Definitions of “scripture” fetishize and sacralize the phenomenon. “scripture” is treated as sacred (texts to be revered), and most assuredly, written with a capitalized initial, “S”. But “scripture”, beyond its axial hegemonic characterizations, is forged through human relationships. Using comparative methodological approaches found in the writings of Wilfred Cantwell Smith (What Is Scripture?) and Vincent Wimbush (White Men’s Magic), this paper examines scriptural imaginaries in the ideation of Lagos as a city, a heavily-freighted terminology, as a modern invention.

As a signifier within Africa’s postmodernities Lagos embodies the consistencies and contradictions of “scripture”, namely opportunities for formations\ re-formations\ deformations\deform-(n)ations within pre- and postcolonial ambiguities, as windows unto understanding human complexities, or what it means to be human. Thus, while scriptures are not always about sacred writings, the British annexation of Lagos as its prized possession via the fiat of scriptural logics shows, as Wimbush argues, that “texts and literacy mark where power is in the world.” Yet, scriptures are not about texts per se; rather, performances of scriptures (signifying and scripturalizing practices) reveal that “individuals are the vehicles of power.”

In this paper references to (emergent historical) sites of scriptural formations establish the transmutability and translocality of scriptures. By citing the preponderance of religious presences within her, Lagos assumes the reiterations of the indwelling magics, meanderings, meanings, and massages of Henry Louis Gates’ significations or Wimbush’s scripturalization.

Finally, processes of nativization and normalization appear to transfer from the early empire dealers to new localized institution builders of society that would not spoil.

Terms: scripture, scripturalization, postcolonial, signifying, power relations

Dr. David Olali presented this paper during the 61st Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association held in Atlanta, GA (November 29-December 1, 2018).
The theme of the events was Energies: Power, Creativity and Afro-Futures.

Want more details about this presentation, contact Dr. David Olali:

III-P-2 The Crossroads of Spiritualities: New and Old Religions of Lagos in Transition (Lagos Studies Association)

Chair: Babatunde Babalola, University of Cambridge

Scriptural Economy: Magics, Meanings, and Massages of Lagos, by David Olali, Claremont Graduate University

Ecclesiastical Polity, Christian Nationalism, and Religious Freedom in West Africa, 1880-1884, by Adrian M. Deese, University of Cambridge

Muhammad Jumat Adesina and the Yoruba Madhist Movement in Lagos and Ijebu, by Oliver Coates, University of Cambridge

Discussant: Adedamola Osinulu, New York University

In Religion, Media, and Marginality in Modern Africa, editors Felicitas Becker, Joel Cabrita, and Marie Rodet provide a timely intervention for media studies in the study of religion. This three-part, ten-chapter edited volume audaciously attempts (but only partially succeeds) in situating “media within a longer history of Muslims’ and Christians’ use of older media forms, including both print and penned manuscripts, not least among them their sacred scriptures” (1). Although the editors establish facts in abundance that “studies of religion and media in Africa typically treat new electronic and digital media in isolation from well-established scholarship on print and manuscript culture in Africa” (2), they fail to go beyond these kinds of orthodox religious studies arguments, which often restrict scriptures or “media” to otherized status, and thereby reify classical taxonomies of texts as scriptures.

The first chapter, Sean Hanrettta’s “Formal Care: Islam and Bureaucratic Paperwork in the Old Gold Cost/Ghana” (38-69), illuminates how imams in the Gold Coast found it necessary to co-opt British licensing, certifications, and “paperization” of weddings in order to be deemed authorized and qualified to perform such ceremonies. Jörg Haustein’s “Provincializing Representation: East African Islam in the German Colonial Press” (70-92), a good refresher on some significant antecedents for contemporary Islamophobia, is a powerful testament to the classical European gimmicks of “rescue” and the civilizing mission through the signing of treaties. Importantly, Haustein’s piece demonstrates both the “genius” of German conquest styles and the challenge that “a different historical logic” (87) ultimately presents to the invaders for the control of a multi-religious landscape such as East Africa. In “A Tin-Trunk Bible: The Written Word of an Oral Church” (93-111), David Gordon argues that “marginal texts hold special powers” (93) whereby imaginaries of marginality signify, and are made to become, proof of divine approbation. Questioning and contesting the use of photographic “figurative representations,” especially of women in Kenya, is the focus of Heike Behrend’s “Photography as Unveiling: Muslim Discourses and Practices on the Kenyan Coast” (112-32). Bruce S. Hall examines emergent forms of media in Mali in “Vernacular Media, Muslim Ethics, and ‘Conservative’ Critiques of Power in the Niger Bend, Mali” (133-53), but remains fixated on “self-consciously folkloric” negotiations of “‘traditional’ ideas” (134). Liz Gunner’s “‘The Angel of the Sabbath Is the Greatest Angel of All’: Media and the Struggle for Power and Purity in the Shembe Church, 2006-12” (154-74) reveals struggles over orthodoxy, contests for power, and the ensuing signifying practices within the community of faith represented by the Shembe Church founded by Isaiah Shembe in 1910.

