P 41

Emotional Connections – Religious Cultures in Africa

Panel abstract
Although the history of emotions is a booming field, historians of Africa have rarely taken up this approach. And yet the history of emotions is crucial for a better understanding of many fields, among them spirituality and religiosity. Cultures of religious preaching and teaching often rest upon the emotionalization of adherents and students. This panel analyses religious cultures in Northern, Eastern, and Central Africa and their forms of expression in the emotional realm. It aims to take a closer look at these processes of emotionalization from the perspective of African religious actors such as students at religious institutions, religious authorities, preachers, and lay persons.
We will explore the role of emotions in the circulation of spiritual ideas and practices between regions as well as across denominations; the emotional regime of religious education and the relationship to secular education; bodily expressions of spiritual identities in Islam, Christianity, and African-initiated churches in Northern, Central, and Eastern Africa. Generally, the panel seeks to provide a wider understanding of the flow of spiritual ideas and practices and the role emotions play in these flows in the present and the past.

Time: Friday, 29/06/2018, 11 am - 1 pm
Venue: Hörsaalgebäude, HS 17

Stephanie Lämmert (Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin)
Liese Hoffmann (Berlin Graduate School Muslim Culture and Societies)

Joseph Chita and Nelly Mwale (University of Zambia, Lusaka)
Stephanie Lämmert (Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin)
Liese Hoffmann (Berlin Graduate School Muslim Culture and Societies)
Tamara Turner (Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin)

Hanna Nieber (Free University of Berlin)


Paper abstracts

Joseph Chita and Nelly Mwale
‘Men of God’ and Broken Vocal Cords: Exploring Zambian Pentecostal Pastors’ Expression of Spiritual Identities

Though the use of emotions in religion is widely acknowledged, African and Zambian studies in particular have not explored the emotion and spiritual identity interface amid growing association of broken vocal cords with men of God in Pentecostalism. Hence, this paper interrogates the use of broken vocal cords among the ‘men of God’ as an expression of spiritual identity. This is deemed significant not only for contributing to the body of knowledge but underscores the price the ‘men of God’ are willing to pay for their spiritual identities through broken vocal cords. An interpretivist case study was employed in which raw data (video of sermons and pastoral ministries) and documents were analysed and interpreted. Pentecostal ministries and men of God were purposively sampled. The findings revealed that these ‘men of God’ had limited knowledge of their clinical condition patterning to their voices; instead they perceived it as spiritual gift. As such, the voice not only communicated the spiritual emotions of the ‘men of God’, but was also used to attract and satisfy congregants (religious marketing) through assuming a ministerial ‘identity’. The paper argues that while broken vocal cords among the ‘men of God’ were an expression of their spirituality and emotions, it imprinted an identity not only on themselves but Zambian Pentecostalism too. Therefore, bodily expressions such as broken vocal cords are carriers of cultural meanings, emotions, and spiritual ideas.

Stephanie Lämmert
Love, Marriage, and Intimacy on the Zambian Copperbelt Through the Lens of ‘Speak Out!’, a Catholic Youth Magazine

This paper shows that romantic love was the emotion that featured most prominently in Speak Out!, a Catholic youth magazine from the Zambian Copperbelt. The sheer amount of love stories and texts related to courtship, marriage, and sexuality cannot only be explained by the wish to address the burning issues of the targeted young readers. The transformation of the heroine from a confident and self-reliant young women since the 1960s, who was an equal partner not only to her husband, but also to the project of nation-building, to an instinct-driven woman who brings danger and misfortune onto her family, signifies both a rupture in the depiction of women in such love stories and a return to old colonial depictions of African sexuality. In this paper, I argue that the emergence of the abstinence discourse that dominated stories about courtship since the late 1990s was an expression of larger concerns. It was as much linked to the quest for religious and national purity and pitted against pollution through foreign ‘penetration’ as it was reaction to the HIV/Aids pandemic.

Liese Hoffmann
‘Solidarity (Mshikamano), That’s What We Learn in Madrasa!’: On Kinship and Sectarian Border Crossing in Muslim Tanga

This paper discusses the interpersonal affect involved in every day Islamic education and practice within an East African ‘Arab’ family and its neighbourhood surroundings in the pre-dominantly Muslim Tanzanian coastal town of Tanga. The town’s contemporary history of Islamic factionalism has been well documented. Before embarking on my ethnographic field work (with research interest in Islamic education), I had thus presumed that my middle class host family would surely maintain a fixed affiliation to a certain Muslim faction. However, to my surprise, the affiliations within the family network which includes Islamic teachers and patrons were manifold, including Sufi, Sunni, and even Shiite Islam. Even more surprising was that everyday interpersonal attentiveness, trust, and solidarity (mshikamano) were cultivated within this family network, irrespective of Islamic affiliation. Individual boundary crossing through participation in contested Islamic rituals such as maulidi and contact to rival madrasas seemed commonplace. I thus argue that the affective cultivation of kinship ties, in the case of this extended family network, is more important for the development of Muslim sociality than are local Muslim politics.

Tamara Turner
Moving Towards Feelings: Emotional Cultivation and Release in Algerian Popular Islam

In western Algeria, many different Sufi turuq (orders) share ideas about the divine and its manifestation in daily life; the most active and vibrant ‘orders’, however, are those that are sometimes nominally ‘Sufi’ or are Sufi-like and are most clearly understood to be variants of popular Islam. For example, the Divan of Sidi Bilal consider Bilal, the first muezzin (caller to prayer) as their ‘spiritual father’ of their order (Bilaliyya) even while he was not a shaykh (spiritual guide) nor did he have a lineage (silsila) of disciples and teachings – technical conditions of Sufi hierarchical organization. However, much like the more technically Sufi Aissawa, Qadriyya, Taibiyya orders, there is a strong emphasis on community-based, music-cantered rituals wherein adepts cultivate various altered states of consciousness through the movement towards and release of emotion. In most of these rituals, the cultivation and expression attends to mental-emotional suffering of the adepts so that, underlying the process, there is an approach that moves towards feeling, even towards suffering, so that it can be more fully felt, embodied, manifest, and visible. In turn, private suffering is rendered public, therefore acknowledged, released, and cared for by others. This ideal is not always achieved: sometimes suffering manifests as resistant patterns of pain or as burdensome supernatural contracts with non-human agents. At the heart of the ritual practice and these varying conditions, however, is the prioritization of feeling and movement towards and with that feeling, highlighting the critical personal, social, and political roles of emotion in this religious lifeworld.