Blackberry Girls and Jesus’s Brides

Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity and the (Im-)Moralization of Urban Femininities in Contemporary Kinshasa

In: Journal of Religion in Africa

Especially since the mid-2000s when cellular communication became more widespread in Kinshasa, Pentecostal leaders and followers increasingly reflect about the proper usage of the handset and insert it into reflections about ‘approved’ (ya malamu) and ‘disapproved’ (ya mabe) types of femininity. Via an examination of the critical role of electronic communication technologies in the construction of ‘Christian femininities’, I bring novel insights on the already much-debated question about Pentecostalism’s contribution to women’s lifeworlds. Amid applause for the liberating workings of Pentecostal-Charismatic rituals and associations, the ways that Pentecostalism installs new boundaries, promotes new preferences and lifestyles, and sanctions those who cannot comply with the new directives are often ignored. This article highlights the ambiguity of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity by comparing the discourse about two types of femininity that dominate in the churches: ‘bad girls’, of which Blackberry Girls are a subtype, and ‘brides of Jesus’.

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    See Gilbert (2016) for a discussion of very similar ideas of connectivity as a requirement for urban personhood in Calabar Nigeria.

  • 4

    Biaya (2001) who encountered the same practice in Dakar writes that this phenomenon is mostly observed on the university campus. In Kinshasa the phenomenon is widespread and also includes girls who do not attend school.

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    See Archambault (2011) for a discussion of how domestic disputes evolve from mobile phones in Mozambique.

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    Van de Port (2006) noted the same insertion of the vocabulary of mass media into the religious imagination in Brazil.

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