Conference and Workshop papers
‘Arrested by God’: Neo-Pentecostalism and armed struggle in the Niger Delta, Nigeria.
6th Bi-annual Peace and Conflict Studies in Anthropology meeting (PACSA), Amstedam, Holland.Date:
My paper explores the role played by Neo-Pentecostal Christianity in the violent conflict of the Niger Delta (Nigeria). Since the beginning of crude oil exploitation in the Niger Delta by Shell, Chevron, ENI/NAOC and other oil companies, an increasing pattern of robberies, kidnappings and violence committed by chronically unemployed youth, called ‘freedom fighters’, ‘militants’ or ‘cultists’ has turned Niger Delta into a ‘red zone’, not only for expatriates, but also for local citizens. Because of the risks involved, no fieldwork has been conducted in the area since 2009; moreover, even if in terms of adherents Nigerian Neo-Pentecostalism is second only to the United States, no one has studied the role it plays in the crisis. Drawing on examples from my doctoral fieldwork in Port Harcourt in 2016, I aim to show how Churches operate both in line and in partial dissimilarity with the peace efforts made by the State. While Neo-Pentecostals, like the State, have always been against the ‘cults’ or the ‘militants’, they also offer an alternative way of rescuing people, transforming them in being ‘born-again’. Neo-Pentecostal rhetoric and practices performed by pastors and activists provide common ground to promote a non-violent and spiritual alternative to the armed struggles and toward prosperity for many disappointed youth. Finally, the paper address how, in a context of everyday life insecurities for both ex-‘militants’ and ‘civilians’, Neo-Pentecostalism provides a restored sense of protection, divine planning and social interactions in order for its adherents to feel safe again.
"Neo-Pentecostal Christianity and the ‘Occult Other’: converting cultists and militants in the Niger Delta, Nigeria."
Christian Collectivities Workshop, UCL Anthropology Department, U.K.Date:
This paper, based on my doctoral fieldwork in Port Harcourt, aims to show the role of Neo-Pentecostal Christianity in the conversion of the so-called ‘secret cultists’ or ‘militants’ by transforming and freeing them from threats, including them in a new ‘family’ of ‘born-agains’ and controlling their rebel bodies. Port Harcourt is the principle oil city of the crude exporting region of the Niger Delta, Nigeria. This area became a ‘red zone’ after kidnapping increased in 2009. For unemployed youth, cultism and armed militancy became a fast way to obtain a denied wealth, even at the cost of widespread fear and insecurity for both the victims and perpetrators hounded by law enforcement and rival cultists. Second worldwide in terms of adherents, Neo-Pentecostalism in Nigeria has a long history in opposing the ‘Realm of Darkness’, synonym for secret cults and militancy for many people in the Niger Delta. In fact, as I will show, in concurrence with the State’s security concerns, Neo-Pentecostalism proposes a ‘miraculous alternative’ to search well-being, converting youth’s grievances from those of violence to faith, leading them away from brutalities and giving them a peaceful collective identity, a safe new ‘family’ for the generation ‘arrested by God’.
"Neo-Pentecostalism and the Oil Crisis in the Niger Delta, Nigeria."
Centre for Pentecostal & Charismatic Studies seminar, Edgbaston, University of Birmingham, U.K.Date:
"Inequalities, armed struggles and Neo-Pentecostalism in the oil producing city of Port Harcourt, Nigeria"
Associazione per gli Studi Africani in Italia - IV Conferenza ASAI Catania, IT. "Africa in fermento: conflitti, modernità, religioni", Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche e Sociali – Università di Catania, Panel su "Il pentecostalismo in Africa. Il linguaggio religioso tra neoliberismo, conflitti e nuove diseguaglianze".Date:
This contribution seeks to analyse how Neo-Pentecostalism fits into the reworking of dissent and the experience of inequality in the oil producing city of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. After a devastating civil war, the expansion of the oil market in the 1970s was a «blessing» in Nigeria that led to the «rebirth» of the nation with a new found well-being and show of «prosperity». Despite this, growing inequality and lack of infrastructure created the space for a struggle, often armed, against multinationals and the state. Neo-Pentecostal churches, as I will show, although somewhat critical of certain state initiatives, were, in general, supportive. In fact, they offered a popular solution to a well-being that was no longer perceived as the consequence of the fruits of one's own labour, an «economy of miracles» and attempted to calm the armed struggles by shaping individual viewpoints (which were adaptable to unstable working conditions) through narrative and ritual devices.
