With Jesus in Paradise?

Pentecostal Migrants in Contemporary Zanzibar

in Pneuma
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This article explores the quest among contemporary pentecostal migrants from mainland Tanzania in Zanzibar to become “saved” Christians. The analysis of a set of techniques and processes applied in developing and keeping faith reveals high levels of suspicion and doubt connected to the perceived presence of evil in the Zanzibari environment, which, in turn, is linked to a fear of losing salvation. With Christian minorities recently having their premises attacked in connection with sociopolitical hostilities in the predominantly Muslim setting of Zanzibar, the case in this article highlights how the context of violence is negotiated in pentecostal modes of suspicion toward the other while, at the same time, it bolsters spiritual growth. This illustrates how a pentecostal ethos intermingles with and provides migrants with ways of interpreting the contemporary setting in which religious belonging is at the fore in present-day calls for Zanzibari political sovereignty and inclusive Union politics.

With Jesus in Paradise?

Pentecostal Migrants in Contemporary Zanzibar

in Pneuma




See for instance Randall L. Pouwels“The East African Coast, c. 780 to 1900 c.e.,” in History of Islam in Africa (Athens OH: Ohio University Press 2000); Abdul Sheriff “Race and Class in the Politics of Zanzibar” Africa Spectrum 36 no. 3 (2001); Jonathon Glassman War of Words War of Stones: Racial Thought and Violence in Colonial Zanzibar (Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press 2011).


See H. Englund“Ethnography after Globalism: Migration and Emplacement in Malawi,” American Ethnologist 29 no. 2 (2002); Rijk van Dijk “Localisation Ghanaian Pentecostalism and the Stranger’s Beauty in Botswana” Africa 73 no. 4 (2003); Marc Sommers “Young Male and Pentecostal: Urban Refugees in Dar Es Salaam Tanzania” Journal of Refugee Studies 14 no. 4 (2001).


For example Rosalind I.J. Hackett“Discourses of Demonization in Africa and Beyond,” Diogenes 50 no. 3 (2003); Ruth Marshall Political Spiritualities: The Pentecostal Revolution in Nigeria (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press 2009) 14–15.


Birgit Meyer“‘Make a Complete Break with the Past’: Memory and Post-Colonial Modernity in Ghanaian Pentecostalist Discourse,” Journal of Religion in Africa 28 no. 3 (1998).


For example Matthews A. Ojo“Pentecostal Movements, Islam and the Contest for Public Space in Northern Nigeria,” Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations 18 no. 2 (2007); Asonzeh F.K. Ukah “Contesting God: Nigerian Pentecostals and Their Relations with Islam and Muslims” in Global Pentecostalism: Encounters with Other Religious Traditions ed. Daudi Westerlund (London and New York: I.B. Tauris 2009); “Born-Again Muslims: The Ambivalence of Pentecostal Response to Islam in Nigeria” in Fractured Spectrum: Perspectives on Christian-Muslim Encounters in Nigeria ed. Akintunde E. Akinade (New York: Peter Lang 2013).


For instance Harri Englund“From Spiritual Warfare to Spiritual Kinship: Islamophobia and Evangelical Radio in Malawi,” in Christianity and Public Culture in Africaed. Harri Englund (Athens OH: Ohio University Press 2011).


Lewis Ray RamboUnderstanding Religious Conversion (New Haven: Yale University Press1993) 5.


MarshallPolitical Spiritualities128–131.


But see for instance Andreas Bandak“Problems of Belief: Tonalities of Immediacy among Christians of Damascus,” Ethnos 77 no. 4 (2012); Matthew Engelke A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church The Anthropology of Christianity 2 (Berkeley: University of California Press 2007) 102–108.


For example Meyer“‘Make a Complete Break with the Past’”; Joel Robbins, “The Globalization of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity,” Annual Review of Anthropology 33 (2004).


For example Kjersti Larsen“Change, Continuity and Contestation: The Politics of Modern Identities in Zanzibar,” in Swahili Modernities: Culture Politics and Identity on the East Coast of Africaed. Pat Caplan and Farouk Topan (Trenton NJ.: Africa World Press 2004) 123–124; Bernadeta Killian “The State and Identity Politics in Zanzibar: Challenges to Democratic Consolidation in Tanzania” African Identities 6 no. 2 (2008): 112.


A. Droogers“Globalisation and Pentecostal Success,” in Between Babel and Pentecost: Transnational Pentecostalism in Africa and Latin America. ed. André Corten and Ruth Marshall-Fratani (London: Hurst & Company2001) 55–56.


Birgit MeyerTranslating the Devil: Religion and Modernity among the Ewe in Ghana (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press1999); Robbins “The Globalization of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity” 127–129; Englund “Cosmopolitanism and the Devil in Malawi.”


Kjersti Larsen“Morality and the Rejection of Spirits: A Zanzibari Case,” Social Anthropology 6 no. 1 (1998): 62; Magnus Echtler “Changing Rituals: The New Year’s Festival in Makunduchi Zanzibar since Colonial Times” (PhD diss. University of Bayreuth Germany 2008) 115–117.


Robert W. LeblingLegends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar (London: I.B. Tauris2010) 202–207.


Interview with Robert November 8 2012.


Interview with Raheli October 30 2012.


Interview with Raheli October 30 2012.


T.M. Luhrmann“How Do You Learn to Know That It Is God Who Speaks?” in Learning Religion: Anthropological Approachesed. Daudi C. Berliner and Ramon Sarró (Oxford: Berghahn Books2007) 101.


Interview with Robert November 8 2012.


Luhrmann“How Do You Learn to Know That It Is God Who Speaks?” 84.


MarshallPolitical Spiritualities13.


Ogbu KaluAfrican Pentecostalism: An Introduction (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press2008) 260–263.


Interview with Yemima November 5 2012.


Interview with Daniel October 29 2012.


Michael T. Taussig“Viscerality, Faith, and Skepticism: Another Theory of Magic,” in Walter Benjamin’s Graveed. Michael T. Taussig (Chicago: University of Chicago Press2006) 123.


Anthony Shenoda“The Politics of Faith: On Faith, Skepticism, and Miracles among Coptic Christians in Egypt,” Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 77 no. 4 (2012): 482.


Harri Englund“Pentecostalism Beyond Belief: Trust and Democracy in a Malawian Township,” Africa 77 no. 4 (2007).


MarshallPolitical Spiritualities14.


Interview with Raheli October 30 2012.


YongIn the Days of Caesar172.


Ogbu Uke Kalu“Preserving a Worldview: Pentecostalism in the African Maps of the Universe,” Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 24 no. 2 (2002): 122.


Interviews with Fiona October 26 2012and Timotheo October 17 2012.


GlassmanWar of Words War of Stones295.


J.D.Y. Peel“For Who Hath Despised the Day of Small Things? Missionary Narratives and Historical Anthropology,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 37 no. 3 (1995): 587.


Englund“Cosmopolitanism and the Devil in Malawi” 294.


Harvey Gallagher CoxFire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-first Century (London: Cassell1996) 121–122.


Afe Adogame and James V. Spickard“Introduction,” in Religion Crossing Boundaries: Transnational Religious and Social Dynamics in Africa and the New African Diasporaed. Afe Adogame and James V. Spickard (Leiden: Brill2010) 17.


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