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Looking Back, Moving Forward

Looking Back, Moving Forward: Transformation and Ethical Practice in the Ghanaian Church of Pentecost

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 280
  • Book Info
    Looking Back, Moving Forward
    Book Description:

    How do Ghanaian Pentecostals resolve the contradictions of their own faith while remaining faithful to their religious identity? Bringing together the anthropology of Christianity and the anthropology of ethics, Girish Daswani'sLooking Back, Moving Forwardinvestigates the compromises with the past that members of Ghana's Church of Pentecost make in order to remain committed Christians.

    Even as church members embrace the break with the past that comes from being "born-again," many are less concerned with the boundaries of Christian practice than with interpersonal questions - the continuity of suffering after conversion, the causes of unhealthy relationships, the changes brought about by migration - and how to deal with them. By paying ethnographic attention to the embodied practices, interpersonal relationships, and moments of self-reflection in the lives of members of the Church of Pentecost in Ghana and amongst the Ghanaian diaspora in London,Looking Back, Moving Forwardexplores ethical practice as it emerges out of the questions that church members and other Ghanaian Pentecostals ask themselves.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1958-6
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-34)

    It was a hot Wednesday afternoon in March 2004, in a suburb of Accra, Ghana’s capital. The dry season, accompanied by theharmattan, a desert wind that blows in from the Sahara, was about to give way to the rainy season. Albert Successful, a young man in his early twenties, stood patiently in front of several rows of white plastic chairs neatly arranged under the shade of two mango trees. The chairs slowly filled with men and women arriving for that day’s prayer service; they had come from different parts of Accra in search of relief from a host of...

  7. Chapter One Rupture and Continuity
    (pp. 35-55)

    This chapter provides a historical overview of Pentecostal networks in Ghana. The exercise of tracing these networks backwards aims not at establishing the “origin” of Pentecostalism in Ghana, but at understanding how CoP maintains both a historical continuity and a discontinuity with a time before.² In the first half of the chapter, I examine the historical spread of Pentecostalism in Ghana; in the second half, I describe the role of Christian narratives in diagnosing the present and reimagining the future. In order to comprehend how CoP is part of a changing history of synchronous networks, I first provide a backdrop...

  8. Chapter Two Uncertainties and Dilemmas
    (pp. 56-74)

    I was in Kumasi to visit Pastor “Kofi” (not his real name). As I sat waiting in his church office, I could not help but reflect on a prayer service that he had organized some months before. At this service, a visiting Nigerian charismatic minister spoke about witchcraft’s continuing presence in the lives of converts and introduced sand into people’s prayers to help break this connection. The prayer event, which I had attended in November 2003, had the feel of a charismatic-style service and included elements that were antithetical to what I had come to see as CoP practice. My...

  9. Chapter Three Prophets and Prayer
    (pp. 75-105)

    I was attending a weekly prayer centre meeting in Accra, when the resident prophet took out a crisp ten thousand cedi note from his wallet and prayed over it. He then held the banknote up in the air, looked at his audience, and said that whoever received the banknote would be financially prosperous in the future. The banknote was not meant to be spent but kept safely, attracting more wealth for its new owner. Over a hundred people rushed forward, falling over each other, pleading for the money with their arms outstretched towards him. After looking around for a while,...

  10. Chapter Four Individuality and Dividuality
    (pp. 106-133)

    I was browsing through the selection of Christian books in a well-known charismatic church bookshop in Accra when a man walked up to me. He introduced himself as a prophet of God and said that the Holy Spirit had spoken to him regarding my life. He was a confident man in his mid-thirties who seemed skilled at striking up conversations with strangers and never at a loss for things to say. After chatting with me for over half an hour, asking where I was from and what I was doing in Ghana, he told me that the Holy Spirit had...

  11. Chapter Five Kinship and Migration
    (pp. 134-159)

    I met Rita during my visit to a CoP youth camp in Kumasi. She was a recent graduate of social sciences from the University of Ghana, Legon, where she had studied religion. This is how our conversation began:

    R: Where are you from?

    G: Well, I was born in India, grew up in Singapore, am studying in London, and have family in Ghana.

    R: All that doesn’t matter. You are from the place that you are born and that is your hometown. Since your family comes from India and you were born there, you are Indian.

    She seemed very satisfied...

  12. Chapter Six African Christians in London
    (pp. 160-178)

    In Chapters Six and Seven, I shift focus from Ghana to the Ghanaian Pentecostal diaspora and CoP in London. The last few chapters revealed the multiple tensions and disconnections church members face within CoP and in the wake of alternative forms of Pentecostal practice and sociality. The next two chapters continue along a similar vein, showing how church members in London strive to attain religious continuity in their lives amidst experiences of social and cultural discontinuity and spiritual danger. Together they examine the disconnections within globalizing Pentecostal networks through the contradictions CoP members in London face, caught between their moral...

  13. Chapter Seven Citizens of Heaven
    (pp. 179-200)

    Imagine a Sunday morning in London. Most people are still fast asleep. But if you were to venture out and take London’s infamous public transport, also known as the London Underground, you would see many well-dressed Africans holding Bibles in their hands, making their way to church. During the week, they are part of London’s invisible workforce – economic migrants who have travelled to England in search of better lives. Now consider a gathering of Ghanaian migrants in east London at a place called Dagenham. Once a white working class neighbourhood, it is now interspersed with immigrant communities from South...

  14. Epilogue: The Future Will Fight Against You
    (pp. 201-210)

    The Sankofa is a mythical bird in Akan culture that is depicted flying forwards into the future, with its head turned backwards towards the past and a golden egg in its mouth. The egg is symbolic of a treasure or wisdom that can be found in the communal past of one’s ancestors or shared lineage. In a conversation with a Ghanaian academic who works on traditional religion, I suggested that the Sankofa could also represent an inward journey taken by an individual to find some personal treasure or hidden truth. He strongly opposed my interpretation. There is only one way...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 211-226)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-244)
  17. Index
    (pp. 245-256)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-259)