Concretizing the Christian nation: Negotiating Zambia's National House of Prayer

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Abstract

In October 2015 the Zambian president broke ground on a new National House of Prayer, a building project meant to reaffirm the country’s status as Africa’s only self-proclaimed “Christian nation.” Over the next four years architects produced three separate sets of plans for the House of Prayer, images of which were circulated among Zambian Christians, primarily church leaders. Each set of plans has provoked conversations about what the House of Prayer should look like. This article shows how discussions of the building’s aesthetic features were connected to the theological-political possibilities of Christian nationalism, crystalizing around two competing models of how to go about making Zambia a (more) Christian nation. By tracing the tension between these models through architectural and aesthetic debates, this article shows the link between images and the theological-political imagination. It therefore builds on anthropological analyses of other parts of the world that have emphasized the political power of aesthetics as more than representations of already existing ideas—that is, as an ideologically and politically productive force in its own right.
Original languageEnglish
JournalComparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Christian nationalism
  • theology
  • politics
  • Africa

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