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Accepted Paper:

Pastoralism and Pentecostalism: Disentangling the religious dimensions of social-ecological change in southern Kenya  
Joana Roque de Pinho (ISCTE-Instituto Universitario de LIsboa) Angela Kronenburg García (UCLouvain) Stanley ole Neboo

Paper Short Abstract:

We examine entanglements of Pentecostalism with land changes in two southern Kenyan conservation landscapes. Conversion to Pentecostalism by pastoralists affects their relationships to the land; and suggest ways for increased engagement of environmental conservation with religion.

Paper Abstract:

Bialecki et al. (2008) once questioned anthropologists’ reluctant engagement with Christianity. Recently, Wilkins (2021) pondered the absence of religious actors in political ecological inquiry. We address these concerns by tackling another omission, i.e., how scholarship on environmental change and conservation challenges in Kenya Maasailand overlooks (agro)pastoralists’ conversion to Pentecostalism. Despite other disciplines’ acknowledging spiritual dimensions of human-environmental relationships, and accounts of early Maasai encounters with mainline Protestant and Catholic missionaries (Hodgson, 2005; Rigby, 1981), contemporary analyses of Maasai livelihoods and environments sidestep Pentecostalism as a variable in changing demographics and livelihoods/land uses, responses to climate variability, and conservation outcomes – even when confronted with conspicuous faith-related manifestations, e.g., proliferating churches and public religious performances.

We use ethnographic data (2002-04, 2011, 2002-23) from two southern Kenyan conservation landscapes to examine entanglements of Pentecostalism with land use/tenure changes. We find that Christian beliefs, religious leaders’ discourses and behaviors, and Bible-inspired household dynamics re-shape how (agro)pastoralists relate to the land, conceptually and materially. Around Amboseli National Park, churches’ promotion of farming interacts with conservation discourse to redefine the meaning of “land”. Around Maasai Mara National Reserve, land demarcation facilitates the penetration of churches through land purchases and donations. With declining reciprocity ascribed to land privatization, urbanization and education, people credit churches with re-creating “unity”. Meanwhile, pastors preach against selling land, mediate land conflicts, and promote tree planting and wildlife conservation. Away from clear directions of causality, this study exposes the complexity of religious-environmental entanglements in Maasailand; and suggests avenues for increased engagement of environmental conservation with religion.

Panel OP190
Enabling just ecological transitions: mobilising sacred knowledges and cosmologies to address polycrisis
  Session 2 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -