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Unformatted text preview: Embodied Histories, Danced Religions, Performed Politics: Kongo Cultural Performance and the Production of History and Authority by Yolanda Denise Covington A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Anthropology) in The University of Michigan 2008 Doctoral Committee: Associate Professor Elisha P. Renne, Chair Associate Professor Kelly M. Askew Associate Professor Mbala D. Nkanga Assistant Professor Julius S. Scott III © Yolanda Denise Covington 2008 To my grandmother NeNe ii Acknowledgements When I look back on my experiences, it seems as if I was guided by some unseen hand. From my acceptance into the A Better Chance Program for high school, to my career switch from medicine to anthropology/Africana Studies at Brown University, to my trips to Panama, and finally to Congo while at the University of Michigan, I often felt as if my path was being determined by someone else and I was just traveling along it. Along the way, however, I met many wonderful people who have played crucial roles in my journey, and I have to thank them for getting me here. This dissertation is really a collaborative project, for I could not have completed it without the guidance and assistance of so many people. The first person I have to thank is my grandmother, who has inspired and encouraged from my days at C.E.S. 110X in the Bronx. She has always been supportive and continues to push me to reach my highest potential. I could not have reached this point without a great support system and wonderful dissertation committee. First and foremost, I have to thank Elisha Renne, my dissertation committee chair and overall advisor. Elisha is the hardest working academic that I know, and the most amazing advisor any graduate student could ever wish to have, in all honesty. She gives back feedback on my writing within hours, and sometimes within minutes when we go over my writing together in her office. She also offers wonderful career guidance, sending calls for papers and publications my way all the time (my first iii publication was the result of one of those e-mails that she sent to me). She is incredibly supportive, and I can always count on her to be straight with me with her suggestions and constructive criticism of my research, writing, and revisions. I can truly say that I was blessed in having an advisor that took great interest in nurturing my growth and career, and I hope that I will continue to make her proud in the future. Next is Tata Mbala Nkanga. Words cannot capture the debt that I owe to him for all that he has done. Tata Mbala encouraged me to go to the Congo, even when many people warned me against it. He provided me with contacts that took great care of me during my time there, and it was his letter and faith in my ability to carry out my project that ultimately convinced the Fulbright committee to award me a fellowship. He took the time to translate certain songs for me and even sat down to explain many things about Kongo culture and history and political animation, conversations that I benefited from tremendously. He is a wonderful mentor, and his wife Honorine has also been an inspiration to me as well. Mfiaukidi, Tata Mbala. Kelly Askew has been a great support and mentor over the years. It was her work that called me to the University of Michigan, and I continue to be amazed at her intelligence and drive. She encouraged me in the moments when I felt like giving up, always looked out for me where funding was concerned, and provided a model of work/life balance that I desire to emulate. Thank you so much, Kelly, for all that you have done for me. I always say that it was Julius Scott III (my fellow Brown alumnus) who sat me down and forced me to make a choice between Panama and Congo. Were it not for him, I might still be years away from finishing. He took me under his wing, and helped me to iv become not only a better teacher, but also a better scholar. Thank you for coming through for me at the moment when I needed it the most; my heart overflows with gratitude. Maxwell Owusu has also provided great support and conversations in the development of my research project. He especially encouraged me to be aware of how people identify me and relate to me in the field, and it is to him that I owe a great deal of my discussions about my own experiences that are found throughout the dissertation. At the University of Michigan, I must also thank the Department of Anthropology for its support over the years, especially the graduate program coordinator, Laurie Marx, who for good reason I now call, the “Miracle Worker.” Laurie, thank you so, so much. From finding money for last minute conference travel, to helping to navigate fellowship and teaching applications, to handling defenses; without you, we all would be lost. My other home on campus is the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies; I must thank the Center for all of the research funding, teaching and workshop opportunities, and just overwhelming support that they have provided over the years. Kevin Gaines, Donald Sims, Devon Adjei, Beth James, Faye Portis, Chuck Phillips, Chaquita Willis---thank you all so much, for not only supporting me academically but also as a student with a personal life as well. I must also extend my thanks to the Institute for the Humanities. It was because of their fellowship that I was able to complete the writing of my dissertation, and the office space that they extended to me even after the fellowship ended made all the difference in my ability to write. Thank you—Danny Herwitz, Terry Jansen, Eliza Woodford, Doretha Coval; and my dear fellows—Jennifer Palmer, Min Li, Marcia v Inhorn, Haiping Yan, and all of the other fellows, thank you for all of your feedback and support. There are so many people that impacted and facilitated my research in the Congo that I can only list them here: Tata Fu-Kiau Bunseki, who provided additional contacts and taught me KiKongo in the SCALI program; Professor Kimpianga Mahaniah—were it not for you, I would have never gone to Luozi. You opened your home and library to me, let me accompany you on trips, introduced me to many people, and were a great resource and support to me both in Luozi and Kinshasa. I cannot thank you enough, and continue to be inspired by your own work in Kongo history and culture. Papa Leon, I learned a lot from you in the time we spent together; thank you. Ne Nkamu Luyindula—thank you for the KiKongo, drumming, and dance lessons and the late night debates on Kongo culture, history, and gender politics; you are an amazing artist and a true griot. We must work