are severely punished. This article explores the possible motivations of these young, disenfranchised women who take up witchcraft and Christianity as one way to negotiate conditions of extreme violence and dislocation in the sprawling urban townships.


Balcomb, A. (2008). Evangelicals and the Democratization of South Africa. In: T.Ranger (ed.), Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in Africa, pp. 191223. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

In his chapter on South Africa, Anthony Balcomb describes the role of evangelicals in the democratization of South Africa. Balcomb asserts that the role of evangelicals in South Africa has been ambivalent and constructs five broad categories of responses from evangelicals: the conservatives, pragmatists, protagonists of the “Third Way,” protagonists of the alternative community, and liberationists. Illustrating each category with a representative figure, he concludes: “the role evangelicals have played in South Africa’s democratization has been varied, complex, and ambivalent, and yet significant nonetheless”.


Comaroff J and Comaroff J. (2003). Second comings: neo-Protestant ethics and millennial capitalism in Africa, and elsewhere. In 2000 Years and Beyond: Faith, Identity and the‘Common Era’, ed. P Gifford, D Archard, TA Hart, N Rapport, pp. 106–26. London: Routledge.

2000 Years and Beyond brings together some of the most eminent thinkers of our time – specialists in philosophy, theology, anthropology and cultural theory. In a horizon-scanning work, they look backwards and forwards to explore what links us to the matrix of the Judaeo-Christian tradition from which Western cultural identity has evolved. Their plural reflections raise searching questions about how we move from past to future – and about who ‘we’ are. What do the catastrophes of the twentieth century signify for hopes of progress? Can post – Enlightment humanism and its notion of human nature survive without faith? If the ‘numinous magic global capitalism’ is our own giant shadow cast abroad, does that shadow offer hope enough of a communal future? Has the modern, secularized West now outgrown its originating faith matrix? Often controversial and sometimes visionary, these seven new essays ask: how do we tell – and rewrite – the story of the Common Era? Introduced by Paul Gifford, and discussed in a lively dialogic conclusion, they add their distinctive voices to a debate of profound and urgent topicality.


Corten A. (1997). The growth of the literature on Afro-American, Latin American and African Pentecostalism. J. Contemp. Relig. 12, 311–34.

How can one go beyond the existing compartmentalisation of the research on Pentecostalism, and still escape the danger of using terms and observed traits in certain movements as if they were general categories? The danger of imposing a ‘white’ Pentecostal model also exists. The road followed in this text places the literature in its socio-cultural conditions and traditions. To be noted is that while it is in Africa that we find the oldest literature (end of the 1940s), with British and French researchers dominating, it is in Latin America that the literature, usually written by Latin Americans, is most plentiful (about 20 books). Interestingly, it is on black US churches that the lack is greatest! This review concludes by arguing for the need of theoretical tools to study religion as a transnational phenomenon.


Corten, A., and R. Marshall-Fratani. (2001). Introduction. In Between Babel and Pentecost: Transnational Pentecostalism in Africa and Latin America. Andre Corten and RuthMarshall-Fratani, eds. pp. 1–21. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Over the past two decades, Latin American and African societies have experienced the phenomenal growth of Pentecostal movements. This book examines the subject from different perspectives, taking into consideration the important transnational character of such movements and their tendency to foster identities which transcend the national and cultural context in which they begin. A recurring theme is that Pentecostalism provides effective tools for dealing with modernity, not by escaping from it but by transforming the relationship of the individual and the community to the past, present and future realities of life.


Engelke, M. (2004). Discontinuity and the Discourse on Conversion. Journal of Religion in Africa, 34(1–2), 82–109.

This paper focuses on the conversion narrative of a man in the Johane Masowe weChishanu Church, an apostolic church in Zimbabwe. Taking up recent discussions within anthropology on Pentecostal and charismatic churches, the author shows how apostolics talk about conversion as a distinct break with ‘African custom’. It is argued that anthropologists of religion need to take such narratives of discontinuity seriously because they allow us to understand better the dynamics of religious change.


Engelke, M. (2005). The Early Days of Johane Masowe: Self-Doubt, Uncertainty, and Religious Transformation. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 47(4), 781–808.

