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‘If you are saved you cannot forget your parents’: Agency, Power, and Social Repositioning in Tanzanian born-again Christianity

In: Journal of Religion in Africa
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  • 1 Faculty of Ethnology, University of Copenhagen Njalsgade 80 2300 Copenhagen, Email: martinli@hum.ku.dk
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Abstract

In much of the literature on African Pentecostalism, conversion has been associated with a striving for modernist individualist identities and a strategy for legitimising social, generational rupture. This article contributes to the existing scholarly field by shedding light on the ways in which urban Tanzanian born-again Christians address generational antagonisms and position themselves in relation to elder generations. Drawing on anthropological discussions of the concept of agency and focusing particular attention on the ways in which a specific kind of agency is cultivated through participation in ritual, I argue against a narrow association of born-again Christianity with modernist individualism. While an assertion of individual autonomy is implied in conversion, Tanzanian born-again Christians do not cease to be social beings, deeply embedded in family relationships. I demonstrate how born-again religious practice enables urban Tanzanians to actively rephrase and sometimes even improve their relationships with unconverted family elders.

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