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3 - Revived Bodies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2022

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Summary

Introduction

Balokole conversion was a somatic experience. Converts felt the tension between past and future ways of life and, in response, often convulsed, wept, or even laughed hysterically. Especially in the first decade of the revival's history, conversion was often enacted through these extraordinary bodily experiences, as Balokole moved from spiritual darkness to the light of salvation.

While some Balokole in southern Uganda, Rwanda, and northwestern Tanganyika described their conversion with reference to bodily states and physical manifestations, living the life of salvation was also intimately associated with a host of changes to converts’ bodies. How revivalists ate, dressed, and adorned their bodies became markers of the life of salvation. Revivalists became strict teetotalers, refusing to smoke tobacco or drink any form of alcohol (either “European” or “traditional”). Revivalists, however, were not only known for what they refused to consume, but they often deliberately broke taboos by consuming foods that others in their societies viewed as morally and socially harmful. In order to live the life of salvation, converts changed how they related to their bodies, and converts’ bodies, as a result, became sites of moral and political contestation. In making these changes to the way they treated their bodies, revivalists demonstrated their creation of a new moral code that pushed beyond the ethics and sensibilities of ethnic particularity and moved toward common patterns of ethical bodily comportment. This community was cosmopolitan, but it also attempted to mediate colonial cosmopolitanism's morally degrading influences by regulating how revivalists related to forces of change that impacted their bodies as well as their societies. The life of salvation was a life of sobriety, moderation, and cleanliness, and the changes revivalists made to their bodies and how they treated them were testimonials: they were meant to communicate the superiority of their life by demonstrating the power they had over destructive forces. This chapter begins with revivalists’ intense physical conversionary experiences, and connects these experiences with later changes converts made to the ways they treated their bodies.

The ethnographic and historical material in this chapter centers on a small geographical region that was divided into southern Uganda, northern Rwanda, and northwestern Tanganyika.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2017

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  • Revived Bodies
  • Jason Bruner
  • Book: Living Salvation in the East African Revival in Uganda
  • Online publication: 05 October 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787440616.004
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  • Revived Bodies
  • Jason Bruner
  • Book: Living Salvation in the East African Revival in Uganda
  • Online publication: 05 October 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787440616.004
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Revived Bodies
  • Jason Bruner
  • Book: Living Salvation in the East African Revival in Uganda
  • Online publication: 05 October 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787440616.004
Available formats
×