Abimbola Adunni Adelakaun
Healed through the Internet: Pentecostalism and Digital Miracles
This presentation studies mediated worship as necessitated by the COVID-19 global pandemic: miracle healing through electronic technology, plus how the spectacular configuration of the media was innovatively deployed to facilitate e-healings. From the year 2020 to some months in 2021 while the pandemic raged, Pentecostal churches in parts of Nigeria were locked down alongside other public spaces. Churches that premised healing miracles, especially, soon encountered the opportunities and limitations of worshipping through their digital devices. Factors such as a sense of intimacy, social connections, and empowerment that congregants foster when they physically gather to worship in churches, enabling the possible performance of miracles, were not so easily replicable through personal mobile devices. However, internet technology’s collapse of space and time, the ubiquity of digital devices, the interactive quality of social media, and the circumstances of a global pandemic that forced many public places to a state of lockdown even as it depressed many people’s economic capabilities, all came together to press the creative instinct in religious leaders who needed to keep church going. The computer and several digital devices played an essential role in forging the miraculousness of the miracles that some pastors staged at this time. They astutely used the new media and digital devices to perform miracles, making it blend into the existing systems of social relations such that the miracles seemed more continuous with social life rather than an irruption of it.
Abimbola A. Adelakun is an assistant professor in the African/African Diaspora Department, the University of Texas at Austin. She studies modern African culture through the disciplinary perspectives of performance, gender, Africana, and Yoruba studies. Her research interests span the areas of theatre and performance, Pentecostalism and pentecostal culture, indigenous African religions, religious creativity, Yoruba studies, and black popular culture. Her coming book, Performing Power in Nigeria: Politics, Identity, and Pentecostalism, is being published by Cambridge University Press.