The Pentecostal gift : Ghanaian charismatic churches and the moral innocence of the global economy

TitleThe Pentecostal gift : Ghanaian charismatic churches and the moral innocence of the global economy
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsR.A. van Dijk
EditorR. Fardon, W.M.J. van Binsbergen, and R.A. van Dijk
Secondary TitleModernity on a shoestring : dimensions of globalization, consumption and development in Africa and beyond
Pagination71 - 89
Date Published1999///
Place PublishedLeiden [etc.]
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsAfrica, Baptist Church, Ghana, gifts, global economy, Pentecostalism

The paradigm of the enchanted global economy and the moral perils of involvement with foreign commodities suggests that anxieties about the generally immoral powers believed to exist within foreign objects result from an imperfect understanding of the global marketplace. However, urban Pentecostalists in Accra, Ghana, who are deeply engaged in the global economy, do not fear the moral dangers of commodities as such and do not lack an understanding of modern global capitalism. Ambiguities do arise when commodities are turned into gifts. Gifts carry sentiments, messages and intentions, and the obligation to give or to receive them may contain dangers. In dealing with this dilemma, Pentecostalism creates a space where free gifts can be given without material reciprocity, where commodities can be personalized without invoking evil powers, where its members can be delivered from the powers that emanate from the 'fie', the "house" or "shrine" of an ancestral deity, conveyed by gifts that cannot be refused, and where gifts may signal the purity of the giver's heart and soul. This multilayered gift-ideology and gift-economy enables Ghanaian Pentecostalism to occupy a pivotal position between the global economy and its own transational and transcultural relations, on the one hand, and local cultural structures dominated by gifts and reciprocal relations, on the other. Bibliogr

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