Nastiness Diagnosis. Anthropology. Religion. Gender. Justice. A Personal Notepad For the General Public.
Winner of the 2007 Herskovits Award
Barbara M. Cooper looks closely at the Sudan Interior Mission, an evangelical Christian mission that has taken a tenuous hold in a predominantly Hausa Muslim area on the southern fringe of Niger. Based on sustained fieldwork, personal interviews, and archival research, this vibrant, sensitive, compelling, and candid book gives a unique glimpse into an important dimension of religious life in Africa. Cooper’s involvement in a violent religious riot provides a useful backdrop for introducing other themes and concerns such as Bible translation, medical outreach, public preaching, tensions between English-speaking and French-speaking missionaries, and the Christian mission’s changing views of Islam.
Moral Discourses of Development
Public debate in Niger is increasingly bound up with social movements that have extralocal linkages, in particular the resurgence of Islam and the explosion of chraismatic Christian missionizing. Capital and ideas from other Islamic regions have taken on increased importance as a counter to the presumptions of western donors. Similarly, Pentecostal christianity provides an appealing moral and financial alternatives in a region in which the population has grown disillusionsed by figures of authority who have consistently sought political legitimacy through Islamic social and cultural capital but who have failed to improve the lives of ordinary Nigeriens, who are agmona the poorest on the globe. Where the Islamist see the moral faillings of the state as deriving from western intrusions and moral decay, the charismatics see those failings as resulting from the hypocrisy of politicians who veil their self-interest in a spiritless Islamic piety.
Audible Capital and the Struggle for the public Sphere
By 1999, tensions had reached such a peak that one of the Muslim leaders of Maradi had openly proposed that Musims should burn the churches of Maradi as a restulf of a radio show that he regarded as particularly offensive o Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.
Malam X, the Muslims cleric who has been the most prominent in these radio debates and cassette ministries, is infamous among secularist Muslim intellectuals in Maradi for inflammatory radio sermons in which he claims….that whites are using the polio eradication program to commit genocide in Africa by deliberately killing children with bad vaccine and that the AIDS epidemic is a myth designed to prevent Africans from procreating. Both of his claims, unfortunately, have a kind of surface plausibility among a population JUSFIABLY WARY OF HEALTH CARE INTERVENTIONS BY THE GOVERNMENT AND NGOS. MALAM X’S ANTIWESTERN DIATRIBES RESONTATED READILY WITH LOCAL RESENTMENTS ABOUT WESTERN INTRUSION, ANGER ABOUT THE CORRUPION OF GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS…
he protestors then flooded into the quarters farther to the west, ignoring the Protestant Christian neighborhood with its two churches near the northern gate of town.
The destruction of property was extensive, and because many of the bars are owned and run by Christians, the impact on the Christian community was considerable. Once again, however, it is not entirely clear that Christians as Christians were under attack; rather, the target was a night-life culture that pro- moted alcohol and prostitution.
Why would the protestors attack Vie Abondante in particular when it had spared all the other churches in town? (There are six other churches, none of which was touched.) I think there are two reasons. One has little to do with Vie Abondante’s immediate neighbors and everything to do with the community’s ubiquity as a result of their radio broadcasts over Radio Anfani…
The riot had become part of the esca- lating struggle to control the public sphere.
This is not in any simple way a struggle between Islam and the west, or Christians and Muslims, for it reveals deeper struggles over the very nature of modernity and the rights of actors to choose how they will engage with global modernity and how they will navigate spaces and discourses, from the neighborhood to the globe.
The most religiously activist of the Christian communities at the mo- ment is the Pentecostal. Pentecostalism can be read in light of a kind of theory of wealth formation and economic development: those with true belief, whose prayers draw the power of the Holy Spirit, are blessed with wealth. If Islamic communalist discourse is often treated as a response to the individualistic tendencies of western modernism, the highly embod- ied practices of Pentecostalism (speaking in tongues, faith healing) might just as reasonably be seen as a reaction against the excessive rationalism of both the western heritage of Enlightenment and Islamist rejections of immanence (in attacks on Sufism and spirit possession) (Brown 1994).
Karen McCarthy Brown 1994 “Fundamentalism and the Control of Women” in Fundamentalism and Gender