Rethinking Syncretism: A Case Study of Chrislam in Lagos (Nigeria)

Seminar date: 
16 May 2011
15.30 - 17.00u
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Seminar room: 
Room 1A09

This is a joint seminar arranged by the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology and the African Studies Centre.

The seminar will present an ethnographic case study in order to explore the emergence of Chrislam (Oke Tude/Mountain of Losing Bondage), a religious movement that mixes Christian and Islamic beliefs and practices in its socio-cultural and political setting in contemporary Lagos. Nigeria is an interesting context in which to study Chrislam as its population, which is almost equally divided between Christians and Muslims, has increasingly become involved in religious violence. Lagos, Nigeria’s former capital, is a megacity characterized by chaos, corruption, eroding socio-economic structures, unprecedented levels of inequality and staggering levels of criminality. It presents a challenging site for mapping the spiritual means that Chrislam can offer its worshippers to deliver them from the socio-political anxiety and economic hardships that characterize their everyday lives. At a time when born-again Christianity and reformist Islam are among the world’s fastest-growing religious traditions, this presentation suggests that the expansion of Chrislam has to be seen as a part of a wider move towards what has been designated as ‘Islamic Pentecostalism’ in some of the recent anthropological literature on religion. Although an analysis of this development in terms of syncretism is obvious, the shortcomings of such an approach will be shown, and alternative ways will be proposed for looking at Chrislam’s religious pluralism that are more in line with how its worshippers perceive their own religiosity.