OVERVIEW My dissertation, "Media and Religion in the Ghanaian Pentecostal Diaspora," examines religious media production by Ghanaian Pentecostal pastors as they seek to carve out a space for themselves in the American religious landscape. The rise of Pentecostalism as the fastest growing sector of Christianity around the world is well documented. An essential element in the growth of Pentecostal mega-churches, particularly in Africa and Latin America, is their astute use of mass media and modern communication technologies in order to create ties between the home church and its offshoots. Branches are typically located in cities with high concentrations of immigrants from the home country. These churches, with their super-sized worship centers, international broadcasts, and pastors that embark on multi-country crusades, are certainly conspicuous cohorts in the spread of global Pentecostalism. However, as we examine this phenomenon it must be acknowledged that the majority of Pentecostal
churches around the world are actually quite small. For every cathedral there
are hundreds of local parishes and for every stadium-sized mega church there are
hundreds of store-front churches and house churches. As such, I engage the globality of
Pentecostalism while examining some of its local instances. A key endeavor of
this project is finding the presence of the global within small church
domains. Pentecostalism is quite flexible in adapting itself to various
cultural contexts while keeping key aspects of its core beliefs and practices
intact. This presents an important opportunity to observe “globalization” at
work and to perform a close analysis of the specific elements that make Ghanaian Pentecostalism a “global” phenomenon.
DATA My data consists of transcripts of interviews with three Ghanaian Pentecostal pastors of churches in Aurora, Colorado and media texts that these pastors produced. I spoke with each of the pastors both informally and in semi-structured interviews and I studied a wide range of their media output: websites, Facebook pages, text messages, newsletters, books, videos, and postcards. I analyze both the talk they produce about the role of media in their churches as well as the content of their media output. In addition, I used participant-observation in order to gather supplemental data about the pastors and congregations. I attended church services, picnics, ethnic association meetings and events, naming ceremonies, funerals, engagements, and other events in order to gain insight into the cultural milieu in which these pastors and congregations operate. ANALYSIS One of the most common media formats circulating between both large and small Pentecostal churches is the postcard. The primary purpose of the event postcard is to move the receiver to attend the event being advertised. But even beyond this primary purpose, the postcard seeks to move the viewer to a specific frame of mind. The postcard persuades the viewer via the rhetorical force of images, texts, and symbols, through which it articulates beliefs and practices commonly engaged in Ghanaian Pentecostal churches. The postcards are signifying objects, rhetorical loci, where rhetoric is produced and interpreted. Simonson (2012) notes that loci gather and release cultural, material, and spiritual rhetorical energies and that they express and maintain aesthetic formations. In my analysis I explore the visual logic of the format in order to understand the construction of those rhetorical energies and aesthetic formations. This investigation shows how Pentecostalism in a local context reflects the ideas and images circulating in the Ghanaian Pentecostal media sphere but also uses its own raw materials to actively produce unique messages.
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