Pentecostalism and Nigeria : New Forms of Religious Life

Apata, Gabriel O. 2016. Pentecostalism and Nigeria : New Forms of Religious Life. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Pentecostalism is on the rise in various parts of the world, particularly in Africa. Several studies have emerged in recent years that have attempted to explain the reasons for the movement’s proliferation. The focus of this thesis is on the Pentecostal revival in Nigeria, which, it is argued, can be seen as a new form of religious life that revolves around three central themes. The first is a new form of religious attitude that I describe as the Pentecostal experience that is generated by the ‘collective effervescence’. This experience is achieved through the rites and rituals of worship that consists in prayer, praise-worship and other forms of religious performance underpinned by feelings of spirituality. I argue that a consideration of the Pentecostal experience not only offers greater insight into the African religious attitude, but also marks an improvement on the religious experience theories of thinkers like William James. The second theme is the vehicle through which the Pentecostal experience is achieved: the body. The thesis discusses the role of the body and argues for its centrality to Nigerian Pentecostalism through its dynamic expressivity and sacred performance. The third theme of the thesis is the Nigerian Pentecostal approach to the scriptures. I contrast the oral aspects of African cultures with Western literary culture of the scriptures to argue that the dynamism of ecstatic performance that we find in the oral culture has informed the Pentecostal approach to biblical texts. Additional insights into these themes are provided by an ethnographic study of a Nigerian Pentecostal Church in London.

The thesis also argues against the highly influential social deprivation explanation that has been advanced by a number of authorities. Overall it builds on existing studies of African Pentecostalism and breaks new ground in Pentecostalism scholarship.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


Pentecostalism, Nigeria, Religious Experience, The Body, Orality, Post-colonial, Prosperity, Poverty, globalization, collective effervescence, Durkheim

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)


30 June 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

18 Jul 2016 09:46

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:25


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