By Davide Casciano, funded by the LUXCORE project
Read the open-access article here: https://journals.uio.no/JEA/article/view/9008
Access to consumption, especially to objects that are challenging to obtain, is one of the features contributing to the successful spread of Pentecostalism in West Africa. Pentecostal pastors have become central public figures, ‘consumer stars,’ whose display of wealth and luxury is key to their social legitimacy as preachers of the Prosperity Gospel. Moreover, their extensive and flexible social networks allow them and other born-again Christians to be part of patronage networks internally perceived as moral. However, while their conspicuous consumption has inspired ecstatic supporters, it has also attracted criticism and accusations of fakery and corruption. This article aims to explore the relationships between consumption, especially conspicuous consumption, and discourses about the corruption of Pentecostalism in Nigeria. Accusations against Pentecostal pastors and their fraud schemes or corrupt practices seem to identify the moral limits between what is considered a righteous and an immoral consumption, describing the potential perils of purely individualistic hyper-consumerism. These popular tales of ‘fake pastors’, willing to do anything to enjoy a luxury life, allow us to understand how the born-again public is scrutinizing the opaque neoliberal entanglements between consumerism and corruption that characterize emerging elite’s actions in Nigeria and elsewhere.