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The Making of the Pentecostal Melodrama: Religion, Media and Gender in Kinshasa

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Volume 6

Anthropology of Media

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The Making of the Pentecostal Melodrama

Religion, Media and Gender in Kinshasa

Katrien Pype

348 pages, 28 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-494-2 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (June 2012)

ISBN  978-1-78238-681-0 $34.95/£27.95 Pb Published (October 2014)

eISBN 978-0-85745-495-9 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $34.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“I would highly recommend this fascinating  ethnography to upper-level undergraduates, graduate students, and scholars in anthropology and African, religious, media, performance, and urban studies.”  ·  American Anthropologist

This book is… an exemplary combination of detailed ethnography and anthropological theory that is rare in the study of Pentecostalism. Pype’s writing is flawless and engaging. She also allows immediate access to some of the film material through the publisher’s website. Moreover, Pype’s reflections of her own role as researcher provide transparent insights into the dynamics of her fieldwork. This dimension also makes the book a reference-point for those interested in participant observation among Pentecostals.  ·  Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Clearly, the analysis and conclusions of this book reach much wider than Kinshasa’s Pentecostal groups alone. Not only does it have far-reaching consequences for contemporary thinking on religion, and where and how to study it, it also opens up discussions in the fields of media, popular culture and arts, youth, gender and sexuality, and urban studies. As such, the book - with accompanying moving images available at Berghahn’s website - is of great value to a much wider readership than only those interested in Pentecostalism in Africa.  ·  Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions

“Pype’s book is a contribution to ‘anthropology of media’, an upcoming sub-discipline of cultural studies, and this (but not only this) makes this publication so important.,,[and] inspiring.”  ·  PentecoStudies

“By offering a vibrant ethnography of the trajectories of evangelizing TV actors’, their personal ambitions, anxieties, and disagreements with one another, Pype deconstructs the content of the melodrama…the ethnography offers insight into the role of religious media in the public sphere and its impacts on morals, even in secularized societies.”  ·  Sociology of Religion

“Pype proposes a very innovative understanding of the continuum between artistic and moral dimensions of media production/consumption. For this, she uses the problem of gender as a critical guideline to understand the continuities and disruptions provoked by the ‘Pentecostal melodrama’. From this perspective, this book…moves beyond the mere analysis of Pentecostalism as a phenomenon in itself, placing it within a wider, more fruitful scope
of reflection.”
  ·  Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale

“Theoretically literate, based on superb ethnography, this book provides one of the best studies of television we have yet in African studies…[that] promises to open up a new field of analysis and define the standards for how this research is to be conducted…a landmark that will make a significant contribution to some of the main fields in African studies and anthropology.”  ·  Brian Larkin, Columbia University

“[A] tour de force. This very elegantly and evocatively written ethnography of Congolese television drama is a path-breaking example of what it means to conduct and construct a thick description of a culture of media production.”  ·  Debra Spitulnik Vidali, Emory University

“This book is beautifully written, theoretically sophisticated, nuanced in its analysis and empirically rich. Given that so much has already been written on African Pentecostalism, coming up with something original and new to say on the topic is quite a challenge, but Pype pulls it off and deserves a lot of credit for that.”  ·  Martin Lindhardt, University of Copenhagen

“The author deserves great praise for the original way in which she moves her analysis beyond a mere observation of African Pentecostalism. This ethnographically grounded book not only captures the heterogeneity that marks Kinshasa in a beautiful way, but it also innovatively combines three currently burgeoning fields within anthropology: the anthropology of urban settings, the anthropology of youth, and the anthropology of media.”  ·  Filip De Boeck, University of Leuven


How religion, gender, and urban sociality are expressed in and mediated via television drama in Kinshasa is the focus of this ethnographic study. Influenced by Nigerian films and intimately related to the emergence of a charismatic Christian scene, these teleserials integrate melodrama, conversion narratives, Christian songs, sermons, testimonies, and deliverance rituals to produce commentaries on what it means to be an inhabitant of Kinshasa.

Katrien Pype is an Associate Professor at University of Leuven and a Honorary Research Fellow with the Department of African Studies & Anthropology at University of Birmingham. She is co-initiator, with Miles Larmer and Rueben Loffman, of Congo Research Network, a platform that aims at enhancing dialogue and collaboration among Congo researchers in the humanities and social sciences.

Subject: Anthropology of Religion Media Studies Anthropology (General) Gender Studies and Sexuality
Area: Africa


On Language

Chapter 1. The First Episode

  • Religion, Media and Kinshasa’s Public Sphere
  • Working with Cultural Producers
  • Mediation and Remediation
  • Research Methodologies
  • Structure of the Text

Chapter 2. Cursing the City. The Ethnographic Field and the Pentecostal Imagination

  • The Heat of Kinshasa
  • Competing Christianities
  • Signs of the Apocalypse
  • Witchcraft, or the Extraction of Life
  • A Christian Key Scenario
  • To Conclude: (Re-)Presenting the Apocalypse

Chapter 3. Of Fathers and Names. Social Dynamics in an Evangelising Drama Group

  • Bienvenu Toukebana: Setting up and Managing a Drama Group
  • Fiston ‘Chapy’ Muzama: From Rapper to Pastor
  • The Pastor and Maman Pasteur
  • Clovis Ikala: Setting up a New Theatre Company
  • Cinarc versus the Group of Muyombe Gauche: Rivalries among Troupes
  • Mamy Moke and her Lover
  • Ance Luzolo: Boasting with a Contact
  • Conclusion

Chapter 4. Variations on Divine Afflatus. Artistic Inspiration, Special Effects, and Sermons

  • The Christian Artist
  • The Pastor
  • Special Effects as Visual Evidence
  • Conclusion: Special Effects, Dreams and Melodrama

Chapter 5. Mimesis in Motion. Embodied Experiences of Performers and Spectators

  • Going into Seclusion
  • Mimesis and Possession
  • Spectators and the Sacred
  • Visuality and the Senses
  • Framing to Protect
  • Closing Notes: Mediating Performances

Chapter 6. The Right Road. Moral Movements, Confessions and the Christian Subject

  • ‘I am a Sinner’
  • The Moral Movement
  • A Modern Purification?
  • To Conclude I: Mediation by the Holy Spirit: Transformation from Evil to Purity
  • To Conclude II: Melodrama and Rituals

Chapter 7. Opening up the Country. Christian Popular Culture, the Generation Trouble and Time

  • The Difference between Existing and Living
  • The Generation Trouble
  • The Healing Power of Narrative
  • Past, Present and Future
  • To Conclude: Youth, Christianity and Development

Chapter 8. Marriage comes from God. Negotiating Matrimony and Sexuality (Part I)

  • Against Ethnic Endogamous Marriages: Mayimona
  • Incest Reconsidered: The Devouring Fire
  • Negotiating Adultery: The Open Tomb
  • Concluding Notes: Playing the Games

Chapter 9. The Danger of Sex. Negotiating Matrimony and Urban Sexuality (Part II)

  • Kindumba: Deviations from Accepted Sexual Practices
  • God’s Men Making Meaning of Sex
  • Opposing Messages
  • Women and Social Power: The Moziki Women and Vedettes

Conclusion I: Negotiations about Matrimony and Sexuality
Conclusion II: The Melodrama and the Feminine

Chapter 10. Closure, Subplots and Cliffhanger

  • The Melodrama on and beyond the Screen
  • Cultural Producers in an Apocalyptic Society
  • The Recovery of the Salon
  • The Next Episode


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