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Faith in Flux
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Faith in Flux
Pentecostalism and Mobility in Rural Mozambique

Devaka Premawardhana

232 pages | 6 x 9 | 8 illus.
Cloth 2018 | ISBN 9780812249989 | $49.95s | Outside the Americas £40.00
Paper Sep 2021 | ISBN 9780812225105 | $24.95s | Outside the Americas £18.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Contemporary Ethnography
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Chosen as a finalist for the 2019 Albert J. Raboteau Prize for Best Book in Africana Religions, granted by the Journal of Africana Religions

Winner of the 2021 Pnuema Book Award, granted by the Society for Pentecostal Studies

"This fascinating and unique book is the result of Devaka Premawardhana'sjourney of nearly one year to explore the local response to the recent arrivalof Pentecostal churches in northern Mozambique . . . [A] rich and inspiring book, which should be read by anyone interested in African Studies and anthropology of Christianity."—African Studies Review

"Who would have thought that a book set in the middle of what is considered a quite remote location even in Mozambique—the Makhuwa area of Niassa Province—could so eloquently address important concerns relating to Pentecostalism and the enigma of change in Africa, in anthropology, and more generally? This gem of a book executes such a challenging task in highly original ways . . . [B]eautifully and compellingly written . . . Premawardhana has written a book that should—and will—have a broad impact."—Journal of Religion in Africa

"Literatures tied to themes of migration, refugees, religious conversion, and phenomenology are all brought to bear expertly. Analysis of the fluidity of rural Mozambicans' relationship to Pentecostal churches and teachings is enriched with sparing application of well-chosen theories. The author accomplishes this with nuance, and utmost respect for the human experiences that command his attention."—International Journal of African Historical Studies

"Beautifully and brilliantly written . . . an existential ethnography of the Makhuwa people of Northern Mozambique, a meditation on colonialism, globalization, modernity and the nature of Pentecostalism, a critique of cultural theory, and a fascinating narrative of 'snakebites and elephant invasions, chronic illnesses and recurring wars, disputes within families and conflicts with the state.'"—Nova Religio

"This book, no doubt, adds new, unique, and refreshing insight to the ever-growing research and publications on Pentecostalism. Not only does it examine Pentecostalism in a place where it had not been studied extensively, it does so by means of time-tested anthropological methods and theoretical frameworks. This unique approach and the vivid and enthralling narrative style make this book a must-read."—Journal of World Christianity

"Faith in Flux reminds us how intensive fieldwork and rich ethnography are not only what define anthropology but also what anthropologists draw on to challenge theoretical assumptions and make their voices heard in scholarly debates . . . Faith in Flux should be recommended not only to scholars of Christianity and Africanists but also to undergraduate and graduate students of anthropology."—Anthropological Quarterly

"Premawardhana's book is a pleasure to read, as he seamlessly weaves the theoretical discussion into his intriguing vignettes. He discusses his own presence and reception with the people among whom he lived in a way that established credible ethnographic authority. Whether the reader is interested in constructions of conversion, Christianity and cultural adaptation, or the impact of transnational Pentecostalism in local communities, Premawardhana's work provides a valuable and detailed case study."—Pneuma

"Faith in Flux brilliantly realizes the potential of ethnography not only to illuminate other lifeworlds but to offer incisive critiques of current theoretical assumptions in religious studies and the social sciences. In lucid and enthralling prose, Devaka Premawardhana takes us deep into the world of the Makhuwa, offering new ways in which global Christianity, tradition, mobility, conversion, and social change may be understood."—Michael Jackson, author of How Lifeworlds Work: Emotionality, Sociality, and the Ambiguity of Being

"Faith in Flux is a beautifully written and theoretically novel book that focuses on a geographical area that has been severely neglected in the anthropological record. Devaka Premawardhana amply illustrates the idea that radical renewal is neither foreign to traditional societies nor necessarily a byproduct of globalization, modernization, or Pentecostal conversion."—Ilana van Wyk, University of Cape Town

"Intersecting the study of Pentecostalism, modernity, and globalization with insights from existential anthropology, especially bodily dispositions toward mobility, Faith in Flux is a book that will no doubt lead anthropologists of Christianity to view their own work in a new light. Devaka Premawardhana challenges scholars to rethink the idea of religious conversion as a profound rupture with the past."—Sonia Silva, Skidmore College

Anthropologist Devaka Premawardhana arrived in Africa to study the much reported "explosion" of Pentecostalism, the spread of which has indeed been massive. It is the continent's fastest growing form of Christianity and one of the world's fastest growing religious movements. Yet Premawardhana found no evidence for this in the province of Mozambique where he worked. His research suggests that much can be gained by including such places in the story of global Christianity, by shifting attention from the well-known places where Pentecostal churches flourish to the unfamiliar places where they fail.

In Faith in Flux, Premawardhana documents the ambivalence with which Pentecostalism has been received by the Makhuwa, an indigenous and historically mobile people of northern Mozambique. The Makhuwa are not averse to the newly arrived churches—many relate to them powerfully. Few, however, remain in them permanently. Pentecostalism has not firmly taken root because it is seen as one potential path among many—a pragmatic and pluralistic outlook befitting a people accustomed to life on the move.

This phenomenon parallels other historical developments, from responses to colonial and postcolonial intrusions to patterns of circular migration between rural villages and rising cities. But Premawardhana primarily attributes the religious fluidity he observed to an underlying existential mobility, an experimental disposition cultivated by the Makhuwa in their pre-Pentecostal pasts and carried by them into their post-Pentecostal futures. Faith in Flux aims not to downplay the influence of global forces on local worlds, but to recognize that such forces, "explosive" though they may be, never succeed in capturing the everyday intricacies of actual lives.

Devaka Premawardhana is Assistant Professor of Religion at Emory University.

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