Accepted Paper:

Spiritual Identities in the Central African Copperbelts   

Author:

Stephanie Lämmert (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the intersection of spiritual expressions and political culture in late colonial and early post-colonial Copperbelt society. It seeks to show the porousness of denominational borders, explaining the high fluctuation in church affiliation as a consequence of the specific urban environment.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the intersection of spiritual expressions and political culture in the late colonial and early post-colonial mining towns of the Central African Copperbelts. As the history of Kimbanguism and the Jamaa movement in the Belgian Congo, the Lumpa Church in Zambia and the Watch Tower on both sides of the colonial border show, the religious and the political were closely intertwined and at times perceived as a threat by the (post)colonial authorities. This paper looks at the spiritual sphere as one important site of alternative knowledge production which was neither tied to the state nor to the mining companies. By examining spiritual literature and preaching traditions, it attempts to reveal alternative political visions held by Copperbelt Christians, thereby treating spirituality as crucial to modern urban political imagination instead of as an anti-secular backward force as contemporary nationalists and subsequently much of the scholarship have done.

While much of the existing literature has focused on particular movements or churches, this paper aims to show the porousness of denominational borders instead. It seeks to explain the high fluctuation in church affiliation by individuals in the copper towns as a consequence of the specific urban environment; an environment which was influenced by the flow of spiritual ideas between the two copperbelts and the region at large.

Panel P160
Political Cultures in the Central African Copperbelt