In 1932 a young man called Shoniwa Masedza was working for a cobbler near Salisbury, the capital of Southern Rhodesia. Masedza had come from his home in Makoni, near the border with Portuguese East Africa, in the late 1920s. He had held a number of odd jobs in and around the capital: driving wagons, working as a “garden boy,” apprenticing with a carpenter. Just after starting with the shoemaker, some time around May 1932, Shoniwa fell ill, suffering from “severe pains in the head.” He lost his speech for four months and was “unable to walk about.” During his sickness he studied the Bible “continuously.” He dreamt that he had died, and in the dream he heard a voice saying he was now Johane Masowe—Africa’s “John the Baptist.” Upon recovering, Johane went to a nearby hill called Marimba. He stayed there for forty days, praying to God “day and night” without sleep. He survived on wild honey. Johane was told by a voice (which he believed to be the Voice of God) that he had been “sent from Heaven to carry out religious work among the natives.” He was told also that Africans must burn their witchcraft medicines, and must not commit adultery or rape. After these experiences, Johane no longer suffered from pains in the head.


Engelke, M. (2007). A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Engelke’s case study revolves around the Masowe weChishanu Church in Zimbabwe, also known as the Friday Masowe Church. Following the emergence of Johan Masowe, Africa’s John the Baptist, in the 1930s, the church now comprises a network of adherents who refer to themselves as “apostolics.” What makes these apostolics distinctive is their rejection of the Bible. The rejection derives in part from their view of the Bible as a tool of political subjugation in colonial Africa. More important, according to Engelke, is their sense that the Bible lacks contemporary and personal relevance, written as it was two thousand years ago. He develops this perspective into a far-reaching examination of Christian thought and semiotics, particularly the relationship between language and material culture, on one hand, and representation and authorization, on the other.


Engelke, M. (2010). Past Pentecostalism: Notes on rupture, realignment, and everyday life in Pentecostal and African Independent churches. Africa, 80(2), 177-199.

Pentecostal studies has been one of the most vibrant areas of research in Africa for over twenty years, but is it time we started to look past Pentecostalism? Using some of the most important work in this tradition as a point of departure, this article offers both a critique of and supplement to the Pentecostal literature. It focuses in particular on how we should understand the relationship between Pentecostalism and African Independency by pushing the debates on how to frame their oft-shared desire to ‘break with the past’. Every rupture is also a realignment and how each is conceptualized and understood is a matter not only of discourse but decisions and dilemmas faced in everyday life.


Englund H. (2003). Christian independency and global membership: Pentecostal extraversions in Malawi. J. Relig. Afr. 33, 83– 111.

Recent scholarship on Pentecostalism in Africa has debated issues of transnationalism, globalisation and localisation. Building on Bayart’s notion of extraversion, this scholarship has highlighted Pentecostals’ far-flung networks as resources in the growth and consolidation of particular movements and leaders. This article examines strategies of extraversion among independent Pentecostal churches. The aim is less to assess the historical validity of claims to independency than to account for its appeal as a popular idiom. The findings from fieldwork in a Malawian township show that half of the Pentecostal churches there regard themselves as ‘independent’. Although claims to independency arise from betrayals of the Pentecostal promise of radical equality in the Holy Spirit, independency does sustain Pentecostals’ desire for membership in a global community of believers. Pentecostal independency thus provides a perspective on African engagements with the apparent marginalisation of the sub-continent in the contemporary world. Two contrasting cases of Pentecostal independency reveal similar aspirations and point out the need to appreciate the religious forms of extraversion. Crucial to Pentecostal extraversions are believers’ attempts to subject themselves to a spiritually justified hierarchy


Fernandez, James W. (1978). African religious movements. Annual Review of Anthropology, 7(1): 195-234.

Freeman, D. (2012). Pentecostalism and Development: Churches, NGOs and Social Change in Africa. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

The practice and discipline of development was founded on the belief that religion was not important to development processes. As societies developed and modernised, it was assumed that they would also undergo a process of secularisation. However, the prominence of religion in many countries and its effects on people’s social, political and economic activities calls this assumption into question. Pentecostal Christianity has spread rapidly throughout Africa since the 1980s and has been a major force for change. This book explains why and shows how Pentecostalism articulates with local level development processes. As well as exploring the internal model of ‘development’ which drives Pentecostal organisations, contributors compare Pentecostal churches and secular NGOs as different types of contemporary development agents and discern the different ways in which they bring about change. At the heart of this book, then, is an exploration of processes of individual and social transformation, and their relevance to understandings of the successes and failures of development.


Gifford P. (2001). The complex provenance of some elements of African Pentecostal theology. See Corten & Marshall-Fratani 2001a, pp. 62–79.

