Africa has become a key site of masculinity politics, that is, of mobilisations and struggles where masculine gender is made a principal theme and subjected to change. Pentecostalism is widely considered to present a particular form of masculinity politics in contemporary African societies. Scholarship on African Pentecostal masculinities has mainly centred around the thesis of the domestication of men, focusing on changes in domestic spheres and in marital and intimate relations. Through an analysis of a sermon series preached by a prominent Zambian Pentecostal pastor, this article demonstrates that Pentecostal discourse on adult, middle- to upper-class masculinity is also highly concerned with men’s roles in sociopolitical spheres. It argues that in this case study the construction of a born-again masculinity is part of the broader Pentecostal political project of national redemption, which in Zambia has particular significance in light of the country constitutionally being a Christian nation. Hence the article examines how this construction of Pentecostal masculinity relates to broader notions of religious, political and gendered citizenship.
Building on scholarly debates on Pentecostalism, gender and modernity in Africa, this article engages a postcolonial perspective to explore and discuss the ambivalent, even paradoxical nature of African Pentecostal gender discourse. It analyses the conceptualization of gender equality, in particular the attempt to reconcile the notions of ‘male–female equality’ and ‘male headship’, in a sermon series delivered by a prominent Zambian Pentecostal pastor, and argues that the appropriation and interruption of Western notions of gender equality in these sermons can be interpreted, in the words of Homi Bhabha, as a catachrestic postcolonial translation of modernity. Hence, the article critically discusses the Western ethnocentrism in some scholarly debates on gender and Pentecostalism in Africa, and points to some of the fundamental questions that Pentecostalism and its ambivalent gender discourse pose to gender-critical scholarship in the study of religion.
In some Christian circles in Africa, male headship is a defining notion of masculinity. The central question in this article is how discourses on masculinity that affirm male headship can be understood. A review of recent scholarship on masculinities and religion shows that male headship is often interpreted in terms of male dominance. However, a case study of sermons in a Zambian Pentecostal church shows that discourse on male headship can be far more complex and can even contribute to a transformation of masculinities. The main argument is that a monolithic concept of patriarchy hinders a nuanced analysis of the meaning and function of male headship in local contexts. The suggestion is that in some contexts male headship can be understood in terms of agency.