Religious Political Masculinities in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Study in African Political Theology

Presented by Siphiwe Ignatius Dube

Monday, 21 May, 2018 - 15:00

I am interested in a comparative approach to the analysis of the “prophets phenomenon” (Chitando, Gunda, Kugler 2013; Hameno 2014; Makonyi 2015; Omenyo 2011), which refers to the recent proliferation of self-styled prophets in Sub-Saharan Africa who claim to be able to cure diseases, alleviate poverty, and to travel into the underworld to fight evil amongst many other things. The key question has to do with whether these self-styled male prophets, who usually work outside the parameters of traditional church contexts, represent a direct religious response to the perceived intersection of the “crisis in/of masculinities,” on the one hand, and so-called state failure in Africa (Helman and Ratner 1993; Allen 1995; Herbst 1996; Mkandawire 2001; Cooper 2002; Torres and Anderson 2004), on the other hand? That is, given the perceived sense of the state to have failed to perform its bureaucratic duty of governance in meaningful and holistic ways in the general post-colonial era, perceptible in the degradation of state governance models across the continent that has resulted in the creation of a series of crises across the continent, can these men be understood to be vying not only for spiritual power, as much of the research suggests, but actually also political power by claiming in particular a male-centred prophetic tradition? In other words, could the prophets, outside of being charlatans and swindlers (as much of the popular analyses conclude), actually be pointing to an unfolding of a distinctly African democratic process that fuses “spirits in politics” (Meier and Steinforth 2009) in creative ways? What might such an analysis tell us about the intersection of politics, masculinities, and religions in Sub-Saharan Africa beyond the simple critique that reduces these prophetic men to opportunistic charlatans and wizards?

  • Seminars will be held in the WISER seminar room from 3:00 to 4:30pm.
  • Participants must read the paper prior to the seminar.
  • The paper will typically only be available on the Friday preceding the seminar.

  • Click here for the remainder of the seminar schedule for this semester.