“Urban-Mead uses African church-goers’ biographies from the early and mid-twentieth century to illuminate, from the inside, the environment of Zimbabwean nationalism in Matabeleland, its birthplace. A wonderful recovery of the lives of a forgotten and betrayed cohort of people.”
Paul S. Landau, author of Popular Politics in the History of South Africa, 1400 to 1948
“Urban-Mead should be commended for writing a book that challenges scholars to reconsider how they study and theorize about practices of faith in a social world.”
The Mennonite Quarterly Review
“Through close examination, Wendy Urban-Mead illuminates the gendered connections of individual women and men to the Brethren in Christ Church in Zimbabwe. The detailed biographies to reveal a pattern: proper female behavior intersected with church teachings, while men encountered difficulties in combining Ndebele masculine expectations with church ideology. The Gender of Piety is a major contribution to studies of family, church, and gender history in Africa.”
Kathleen Sheldon, UCLA Center for the Study of Women
The Gender of Piety is an intimate history of the Brethren in Christ Church in Zimbabwe, or BICC, as related through six individual life histories that extend from the early colonial years through the first decade after independence. Taken together, these six lives show how men and women of the BICC experienced and sequenced their piety in different ways. Women usually remained tied to the church throughout their lives, while men often had a more strained relationship with it. Church doctrine was not always flexible enough to accommodate expected masculine gender roles, particularly male membership in political and economic institutions or participation in important male communal practices.
The study is based on more than fifteen years of extensive oral history research supported by archival work in Zimbabwe, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The oral accounts make it clear, official versions to the contrary, that the church was led by spiritually powerful women and that maleness and mission-church notions of piety were often incompatible.
The life-history approach illustrates how the tension of gender roles both within and without the church manifested itself in sometimes unexpected ways: for example, how a single family could produce both a legendary woman pastor credited with mediating multiple miracles and a man—her son—who joined the armed wing of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union nationalist political party and fought in Zimbabwe’s liberation war in the 1970s. Investigating the lives of men and women in equal measure, The Gender of Piety uses a gendered interpretive lens to analyze the complex relationship between the church and broader social change in this region of southern Africa.
Wendy Urban-Mead is an associate professor of history at the Master of Arts in Teaching Program at Bard College in upstate New York. She is coeditor of Social Sciences and Missions. More info →
Save 20% ($27.96)
Save 20% ($64)
US and Canada only
Availability and price vary according to vendor.
Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center
Christianity and Public Culture in Africa takes readers beyond familiar images of religious politicians and populations steeped in spirituality. It shows how critical reason and Christian convictions have combined in surprising ways as African Christians confront issues such as national constitutions, gender relations, and the continuing struggle with HIV/AIDS.The
This book considers the rise of born-again Christianity in Africa through a study of one of the most dynamic Pentecostal movements. David Maxwell traces the transformation of the prophet Ezekiel Guti and his prayer band from small beginnings in the townships of the 1950s into the present-day transnational business enterprise, which is now the Zimbabwe Assemblies of God.
A breakthrough study of the underexamined lived experience of Islam, sexuality, and gender on the Swahili coast.
Who Shall Enter Paradise? recounts in detail the history of Christian-Muslim engagement in a core area of sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous nation, home to roughly equal numbers of Christians and Muslims. It is a region today beset by religious violence, in the course of which history has often been told in overly simplified or highly partisan terms.
Sign up to be notified when new African Studies titles come out.
We will only use your email address to notify you of new titles in the subject area(s) you follow. We will never share your information with third parties.