Northwestern Events Calendar


Wednesdays@PAS: Born-Again Demonization of “African Tradition”

When: Wednesday, November 9, 2016
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM  

Where: 620 Library Place, 1st Floor Conference Room, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Program of African Studies   847.491.7323

Group: Program of African Studies

Category: Lectures & Meetings


Come join PAS for our weekly lunch and lecture. Lunch provided by PAS.

Speaker: Silvia Cristofori, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Link Campus University, Rome

Title: Born-Again Demonization of “African Tradition”

Abstract: Since the Nineties, when the Born-Again movement began to gain anthropologists’ attention, the complex relationship between Pentecostal salvation and “African tradition” has been highlighted in particular thanks to Birgit Meyer’s work. Actually, the configuration of tradition and its integration in Christianity as the satanic counterpart of God do not exclusively characterize Pentecostal spirituality but also other past African Christian experiences. Yet Pentecostalism has provided this configuration with a polarized order which clearly opposes evil and good, tradition and salvation, past curse and current experience of Pentecost.

Several attempts have been made to explain the reasons and implications of this paradoxical condemnation which never dismisses “tradition”. Their approaches and conclusions have been different and often conflicting, so that the Born-Again movement has been interpreted as a form of domestication of modernity or a response to material crisis. Likewise its spread has been seen as a sign of the failure of the modernization process or as an evidence of the existence of different kinds of modernity. While its empowering rituals and discourses have raised the question whether Pentecostalism is a sort of adaptation of the impoverished people to neoliberalism or, rather, a kind of resistance in terms of “revenge of paganism” against western logos.

The principal purpose of the seminar will be to offer an overview of the main achievements and difficulties of these accounts of Pentecostalism in order to demonstrate how the Born-Again movement has been challenging pivotal notions in anthropology and African studies such as culture and resistance. This presentation will be carried out by analyzing some passages from Pentecostal devotional literature which contain explicit references to the Bible.

Bio: Silvia Cristofori is Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Link Campus University (Rome, Italy) and Researcher at the Foundation of Religious Sciences (Fscire, Bologna, Italy) - National Research Infrastructure for Historical Religious Studies.  She has carried out field and archive research (in Rwanda, Italy and France) on religious and political Christian movements in modern and contemporary Africa, which continues to be her main research subject. Her publications include a book on the Pentecostal movement in post-genocide Rwanda (L'Harmattan 2011).

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