Crumbley, Helen Deidre. Spirit, Structure, and Flesh: Gendered Experiences in African Instituted Churches among the Yoruba of Nigeria.

Author:Abiodun, Tosin Funmi
Position:Book review
 
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Crumbley, Helen Deidre. Spirit, Structure, and Flesh. Gendered Experiences in African Instituted Churches among the Yoruba of Nigeria. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press. 180 pp.

Crumbley's fine study, Spirit, Structure, and Flesh: Gendered Experiences in African Instituted Churches among the Yoruba of Nigeria offers researchers new interpretative framework for understanding women's agency and gendered practices within Yoruba religious institutions. This rich and well crafted study contains valuable information that will generate debates and persuade researchers out of old patterns of contemplation.

The author sets out to broadly investigate the processes of organizational development in three Aladura churches among the Yoruba, namely: the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC); the Church of the Lord Aladura (CLA); and the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC). As the sub-title implies, her chief objective is to explore the diverse gender practices within these churches and investigate how rituals, symbolic practices, and organizational ideologies liberate and place constraints on the worship experiences and leadership opportunities available for Aladura female members. Crumbley persuasively argues that despite the different gendered practices among the three Aladura churches, they share a common phenomenon, which she refers to as 'gendered discomfort'--"a certain uneasiness, sometimes glaring--with the female body as a conduit of power and procreative potential" (p. 136). She maintains that the sense of discomfort becomes obvious usually at the point when Aladura women approach the highest level of institutional hierarchy.

The study presents rich ethnographic data collected from the different Aladura churches in the city of Ibadan between 1982 and 1986. It brings together oral narratives provided by clergymen, church founders, church historians, lay members and more importantly, the oral accounts of prominent Aladura women. Other primary sources used in the study include church manifestos, printed programs, constitutions, statistics, financial records and bye-laws augmented with newspapers, magazines and government records. The author clearly states that although she employs critical methodologies that cut across diverse disciplines, the book can be best classified as an "anthropological study of religion and gender" and not a "theological, phenomenological, or historical investigation" (p. 24). However, the detailed bibliography and additional...

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