On the Potential and Problems of Pentecostal Exchange

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In this article, I draw on ethnography from the Zambian Copperbelt to examine the social productivity of the Pentecostal prosperity gospel, a Christian movement centered on the idea that it is God's will for believers to be wealthy. In the light of the challenges that recent economic history has posed to Copperbelt relational life, Pentecostalism has become an important source of hierarchy—and, therefore, of social organization. This social productivity is evident in the complex patterns of exchange that emerge as believers make gifts to God and religious leaders. An analysis of Pentecostal exchange reveals that the hierarchical relationships forged through religious adherence are often in danger of being undermined by economic concerns, and prosperity gospel practice is therefore continually mobilized to protect these ties. In this discussion, I foreground the position of Pentecostalism among the repertoire of ideas, practices, and beliefs involved in negotiating social life in times of economic uncertainty.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-95
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • anthropology of Christianity
  • exchange
  • Pentecostalism


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