Religious Return Mobility in Pentecostalized Kenya

Authors

  • Yonatan N. Gez Arnold Bergstraesser Institute

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/pent.41886

Keywords:

religious mobility, return mobility, Pentecostalism, Kenya, lived religion

Abstract

Based on extensive fieldwork in urban Kenya, this paper grapples with one thematic question and one conceptual question. On the thematic side, it considers the under-explored countertrend of Kenyans who, having turned to Pentecostalism, eventually return to their former, mainline-Protestant or Catholic denomination. Such reverting raises questions concerning personal attachments, social contexts and pressures, and the unidirectionality of born-again conversions. On the conceptual side, the paper frames this phenomenon using the notion of “return religious mobility”, which I propose is best suited to the lived-religion approach. More broadly, the paper emphasizes the ongoing relevance of people’s often-invisible religious histories, raising methodological and epistemological questions that go not only beyond formal membership binarism but also beyond the presentist bias as reflected through exclusive attention to de facto practice.

Author Biography

Yonatan N. Gez, Arnold Bergstraesser Institute

Yonatan N. Gez is a social anthropologist studying international development and religion in East Africa. He currently serves as a Humboldt Fellow at the Arnold Berstraesser Institute in Freiburg (Germany) and as a research fellow at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva (Switzerland), where he is a deputy PI on a Franco-Swiss research project titled Self-Accomplishment and Local Moralities in East Africa (Project SALMEA). His most recent monograph is Butinage: The Art of Religious Mobility (University of Toronto Press, 2021, co-authored with Yvan Droz, Jeanne Rey and Edio Soares).

References

Anderson, A., Bergunder, M., Droogers, A. F. and van der Laan, C. 2010. Studying Global Pentecostalism: Theories and Methods. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Anderson, Allan. 2010. “Varieties, Taxonomies, and Definitions”. In Allan Anderson, Michael Bergunder, Andre Droogers and Cornelis van der Leer (eds), Studying Global Pentecostalism: Theories and Methods, 13–29. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Asad, Talal. 1993. Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Asamoah-Gyadu, J. Kwabena. 2013. Contemporary Pentecostal Christianity: Interpretations from an African Context. Oxford: Regnum Books International.

Barbour, John D. 1994. Versions of Deconversion: Autobiography and the Loss of Faith. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press.

Bialecki, Jon, Haynes, Naomi and Robbins, Joel. 2008. “The Anthropology of Christianity”. Religion Compass 2(6): 1139–58. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-8171.2008.00116.x

Birman, Patricia. 1996. “Cultos de possessao e pentecostalismo no Braisl: Passagens”. Religiao & Sociedade 17(1–2): 90–109.

Bocquier, Philippe, Otieno, Alfred T. A., Khasakhala, Anne A. and Owuor, Samuel. 2009. Urban Integration in Africa: A Socio-Demographic Survey of Nairobi. Dakar: CODESRIA.

Carling, Jørgen, Mortensen, Elin Berstad and Wu, Jennifer. 2011. A Systematic Bibliography on Return Migration. Oslo: Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

Clark, Elmer T. 1929. The Psychology of Religious Awakening. New York: Macmillan.

Constant, Amelie and Massey, Douglas S. 2003. “Self-Selection, Earnings, and Out-migration: A Longitudinal Study of Immigrants to Germany”. Journal of Population Economics 16(4): 631–53. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-003-0168-8

Davis, Natalie Zemon. 2006. Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds. New York: Hill and Wang.

Deacon, Gregory. 2015a. “Driving the Devil Out: Kenya’s Born-Again Election”. Journal of Religion in Africa 45(2): 200–220. https://doi.org/10.1163/15700666-12340042

Deacon, Gregory. 2015b. “Kenya: A Nation Born Again”. PentecoStudies 14: 219–40. https://doi.org/10.1558/ptcs.v14i2.26825

Deacon, Gregory. 2017. “‘I Will Make You into a Great Nation, and I Will Bless You’: Citizens, Traitors and Christianity in Kenya”. In Barbara Bompani and Caroline Valois (eds), Christian Citizens and the Moral Regeneration of the African State, 149–62. New York: Routledge.

Deacon, Gregory. 2020. “The Political Role of Christian Churches”. In Nic Cheeseman, Karuti Kanyinga and Gabrielle Lynch (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Kenyan Politics, 137–49. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Droz, Yvan. 2002. “Esquisse d’une anthropologie de la conversion: Pratiques religieuses et organisation sociale en pays kikuyu”. In Raymond Massé and Jean Benoist (eds), Convocations thérapeutiques du sacré, 81–103. Paris: Karthala.