Asonzeh Ukah takes on charismatism in “Charisma as Spectacle: Photography and the Construction of a Pentecostal Urban Piety in Nigeria” (175-201). Ukah advances a helpful method for the study of emergent media forms in Nigeria, stating that faith is seeing, and seeing is believing. The first piece to radically alter the volume’s overall bent toward orthodoxia  in religious studies scholarship, Kathrien Pype’s “Nzete Ekauka versus the Catholic Church: Religious Competition, Media Ban, and the Virgin Mary in Contemporary Kinshasa,” provokes thinking around the complexities and boundaries of religion and politics through meanderings from Brother Rapheal Minga Kwete to Nzete Ekauka to the pantheon of apparitions. Unlike Heike Behrend’s “Kenyan Coast,” where visibility is vehemently abhorred, André Chappatte’s “Exploring Youth, Media Practics, and Religious Allegiances in Contemporary Mali through the Controversy over the Zikiri” (229-55) offers renegotiations of both allegiance to “local elders” (236) and spiritualized morality, leaving an ever-expansive border interpretation in the use of new and social media. Last but not least, Maria Frahm-Arp admits that, despite Africa’s apparent lags in science and technology, Pentecostal Charismatic Christianity (PCC) manages to hold itself up through the deployment of “cutting-edge technology” (256). By ethnographically portraying the PCCs in South Africa, Frahm-Arp’s “Personal Charismatic Christianity and Social Media in South Africa: Mitigating Marginality, Prosperity Teachings, and the Emergence of a Black Middle Class” (256-79) offers a classic case study for contemporality, presence, and power within black congregations.

Religion, Media, and Marginality in Modern Africa is important because, according to the editors, “the fluidity of social borders as well as their sometimes quite sudden rigidity in situations of conflict, and the multitudes of people facing and seeking to mitigate one or another form of marginalization” (3). There is little to no doubt that the volume is a significant contribution to media and religious studies scholarship. Yet the disparity between the classic text-based study and the critically comparative “media” study, such as Kathrien Pype’s piece, is quite obvious for any serious scholar in that area. Not even “the editors’ specializations in Southern African Christianity, East African Islam, and West African postslavery societies” (3) could be used as justification for the wide gap.

The major drawback of this volume is the overemphasis placed on text-based “world” religions, but, on the whole, Felicitas Becker, Joel Cabrita, and Marie Rodet have done well for giving us even the slightest (additional) hint, through Religion, Media, and Marginality in Modern Africa, that Africa is neither a monolith nor a hopelessly static cadaver for Western examination. In sum, these various chapters weave an evidence-based web of media portraiture alongside a comparative analysis of religious practitioners._____________________________________________________________________________________________________About the Reviewer(s): David O. Olali directs multiple research projects including Comparative HeritageIjaw Project and Ijaw Journalamong others.Date of Review:July 11, 2018_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Details about the book: Cambridge Centre of African Studies, Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, February 2018. 320 pages. $69.95. Hardcover. ISBN 9780821423035. 


About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Felicitas Becker is Professor of African History at Ghent University, and a specialist in the history of Islam in East Africa. She is the author of Becoming Muslim in Mainland Tanzania and coeditor of AIDS and religious practice in Africa. Her current work focuses on Islamic preaching, the rhetoric of development and aetiologies of poverty in East Africa.

