Association for Africanist Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
On August 11, 2012, under a blanket of stars at the Malawi-Zambia border, hundreds of people gathered on a largely inactive runway at Chitipa Airport for a dramatic screening of a pirated DVD of Mel Gibson’s global blockbuster, 'The Passion of the Christ' (2004), one in a series of events hosted by the Holy Ghost & Evangelism Ministries Inc (HOGEM) as part of a weeklong crusade celebrating the planting of an important new branch of the church in this distant Northern outpost. Projected onto a large white cloth extended between a pair of wooden poles sunk into clay, the film provided an excellent opportunity for Head Pastor Allan Jiya to display a constellation of spiritual gifts—administration, evangelism, exhortation, knowledge, teaching, and tongues—in the process of solving a discrete problem. Because Gibson’s soundtrack is recorded in a mix of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin, and because many of the spectators in Chitipa would have difficulty following along via English subtitles, Jiya elected to offer a pastor’s commentary as a means of translating the film. As such, with one microphone amplified the soundtrack, another projected Jiya’s dynamic (and often ecstatic) commentary over it. The result was captivating, with hundreds of people glued to the screen via Jiya’s enchanting recasting. In this paper, I offer a close reading of this event to critically examine the role of remediation in mobilization and social outreach efforts in congested spiritual economies like those in Born-again Malawi.