Gender, Pentecostalism and Diaspora

Subversions, inversions, redefinitions

Bergen, 12-14 March 2014

University of Bergen

Department of Social Anthropology

Seminar Room, 8th-9th Floor


Gender, as we know has always played a paradoxical role in Pentecostalism: on the one hand Pentecostal theologies convey, through the conversion narrative, ruptures and liberations vis-à-vis given inherited gender traditions and relationalities, conveying new senses of egalitarian community and affecting domesticity. On the other, from a demographic and political point of view most Pentecostal churches remain a highly unequal system where, despite the majority of feminine frequency and adhesion, places of power and authority remain mostly masculine.

Part of this paradox can be explained through another dilemma brought about by Pentecostalism: it is informed as a global, supra-cultural ethos, but relies in a constant process of cultural ‘localization’, in order to adjust its own dialectics of conversion and transformation. It is intrinsic and extrinsically framed as a trans-global phenomenon, but ‘succeeds’ through its conversion into ‘autochthony’, absorbing and reconfiguring cultural logics. But a third dilemma also appears in the equation: the simultaneous rooting of Pentecostalism in ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’. Pentecostalism is frequently framed as the individualistic, psychologizing consequence of modernity (or post-modernity), while it constantly refers to an idea of Biblical tradition that is pre-modern: that of the Pentecostal gift or charisma. Finally, one could also argue that such dilemmas and paradoxes stem from an all-encompassing understanding of ‘Pentecostalism’ as an umbrella term that covers highly disparate expressions.

In this workshop we intend to complexify these dilemmas from a specific perspective: that of the diasporization of Pentecostal movements and the consequent processes of subversion, inversion and redefinition it spouts, especially in what concerns political and experiential domains. These processes, guided by the act of mobility, affect church members – as believers and migrants – in their quotidian, day-to-day life, but also in terms of morality, aspirations and self-conceptions. If migration is, by definition, a life-changing experience, how does it couple with conversion narratives and moral aspirations produced within Pentecostal communities? The question remains open: can we talk about a ‘diasporic pentecostalism’ in the same terms as others have talked about ‘diasporic religions’? What are the implications of this in terms of ‘zones’ of anthropological comparison (African, South American, Melanesian Pentecostalisms, etc.)? Possible themes for this workshop could be:


– Gender and Christian pluralism: spaces of confrontation and adaptation;

– Transporting or discovering Pentecostalism: debating trajectories of belief and adherence;

– (Re)defining moral territories and moral communities in transnational perspective;

– Spaces of subversion versus spaces of continuity in diasporic context;

– Rethinking ‘tradition’ and ‘culture’ in diasporic contexts: Christianity and Pentecostalism as agents of traditionalization.



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