Droz, Yvan and Maupeu, Hervé. 2013. “Christianismes et démocratisation au Kenya”. Social Compass 60(1): 79–96. https://doi.org/10.1177/0037768612471771

Eggers, Denise. 1997. “Versions of Deconversion: Autobiography and the Loss of Faith (Review)”. Biography 20(1): 103–5. https://doi.org/10.1353/bio.2010.0093

Elisha, Omri. 2017. “Proximations of Public Religion: Worship, Spiritual Warfare, and the Ritualization of Christian Dance”. American Anthropologist 119(1): 73–85. https://doi.org/10.1111/aman.12819

Engelke, Matthew. 2010. “Past Pentecostalism: Notes on Rupture, Realignment, and Everyday Life in Pentecostal and African Independent Churches”. Africa 80(2): 177–99. https://doi.org/10.3366/afr.2010.0201

Fabian, Johannes. 1983. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. New York: Columbia University Press.

Fazzino, Lori L. 2014. “Leaving the Church Behind: Applying a Deconversion Perspective to Evangelical Exit Narratives”. Journal of Contemporary Religion 29(2): 249–66. https://doi.org/10.1080/13537903.2014.903664

Friedmann, Yohanan. 2003. Tolerance and Coercion in Islam: Interfaith Relations in the Muslim Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gez, Yonatan N. 2018. Traditional Churches, Born Again Christianity, and Pentecostalism: Religious Mobility and Religious Repertoires in Urban Kenya. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gez, Yonatan N. 2021. “The Vetting Impasse: The ‘Churches Law’ and Kenya’s Religious Regulation Debate”. Journal of Religion in Africa 50(1–2): 54–78. https://doi.org/10.1163/15700666-12340181

Gez, Yonatan N., Beider, Nadia and Dickow, Helga. Forthcoming. “African and not Religious: The State of Research on Sub-Saharan Religious Nones and New Scholarly Horizons”. Africa Spectrum.

Gez, Yonatan N. and Droz, Yvan. 2017. “The Sheep-Stealing Dilemma: The Ambiguities of Church Visits in Kenya”. Journal of Religion in Africa 47: 163–89. https://doi.org/10.1163/15700666-12340103

Gez, Yonatan N. and Droz, Yvan. 2019. “‘It’s All under Christianity’: Religious Territories in Kenya”. Journal of Africana Religions 7(1): 37–61. https://doi.org/10.5325/jafrireli.7.1.0037

Gez, Yonatan N. and Droz, Yvan. 2020. “Breakthroughs, Blockages, and the Path to Self-Accomplishment: The Case of Pentecostal Church Founders in Kenya”. Africa Today 67(2–3): 151–74. https://doi.org/10.2979/africatoday.67.2-3.08

Gez, Yonatan N., Droz, Yvan, Soares, Edio and Rey, Jeanne. 2017. “From Converts to Itinerants: Religious Butinage as Dynamic Identity”. Current Anthropology 58(2): 141–59. https://doi.org/10.1086/690836

Gifford, Paul. 2004. Ghana’s new Christianity: Pentecostalism in a Globalizing African Economy. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Gitau, Wanjiru M. 2018. Megachurch Christianity Reconsidered: Millennials and Social Change in African Perspective. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Gmelch, George. 1980. “Return Migration”. Annual Review of Anthropology 9: 135–59. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.an.09.100180.001031

Gooren, Henri. 2010. Religious Conversion and Disaffiliation: Tracing Patterns of Change in Faith Practices. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hall, David D. (ed.). 1997. Lived Religion in America: Toward a History of Practice. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Haynes, Naomi. 2015. “‘Zambia Shall Be Saved!’ Prosperity Gospel Politics in a Self-proclaimed Christian Nation”. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 19(1): 5–24. https://doi.org/10.1525/nr.2015.19.1.5

James, William. 1902. The Varieties of Religious Experience; A Study in Human Nature. New York; London: Longmans, Green, and Co.

Johnson, T. M. and Zurlo, G. A. 2020. Kenya. In T. M. Johnson and G. A. Zurlo (eds), World Christian Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved from https://referenceworks.brillonline.com/browse/world-christian-encyclopedia-online.

Kalu, Ogbu. 2008. African Pentecostalism: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kavulla, Travis R. 2008. “‘Our Enemies are God’s Enemies’: The Religion and Politics of Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, MP”. Journal of Eastern African Studies 2(2): 254–63. https://doi.org/10.1080/17531050802058369

Keane, Webb. 2007. Christian Moderns: Freedom and Fetish in the Mission Encounter, vol. 1. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Lauterbach, Karen. 2010. “Becoming a Pastor: Youth and Social Aspirations in Ghana”. Young 18(3): 259–78. https://doi.org/10.1177/110330881001800302

Lindhardt, Martin. 2010. “‘If You Are Saved You Cannot Forget Your Parents’: Agency, Power, and Social Repositioning in Tanzanian Born-Again Christianity”. Journal of Religion in Africa 40(3): 240–72. https://doi.org/10.1163/157006610X530330

Mary, André. 2003. “Parcours visionnaires et passeurs de frontières”. Anthropologie et Sociétés 27(1): 11–130. https://doi.org/10.7202/007004ar

McClendon, Gwyneth H. and Riedl, Rachel Beatty. 2019. From Pews to Politics: Religious Sermons and Political Participation in Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McGuire, Meredith B. 2008. Lived Religion: Faith and Practice in Everyday Life. New York: Oxford University Press.