together in the future. In Luozi: Pere Blaise and the Catholic mission; the Luyobisa family (Pa Luyobisa, Ma Suzanne, Marcelline and the other children); the DMNA church; Charles Mayangi Masamba; the members of BDK in Luozi; the CEC churches and mission; Ma Jackie, who was like a mother to me there in Luozi—I will never forget; Reagan, my little brother; Eric and Yannic; Tata Zam, thank you for everything. Ma Muniangu; Ton-Ton Niki Niki; Ma Mambweni; Ma Sylvie; Ma Virginie; Jose Dianzungu and his wife; everyone who allowed me to interview them and pick their brains for their knowledge—I cannot thank you all enough. I just hope my work does justice to what I learned from you all. In Kinshasa: Papa Jean Kambayi Bwatshia and Mama Angelique, who opened their home to me for a number of months; thank you for being my parents away from vi home. Mama Annie Meta—what can I say, Mama Annie, you were crucial in helping me to settle in Kinshasa, finding me housing, taking me to meet with contacts or even to get my hair done; going food shopping and providing daily rides home—you were like my big sister, and I cannot thank you enough. Thank you to the cultural/public affairs section of the American Embassy in Kinshasa; I’d also like to thank Tata Nzuzi, who introduced me to his family and remains in contact. Tata Ndundu, you were like an unofficial committee member there in Congo; you helped to shape my project and challenged me to think deeply about it; you kept me on track, meeting with me over and over again to discuss my work, and arranging meetings and interviews with other people; I cannot thank you enough. Abbe Ngimbi, thank you so much for the conversations and for arranging the trip to Mayidi. Frederick Ngandu, thank you. I must thank the staff at the National Archives in Kinshasa, which patiently searched for documents and files for me even when there was no electricity; also the librarian at CEPAS, and Pere Body at Scholasticat. I had many friends in Kinshasa; within the diasporic community—Jill and Anthony, Aleathea, Patsy and Marco, S.T., Mike, Ray (all of whom provided food and/or housing to this struggling grad student at one time or another) and any others I forgot here; thank you. In Gombe and other parts of Kinshasa—Christian, who introduced me to a large group of friends; Bolene, Dido, and everyone else—thank you for the great times and rowsing and challenging conversations over Skol and red soda. Ma Helen, Ma Patricia, thank you for everything. Pere Matota and Pere Alain Nkisi, thank you. Friends at the Liberian embassy in Congo—thank you as well. I would also like to thank the staff at the Tervuren Museum and the African Archives in Brussels for all of their help during my archival research there. I can’t forget vii my small but growing community of Congo researchers: Ira Dworkin, thank you for the rides and reading over my work; Nichole Bridges, for the dinners and housing in Brussels; John Nimis; Ed Davis, and anyone I may have forgotten. Thank you also, to Biza and Titos Sompa and Bichini bia Congo for giving me the embodied knowledge that served me well in my research. For funding, I must thank the IIE Fulbright program, Rackham Graduate School, CAAS Africa Initiatives, Center for World Performance Studies, Institute for the Humanities, Department of Anthropology, Council of Alumnae Women, Center for the Education of Women, Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship, International Institute, and others for funding my project. In terms of publications, part of chapter three was previously published in the edited volume Missions, States, and European Expansion in Africa. I must also thank my friends here in the U.S. that have supported me throughout my graduate career. My wonderful writing group members, Patricia Moonsammy, Shanesha Brooks-Tatum, and Menna Demessie; Grace Okrah for all of the support and encouragement (keep at it); my cohort members—Xochitl, Britt, Henrike, Sergio, Marisabel, Cecilia, Sonia, and all of the others (we are a huge cohort), we can all make it! My best friend Chidimma has been with me all the way from Brown; thank you for everything Chi! I must also thank my family of course, for encouraging me over all of these years—Mommy, Tavi, Dana, Brandon, Michelle, Sony and Audrey, my other aunts, all of my cousins, my father Roger, Teeta, Dell. To Nyesha, I hope that this entire experience has inspired you. To ma fille, Leyeti, I love you dearly, and you forced me to keep pushing harder. Last but not least, I must thank my husband Lincoln Ward, for viii standing by my side throughout this entire ordeal and not wavering in his love and support. If there is anybody that I did not mention here—thank you all the same. As shown by all of the people that I have thanked, this dissertation was a collaborative effort. It is my tribute to Kongo people and culture, and I hope that this study presents convincing evidence for the need to pay attention to the functions and uses of embodied cultural performances in everyday life, not only in Kongo society, but in all societies. While most of the Western world privileges logocentrism, including academics who try to read bodies as texts, embodied practices have an important role in all societies for chronicling histories and making and unmaking authority. It is because the ways in which we move and use our bodies become ingrained and second nature to us, that we should all examine the ideologies, institutions, and histories that inform our own embodied cultural performances. ix Table of Contents Dedication ............................................................................................................... ii Acknowledgements ................................................................................................ iii List of Figures ...................................................................................................... xiii List of Tables ....................................................................................................... xiv Glossary ................................................................................................................ xv Abstract .............................................................................................................. xviii Chapter 1 Bodies, Performance, and Authority .................................................................. 1 Kongo in the Body .............................................................................................. 1 Overview and Significance ................................................................................. 