Christianity and Public Culture in Africa

Article excerpt

Christianity and Public Culture in Africa. Edited by Harri Englund. Athens: Ohio Univ. Press, 2011. Pp. xi, 238. $49.95.

This book builds on a tradition of scholarship on religion in Africa that has focused on the political role of Christianity in postcolonial African societies. However, the volume deliberately broadens the earlier focus on politics (as represented, for example, by Paul Gifford, Gerrie ter Haar, and Stephen Ellis) to include an interest in public culture. As Englund explains this shift, "African Christians have constituted, and not merely addressed, domains and categories for moral and political practice and reflection" (p. 3). Englund, who is a reader in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, has brought together a number of renowned scholars of African Christianity such as Birgit Meyer and Barbara Cooper, as well as some upcoming voices. Their backgrounds are in anthropology, sociology, history, literary studies, and religious studies. Theological perspectives are missing: this book seeks to shift the focus from beliefs and doctrines to the acts and discourses through which Christian groups and churches present themselves publicly and shape political, ethnic, and gender identities. …