Gesture and Power

Gesture and Power

By Yolanda Covington-Ward
Book Description

In Gesture and Power Yolanda Covington-Ward examines the everyday embodied practices and performances of the BisiKongo people of the lower Congo to show how their gestures, dances, and spirituality are critical in mobilizing social and political action. Conceiving of the body as the center of analysis, a catalyst for social action, and as a conduit for the social construction of reality, Covington-Ward focuses on specific flashpoints in the last ninety years of Congo's troubled history, when embodied performance was used to stake political claims, foster dissent, and enforce power. In the 1920s Simon Kimbangu started a Christian prophetic movement based on spirit-induced trembling, which swept through the lower Congo, subverting Belgian colonial authority. Following independence, dictator Mobutu Sese Seko required citizens to dance and sing nationalist songs daily as a means of maintaining political control. More recently, embodied performance has again stoked reform, as nationalist groups such as Bundu dia Kongo advocate for a return to pre-colonial religious practices and non-Western gestures such as traditional greetings. In exploring these embodied expressions of Congolese agency, Covington-Ward provides a framework for understanding how embodied practices transmit social values, identities, and cultural history throughout Africa and the diaspora.This title was made Open Access by libraries from around the world through Knowledge Unlatched.

Table of Contents
  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Gesture and Power
  • I. Performative Encounters, Political Bodies
    • 1. Neither Native nor Stranger: Places, Encounters, Prophecies
  • II. Spirits, Bodies, and Performance in Belgian Congo
    • 2. “A War between Soldiers and Prophets”: Embodied Resistance in Colonial Belgian Congo, 1921
    • 3. Threatening Gestures, Immoral Bodies: Kingunza after Kimbangu
  • III. Civil Religion and Performed Politics in Postcolonial Congo
    • 4. Dancing with the Invisible: Everyday Performances under Mobutu Sese Seko
    • 5. Dancing Disorder in Mobutu’s Zaire: Animation Politique and Gendered Nationalisms
  • IV. Re-Creating the Past, Performing the Future
    • 6. Bundu dia Kongo and Embodied Revolutions: Performing Kongo Pride, Transforming Modern Society
  • Conclusion: Privileging Gesture and Bodies in Studies of Religion and Power
  • Glossary
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index
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