Anthropologist Devaka Premawardhana arrived in Africa to study the much reported "explosion" of Pentecostalism, the spread of which has indeed been massive. It is the continent's fastest growing form of Christianity and one of the world's fastest growing religious movements. Yet Premawardhana found no evidence for this in the province of Mozambique where he worked. His research suggests that much can be gained by including such places in the story of global Christianity, by shifting attention from the well-known places where Pentecostal churches flourish to the unfamiliar places where they fail.
In Faith in Flux, Premawardhana documents the ambivalence with which Pentecostalism has been received by the Makhuwa, an indigenous and historically mobile people of northern Mozambique. The Makhuwa are not averse to the newly arrived churches—many relate to them powerfully. Few, however, remain in them permanently. Pentecostalism has not firmly taken root because it is seen as one potential path among many—a pragmatic and pluralistic outlook befitting a people accustomed to life on the move.
This phenomenon parallels other historical developments, from responses to colonial and postcolonial intrusions to patterns of circular migration between rural villages and rising cities. But Premawardhana primarily attributes the religious fluidity he observed to an underlying existential mobility, an experimental disposition cultivated by the Makhuwa in their pre-Pentecostal pasts and carried by them into their post-Pentecostal futures. Faith in Flux aims not to downplay the influence of global forces on local worlds, but to recognize that such forces, "explosive" though they may be, never succeed in capturing the everyday intricacies of actual lives.
PART I. Othama—To Move
Chapter 1. A Fugitive People
Chapter 2. Between the River and the Road
PART II. Ohiya ni Ovolowa—To Leave and to Enter
Chapter 3. Border Crossings
Chapter 4. Two Feet In, Two Feet Out
PART III. Okhalano—To Be With
Chapter 5. A Religion of Her Own?
Chapter 6. Moved by the Spirit
"Faith in Flux is a beautifully written and theoretically novel book that focuses on a geographical area that has been severely neglected in the anthropological record. Devaka Premawardhana amply illustrates the idea that radical renewal is neither foreign to traditional societies nor necessarily a byproduct of globalization, modernization, or Pentecostal conversion."—Ilana van Wyk, University of Cape Town
"Intersecting the study of Pentecostalism, modernity, and globalization with insights from existential anthropology, especially bodily dispositions toward mobility, Faith in Flux is a book that will no doubt lead anthropologists of Christianity to view their own work in a new light. Devaka Premawardhana challenges scholars to rethink the idea of religious conversion as a profound rupture with the past."—Sonia Silva, Skidmore College
"This book, no doubt, adds new, unique, and refreshing insight to the ever-growing research and publications on Pentecostalism. Not only does it examine Pentecostalism in a place where it had not been studied extensively, it does so by means of time-tested anthropological methods and theoretical frameworks. This unique approach and the vivid and enthralling narrative style make this book a must-read."—Journal of World Christianity
"Faith in Flux brilliantly realizes the potential of ethnography not only to illuminate other lifeworlds but to offer incisive critiques of current theoretical assumptions in religious studies and the social sciences. In lucid and enthralling prose, Devaka Premawardhana takes us deep into the world of the Makhuwa, offering new ways in which global Christianity, tradition, mobility, conversion, and social change may be understood."—Michael Jackson, author of How Lifeworlds Work: Emotionality, Sociality, and the Ambiguity of Being