Gifford, P. (2004). Ghana’s New Christianity: Pentecostalism in a globalising African Economy. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN.

Who cares about Africa? This seems to be the critical question Paul Gifford broaches in Ghana’s New Christianity: Pentecostalism in a Globalizing Economy. Gifford spends many pages educating the reader about political and economic problems that make life in the African continent difficult. One assumption on which the book is based is that if people in the West were educated regarding the difficulties of the African situation, their response would be forthcoming, but Gifford is not content merely to remind us that more than half of Africa’s 870 million people survive on less than a dollar per day: he points up and points out ways in which Christian churches in Ghana, especially the new Pentecostal churches, contribute to the problems of poverty and lead in the direction of transforming life for many. The book deals with the response of the new Pentecostal churches to socioeconomic and political conditions in Ghana, and it provides a window for understanding the role of Pentecostal churches in West Africa.


Ganiel, G. (2006). Race, Religion and Identity in South Africa: A Case Study of a Charismatic Congregation. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, 12, 555-576.

This article uses a case study of a Pentecostal/charismatic congregation to explore how inclusive, overarching identities are constructed in South Africa. It explores how the congregation’s “culture” impacts on identity formation, contestation and change. It argues that the way people construct their identities correlates with their perceived level of empowerment. It concludes that for an overarching identity to become durable, it must be accompanied by structural changes that dismantle the power imbalances embedded in old racial categories.

Ganiel, G. (2010). Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity in South Africa and Zimbabwe: A Review. Religion Compass, 4(3), 130-143.

Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity is the fastest-growing religion in southern Africa. This article explores its social and political roles, drawing primarily on examples from South Africa and Zimbabwe to illuminate wider trends across the continent. It considers the main competing assessments of Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity in Africa: (1) it is dominated by the ‘prosperity gospel’ and therefore stunts real economic growth and development; (2) it is primarily an apolitical faith that distracts people from their suffering; and (3) it is a Western import that disables the development of African cultures. It concludes that Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity in South Africa and Zimbabwe has included all of these elements. But recent research indicates that Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity is increasingly a socially and politically active religion that is surprisingly well-placed to meet people’s economic and material needs, to empower people to participate in civic and public life, and to promote reconciliation between previously opposing groups

Hackett, R.I.J. (1998). Charismatic/Pentecostal appropriation of media technologies in Nigeria and Ghana. J. Relig. Afr. 28, 258–77.

How do religious collectivities which are predicated on the Word generate images of themselves in the highly competitive religious market- places of many African urban spaces today?’ Focusing on the burgeon- ing Christian charismatic and pentecostal movements of Ghana and Nigeria,’ I explore how and why these movements are increasingly favoring electronic media as suitable sites for the transmission of their teachings and erecting of their empires. I will show how this process, no more than two decades old, both concurs with and challenges their religious ideology. I argue further that these developments result in the transformation of the religious landscape in at least two ways: one, they are facilitating transnational and homogenizing cultural flows, and two, they are taking the connections between these movements and the net- works they create to new, global levels.’ Given my concern to identify African agency in these transnational developments, local forces feature more prominently in the discussion of this paper

Haynes, N. (2012) Pentecostalism and the morality of money: prosperity, inequality, and religious sociality on the Zambian Copperbelt, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 18(1), 123-139.

As part of a growing body of work focused on the social implications of Pentecostal Christianity, this article explores one of the ways that this religion is shaping relational life on the Zambian Copperbelt. Through a discussion of the changing nature of the prosperity gospel, I show how Pentecostalism embeds believers in social relationships that often extend beyond their religious cohort. In the absence of the lavish wealth promised by prosperity gospel preachers, Pentecostals have had to alter their understanding of divinely authored economic success. Specifically, local definitions of prosperity are characterized not by uniform, individualized wealth, but rather by progress along a gradient of material achievement through relationships that span differences in economic status. This retooled version of the prosperity gospel serves to integrate believers into the wider social world by emphasizing material inequality and promoting displays of wealth. Each of these aspects of Copperbelt Pentecostalism embeds its adherents in networks of exchange that are a central component of urban Zambian sociality. This analysis of Pentecostalism expands on studies of this religion that focus only on formal ritual life, while at the same time challenging interpretations of Pentecostalism that have given its social potential short shrift

Hunt, S. (2002). ‘Neither here nor there’: the construction of identities and boundary maintenance of West African Pentecostals. Sociology, 36, 146–69.

