Journal Article

Born Again in Balaka: Pentecostal versus Catholic Narratives of Religious Transformation in Rural Malawi*

Nicolette D. Manglos

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 71, issue 4, pages 409-431
Published in print January 2010 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online April 2010 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/socrel/srq021
Born Again in Balaka: Pentecostal versus Catholic Narratives of Religious Transformation in Rural Malawi*

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Pentecostal membership and born-again conversion have been growing in popularity across Africa. Yet despite the many explanations posited for their growth, few studies have attended to the local meanings attached to the born-again identity specifically. In this study, I compare narratives of born-again conversion among a sample of Pentecostal and Catholic young people in Malawi, in order to better understand its meaning and appeal as a religious identity. I argue that the born-again identity is highly salient for those who claim it; and that although its roots are in Pentecostalism, it has diffused widely into other denominations. I also argue that for these young people, it is described not primarily as a conversion of belief but as a conversion to a new moral lifestyle; and that the major difference between Pentecostals and Catholics is in their expressed sense of the attainability of this conversion, not of its desirability. The connection between the born-again lifestyle and the impact of modernity in the development context is also explored.

Keywords: Pentecostalism; Catholicism; Sub-Saharan Africa; youth; conversion

Journal Article.  9500 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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