26 April 2010

Book: Political Spiritualities: The Pentecostal Revolution in Nigeria

Ruth Marshall, "Political Spiritualities: The Pentecostal Revolution in Nigeria" (University of Chicago Press, June 2009):


Publisher's description: "After an explosion of conversions to Pentecostalism over the past three decades, tens of millions of Nigerians now claim that 'Jesus is the answer.' But if Jesus is the answer, what is the question? What led to the movement's dramatic rise and how can we make sense of its social and political significance? In this ambitiously interdisciplinary study, Ruth Marshall draws on years of fieldwork and grapples with a host of important thinkers – including Foucault, Agamben, Arendt, and Benjamin – to answer these questions. To account for the movement's success, Marshall explores how Pentecostalism presents the experience of being born again as a chance for Nigerians to realize the promises of political and religious salvation made during the colonial and postcolonial eras. Her astute analysis of this religious trend sheds light on Nigeria's contemporary politics, postcolonial statecraft, and the everyday struggles of ordinary citizens coping with poverty, corruption, and inequality. Pentecostalism's rise is truly global, and Political Spiritualities persuasively argues that Nigeria is a key case in this phenomenon while calling for new ways of thinking about the place of religion in contemporary politics."

The book includes a section on "Born-Again Political Theology".

Reviews: "This is one of the most original works in the social sciences that I've read in several years. Much more than a simple monograph that will be vital for an understanding of religious and political life in Nigeria, this book addresses all those interested in the significance of contemporary religious phenomena. Through her energetic prose, exceptional fieldwork, and clear mastery of the theoretical and ethnographic literature, Marshall offers a new perspective on religious action and social and political transformations in sub-Saharan Africa, while also making a major contribution to the historical and comparative study of religion." (Jean-François Bayart, French National Center for Scientific Research/Sciences Po Paris)

"Stunningly creative, this book breaks new ground and yields a strong new approach to questions about the politics of faith in our post-secular age. In a rare combination of theoretical clarity and historical and anthropological concreteness, Ruth Marshall succeeds in rendering politically fruitful the critique of religion while taking ever more seriously religion itself as a critique of the political in our times." (Achille Mbembe, University of the Witwatersrand/Duke University)

Ruth Marshall is Assistant Professor in the Department and Centre for the Study of Religion and the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto.

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