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Classifying African Christianities, Part Two: The Anthropology of Christianity and Generations of African Christians

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Current approaches to classifying African Christianities include generalizing approaches like Ogbu Kalu’s assertion of ongoing revival and particular studies associated with the anthropology of Christianity. Here I argue for a generational approach to African Christian communities, noting what has been achieved and what remains to be done.

Two recent ethnographies show the promise in the anthropology of Christianity for fruitful comparative approaches to African Christianity. Dorothy Hodgson’s study of Catholic evangelization of the Maasai and Matthew Engelke’s examination of a Zimbabwean independent church both develop concepts—inculturation and semiotic ideology, respectively—that prioritize African theological work in making Christianity suitable for African believers. Such conceptual approaches can include African Christians overlooked in past classifications and promote insightful comparisons. However, concepts that offer a comparative framework to address sociological belonging to mission-founded churches are still needed for a generational approach to African Christian communities.

Affiliations: 1: 130 Malloy Hall, University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN 46556 USA, Email:


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