"In cammino verso la Montagna di Fuoco. Il ruolo terapeutico delle chiese Pentecostali in Nigeria".
Sapienza Università di Roma, Roma, IT.Date:
Il mio contributo vuole mostrare come le chiese cristiane Aladura prima, e le Pentecostali oggi, svolgano in Nigeria un importante ruolo nel definire il senso delle malattie e quindi, il modo di affrontarle. Gli esempi su cui mi baserò emergono da dati d'archivio e dalla mia ricerca sul campo ad Ibadan, capitale dello stato di Oyo in Nigeria, durante il 2011.
Dall’influenza spagnola del 1918 queste chiese hanno ricavato il loro spazio nel campo terapeutico in reazione ai fallimenti della bio-medicina e demonizzando le pratiche locali. Ad entrambe hanno opposto, come superiore, lo "spiritual power in the name of Jesus". Mostrerò come le chiese creano uno spazio di senso per i loro membri all'interno di un flusso globale di eventi e di problematiche moderne, percepite spesso come frustranti: ciò, attraverso un'agency, una lotta, espressa anche tramite tecniche del corpo durante le funzioni rituali. Infine, mostrerò come le chiese ricavino una posizione socio-politica sempre più riconosciuta anche a livello nazionale, divenendo parte, dal 2000, di programmi contro l'HIV; la cui partecipazione, non scevra da ambiguità, sarà analizzata mostrandone gli aspetti e le possibilità.
"Pentecostalism, HIV and Witchcraft in Nigeria."
Sapienza Università di Roma, Roma, IT. Medicine, Religion and Witchcraft Workshop.Date:
The topic that I will explore regards the transformation that Pentecostal churches are experiencing in Nigeria, their involvement in policies for dealing with AIDS as faith-based organisations (FBO) and their translation of the Yoruba concept of ‘àjé’ as a malevolent force that can cause, amongst other things, AIDS. Furthermore, I will show the consequences, right up to a national level, of this conceptualization and the role of Pentecostal churches when facing pandemics. My examples and data come from my fieldwork, carried out in the city of Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, Nigeria, during 2011. Historically, this city was founded and populated by Yoruba speaking people.
"Conflicting discourses, multiple practices and biopolitics of health: an anthropological enquiry into AIDS in Nigeria."
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Londra, UK. Medical Anthropology Seminar Series, convocati dal gruppo dell’LSHTM "Anthropologies of African Biosciences" e dal Centre for Research in International Medical Anthropology (CRUMA) della Brunel University.Date:
Chapters in books
The spread of HIV/AIDS began in Nigeria in 1985, and by 2009, 3,6% of adults were living with AIDS, according to UNAIDS. National bio-politics regarding AIDS, which are partially dictated by international donors (such as the USA), are aimed towards more economical neo-liberal models of risk management, that give the highest priority to prevention and individual responsibility. Rather than following these models, some local interpretations view the disease as being the result of social relations damaged by the growing domination of money in current society. By apportioning blame to other conflicting entities, these concepts join with local aspects of witchcraft. Independent Christian churches follow the moral model "ABC" ("Abstinence, faithfulness, condom use"), which imputes moral responsibility to the individual through "faithfulness" while ignoring important practical issues.
My paper, which suggests that any disease must be interpreted by people, shows how this process occurs in Ibadan (Nigeria) through multiple social agents. These agents struggle for exclusive control of the healthcare field and for the right to impose their discourse about the nature and causes of HIV/AIDS. I will explore these different discourses and how they legitimise one social agent rather than another. I will analyse the consequences of different interpretations of risk, the consequences of stigma and local narrative; the social construction of the experience of illness, and lastly, the numerous therapeutic pathways available. By suggesting policies which are based more on everyday life, I will draw attention to "culturally oriented" approaches adopted by some NGOs, which if not clearly thought through, paradoxically may contribute to pragmatically harmful therapeutic choices for people living with HIV.
Casciano, D. 2017. Postfazione. In Mbah, S. and Igariwey I. E., Anarchismo in Africa. Storia, movimenti e prospettive.
Napoli: Edizioni Immanenza.
Book reviews in journals
Casciano, D. 01/2018. The Unseen Things, Women, Secrecy, and HIV in Northern Nigeria
by K.A. Rhine, Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2016. Ricerche di Storia Politica
Articles in journals