Postmodern discourse challenges dichotomous cultural categories such as male/female, past/present and consumer/producer; it rather venerates the complexity, fusion, and diffusion of cultural categories. This ideology suggests that indeterminate or fluid cultural categories liberate consumer culture discourse availing it to varying consumer needs. African Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity advances such a postmodernist discourse that recognizes and bridges indeterminate physical, temporal, moral, and symbolic cultural categories of consumption. This is achieved through two processes: convergence and divergence. Fluid and capable of meandering rigid cultural categories and structures, African Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity theology is attractive to a broader audience of consumers because it appeals to a wider array of consumers’ demands/desires. This article thus advances that African Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity continues to grow due its ability to fluidly adapt its postmodern theology to the variegated consumption needs and identity projects of the postcolonial African consumer.
The dramatic global rise of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity (PCC) has been called ‘‘the largest global shift in the religious marketplace in the last forty years’’ (Martin, 2001: xvii). Pew (2011) estimates that PCC members constitute over 500 million people worldwide, a remarkable growth from its estimated 63 million mem- bers in 1970; this number is estimated to reach 800 million by 2025 (Anderson, 2013). PCC growth has been reported in the United States (Poloma and Green, 2010), Asia (Kim, 2012), Latin America (Freston, 1998), and Africa (Kalu, 2008). Some researchers have argued that the spread of PCC on every continent of the world is one of the strongest examples of the success of cultural globalization (Kim, 2012; Robbins, 2004). We draw on the body of scholarship that has emerged to understand the rise of PCC; we focus on the (Sub-Saharan) African context which is the primary site of global PCC growth (Haynes, 2012).
Many reasons have been identified for the growth of PCC, particularly in Africa. These include the materialistic appeal of the PCC prosperity gospel to the many who are impoverished, the movement’s cultural syncretism, and its orientation to neoliberal capitalism and globalization (Anderson, 2013; Bonsu and Belk, 2010; Gifford, 2004). Little, however, has been said about how African PCC has found success in its influence on consumption, consumption styles and structures, and postcolonial consumer identity. We find that African PCC theology is a postmod- ern discourse that impacts consumption by recognizing and bridging indeterminate cultural categories of consumption. Specifically, through two bridging processes of convergence and divergence, African PCC theology continuously bridges five indeterminate cultural categories of consumption: (1) global and local, (2) rural and urban, (3) past and present, (4) consumption and anti-consumption, and (5) magical and mundane. Indeterminacy creates the porous boundaries of cultural categories that permit an endless semiotic regurgitation in consumer culture. Because African PCC theology presents an indeterminate discourse using the inde- terminacy of these cultural categories, it appeals to a wide array of consumer needs and desires, and enables the African consumer to navigate a postcolonial identity in the face of intrusive neoliberal globalization, mass poverty and political instability. Contextually, we argue that this provides an important explanation for the rapid growth of PCC in Africa.