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Looking Back into Religious Futures: Dynamics of Resilience and Mutation in African Religionscapes (3/3)

Panel Chairs: Afe Adogame, Ezra Chitando | Tuesday, August 25, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

The historical and cultural significance of African religious traditions can be partly discerned in their dynamism, plurality and multivocality in Africa and the African diaspora. Religious vitality and revitalization are very pronounced, just as African religiosities negotiate resilience, transformation and change in a fast globalizing era. The internationalization of African religions and spiritualities therefore opens new challenges about their nature, scope and identity; issues of terminology, originality, and authenticity; but also renewed contestations of resilience, continuity and change between local/global contexts. This panel interrogates how the sustained mutual encounter, influence and interaction between indigenous and exogenous religions including Christianity, Islam, eastern and western-related spiritualities, that characterize Africa’s religious landscape, continue to (re)produce old and new religious constellations. The panel will also explore how and to what extent the global dimension of African religions and spiritualities, introduced to new geo-cultural contexts through migration and media technologies, is manifesting in varied forms

Damaris Parsitau

Global Pulpits, Traveling Words and the Circulation of saints and images: Spiritual Geographies and the Globalization of Prophecy in the National Holiness and Repentance Ministry in Kenya

In this paper, I examine the rise of the National Holiness and Repentance Ministry (NHRM), led and founded by self-styled Prophet Dr David Owour. This new spirituality has brought about a new dynamism, revitalization, vitality and transformation into the Kenya’s public and spiritual spheres and beyond. Based on recent religious ethnography, I argue that the NHRM not only bring about a new vitality and change but also attempts to negotiate this dynamism beyond Kenya and beyond. In so doing, the NRHM opens new challenges about its scope, nature and identity through a spiritualization of geographies and space through the circulation of words, images, ideas, prophecy and saints to create some sort of global pulpits. This spiritualization of geographies and circulation of images, words and prophecies leads to a reconfiguration of social and territorial contexts that attempts to connect the local and the global thereby introducing new geo-cultural contexts through circulation of images.

Bettina Schmidt

African religionscape in Brazil: A discussion of the dynamics of resilience and mutation of Africa in Brazil

Religious vitality and resilience are clearly recognizable when looking at the Brazilian religious landscape. However, the question who represents Africa in Brazil highlights a complex and dynamic situation. On one side we have a range of religious traditions such as Candomblé, Xangô and Tambor da Minha that are often combined under labels such as African Matrix. For a long time they were portrayed as the true African heritage in Brazil. But this view overlooks that Brazilians of non-African descent have been involved in these religions for at least a century. The globalization of African spirituality has only increased this development. On the other side we find a growing number of Evangelical churches which recruit mainly in social deprived areas and claim to represent the black voice in Brazil, the Afro-Brazilian population today. In this paper I look at the challenges that arise from this complex landscape. I argue that Candomblé and the other religious traditions offer the ritualistic continuity to Africa. They embody in their rituals Africa’s past, present and future. However, these rituals are not limited to a racial group but open to Brazilians of all colours while evangelical churches become indeed the new voice of Afro-Brazilian people.

Babatunde Adedibu

Can a Leopard Change its Skin? Space Contestation, Creativity and Ritualization of African Pentecostal-led Churches in London

The emergence and proliferation of African Pentecostalism in the urban cities across Britain and North America, further attest to the role of religion in migration. In spite of their religious subscriptions, African Pentecostals also travel with their socio-cultural values to the West. This has resulted in the emergence of Christianities that is reflective of the African cosmologies. In the light of migration experiences of members of these churches, a great deal of space contestation, creativity and repackaging of religious ideals have evolved in the diaspora. However, the fluidity of religious practices amongst these churches in diaspora has generated questions on the extent of the contextualization of their religious creativity and ritualization in a new cultural frontier. This paper aims to make use of ethnographical research methodology to explore issues of space contestation amongst African Pentecostal led Churches in London, their creativity and ritualization introduced to new cultural frontier through migration and media technologies, manifesting in various expressions.

Amos Chewachong

Pentecostalism in Cameroon and ‘the Powers that be’: A Discursive examination of Ecumenism and Church-State relations of a Transnational Pentecostal church

The influx of Nigerian Pentecostal churches into Cameroon especially within the last three decades represents another dimension of transnational movements and their complex relationships within host territories. The consistent demonization of these groups both by existing mainline historic churches and state authorities in Cameroon is an example of power dynamics and contestations amongst religious groups and church authorities. Using the Nigerian Winners’ Chapel Pentecostal church as a case study, the basic question I will seek to answer in this paper is: How do the various relationships forged by the Winners’ Chapel influence the Church’s missionary praxis in Cameroon? The paper will contribute to ongoing discussions about the complex mission dynamics of African Pentecostal churches in their cross-border expansion within the African continent.


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