Joel Cabrita is Lecturer in World Christianities at the University of Cambridge. She is the author of Text and Authority in a South African Church. Her forthcoming book is a history of the transatlantic Zionist movement (The People’s Zion: South Africa, the USA and a Transatlantic Healing Movement).

Marie Rodet is Senior Lecturer in the history of Africa at SOAS. Her research interests lie in the field of modern migration history, gender studies and the history of slavery in francophone West Africa. She is the author of Les migrantes ignorées du Haut-Sénégal, 1900–1946 and coeditor of Children on the Move in Africa: Past and Present Experiences of Migration.


Reviewed via Reading Religion, a project of the American Academy of Religion (AAR):

The Ruins is a local attraction in the city of Talisay. It has achieved prominence because of its romantic grandeur and restorative development effort. The romantic ambience is a reflection of a deep-seated history of its construction in the 1920s when a sugar baron poured in his riches in building what was known as the “living Taj Mahal” of the Philippines.

The original edifice is an 11-room mansion built by the rich baron for his wife who died after giving birth to their 11thchildren. On the other hand, The Hacienda La Fortuna is not just an emblem but an iconic display of corporate success in San Carlos City. The heritage mansions were witnesses to the affluent lifestyle of the colonial elite family that lived the fastidious opulence of the rich and powerful. Both situated in Negros Islands, Philippines, these heritage sites withstood time and has become an index that reflected the condition of the past.

The paper talks about the anthropology behind the economics of both structures and analyzes the diverse nature of the two while combining the focus of their reconstructive vision. The comparative study approach made use of their common origin.

This comparative study reveals the stories behind each framed wall and convalescent dig of magnanimity. Significant personalities behind the effort of reconstruction and restoration were accessed as resource persons that shed light into the mysterious public posturing of these structures. The social components of the structures were examined through the people that lives around the community and those who owned the properties. The trails of information were viewed from various lenses of identification. The practical essence of the paper rests on its holistic purview about restoration and preservation of heritages sites.

At the end it hopes to promote meaningful reflection among individuals and communities on the set parameter of reconstruction, preservation, ownership, and mobilization of heritage an economic venture from the standpoint of society culture and politics. Recommendations were anchored on the fitted role of stakeholder s and major players. The paper addresses the historical dynamics of heritage preservation from the pundit in the field. Two lessons are expected to be taught by the diverse approaches used in the two heritage sites.

This piece is a summary of an original research by CH Associates Johan Josefsson and Inga-Lill Aronsson.


This article discusses the establishment and development of the heritage concept and how it finally found itself being called into question and at risk of being discarded. The article uses a multi-analytical frame including the phenomenological approach. The narrative begins in a European context with Sweden as the starting point.

In Swedish the word for heritage is ‘kulturarv’. The everyday notion and use of the separate elements kultur (’culture’) and arv (’legacy’) does not lead to any severe disputes as long as the words are not combined into kulturarv. In this compound, the semantic meaning becomes complex, ambiguous and diffuse, complicating the use of heritage in, for example, the tourist sector.

The authors also note the patriarchal overtones of heritage as expressed in the World Heritage Convention official emblem, where the Spanish and French denominations of our world heritage are Patrimonio Mundial and Patrimoine Mondial respectively (patrimonio < Latin ‘patrimony, fatherly heritage, fatherly descent’; pater ‘father’). Further, the authors argue that heritage nominations, or the lack of these, could be results of intersubjective processes governed by power groups such as ’heritage experts’ and politicians.

As a way of challenging the present heritage concept, enriching and bringing it into the 21st century, the article introduces the concept of ‘life-values’ that Josefsson during fieldwork in Albania formulated as an alternative (or complement) to the traditional heritage concept. Inspired from the phenomenological concept of lifeworld, life-values refer to phenomena that provide people with life-enhancing meanings.

Compared to heritage, life-value is a better term to describe the subjective dimension of things in general, regardless if they consist of material objects or abstract elements. Hence, life-values are free from the prerogatives and power aspects involved in the selection and interpretation of heritage, as in the present and much used “Authorized Heritage Discourse” (AHD). Life-values are omnipresent and transcendent and have no temporal or spatial limits. They might be a better description of how humans, seen as constituting of mind and body, to a higher degree respond to the world, before discourses, labels, and concepts such as ‘heritage’.

