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Christianity and Public Culture in Africa

Harri Englund

Publication Year: 2011

Christianity and Public Culture in Africa takes the reader beyond Africa’s apparent exceptionalism. African Christians have created new publics, often in ways that offer fresh insights into the symbolic and practical boundaries separating the secular and the sacred, the private and the public, and the liberal and the illiberal. Critical reason and Christian convictions have combined in surprising ways when African Christians have engaged with vital public issues such as national constitutions and gender relations, and with literary imaginings and controversies over tradition and HIV/AIDS.

The contributors demonstrate how the public significance of Christianity varies across time and place. They explore rural Africa and the continent’s major cities, and colonial and missionary situations, as well as mass-mediated ideas and images in the twenty-first century. They also reveal the plurality of Pentecostalism in Africa and keep in view the continent’s continuing denominational diversity. Students and scholars will find these topical studies to be impressive in scope. 

Published by: Ohio University Press

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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix

This volume is a result of the Cambridge/Africa Collaborative Research Programme, which brought four of its contributors to the University of Cambridge for a period of research in 2007–8. The visits were made possible by support from the Leverhulme Trust. The conference at which versions of the chapters were presented was hosted and partly funded...

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Introduction: Rethinking African Christianities

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pp. 1-24

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, human tragedy and subsequent surveillance were not the only consequences of epoch-making terrorist attacks in the United States. They also heralded a public outcry over the impact of religion on the hearts and minds of apparently gullible believers. Not only was one religion in particular the target of the...

Part 1: Missionary and Nationalist Encounters

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1: Christian Mission Stations in South-Central Africa: Eddies in the Flow of Global Culture

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pp. 27-49

The cl ch

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2: Debating the Secular in Zambia: The Response of the Catholic Church to Scientific Socialism and Christian Nation, 1976–2006

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pp. 50-66

In December 1991 the newly elected president of Zambia, Frederick Chiluba, made the following announcement: “On behalf of the nation I have entered into a covenant law with the living God. And therefore I want to make the following declaration. I declare today that I submit myself as president to the lordship of Jesus Christ. I likewise submit the...

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3: Rejection or Reappropriation?: Christian Allegory and the Critique of Postcolonial Public Culture in the Early Novels of Ngugıwa Thiong'o

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pp. 67-85

In 1986 the Association Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa, representing Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, observed, “The African creative writers usually exhibit a social conscience, although, rightly or wrongly, they have be...

Part 2: Patriarchy and Public Culture

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4: The Implications of Reproductive Politics for Religious Competition in Niger

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pp. 89-108

“ Fertility differences by religion in West Africa, when they occur,” Jennifer Johnson-Hanks writes, “are neither a stable effect of the Muslim religion nor a straightforward consequence of economics but, rather, the result of an interaction between the two. We must conclude that social context and national politics mediate the association between...

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5: Public Debates about Luo Widow Inheritance: Christianity, Tradition, and AIDS in Western Kenya

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pp. 109-130

Since the 1990s Luo culture, in the form of the levirate, or so-called widow inheritance, has become the focus of heated public debate in western Kenya and beyond in relation to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.1 Reports in the East African media, such as the article quoted above...

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6: “Arise, Oh Ye Daughters of Faith”: Women, Pentecostalism, and Public Culture in Kenya

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pp. 131-145

A striking feature of Pentecostalism in Kenya is the proliferation of ordained female church leaders, many of whom are founders, presidents, bishops, evangelists, healers, or prophetesses in these churches. Moreover, women who are single, divorced, or widowed have assumed leadership roles in both religious and seemingly secular circles. While...

Part 3: A Plurality of Pentecostal Publics

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7: Going and Making Public: Pentecostalism as Public Religion in Ghana

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pp. 149-166

Religion in the public sphere and public religion have recently become much-debated issues and research foci in the study of religion, identity, and politics in Africa. There are good empirical reasons to evoke these and related terms so as to further our understanding of the place and role of religion in society, as I have also experienced...

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8: From Spiritual Warfare to Spiritual Kinship: Islamophobia and Evangelical Radio in Malawi

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pp. 167-188

Following the hotly contested presidential and parliamentary elections of 1999, mosques and churches became the targets of arson attacks in some parts of Malawi. During the campaign, leading politicians rarely highlighted religious differences between the incumbent, Bakili Muluzi, a Muslim, and his main rival, Gwanda Chakuamba...

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9: Believing Practically and Trusting Socially in Africa: The Contrary Case of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in Durban, South Africa

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pp. 189-203

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) in South Africa presents an ethnographic anomaly, if not in the broad school of religious studies, then at least in the study of Christianity in Africa.1 Pastors of the UCKG actively discourage intimate, emotional relationships with God and instead encourage members to engage in...

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10: The Gospel of Public Image in Ghana

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pp. 204-216

Is all that Pentecostalism has to offer a parochial religious orientation that has no effect on public culture more generally? Conflating Pentecostalism with the prosperity, or faith, gospel, Paul Gifford argued in 1991 that the sociopolitical effect of that gospel and born-again fundamentalist theology was to neglect or undermine developmental...


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pp. 217-232


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pp. 233-234


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pp. 235-238

E-ISBN-13: 9780821443668
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821419458

Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Christianity and politics -- Africa, Sub-Saharan.
  • Africa, Sub-Saharan -- Church history.
  • Christianity and culture -- Africa, Sub-Saharan.
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