Evangelism and Consumer Culture in Northern Tanzania


Ethnographic description of a revival camp in Northern Tanzania illustrates how the social idea of "youth as consumers" emerges in the context of government downsizing and expanding international markets. An evangelical message effects a link between religion and consumerism. It imbues decisions about what to buy with moral understandings of good and evil. At the same time, the interconnection of evangelism and consumerism gives rise to a paradox: that "youth" who are supposed to be Born Again, and as such, removed from the temptations of consumer culture, in many cases identify themselves as experts in consumption. Participants' descriptions of themselves as consumers point to the consumerist values that underlie revivalism. They also show how "youthful consumption" itself is influenced by alternative registers of value and understandings of personhood.