The often taken-for-granted `decline of religion’ thesis has frequently led to the failure to recognize the significance of religion in both forging and articulating aspects of identity in the contemporary western context. In addressing such an issue this article seeks to explore the importance of religion in aiding the construction of the identities of West African migrants to Britain through a distinct and innovatory mode of Pentecostalism. While this vibrant form of Christianity has long been understood as a faith relevant to the needs of black ethnic minorities, its changing theodicies and value-orientation have helped the formation of identity and provide meaning to the experiences of a new generation of migrants.


Kalu, O. (2008). African Pentecostalism: An introduction. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Across Africa, Christianity is thriving in all shapes and sizes. But one particular strain of Christianity prospers more than most — Pentecostalism. Pentecostals believe that everyone can personally receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit such as prophecy or the ability to speak in tongues. In Africa, this kind of faith, in which the supernatural is a daily presence, is sweeping the continent. Today, about 107 million Africans are Pentecostals — and the numbers continue to rise. In this book, Ogbu Kalu provides the first ever overview of Pentecostalism in Africa. He shows the amazing diversity of the faith, which flourishes in many different forms in diverse local contexts. While most people believe that Pentecostalism was brought to Africa and imposed on its people by missionaries, Kalu argues emphatically that this is not the case. Throughout the book, he demonstrates that African Pentecostalism is distinctly African in character, not imported from the West. With an even-handed approach, Kalu presents the religion’s many functions in African life. Rather than shying away from controversial issues like the role of money and prosperity in the movement, Kalu describes malpractice when he sees it. The only book to offer a comprehensive look at African Pentecostalism, this study touches upon the movement’s identity, the role of missionaries, media and popular culture, women, ethics, Islam, and immigration. The resulting work will prove invaluable to anyone interested in Christianity outside the West.


Lindhardt, M. (2009). The ambivalence of power: Charismatic Christianity and occult force sin urban Tanzania, in Nordic Journal of Religion and Society 22(1), 37–54.

In this article I explore parallels and dynamic interplays between charismatic Christianity and «traditional» understandings of mysterious power as related to an occult sphere in the city of Iringa in central Tanzania. I discuss how notions of power as constructive and necessary yet also dangerous and potentially destructive are adopted into and partly transformed by charismatic discourses on the realm of darkness and related ritual practices of empowerment, rupture and spiritual struggle. In the end I argue that the relationship between charismatic Christianity and traditional religion/ culture may better be grasped in terms of coevalness, intersections and ongoing mutual influence than temporalising difference.

Key words: charismatic Christianity, ritual, traditional African religion, continuity/discontinuity


Marshall-Fratani, R. (1998). Mediating the global and the local in Nigerian Pentecostalism. J. Relig. Afr. 28, 278–315.

Ruth Marshall-Fratani takes her starting point in the ‘transnationalism’, the nation-state and the media and discusses first the new situation in the world, created these last decades before applying it to “Nigerian Pentecostalism”. One of the questions taken up is to which extent the current wave of Pentecostalism – in urban Nigeria – provides an example of the creation of subjects “whose individual and collective identities seem to have been formed in terms of a new type of negotiation between local and global, one in which the media has a privileged role. (p281) The other question is the way Pentecostalism positions itself vis-à-vis the Nigerian nation-state.


Marshall, R. (2009). Political Spiritualities: The Pentecostal Revolution in Nigeria. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

After an explosion of conversions to Pentecostalism over the past three decades, tens of millions of Nigerians now claim that “Jesus is the answer.” But if Jesus is the answer, what is the question? What led to the movement’s dramatic rise and how can we make sense of its social and political significance? In this ambitiously interdisciplinary study, Ruth Marshall draws on years of fieldwork and grapples with a host of important thinkers—including Foucault, Agamben, Arendt, and Benjamin—to answer these questions. To account for the movement’s success, Marshall explores how Pentecostalism presents the experience of being born again as a chance for Nigerians to realize the promises of political and religious salvation made during the colonial and postcolonial eras. Her astute analysis of this religious trend sheds light on Nigeria’s contemporary politics, postcolonial statecraft, and the everyday struggles of ordinary citizens coping with poverty, corruption, and inequality. Pentecostalism’s rise is truly global, and Political Spiritualities persuasively argues that Nigeria is a key case in this phenomenon while calling for new ways of thinking about the place of religion in contemporary politics.

