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Holy Hustlers, Schism, and Prophecy

Apostolic Reformation in Botswana

Richard Werbner (Author)


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This book examines the charismatic Christian reformation presently underway in Botswana’s time of AIDS and the moral crisis that divides the church between the elders and the young, apostolic faith healers. Richard Werbner focuses on Eloyi, an Apostolic faith-healing church in Botswana’s capital. Werbner shows how charismatic “prophets”—holy hustlers—diagnose, hustle, and shock patients during violent and destructive exorcisms. He also shows how these healers enter into prayer and meditation and take on their patients’ pain and how their ecstatic devotions create an aesthetic in which beauty beckons God. Werbner challenges theoretical assumptions about mimesis and empathy, the power of the word, and personhood. With its accompanying DVD, Holy Hustlers, Schism, and Prophecy integrates textual and filmed ethnography and provides a fresh perspective on ritual performance and the cinematic.
Richard Werbner is Professor Emeritus in African Anthropology at the University of Manchester. He is the author of many books, including Reasonable Radicals and Citizenship in Botswana.
"Yet another outstanding book on anthropological Christianity in Africa."—Isabel Mukonyora American Anthropologist
“Engaging. . . . Upon reading Holy Hustlers I felt like embarking on a sensuous journey, marked by a profusion of colours, objects, movements and ambiences, populated by stories of healing, disruption, transformation, schism and serendipity. . . . An extremely relevant, state of the-art portrait of contemporary African Christianity through the scope of some of its most distinctive features: schism, creativity, prophecy and power. . . . I believe this book deserves far more than just an Africanist or religious studies readership. It is a fascinating read for any anthropologist, regardless of expertise.”—Ruy Llera Blanes, University of Lisbon, London School of Economics Social Anthropology
"Exhilarating. . . . A work of great ethnographic force."—Dominic Martin Suomen Antropologi
“Werbner makes an outstanding contribution to the growing field of Anthropology of Christianity, ethnographically and historically. His writing is engaged and engaging, certain to appeal to a readership beyond the circle of specialists on the topic and field.” -Johannes Fabian, University of Amsterdam

“Richard Werbner is certainly one of the preeminent anthropologists of our time. I pity the ethnographies that come unaccompanied by film. How threadbare they will appear in comparison with this masterpiece Werbner has served up. Or, perhaps I should pity the ethnographic films that come unaccompanied by text from a masterful theoretician and storyteller with Werbner's facility. This exercise in the anthropology of ritual performance and the cinematic is but the latest example of Werbner's ability to continually reside at the cutting edge of the anthropological enterprise.” -James A. Pritchett, Professor of Anthropology and Director of Africa Studies at Michigan State University

Holy Hustlers is a master’s work and the summum bonum of a long career in central African ethnography. Few could contribute more knowledgeably than Richard Werbner, as this study shows, to our understanding of the search for surcease of sorrow and for spiritual salvation. Werbner keeps a keen eye on the “hustling” aspect of this search, to be sure, but accompanying this perspicacity of observation is a deeper respect, perhaps even a reverence, for the meaningfulness that his Apostolics, his co-participants, in the search achieve.” -James W. Fernandez, The University of Chicago

“This book is a sensuous and empathetic account of young Christians in urban Botswana, providing thoughtful insights into the work of charismatic prophecy and healing, the dialectics of “individuality” and “dividuality” and the generational dynamics of reformation in African Christianity. A fine piece of scholarship.” -Thomas Kirsch, University of Constance, Germany

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