Healing and Power in Ghana
Early Indigenous Expressions of Christianity
Studies in World Christianity
341 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 6 b&w photos, 10 maps
- Published: October 2020
In nineteenth-century Ghana, regional warfare rooted in profound social and economic transformations led thousands of displaced people to seek refuge in the small mountain kingdom of Akuapem. There they encountered missionaries from Germany whose message of sin and forgiveness struck many of these newcomers as irrelevant to their needs. However, together with Akuapem’s natives, these newcomers began reformulating Christianity as a ritual tool for social and physical healing, as well as power, in a dangerous spiritual and human world. The result was Ghana’s oldest African-initiated variant of Christianity: a homegrown expression of unbroken moral, political, and religious priorities.
Focusing on the southeastern Gold Coast in the middle of the nineteenth century, Healing and Power in Ghana identifies patterns of indigenous reception, rejection, and reformulation of what had initially arrived, centuries earlier, as a European trade religion. Paul Grant draws on a mixture of European and indigenous sources in several languages, building on recent scholarship in world Christianity to address the question of conversion through the lens of the indigenous moral imagination. This approach considers, among other things, the conditions in which Akuapem locals and newly arrived displaced persons might find Christianity useful or applicable to their needs.
This is no traditional history of the European-African religious encounter. Ghanaian Christians identified the missionaries according to preexisting political and religious categories—as a new class of shrine priests. They resolved their own social crises in ways the missionaries were unable to understand. In effect, Christianity became an indigenous religion years before indigenous people converted in any appreciable numbers. By foregrounding the sacrificial idiom shared by locals, missionaries, and native thinkers, Healing and Power in Ghana presents a new model of scholarship for both West African history and world Christianity.
Introduction: The Moral Imagination
1 Primal Globalization
2 The Existing Ritual Toolkit
3 Three Hundred Years of Irrelevance
4 Satan’s Strongholds
5 How the Missionaries Became Shrine Priests
6 Divergent Modes of Hermeneutics
7 States of Exception
Conclusion: The Cross and the Machete
In Healing and Power in Ghana, Paul Grant returns to the period preceding the rise of African Christian independency to interrogate processes of indigenous reformulation of the gospel in order for it to respond to local religious sensibilities. We have here a groundbreaking volume that enables an appreciation of how indigenous Christians of the Gold Coast recalibrated faith. Through the performative aesthetics of lived religion, they anticipated the rise of independent indigenous Pentecostalism. This is a truly remarkable piece!~J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, PhD, Baëta-Grau Professor of African Christianity and Pentecostalism and President, Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Ghana
Scholarship on encounters between Western Christians and African peoples and their cosmologies continues to be lopsided, privileging missionary perspectives. Paul Grant has decisively corrected that imbalance, showing how from the mid-1830s the people of Akuapem in modern Ghana incorporated the Basel missionaries and their message within their own world of ritual power and communal healing. In so doing, Grant achieves two highly significant goals. He shows that the story of what we now label as African ‘Pentecostalism’ begins much earlier than is conventionally imagined; and by ranking missionaries among the Akan ancestors he skillfully transcends the barren academic debate between advocates of the externality or indigeneity of African Pentecostalism.~Brian Stanley, Professor of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh
Healing and Power in Ghana is a fine piece of in-depth historical writing of wider relevance than its title may suggest. Dr. Grant carefully unpacks the concerns, understandings, and interactions of German missionaries, British colonial officials, and the various peoples of the Akuapem Ridge during a formative period for Ghanaian Christianity. The Bible in its Twi translation is revealed as a significant actor in the story.~Andrew F. Walls, University of Edinburgh, Liverpool Hope University, and Akrofi-Christaller Institute, Ghana