Maxwell, D. (1998). ‘Delivered from the spirit of poverty?’: Pentecostalism, prosperity and modernity in Zimbabwe. J. Relig. Afr. 28, 350–73.

This paper, based on over a year’s ethnographic and archival research,4 focuses on a particular version of the prosperity gospel propounded by the Zimbabwe Assemblies of God, Africa (ZAOGA), a pentecostal move-ment which claims to be Zimbabwe’s largest church. It argues that, while the movement’s leadership do draw upon various American ver-sions of the prosperity gospel to legitimate their excessive accumulation, its own dominant prosperity teachings have arisen from predominantly southern African sources and are shaped by Zimbabwean concerns. It explains the prevalence of the doctrines not in terms of false conscious-ness or right wing conspiracy but as a means of enabling pentecostals to make the best of rapid social change. For some, the doctrines have engendered social mobility. For others, they provide a code of conduct which guards them from falling into poverty and destitution. For all they provide a pattern for coming to terms with, and benefitting from, modernities’ dominant values and institutions.


McCauley, J. F. (2013). Africa’s New Big Man Rule?: Pentecostalism and Patronage in Ghana. African Affairs, 112(446), 1-21.

The concept of ‘big man rule’, conventionally invoked to refer to a kinship-based relationship between patron and client, is now finding application in the charismatic Pentecostal movement in Africa. This article explores why new Pentecostalism emerges as an alternative to traditional clientelism, and how well the analogy of big man rule applies. It traces the Pentecostal form of big man rule to four socio-economic transformations: ongoing weakness in the state’s ability to provide social welfare; a change in social values in the wake of the global financial crisis; expanding state control over customary activities; and urbanization. Drawing on data collected from both patrons and clients in Ghana, the article shows that Pentecostalism mirrors traditional big man rule by encouraging members to break from their past, to trust leadership, and to commit exclusively to their religious social network. Among church leaders, Pentecostalism also encourages internal competition and the provision of social services. Most importantly, the movement creates pay-off structures that replicate the exchange of resources for loyalty central to big man rule. The implication is that Pentecostalism’s success as an alternative informal institution is not a function of Weberian ethics or occult spiritualities, but rather its ability to fill voids left by the state and to provide new social networks.


Meyer, B. (1998). ‘Make a complete break with the past’: memory and postcolonial modernity in Ghanaian Pentecostal discourse. See Werbner 1998b, pp. 182–208.

In Ghana while such groups in society as Roman Catholic and Protestant mission churches try to come to terms with local traditions and to reconcile old and new ideas in an attempt to develop a genuinely African synthesis, the Pentecostalists oppose this revaluation of tradition and culture. Their emphasis lies on the ‘global’ nature of this variant of Christianity and the need to break away from local traditions. Through an appeal to ‘time’ as an epistemological category, the Pentecostalists are able to create a rift between ‘us’ and ‘them’, between ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ and between ‘God’ and the ‘Devil’. To achieve this in Ghana, Pentecostalism engages in a dialectic of ‘remembering’ and ‘forgetting’. However, it seems that most believers have difficulty in making a complete break. This article looks at how Pentecostalism allows them to address this ambivalent stance towards modernity. The specific Pentecostalist attitude towards the past is placed in the context of postcolonial debates about the importance of the ‘African heritage’ to national culture. The main focus in the article is the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) of Ghana, more specifically that among the Peki Ewe in the Volta Region. Bibliogr., notes, ref. (Another version of this article appears in: Memory and the postcolony : African anthropology and the critique of power, ed. by Richard Werbner, London [etc.], 1998, p. 182-208.)


Meyer, B. (1999a). Commodities and the power of prayer: Pentecostalist attitudes towards consumption in contemporary Ghana. In Globalization and Identity: Dialectics of Flow and Closure, ed. B Meyer, P Geschiere, pp. 151– 76. Oxford: Blackwell.

This article addresses the phenomenal success of pentecostalism, a global religious movement par excellence, throughout postcolonial Africa. Investigating pentecostalist views of and attitudes towards commodities in southern Ghana, the article shows that pentecostalists represent the modern global economy as enchanted and themselves as agents of disenchantment: only through prayer may commodities cease to act as ‘fetishes’ which threaten the personal integrity and identity of their owners. Pentecostalism creates modern consumers through a ritual of prayer, which helps them handle globalization and control foreign commodities in such a way that they can be consumed without danger. Through prayer, commodities cease to possess their owners; the latter are rather enabled to possess the former. Pentecostalism engages in globalization by enabling its members to consume products from the global market and by offering its followers fixed orientation points and a well-delimited moral universe within globalization’s unsettling flows.


