Spirits and Letters: Reading, Writing and Charisma in African Christianity

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Berghahn Books, May 1, 2008 - Social Science - 288 pages

Studies of religion have a tendency to conceptualise ‘the Spirit’ and ‘the Letter’ as mutually exclusive and intrinsically antagonistic. However, the history of religions abounds in cases where charismatic leaders deliberately refer to and make use of writings. This book challenges prevailing scholarly notions of the relationship between ‘charisma’ and ‘institution’ by analysing reading and writing practices in contemporary Christianity. Taking up the continuing anthropological interest in Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity, and representing the first book-length treatment of literacy practices among African Christians, this volume explores how church leaders in Zambia refer to the Bible and other religious literature, and how they organise a church bureaucracy in the Pentecostal-charismatic mode. Thus, by examining social processes and conflicts that revolve around the conjunction of Pentecostal-charismatic and literacy practices in Africa, Spirits and Letters reconsiders influential conceptual dichotomies in the social sciences and the humanities and is therefore of interest not only to anthropologists but also to scholars working in the fields of African studies, religious studies, and the sociology of religion.

 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Part IHistories and Ethnographies
31
CH 1Colonial literacies
33
CH 2Passages configurations traces
53
CH 3Schooled literacy schooled religion
71
Part IILiterate Religion
83
CH 4Literate cultures in a material world
85
CH 5Indices to the scriptural
95
CH 10Setting Texts in Motion
145
CH 11Missions in writing
155
CH 12Enablements to literacy
169
Part IVBureaucracy in the PentecostalCharismatic mode
181
CH 13Offices and the Dispersion of Charisma
183
CH 14Positions of writers positions in writings
201
CH 15Outlines for the future documents of the immediate
213
CH 16Bureaucracy inbetween
227

CH 6The fringes of Christianity
105
CH 7Thoughts about Religions of the book
117
Part IIIWays of Reading
123
CH 8Texts readers spirit
125
CH 9Evanescence and the necessity of intermediation
137
CH 17Epilogue
243
Bibliography
247
Index
267
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Thomas G. Kirsch is professor for Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Konstanz. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) in 2002 and taught at the Department of Anthropology and Philosophy in Halle (Saale) and at the Department of Anthropology at Goldsmiths College, University of London, before coming to the University of Konstanz in 2009. Between 1993 and 2001, he conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Zambia. He has published a book on African Christianity in Zambia and articles in some of the major refereed journals for anthropology and sociology in Germany. Other articles were published in the journals American Anthropologist (2004), Visual Anthropology (2006) and American Ethnologist (2007). Since 2003, he has also conducted fieldwork and published on issues of human safety, security and crime prevention in South Africa.

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