After rupture: Visions of history, spiritual belonging and theological repair amongst Nigerian Pentecostals

Yesterday (3 Nov 2022), CCCW was delighted to welcome Dr Naomi Richman, JRF in Anthropology at Trinity College, to discuss her ethnographic research amongst the Nigerian Pentecostals. The talk was hybrid and Naomi spoke to a full room in Cambridge, as well as others joining from across the world.

In her talk, Naomi explored how Nigerian Pentecostal Christians seek repair and renewal in their lives, after their efforts to rupture with the past and become born again. She considered the ways that a group of Nigerian Pentecostals who belong to a deliverance church re‐narrativise their lives by constructing and entering into new timelines of history after their attempts to break with the past. She argued that this tells us something about the theological way these Christians reframe their role in history, including how their understanding of a collective past shapes their vision of who they are in the present and will be in the future. In conclusion, Naomi argued that more attention needs to be given to processes of repair, repositioning and realignment in discussions about how conversion to Pentecostalism can generate efforts to break away from what becomes conceptualised as ‘the past’.

This fascinating talk prompted a plethora of questions, ranging from discussions of diverse understandings of ‘the past’ and ‘rupture’, to how deliverance churches understand the role of the spiritual and physical realm in their medical engagement.

Naomi’s research on rupture and repair is explored in her recently released article for The Australian Journal of Anthropology (TAJA), which is part of a forthcoming special issue called ‘Anthropologies of Religious Change’ that she has co-edited with Derrick Lemons.

The article can be found here: Richman, N. (2022). After rupture: Visions of history, African spirituality and theological repair in Nigerian Pentecostalism. Australian Journal of Anthropology.

Following Naomi’s talk, the CCCW looks forward to the next seminar talk in the series, which will be given by the Centre’s own, Dr Pavlina Kasparova, on ‘Art Practice as Interfaith Dialogue’ at 4pm (GMT) on the 30th of November.

Written by Susie Triffitt