'How Will God Hear Us?’: Sonic and Linguistic Difference among Kinshasa’s Églises des Noirs

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This article studies how anti-Christian, ‘traditionally African’ organizations, locally known as Églises des Noirs, navigate religious competition in the Congolese capital through sonic and linguistic strategies. It focuses on the understudied Mpadist community, a ‘dissident’ branch of the better known Kimbanguist church. Mpadists mobilize diverging appreciations and meanings of sound and language to set themselves apart from the dominant Lingalaphone Pentecostal loudness of the city. In doing so, they pursue a delicate balance between Kongo traditionalism, the source of their spiritual legitimacy, rooted in colonial prophetic movements, and tactics of ‘modern’ community making in order to remain competitive within Kinshasa’s prolific religious setting. The article argues that ideologies of sound and language should be analysed within the same nexus, for they operate and are operationalized in similar ways. It therefore proposes to expand the sociolinguistic notion of indexicality to incorporate elements of the volume and modalities of sound making. The article also shows that sonic and linguistic ideologies are bound by context. In Kinshasa’s ‘low-fi’ soundscape, the indexical values of the languages Kikongo and Lingala, and of unamplified and amplified sound production, share similar features, yet they are evaluated differently in rural ‘hi-fi’ sonic environments.
Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)351-370
Aantal pagina's20
TijdschriftAfrica: Journal of the International African Institute
Nummer van het tijdschrift3
StatusPublished - 19 aug 2023

Bibliografische nota

Funding Information:
I obtained travel grants from both the UGhent Humanities Faculty Fund (CWO) and Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) to conduct fieldwork in Kinshasa. I thank Nick Rahier, Emelien Devos, Michael Meeuwis and the two anonymous reviewers of Africa for their precious feedback on earlier versions of this article. 1

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2023.

Copyright 2023 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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