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Enchanted Calvinism

Enchanted Calvinism: Labor Migration, Afflicting Spirits, and Christian Therapy in the Presbyterian Church of Ghana

Adam Mohr
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 252
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  • Book Info
    Enchanted Calvinism
    Book Description:

    Enchanted Calvinism's central proposition is that Ghanaian Presbyterian communities, both past and present, have become significantly more enchanted--that is, more attuned to spiritual explanations of and remedies for suffering--as they have become more integrated into capitalist modes of production. The author draws on a specific Weberian concept of religious enchantment to frame the discussion of spiritual affliction and spiritual healing within the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, particularly under the conditions of labor migration: first, in the early twentieth century during the cocoa boom in Ghana and second, at the turn of the twenty-first century in the context of the healthcare migration from Ghana to North America. Relying on extensive archival research, oral historical interviews, and participant-observation group interviews conducted in North America, Europe, and West Africa, the study provides evidence that the more these Ghanaian Calvinists became dependent on capitalist modes of production, the more enchanted their lives, and, subsequently, their church became, although in different ways within these two migrations. One striking pattern that has emerged among Ghanaian Presbyterian labor migrants in North America, for example, is a radical shift in gendered healing practices, where women have become prominent healers, while a significant number of men have become spirit-possessed. Adam Mohr is a Senior Writing Fellow in Anthropology with the Critical Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-816-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    In November 2006, at a rural Presbyterian retreat center located between New York City and West Point, a group of about one hundred Ghanaian immigrants from various Ghanaian Presbyterian churches in North American met for a week-long retreat. The event was announced as an occasion to “build capacity for pastoral care and service.” This general description was used by the Ghanaians to explain the purpose of the gathering to their white, American, and religiously liberal Presbyterian hosts. These Ghanaians in fact were learning various techniques for the care of individuals within their congregations. But, more specifically, this group of Ghanaians...

  6. Part 1: Ghana

    • 1 The Disenchantment of Ghana’s Basel Mission, 1828–1918
      (pp. 21-52)

      This chapter examines the healing practices that developed within Ghana’s Basel Mission community between 1828, when the Basel Mission was first established in Ghana, to 1918 when the German and Swiss Basel missionaries were expelled from the British colony. The 1880s, however, was the most transformative decade of the first ninety years of Ghana’s Basel Mission with respect to health and healing practices within the mission. Prior to the 1880s, the Basel Mission in Ghana was partially enchanted, while after the 1880s, the Basel Mission became institutionally disenchanted. This chapter explains the therapeutic transformation within Ghana’s Basel Mission that occurred...

    • 2 Enchanted Competition for the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, 1918–60s
      (pp. 53-82)

      Between 1918 and 1960 the Presbyterian Church of Ghana was disenchanted. The church denied the existence of many afflicting spiritual forces, such as witches, even while witchcraft accusations flourished in Akan society, particularly during the cocoa boom. Correspondingly, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana did not offer methods of religious healing or protection from these spiritual afflictions. The church considered Akan healers, who could treat these spiritual disorders, illegitimate; no longer were they used as an outsourced form of therapy by the Christian community as they had been before 1885. In fact, church members who consulted Akan healers were often excommunicated....

    • 3 The Enchantment of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, 1960–2010
      (pp. 83-110)

      By the early 1960s the Presbyterian Church of Ghana was no longer the preeminent church in Ghana’s Eastern Region, the area dominated by the Presbyterian Church of Ghana since the Basel Mission established its headquarters in Akropong in 1835. The primary reason was that members, particularly younger wage-earners, had been leaving the Presbyterian Church of Ghana in droves over the previous forty years. These young men and women became attracted to more enchanted forms of Christianity, churches that offered robust healing practices and combated the malevolent forces that caused these Ghanaians great suffering.

      This chapter explains how, as a response...

  7. Part 2: North America

    • 4 The School of Deliverance and the Enchantment of the Ghanaian Presbyterian Churches in North America
      (pp. 113-135)

      This chapter marks a transition in space from Ghana to North America. In chapter 4, as well as chapters 5 and 6, I will explain the rise of religious enchantment among Ghanaian Presbyterians in North America. This chapter focuses specifically on the primary institution that led to the training of deliverance practitioners in North America: the New York deliverance workshop or school of deliverance. Through this deliverance workshop, primarily, the Ghanaian Presbyterian Churches in North America became enchanted: training charismatic healers to combat the multitude of afflicting spirits that cause great suffering in this Ghanaian Presbyterian community.

      The narrative of...

    • 5 The Enchantment of the United Ghanaian Community Church, Philadelphia
      (pp. 136-168)

      The primary mechanism for establishing deliverance practices among Ghanaian Presbyterians in North America has been the New York deliverance workshop, held annually since 2004 by Abboah-Offei, with the goal of standardizing these practices among the various Ghanaian Presbyterian congregations. As I demonstrated in the previous chapter, this goal has been generally successful, particularly since the Ghanaian Presbyterians in North America combat the same malevolent forces.

      One area of difference within the North America Ghanaian Presbyterian community, however, is the development of prayer teams across the member congregations of the Conference of Ghanaian Presbyterian Churches, North America. By 2008, the Brooklyn...

    • 6 Gendered Transformations of Enchanted Calvinism in the Ghanaian Presbyterian Diaspora
      (pp. 169-192)

      This chapter is different in its scope than the previous five. While the prior five chapters are presented in chronological sequence, from the early nineteenth century to the (ethnographic) present, chapter 6 encompasses this entire time frame. While chapters 1–5 focus onhowthe Presbyterian Church of Ghana became enchanted in both Ghana and North America, chapter 6 takes enchanted Calvinism as a premise. Chapter 6 answers the questionswhatandwhy, explaining what form enchanted Calvinism takes in the United States and why it has taken this form.

      More specifically, chapter 6 focuses on gendered transformations of enchanted...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 193-208)

    In this book I have argued that the lives of Ghanaian Presbyterians have become significantly more enchanted the more they have become incorporated into capitalist modes of production, particularly in the context of labor migration, over both time and space. This finding is ironic in light of Max Weber’s most famous argument: that early Calvinist communities, of which Presbyterianism is a type, gave rise to the particular form of modern capitalism, but this economic system in turn destroyed the religious foundations that led to its emergence. Weber terms this form of religious destruction “disenchantment.”

    Weber has a very nuanced meaning...

  9. Appendix: Deliverance Questionnaire
    (pp. 209-214)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-230)
  11. Index
    (pp. 231-234)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-235)