Meyer, B. (1999b). Translating the Devil: Religion and Modernity and the Ewe in Ghana. International African Library, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

This is a fascinating study based on extensive anthropological fieldwork that goes beyond many contemporary accounts of African religion that compartmentalize the study of traditional religions, Christian missions, and African independent / indigenous churches. In particular, Meyer attempts to locate and understand the language of those people for whom talk about “the Devil” and other supernatural beings is a living reality in specific social settings and traditions. As such, it is a fine project that addresses real theoretical and practical problems in the study of African religion.


Meyer, B. (2004). Christianity in Africa: From African independent to charismatic-Pentecostal churches. Annual Review of Anthropology, 33, 447-474.

Taking as a point of departure Fernandez’s survey (1978), this review seeks to show how research on African Independent Churches (AICs) has been reconfigured by new approaches to the anthropology of Christianity in Africa, in general, and the recent salient popularity of Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches (PCCs) in particular. If the adjectives “African” and “Independent” were once employed as markers of authentic, indigenous interpretations of Christianity, these terms proved to be increasingly problematic to capture the rise, spread, and phenomenal appeal of PCCs in Africa. Identifying three discursive frames—Christianity and “traditional religion,” Africa and “the wider world,” religion and politics—which organize(d) research on AICs and PCCs in the course of the past 25 years, this chapter critically reviews discussions about “Africanization,” globalization and modernity, and the role of religion in the public sphere in postcolonial African societies


Newell, S. (2007). Pentecostal Witchcraft: Neoliberal Possession and Demonic Discourse in Ivoirian Pentecostal Churches. Journal of Religion in Africa, 37, 461-490.

While Pentecostal churches derive their growing popularity in large part from their ability to combat witchcraft in society, I argue here that Pentecostalism is itself an alternative form of witchcraft discourse. As such, it falls prey to the same ambivalent relationship between power, success and social obligation that witchdoctors and politicians must face. I discuss Pentecostalism and witchcraft in terms of their relationship to neoliberal understandings of individual agency and economy in contrast to the moral economy of social obligations. At the same time I draw parallels between the ritual techniques of Pentecostalism and witchcraft cosmology, demonstrating that, despite Pentecostal churches’ efforts to transcend the power of witchcraft, they in many cases become encompassed by witchcraft discourse, often taking on the appearance of witchcraft itself.


Ojo, M.A. (1997). Sexuality, marriage and piety among charismatics in Nigeria. Religion, 27(1), 65–79.

New religious movements that are sectarian and world-rejecting always attach great importance to teachings and regulations about sexual patterns, marriage, ascetic and radical lifestyles. Likewise, since their emergence in the 1970s, the Nigerian Charismatic movements, through their numerous published pamphlets, Bible studies, magazines, etc. have built up teachings about sexual patterns and marriage for their members as part of the pietistic character of the movements. Charismatics believe that sexuality and matrimony have much bearing on spiritual commitments. The grounds for such a new style of living include the perceived crisis in social and family life in the society, and the need to maintain doctrinal purity as converts join the movements. Many marriage regulations have been easily enforceable because there are similarities between the Charismatics’ moral codes and African traditional religious values. For example, marriage and the family are the bedrock of kinship and it is therefore the most significant feature of African society. Thus, the bulwark for the Charismatics’ teachings is the concern of Africans for social networks, communal living and orderliness in the society


Pfeiffer, J. (2002). African Independent Churches in Mozambique: healing the afflictions of inequality. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 16, 176-99.

The recent explosive proliferation of African Independent Churches (AICs) in central Mozambique coincided with rapid growth of economic disparity in the 1990s produced by privatization, cuts in government services, and arrival of foreign aid promoted by Mozambique’s World Bank/International Monetary Fund Structural Adjustment Program. Drawing on ethnographic research in the city ofChimoio, this article argues that growing inequality has led to declining social cohesion, heightened individual competition, fear of interpersonal violence, and intensified conflict between spouses in poor families. This perilous social environment finds expression in heightened fears of witchcraft, sorcery, and avenging spirits, which are often blamed in Shona ideology for reproductive health problems. Many women with sick children or suffering from infertility turn to AICs for treatment because traditional healers are increasingly viewed as dangerous and too expensive. The AICs invoke the “Holy Spirit” to exorcise malevolent agents and then provide a community of mutual aid and ongoing protection against spirit threats. Keywords: Mozambique, social inequality, African Independent Churches, intrahousehold, health.


