Skip to main content

Prof Rijk van Dijk on 'Pentecostalism and Pre-marital Counselling in Africa'

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Pentecostalism and Pre-marital Counselling in Africa; A Case of Religious Sophistication?

Prof. Rijk van Dijk (ASCL, Leiden University/ AISSR, Univ. of Amsterdam/ Centre of Excellence, Univ. of Konstanz)

Tuesday 7 February, 5pm, venue: Baines Wing SR (1.13)

Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS) and the Centre for Religion and Public Life (CRPL) organise a joint research seminar with Professor Rijk van Dijk, who will be speaking about 'Pentecostalism and Pre-marital Counselling in Africa: A Case of Religious Sophistication?'. This is a public event, open to all university students, staff and others with an interest in the subject.


While we can easily perceive of the rise of new religious spaces in Africa as providing room for the formulation of new (ideological) messages and practices concerning private relationships and intimacies, this paper ventures to highlight the rise of a fascination for what can be called religious sophistication in the way religious groups (re-)fashion these. Whereas sophistication can be understood as a process akin to Weber’s notions of disenchantment whereby religion increasingly leaves room for, or fosters the growth of, science, bureaucracy and other rationalities, this paper sees a current fascination for the sophistication of a range of teachings and ritual practices that concern the domains of sexuality, intimacy and the body. Particularly in Pentecostalism, a rise can be noticed of an interest for the inclusion of (socio-)psychological knowledge and understanding, and for a reshaping of the body and bodily practices in accordance with bio-medical understandings of health and well-being. This means that there is increasingly space in Pentecostalism for acknowledging how the Spirit is manifesting itself through science, education, the media, through the work of doctors and medical practice, thereby emphasizing the need for their followers to produce and embrace sophisticated understandings of how Spirit and knowledge can and should be brought together. Focusing on Botswana, this paper will argue that especially through the engagement of religious bodies with the  HIV/AIDS-crisis in the country, religious sophistication has emerged in diverse ways (in religious practice, speech, counseling, healing, etc.) while manifesting itself within religious circles and practices. This paper takes the case of the development of pre-marital counseling in Pentecostal circles as an example that illuminates the manner in which this process has taken place.

Image result for "rijk van dijk"


Rijk van Dijk is an anthropologist. He is an expert on Pentecostalism, globalization and transnationalism, migration, youth and healing. He has been appointed Professor by special appointment of Religion and Sexuality in Africa at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research at the University of Amsterdam. His current research deals with religious, in particular Pentecostal, engagement with the domains of sexuality and HIV/AIDS in Botswana. He is a guest professor of Ethnology at the University of Konstanz, Germany. Within the programme Life Skills, Counselling and the Ethics of Responsibility he is doing research on 'The Social Life of Responsibilization. Marriage as a "Life-Project”. He is also the chair of the International Research Network on Religion and AIDS in Africa.