Homosexuality, Politics and Pentecostal Nationalism in Zambia

My latest article, ‘Homosexuality, Politics and Pentecostal Nationalism in Zambia’, has just been published in the journal Studies in World Christianity (vol. 20, issue 3, 2014, pp. 259-281). For the published online version, please follow this link;for the pre-published version of the manuscript, see here. Drop me an email if you would like to read the published PDF version but don’t have access to the journal.

Abstract

Building upon debates about the politics of nationalism and sexuality in post-colonial Africa, this article highlights the role of religion in shaping nationalist ideologies that seek to regulate homosexuality. It specifically focuses on Pentecostal Christianity in Zambia, where the constitutional declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation has given rise to a form of ‘Pentecostal nationalism’ in which homosexuality is considered to be a threat to the purity of the nation and is associated with the Devil. The article offers an analysis of recent Zambian public debates about homosexuality, focusing on the ways in which the ‘Christian nation’ argument is deployed, primarily in a discourse of anti-homonationalism, but also by a few recent dissident voices. The latter prevent Zambia, and Christianity, from accruing a monolithic depiction as homophobic. Showing that the Zambian case presents a mobilisation against homosexuality that is profoundly shaped by the local configuration in which Christianity defines national identity – and in which Pentecostal-Christian moral concerns and theo-political imaginations shape public debates and politics – the article nuances arguments that explain African controversies regarding homosexuality in terms of exported American culture wars, proposing an alternative reading of these controversies as emerging from conflicting visions of modernity in Africa.

Acknowledgements

This article is an output of the research project  ‘Homosexuality, Christianity, and National Identity in Postcolonial Zambia’, for which I received a 2012-2013 research grant from the American Academy of Religion. This award enabled me to do fieldwork in Zambia in 2013, from which the article has benefited.

Earlier versions of the article were presented as papers at the following occasions:

  • The combined conference of the British and European Associations of the Study of Religions at Liverpool Hope University, 3–6 September 2013, in the panel ‘The Oppositional Pairing of Religion and Homosexuality in Public Debates: Tracing the Controversy in Case-Studies from Europe and Africa’, convened by Anne-Marie Korte.
  • The Religious Studies Seminar of the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh, 13 November 2013, convened by Afe Adogame.

I wish to express my thanks to the organisers and participants of both events, as well as to the anonymous reviewer of the journal, for their critical questions and suggestions that have helped to develop the article.

 

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