An interview study, conducted by Josefsson during his internship at the National History Museum in Tirana, showed that 56.9 % associated cultural heritage with the “past”, while 25 % associated heritage with “culture”. Furthermore, 22.2 % associated history with immaterial heritage. The result shows clearly the conceptual nexus of culture, cultural heritage and immaterial heritage are all associated with identity.  This is in accordance with the introduced notion of life-values.

This ambiguity can also be seen in all the different forms that heritage is manifested, such as in “uninherited heritage”, and “inherited non-heritage” – a term that Josefsson developed during a field trip to Mount Dajti National Park outside Tirana. The first mentioned refers to disputed heritage, and the last one refers to not officially proclaimed heritage, which is still heritage in the sense that it has been passed on to further generations.

Why heritage could be disputed, contested or ‘dissonant’, is because heritage represents different values for different groups and individuals – symbols that are strong enough to fight for. This is in conflict with for example UNESCO which, in its World Heritage List, assigns fixed, innate and universal values to something that is changeable, negotiable and non-universal. The interpretation and selection of heritages becomes subject of a subjective-objective dilemma.

The article concludes that the cultural heritage concept is ambivalent and shows similarities to the concept of culture that some years ago was said to be everywhere and therefore nowhere. Consequently, the heritage concept has slipped into a semantic vagueness and arbitrariness that makes it difficult to use analytically.

Insights and further research

In order to understand heritage in a holistic way, every dimension of it needs to be explored. This includes not being limited to the institutionalized heritage, but to go beyond the concept to see what else is there that can add something to the discourse. We argue that this “other things” could be explored through studies of the mundane and subjective aspect of heritage, and of cultural/natural “things” in general. In this sense, phenomenology is a useful theory to build the investigation of heritage on. Suggestions for methodology include an extended application of field studies involving the senses and the body, as well as visual research and in-depth interview studies. One option is to apply the research method of ‘grounded theory’, where the coding and memoing could play an important part. The memos do not have to be in the form of written field notes, but could also be photographs, videos, etc.

Besides continuing the studies of the phenomena in Albania, a holistic perspective on heritage requires analyses of other, in terms of (heritage) tourism, less recognized areas, for example, Kosovo. This opens up for a comparative study, where the grounded theory could be tested further.


This article is based on Josefsson’s master’s thesis in museum and cultural heritage studies, Uppsala University, supervised by Aronsson. The heritage research would benefit from a standpoint where the heritage concept and other related established concepts are not taken for granted, because when they are, they tend to block our mindset; it is hard to go outside the box, when the box is discursively closed. Albania offers a good opportunity to study the phenomena in a general way, let them be official heritage or mundane things, due to the lack of an intensive (heritage) tourism. Hence, there is a chance to explore heritage before it is called ’heritage’.


Publication details: 
Johan Josefsson and Inga-Lill Aronsson, “Heritage as Life-Values: A Study of the Cultural Heritage Concept,” Current Science, 110: 11 (2016).

MLA Citation: Johan Josefsson and Inga-Lill Aronsson. “Heritage as Life-Values: A Study of the Cultural Heritage Concept — By Johan Josefsson and Inga-Lill Aronsson.” 26 Jan. 2018.

According to René Girard (The Scapegoat), the unpalatability of evil finds expression through ritual establishment of a scapegoat. Yet, within evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity, there is no lacking in biblical passage quotations to justify the need to destroy the power of witchcraft; the presence of evil in this world results in belief in witchcraft.

This paper examines the use of the theme of witchcraft tropes among selected evangelical Christian organizations in Nigeria. Thesis: cultural biases in gender and class relations play key roles in the interpretation of sacred scriptures.

This paper uses frameworks from ethnographies of interconnection” to engage recent development theories as found in Kingsley C. Moghalu’s ‘Last Frontier in relation to interconnective constructions of “witch” in identity scripturalizations. In addition to textual and film analyses, the research uses ethnography work from two African Initiated (Pentecostal) Churches (AIPC): The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries (MFM), both located in Georgia, U.S.A.

