This deeply insightful ethnography explores the healing power of caring and intimacy in a small, closely bonded Apostolic congregation during Botswana’s HIV/AIDS pandemic. Death in a Church of Life paints a vivid picture of how members of the Baitshepi Church make strenuous efforts to sustain loving relationships amid widespread illness and death. Over the course of long-term fieldwork, Frederick Klaits discovered Baitshepi’s distinctly maternal ethos and the “spiritual” kinship embodied in the church’s nurturing fellowship practice. Klaits shows that for Baitshepi members, Christian faith is a form of moral passion that counters practices of divination and witchcraft with redemptive hymn singing, prayer, and the use of therapeutic substances. An online audio annex makes available examples of the church members’ preaching and song.
Correction: The author wishes to correct a mistranslation of a Setswana proverb that appears on page 5 of the text. The proverb is rendered as "Jealousy is cooked together with the voice; when the voice emerges, jealousy is left behind." In Setswana, the saying is "Lefufa le apeetswe le lentswe, lentswe la butswa ga sala lefufa." The correct translation is: "Jealousy is cooked together with a stone; when the stone is fully cooked, jealousy remains behind." As difficult as it is to bake a stone, jealousy is even harder to cook away. The significance of the proverb is as related in the text, namely that there is no way to remove jealousy from persons or relationships. The author regrets having misconstrued the low-toned Setswana word "lentswe" (stone) as the high-toned "lentswe" (voice) in this instance.
Frederick Klaits, a cultural anthropologist, teaches in the Thompson Writing Program at Duke University.
“This book is a valuable contribution to the study of HIV/AIDS. . . I would highly recommend it to anyone.”—Easa
“This [book] will provoke new, creative, and sustainable ways of designing and implementing AIDS prevention and treatment policies.”—Journal Royal Anthro Inst
“The [book] is rich and detailed, both meticulous and expansive.”—Somatosphere
“This book should be required reading for all Africanists, for scholars of religion, of the emotions, and for medical anthropologists seeking to understand AIDS or the meanings and practices of care.”—American Ethnologist
“Written in a clear and engaging style. . . . [This book] enlarges our understanding of how people nurture loving relationships in the context of AIDS.”—Deborah Durham African Stds Review
"Klaits' work is not only a major contribution to the anthropology of religion and the social scientific literature on AIDS, but also a significant intervention into debates on how Africanists should approach their understandings of sociality and relatedness."—Matthew Engelke, author of A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church
"The reader gets the sense of being a welcome party to a close conversation. Klaits sustains a direct, clear, humane, and jargon-free voice, and we come away with a radically challenged understanding of what it means in an African church to be 'born anew'."—Richard Werbner, author of Tears of the Dead: The Social Biography of an African Family