Religious revelation, secrecy and the limits of visual representation

B. Meyer

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This article seeks to contribute to a more adequate understanding of the adoption of modern audiovisual mass media by contemporary religious groups. It does so by examining Pentecostal-charismatic churches as well as the Christian mass culture instigated by its popularity, and so-called traditional religion in Ghana, which develop markedly different attitudes towards audiovisual mass media and assume different positions in the public sphere. Taking into account the complicated entanglement of traditional religion and Pentecostalism, approaching both religions from a perspective of mediation which regards media as intrinsic to religion, and seeking to avoid the pitfall of overestimating the power of modern mass media to determine the world, this article seeks to move beyond an unproductive recurrence to oppositions such as tradition and modernity, or religion and technology. It is argued that instead of taking as a point of departure more or less set ideas about the nexus of vision and modernity, the adoption of new mass media by religious groups needs to be analyzed by a detailed ethnographic investigation of how these new media transform existing practices of religious mediation. Special emphasis is placed on the tension between the possibilities of gaining public presence through new media, and the difficulty in authorizing these media, and the experiences they induce, as authentic. Copyright © 2006 SAGE Publications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-453
Number of pages23
JournalAnthropological Theory
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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