‘The Yoruba Sango and Jesus in Judgement’ explores tropes of power in human relations, especially as these help our understanding towards comparative scriptures—in the things that scriptures do, are made to do/are used to do, rather than what they mean à la Vincent L. Wimbush, scholar of Religion and Director Institute for Signifying Scriptures  (Theorizing Scriptures). Persons and communities often arm and equip themselves with what they consider to be divinely-inspired explanations of the supernatural origins and ownership of their “owned scripture.”

Subsequently, as psycho-political instruments, users of scriptures activate and deploy same in socio-cultural contexts in order to allow scriptures do stuff for them, not merely as conduits of hermeneutics; after all, messages from the gods require a messenger to deliver them.

This paper uses the theme of fury from two cultures—ancient-contemporary Yoruba and first-century Christianity, in juxtaposition with the deployment and use of anger, threat, and punishment in the US Presidency of Donald Trump—to examine scripture as an Anglo-freighted concept for the imaginaries of power and privilege, or as a response to both power and privilege.

First of all, who is Sango, and what is his connection with fury? How does establishment of a Sango-fury nexus help our definitions in Religious Studies? Does engaging these subjects—Sango, fury, and scripture—help us in understanding Donald Trump as a Christian and politician: a businessman sui generis? Therefore, this paper is preoccupied with providing responses to the above issues, questions, and concerns, in relation to the use of scripture in a power forge.

The power of the television in shaping thinking in America yet again came alive on Sunday evening when what began as an ordinary event gave birth to a chorus: Oprah for president. The “sacred” seat of the American president is one of awe and wonder. Those who sit in that position may not fully understand that until they are unseated, whether naturally, tenure expiration or by popular demand.On the 7th day of January 2018, billionaire media mogul, Oprah Winfrey, became the first black woman to receive the Cecil B. de Mille Award.

Below are the full transcripts of her speech during the Golden Globes 2018. In her acceptance speech, which many see as a political statement towards a foreseeable presidential ambition, Oprah made statements that resonated with Americans on several levels. While there is not an iota of doubt that Oprah is an influencer in her general and will be for a long time to come, there are arguments as to whether she understands what it means or takes to be a president of the United States.It is interesting that Americans are one of the finest producers of scriptures on earth. Loving religiousness and its politics, America presents the study of religion with endless opportunities for exploring the terror and grip of belief upon the human psyche. But, no other time presents a better chance than now to examine where the birth of a nation may lead!

“In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: “The winner is Sidney Poitier.” Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white, and of course his skin was black, and I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people’s houses. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney’s performance in “Lilies of the Field”:“Amen, amen, amen, amen.”In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award. It is an honor — it is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them and also with the incredible men and women who have inspired me, who challenged me, who sustained me and made my journey to this stage possible.

Dennis Swanson who took a chance on me for “A.M. Chicago.” Quincy Jones who saw me on that show and said to Steven Spielberg, “Yes, she is Sophia in ‘The Color Purple.’” Gayle who has been the definition of what a friend is, and Stedman who has been my rock — just a few to name.I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because we all know the press is under siege these days. We also know it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To — to tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story.But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.And there’s someone else, Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too.

In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and mother walking home from a church service she’d attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the NAACP where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice. But justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.Their time is up. And I just hope — I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks’ heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery, and it’s here with every woman who chooses to say, “Me too.” And every man — every man who chooses to listen.

In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave.

Oprah Winfrey Oprah Winfrey (source: National Broadcasting Corporation)

Oprah Winfrey Oprah Winfrey (source: National Broadcasting Corporation)

To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere and how we overcome. I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “Me too” again.

Proselytization proclivities downplay the historical and cultural significance of Islam and its civilization in West Africa. This is a general introduction as well as an entry into the making of contemporary Islam in West Africa: its routes and reasons for expansion. Considering the fact that a postmodern discourse on Islam in the region tends to ignore ongoing spatial contests between the religion and its other dominantly axial partner, Christianity, in establishing presence and de-stabilizing essence of the ordered other.

The piece uses the case of Nigeria as an example of the use of religious expansionism for purposes that Vincent L. Wimbush terms scripturalization: the phenomenon and use of scripture [a freighted concept for power] in negotiating community and stakes.