Pfeiffer, J. (2005). Commodity fetichismo, the Holy Spirit, and the turn to Pentecostal and African Independent mChurches in Central Mozambique. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 29, 255-83.

Pentecostal and African Independent Churches have rapidly spread throughout central Mozambique in the aftermath of war and in the midst of a recent structural adjustment program that has hastened commoditization of community life and intensified local inequalities. This extraordinary expansion signals a shift away from reliance on “traditional” healers to treat persistent afflictions believed to have spiritual causes. Survey data and illness narratives collected from recent church recruits and local residents during research in 2002 and 2003 in the city of Chimoio reveal that healers have increased fees and tailored treatments to clients searching for good fortune in ways that have alienated many other help seekers in this changing social environment. While traditional healing has been celebrated in the international health world, community attitudes are less generous; many healers are increasingly viewed with suspicion because of their engagement with malevolent occult forces to foment social conflict, competition, and confrontation for high fees. Church healing approaches offer free and less divisive spiritual protection reinforced by social support in a new collectivity. One vital source of church popularity derives from pastors’ efforts to tap the already considerable community anxiety over rising healer fees and their socially divisive treatments in an insecure environment


Smith, D. J. (2001). ‘The arrow of God’ Pentecostalism, inequality, and the supernatural in South Eastern Nigeria Africa, 71(4), 587-613.

In September 1996 the city of Owerri in south-eastern Nigeria erupted in riots over popular suspicion that the town’s nouveaux riches were responsible for a spate of ritual murders allegedly committed in the pursuit of ‘fast wealth’. In addition to destroying the properties of the purported perpetrators, the rioters burned several pentecostal churches. This article examines the place of religion in the Owerri crisis, particularly the central position of pentecostal Christianity in popular interpretations of the riots. While pentecostalism itself fuelled local interpretations that ‘fast wealth’ and inequality were the product of satanic rituals, popular rumours simultaneously accused some pentecostal churches of participating in the very occult practices that created instant prosperity and tremendous inequality. The analysis explores the complex and contradictory place of pentecostalism in the Owerri crisis, looking at the problematic relationship of pentecostalism to structures of inequality rooted in patron-clientism and focusing on the ways in which disparities in wealth and power in Nigeria are interpreted and negotiated through idioms of the supernatural.


Soothill, J. (2007). Gender, Social Change, and Spiritual Power: Charismatic Christianity in Ghana. Brill, Boston.

Charismatic Christianity is the most recent and fastest growing expression of Pentecostal religion in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Ghana’s capital, Accra, the charismatic churches dominate the religious scene. This book focuses on the gender discourses of Ghana’s new churches, and considers charismatic perspectives on womanhood, manhood, marriage and family life. Offering a fresh perspective on the organisational structures of the charismatic churches, this study looks at the leadership roles of female pastors and pastors’ wives, and draws attention to the links between female leaders and spiritual power. By highlighting the importance of spiritual power in interpreting gendered social change, the book sheds new light on the socio-cultural role of Ghana’s new churches.


Van de Kamp, L. (2012). Love Therapy: A Brazilian Pentecostal (Dis)Connection in Maputo. In The Social Life of Connectivity in Africa, edited by Mirjam de Bruijn and Rijk van Dijk. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

This chapter examines this public training of the body in ways of love, such as embracing and kissing, in relation to the changing practices of love an dnew gender roles in Maputo.  I examine Brazilian Pentecostal counseling sessions on love and sexuality as a set of ‘connecting techniques’ where the terapia do amor serves as a key example.  In line with the arguments running through this current volume, connecting techniques are specific forms of linking that people consider to open up new life options, such as the invention of new bodily modes  and relationships.  In the case of the therapy, the connecting techniques have two important meanings.  First, the value of the Brazilian Pentecostal connections for Mozambican urban women is intrinsically related to its transnational aspects.  The transnational Pentecostal bridge allows for disconnecting from existing forms of relating and learning about alternative ways of being and relating.  Second, it appears that the embodiment of specific constructs, tools, or techniques (Foucault 1988) produces love and successful relations.  To connect to alternative forms of love and marriage and to disconnect from older ones, the body plays a central role in realizing connections and effectuating sociocultural change.  The last part of this chapter describes how the new modes of bridging and bonding through the embodiment of Brazilian Pentecostal techniques are also leading to insecure feelings and relationships” (p. 204).


van Dijk, R. (1998). Pentecostalism, cultural memory and the state: contested representations of time in Pentecostal Malawi. See Werbner 1998b, pp. 155–81.

