Continuity and Discontinuity

Pentecostalism and Cultural Change in a Liberian Refugee Camp in Ghana


  • Jonas Paul Ecke Purdue University



Pentecostalism, Forced Migration, Liberian refugees, Ghana


This article explores the cultural change generated by Pentecostalism among Liberian refugees in Ghana, who fled from their nation’s civil wars to a refugee camp in Ghana’s Central Region. Anthropologists of religion have argued that Pentecostal conversions have in large parts become popular because they enable a “break with the past.” Liberian converts, as well, seek to distance themselves from a past that is mired in conflict. To this end, they connect to global Pentecostal networks in an attempt to overcome their marginal status. In so doing, many of them reject aspects of their past, which they associate with the Liberian civil wars, for example traditional belief systems, ethnic identity, and the Liberian gerontocracy. Yet, as the ethnographic examples illustrate, this “break with the past” is rarely complete. This study’s findings are related to debates on whether anthropology of religion should focus on “continuity” or “discontinuity” in exploring religious conversions. The author argues that the religious experiences of Liberians in exile can only be understood by paying attention to the interplay and tensions between continuity and discontinuity.

Author Biography

Jonas Paul Ecke, Purdue University

Jonas Ecke is an anthropology PhD student at Purdue University. Aside from his academic research, he also worked with non-profit organizations such as CARE in Ghana. During his time in Ghana, he became fascinated by the cultural changes compelled by Pentecostalism. His research has been enabled by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Purdue Research Foundation (PRF), as well as Purdue Global Synergy Fund, awarded by the School of Liberal Arts.


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How to Cite

Ecke, J. P. (2015). Continuity and Discontinuity: Pentecostalism and Cultural Change in a Liberian Refugee Camp in Ghana. PentecoStudies, 14(1), 42–71.