P 09

Prayers, Papers, and Procedures. Spiritual Bureaucracies / Bureaucratic Spiritualities in Africa

Panel abstract
Papers, prayers, and procedures create connections between people and institutions. Both religious and bureaucratic practices mediate between the experiential and locally inscribed situation of the individual and the shared, routinized, and often transnationalizing norms of larger social formations. In both the spiritual and the bureaucratic spheres of action this process of mediation mobilizes semiotic, aesthetic, and ritual-procedural elements in order to bring about, shape, and institute a more widely authorized and shared sense of belonging and ethical behaviour. Both spheres coincide through the use of documents, pens, lists, and ledgers in the training and imagination of religious followers, or when ‘performative papers’ such as baptism or membership cards are circulated to foster a trans-local sense of belonging. The bureaucratic and the spiritual get combined when money is spiritualized, military aesthetics are appropriated in religious contexts, dress codes are ‘uniformized’, or when reunion templates are ‘liturgically’ cherished by followers of religious movements as part of their religious everyday. Against the background of Thomas Kirsch’s (2008) argument that writing and bureaucracy can assist the generation of charisma, the panel investigates the role of religious actors/movements as agents of bureaucratization, while in return state and economic bureaucratic practices may be appropriated spiritually. Bringing together historically and ethnographically informed contributions that emphasize the perspective of African actors, our panel focuses on the role of both religious and bureaucratic materials in the generation of shared and often spatially laden practices and imaginaries that connect the individual with larger social formations and the local with the transnational.

Time: Friday, 29/06/2018, 2 - 4 pm
Venue: Seminargebäude, S 203

Johara Berriane (German Historical Institute, Paris, France / Dakar, Senegal)
Peter Lambertz (German Historical Institute, Paris, France / Dakar, Senegal)

Rijk van Dijk & Tanja Hendriks (Leiden University, Netherlands)
Kamina Diallo (Sciences Po Paris, France)
Johara Berriane (German Historical Institute, Paris, France / Dakar, Senegal)
Peter Lambertz (German Historical Institute, Paris, France / Dakar, Senegal)

Thomas Kirsch (University of Konstanz)


Paper abstracts

Rijk van Dijk & Tanja Hendriks
The Certified Believer – Conversions to Qualifications in Religious Social Work in Southern Africa

This paper aims to draw attention to the manner in which religious organizations and individuals in Southern Africa increasingly aspire to provide and gain certain qualifications that place them on a road towards capacity building and upward social mobility. Through offering training sessions, workshops, Bible schools, and other forms of instruction religious organizations respond to, and at the same time produce, a veritable public fascination if not pursuit for much desired ‘certificates’ that are believed to demonstrate a person’s acquired skills in areas that often relate to the domain of social work. These can involve orphan-care, street-work, AIDS-testing & prevention-services, social work counselling; all areas in which religious bodies have become dominant players. The certificates are expected to increase individuals’ chances of paid employment in these growing sectors of (local and transnational) NGO- and FBO-engagement with important social issues. This contribution argues that the production of these certificates – as performative papers – reflects two intertwined processes; firstly, a repositioning of religion and religious bodies in a rapidly changing public domain in Southern Africa, and secondly, an increasing bureaucratization of religion that implies a conversion to religious identities that embrace notions of instruction and education in the production of the modern, confirmed believer. Exploring these two processes in Malawi and Botswana, the paper argues that the pursuit of certificates by believers elucidates a new understanding of a religiously modern identity where aspiration, inspiration, and instruction are configured anew.

Kamina Diallo
Survival Strategies of Dozo Associations in Côte D'Ivoire: a Form of Entanglement Between Legal and Traditional Rationality?

The Dozos, traditional hunters present in Côte d' Ivoire and also found throughout the sub-region, began to organize themselves in association from the late 1980s, taking the example of the Dozos organizations in Mali. It was during this same period that the Ivorian authorities began to call upon Dozo services as a backup security force in the face of the state's powerlessness due to the rise of insecurity. This has helped move these game hunters to thieves and criminals hunters. They played a major role before and during the Ivorian crisis and are still visible in the political life of the country. The structuring of the brotherhood (confrérie) around a national central office attached to local structures is inspired by the administrative territorial organization of Côte d'Ivoire and shows a kind of continuity between traditional rules and the rules of the modern state. Our communication will therefore focus on this brotherhood of traditional hunters and will attempt to understand the coping and alternative strategies that enable them to survive in the modern state and remain within the state security apparatus. More precisely, we will see that rather than a dichotomy between the traditional organization and the legal rational organization, there is a tangle of registers in the Ivorian Dozo associations. Our initial question is, therefore, to see to what extent the strategy of certain traditional organizations, such as that of the brotherhood of the Dozos, can be related to a form of entanglement between legal rationality inscribed in modernity and traditional/charismatic rationality?

Johara Berriane
Governing Believers Through Papers? Bureaucracy and Paperwork Among Evangelical Migrant Churches in Morocco and Senegal

Based on an ethnographic research conducted in Morocco and Senegal, this paper aims at exploring the formalization processes of evangelical migrant churches in these mainly Muslim settings. It focuses on the bureaucratic practices of these institutions and looks at the production and uses of religious identity papers among Christian migrants. It explores how these bureaucratic practices can become constitutive of religious belonging and generate complex religious identities and political subjectivities, particularly in contexts of mobility, social marginality, and foreignness. Finally, it discusses how, via bureaucratic and registration practices, religious actors participate in the shaping of the quotidian governance of their believers and coordinate their transnational mobility.

Peter Lambertz
The Bureaucratic Spiritualist: Japanese Ancestor Worship and Written Spiritual Mediation in Kinshasa

Based on ethnographic research among the Congolese followers of the Japanese new religion Sekai Kyûseikyô in Kinshasa (Church of World Messianity), the paper presents the ways in which Japanese-style ancestor worship is appropriated in urban Central Africa as a criticism of the Pentecostal politics of the time. The collection work and weekly ritual writing of ancestral names in a paper list, which is subsequently enshrined and burned, turn the practitioner into a spiritual kinship bureaucrat, whose literary practice does not only empower himself but also those whose name he materializes in an act of spiritual evergetism. The ethnographic case invites to rethink and reflect on the analytic binary of charisma vs. routinization by shedding light on semiotic ideologies linked to the written word both in Africa as well as Japan.