Meyer, Birgit. 1998. “‘Make a Complete Break with the Past”: Memory and Post-Colonial Modernity in Ghanaian Pentecostalist Discourse”. Journal of Religion in Africa 28(3): 316–49. https://doi.org/10.1163/157006698X00044

Needham, Rodney. 1972. Belief, Language, and Experience. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Nock, Arthur D. 1933. Conversion. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ntarangwi, Mwenda. 2016. The Street Is My Pulpit: Hip Hop and Christianity in Kenya. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Pace, Enzo. 2009. “Convert, Revert, Pervert”. In Conversion in the Age of Pluralism, 189–212. Brill.

Parsitau, Damaris Seleina and Mwaura, Philomena Njeri. 2010. “God in the city: Pentecostalism as an urban phenomenon in Kenya”. Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae 36(2): 95–112.

Parsitau, Damaris and van Klinken, Adriaan. 2018. “Pentecostal Intimacies: Women and Intimate Citizenship in the Ministry of Repentance and Holiness in Kenya”. Citizenship Studies 22(6): 586–602. https://doi.org/10.1080/13621025.2018.1494903

Pew Research Center. 2010. Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.

Premawardhana, Devaka. 2018. Faith in Flux: Pentecostalism and Mobility in Rural Mozambique. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Ravenstein, E. G. 1985. “The Laws of Migration”. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 48: 167–227.

Rhoades, Robert. 1979. “Toward an Anthropology of Return Migration”. Papers in Anthropology 20(1): i–iii. https://doi.org/10.2307/2979181

Richardson, James T. (ed.). 1978. Conversion Careers: In and Out of the New Religions. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Robbins, Joel. 2007. “Continuity Thinking and the Problem of Christian Culture: Belief, Time, and the Anthropology of Christianity”. Current Anthropology 48(1): 5–38. https://doi.org/10.1086/508690

Shipley, Jesse Weaver. 2009. “Comedians, Pastors, and the Miraculous Agency of Charisma in Ghana”. Cultural Anthropology 24(3): 523–52. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1360.2009.01039.x

Simonsohn, Uriel. 2013. “‘Halting Between Two Opinions’: Conversion and Apostasy in Early Islam”. Medieval Encounters 19(3): 342–70. https://doi.org/10.1163/15700674-12342141

Smilde, David. 2007. Reason to Believe: Cultural Agency in Latin American Evangelicalism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Soares, Edio. 2009. Le butinage religieux: pratiques et pratiquants au Brésil. Geneva: Institut de hautes études internationales et du développement.

Starbuck, Edwin D. 1899. The Psychology of Religion. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Streib, Heinz. 2014. “Deconversion”. In Lewis Ray Rambo and Charles E. Farhadian (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion, 271–96. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stromberg, Peter G. 1993. Language and Self-Transformation: A Study of the Christian Conversion Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Subrahmanyam, Sanjay. 2011. Three Ways to be Alien: Travails and Encounters in the Early Modern World. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press.

Togarasei, Lovemore. 2005. “Modern Pentecostalism as an Urban Phenomenon: The Case of the Family of God Church in Zimbabwe”. Exchange: Journal of Missiological and Ecumenical Research 34(4): 349–75. https://doi.org/10.1163/157254305774851484

Travisano, Richard. 1970. “Alternation and Conversion as Qualitatively Different Transformations”. In Gregory P. Stone and Harvey A. Farberman (eds), Social Psychology Through Symbolic Interaction, 594–606. Waltham, MA: Ginn Blaisdell.

Van de Kamp, Linda. 2016. Violent Conversion: Brazilian Pentecostalism and Urban Women in Mozambique, Religion in Transforming Africa. Rochester, NY: James Currey.

Wafula, Elizabeth Were. 2003. “Inter-denominational Mobility of the Faithful among Churches in Nairobi”. MA dissertation, University of Nairobi.

Wariboko, Nimi. 2014. Nigerian Pentecostalism. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

Wijsen, Franz. 2007. Seeds of Conflict in a Haven of Peace: From Religious Studies to Interreligious Studies in Africa. Amsterdam: Rodopi. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789401204286

Wilson, John and Sherkat, Darren E. 1994. “Returning to the Fold”. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 33(2): 148–61. https://doi.org/10.2307/1386601

Wuthnow, Robert J. 2011. “Taking Talk Seriously: Religious Discourse as Social Practice”. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 50(1): 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01549.x

Published

2021-10-28

How to Cite

Gez, Y. N. (2021). Religious Return Mobility in Pentecostalized Kenya. PentecoStudies, 20(2), 130–151. https://doi.org/10.1558/pent.41886

Issue

Section

Articles

Most read articles by the same author(s)