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Text and performance in an African church: The Book, "live and direct".

Engelke, Matthew (2004) Text and performance in an African church: The Book, "live and direct". American Ethnologist, 31 (1). pp. 76-91. ISSN 0094-0496

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Identification Number: 10.1525/ae.2004.31.1.76


In this article I examine textual authority and religious language in an African Christian church. Known as the Masowe weChishanu, members of this church refer to themselves as "the Christians who don't read the Bible." I focus on how religious language in Masowe ritual highlights the performative nature of religious authority. In particular, I show how prophets in the church denigrate the role of religious text by working to create a "live and direct" connection to God through their sermons. Drawing on the ethnography of reading and ritual, and contributing to the newly emerging interest in an anthropology of Christianity, I show how Masowe recast the authority of the text as a political and religious object by making it unnecessary. The Bible becomes significant in its absence, challenging an understanding of scriptural religion as objectified in texts.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2004 Americal Ethnological Society
Divisions: LSE Human Rights
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2008 15:22
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 01:38

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