2 Part I: Theoretical Overview............................................................................... 5 Memory and Embodied Histories ....................................................................... 5 Embodied Practices and Social Transformation ................................................. 9 Embodied Cultural Performances ..................................................................... 13 Performance and Power .................................................................................... 18 Performance and Authority ............................................................................... 26 Part II: Methods, Sites, Positionality and Embodied Prophecies...................... 32 Description of the Methodology ....................................................................... 32 The Ethnographic Present of Political and Economic Disarray: Introducing Kinshasa ............................................................................................................ 38 Crocodiles and Rolling Hills: Introducing Luozi.............................................. 41 Neither Native Nor Stranger: On Positionality and Being an African-American Woman Conducting Ethnographic Research in the Congo .............................. 47 Embodying Prophecies ..................................................................................... 55 Outline of Chapters ........................................................................................... 61 Chapter 2 Performing the Kingdom: Kongo Performance in the Pre-colonial Period ..... 66 Introduction ....................................................................................................... 66 Sources and their Limitations ........................................................................... 71 The Kongo Culture Area ................................................................................... 74 Kongo-European Contact.................................................................................. 79 Cultural Performances, Social Transformations, and Authority ....................... 83 Bimpampa and Religious Authority ................................................................. 94 War Dances and Military Reviews ................................................................... 96 Healing ............................................................................................................ 103 Makinu ............................................................................................................ 113 Dance and Christianity: The Moral Debates................................................... 113 Conclusion ...................................................................................................... 118 Chapter 3 Threatening Gestures, Immoral Bodies: The Intersection of Church, State, and Kongo Performance in the Belgian Congo ..................................................................... 120 U 104H 1HU U 2HU 105H U 3HU 106H U 4HU 107H U 5HU 108H U 109H 6HU U 7HU 10H U 1H 8HU U 12H 9HU U 13H 10HU U 14H 1HU U 12HU 15H U 13HU 16H U 17H 14HU U 18H 15HU U 16HU 19H U 120H 17HU U 12H 18HU U 12H 19HU U 20HU 123H U 21HU 124H U 125H 2HU U 23HU 126H U 127H 24HU U 25HU 128H U 26HU 129H U 130H 27HU U 28HU 13H U 29HU 132H U 30HU 13H U 31HU 134H U 135H 32HU 3HU U U 137H 136H 34HU U 138H x Introduction ..................................................................................................... 120 Part I: Kingunza .............................................................................................. 123 Kingunza and the Movement of Simon Kimbangu ........................................ 129 Morel’s Report and the Significance of Trembling ........................................ 131 Trembling and the Trial of Simon Kimbangu................................................. 143 The Continued Persecution of the Prophetic Movements............................... 145 The Prophetic Movement and Nsikumusu ...................................................... 149 Part II: Makinu in Secular Contexts................................................................ 151 Moral Legislation and Ambivalent Action ..................................................... 153 The Influence of the Prophetic Movement on Attitudes Towards Makinu .... 167 Conclusion ...................................................................................................... 171 Chapter 4 “The Angels Sing with Us”: Trembling Hands, Christian Hearts, and Dancing for Nzambi in the Congo................................................................................................. 173 Introduction ..................................................................................................... 173 The Growth of African Independent Churches ............................................... 178 Overview of the Origins and Creation of the DMNA Church ........................ 181 Holy Spaces and Organization ........................................................................ 185 Women in the Church ..................................................................................... 189 The DMNA Form of Worship ........................................................................ 191 Enacted Theologies and Embodied Histories in the Worship Service ........... 193 Conclusion: DMNA’s Place in African Christianity, and the Body as a site of History and Authority ..................................................................................... 225 Chapter 5 Dancing a New Nation: Political and Cultural Animation during Mobutu’s Period of Authenticité ..................................................................................................... 228 Introduction ..................................................................................................... 228 Politics of Performance, Performance and Authority ..................................... 230 Political and Cultural Animation .................................................................... 243 The Organization of Political and Cultural Animation ................................... 251 Political Animation and its Implications for Kongo People ........................... 255 Political Animation in Everyday Life in Luozi Territory ............................... 267 Schools ............................................................................................................ 268 Businesses ....................................................................................................... 271 Oh, that Mobutu may be with you!: Churches and Mobutu’s Religious Authority ...............
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