Priests, Witches and Power: Popular Christianity after Mission in Southern Tanzania

Priests, Witches and Power: Popular Christianity after Mission in Southern Tanzania

Priests, Witches and Power: Popular Christianity after Mission in Southern Tanzania

Priests, Witches and Power: Popular Christianity after Mission in Southern Tanzania

Synopsis

In the aftermath of colonial mission, Christianity has come to have widespread acceptance in Southern Tanzania. In this book, Maia Green explores contemporary Catholic practice in a rural community of Southern Tanzania. Setting the adoption of Christianity and the suppression of witchcraft in a historical context, she suggests that power relations established during the colonial period continue to hold between both popular Christianity and orthodoxy, and local populations and indigenous clergy. Paradoxically, while local practices around the constitution of kinship and personhood remain defiantly free of Christian elements, they inform a popular Christianity experienced as a system of substances and practices. This book offers a challenge to idealist and interpretative accounts of African participation in twentieth-century religious forms, and argues for a politically grounded analysis of historical processes. It will appeal widely to scholars and students of anthropology, sociology and African Studies; particularly those interested in religion and kinship.

Excerpt

This book gives an anthropological account of popular religiosity in a largely Catholic community in Tanzania and of the shifting dynamics of its relationship with the Church as an institution enmeshed in the material world. the Roman Catholic Church is one of the largest Christian churches in Tanzania with some 9.3 million members out of a population recently estimated to be 63 million. According to the 1998 Catholic Directory of Tanzania it has a total of 9293520 members. Established in the country for over one hundred years and strongly associated with the provision of educational services in the colonial period, the Catholic Church is both widely respected and politically significant, counting among its public supporters leading statesmen and women, of whom the late president Julius Nyerere is the best-known example. Fully engaged in the post-adjustment political and economic transformations currently taking place in the country and still involved in the delivery of basic services, as well as education and training, the Catholic Church retains a position of some influence in post-colonial Tanzania. This influence is most pronounced in areas which have a long-established Catholic presence and infrastructure of mission. in such areas, often poor rural districts, even forty years after independence it is not unusual for populations to remain partially dependent on the Church for the delivery of some basic services and to seek, in their everyday relations with Church personnel and institutions, to perpetuate the kinds of relations of interdependency and obligation which were characteristic of colonial mission when the Church’s need for Christians was reciprocated by popular desire for access to services and the public policies which channelled subsidy through Christian missions.

The context in which Christian churches now find themselves has changed since the missionary era. Churches must struggle to be self-financing and must seek local support to meet the rising costs of their expanded administration. Autonomy and localisation coexist with reliance on ex-missionary orders for funds and the persistence of what are essentially missionary structures and . . .

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