In this chapter, I explore how, in the context of African Pentecostalism, the rupture with the past is intimately linked to an overwhelming orientation — one might say, a rapture — for the future. My analysis of the Pentecostalist movement of Abadwa Mwatsopano (Born-Again) in urban areas of Malawi, and most of all in the largest city, Blantyre, discloses the importance of the experience of the ‘instant’ (instant rebirth, instant healing). Through such experience, subjectivities are constituted which are perceived to be detached from their individual, communal, or even national pasts.


van Dijk, R.A. (1997). From camp to encompassment: discourses of transsubjectivity in the Ghanaian Pentecostal Diaspora. J. Relig. Afr. 27, 135–59.

This article explores the role of religion in identity formation in situations where individuals are engaged in intercontinental diasporic movement, starting from R.P. Werbner’s notion that religion and strangerhood transform together. In particular, the author examines the diaspora of Ghanaians in the Netherlands and the role Ghanaian Pentecostalism appears to play in the forming of their identity as strangers in Dutch society. The author uses the term ‘transsubjectivity’ to indicate those processes by which religion deals with strangerhood as shaped by the power of the modern African and Western nation-State. He distinguishes two discourses in present-day Ghanaian Pentecostalism. The first, which he calls ‘sending’ discourse, involves so-called prayer camps in Ghana, to which (prospective) migrants may turn for spiritual help and protection in their transnational travel. The second, or ‘receiving’, discourse relates to the figure of the Pentecostal leader in the diaspora who represents the “abusua panyin”, the family head. These two discourses ‘inject’ the migrant differently into transnational interconnectedness, and they deal differently with the body personal and the ways in which techniques of the self are employed in constructing the subjectivity of the Ghanaian as migrant and stranger.

Van Klinken, A.S. (2011). Male Headship as Male Agency: An Alternative Understanding of a ‘Patriarchal’ African Pentecostal Discourse on Masculinity in Religion and Gender, 1(1), 104-124.

In some Christian circles in Africa, male headship is a defining notion of masculinity. The central question in this article is how discourses on masculinity that affirm male headship can be understood. A review of recent scholarship on masculinities and religion shows that male headship is often interpreted in terms of male dominance. However, a case study of sermons in a Zambian Pentecostal church shows that discourse on male headship can be far more complex and can even contribute to a transformation of masculinities. The main argument is that a monolithic concept of patriarchy hinders a nuanced analysis of the meaning and function of male headship in local contexts. The suggestion is that in some contexts, male headship can be understood in terms of agency.

Masculinity; agency; patriarchy; Pentecostalism; African Christianity


Van Klinken, A.S. (2012). Men in the Remaking: Conversion Narratives and Born-Again Masculinity in Zambia, in Journal of Religion in Africa, 42, 215-239.

The born-again discourse is a central characteristic of Pentecostal Christianity in Africa. In the study of African Christianities, this discourse and the way it (re)shapes people’s moral, religious, and social identities has received much attention. However, hardly any attention has been paid to its effects on men as gendered beings. In the study of men and masculinities in Africa, on the other hand, neither religion in general nor born-again Christianity in particular are taken into account as relevant factors in the construction of masculinities. On the basis of a detailed analysis of interviews with men who are members of a Pentecostal church in Lusaka, Zambia, this article investigates how men’s gender identities are reshaped by becoming and being born-again and how born-again conversion produces new forms of masculinity. The observed Pentecostal transformation of masculinity is interpreted in relation to men’s social vulnerability, particularly in the context of the HIV epidemic in Zambia.

Werbner R. ed. (1998). Memory and the Postcolony: African Anthropology and the Critique of Power. London: Zed Books.

The critique of power in contemporary Africa calls for a new approach to the making of political subjectivities. Through theoretically informed anthropology, this book meets the urgent need to rethink our understanding of the moral and political force of memory, its official and unofficial forms, its moves between the personal and the social in postcolonial transformations.Memory and the Postcolony brings these transformations into perspective. It is divided into three sections in which distinguished anthropologists explore death and subjectivity; the memory work of elections and public commissions; and fundamentalism and the future.





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