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Allowing Satan in? Moving Toward a Political Economy of Neo-Pentecostalism in Kenya

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Abstract Neo-Pentecostalism provides African elites with an avenue for legitimation of authority and wealth and, to some extent, bolsters power and authority. Simultaneously, ordinary people look for control over their lives—realities that help explain the explosion of neo-Pentecostal beliefs across sub-Saharan Africa that began in the 1980s. The political legitimacy provided is open to contestation and debate, liable to be rejected by some and questioned by others. Neo-Pentecostalism can offer defence mechanisms or strategies that assist with survival, but rarely socioeconomic or political change. Instead, it tends to detract from a class-based identification of and opposition to structural violence, inequality, corruption, and oppression, and often contributes to a general sense of uncertainty and insecurity regarding relevant and appropriate responses. The outcome is an unsteady reinforcement of unequal relations of power and wealth. This paper sets out these arguments with reference to Kenya, and more specifically the declarations and actions of both politicians and slum residents.


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