The University of Wisconsin Press

African Studies / African American Studies / Religion / Womenís Studies


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

Africa and the Diaspora: History, Politics, Culture
Thomas Spear, David Henige, and Michael Schatzberg, Series Editors

"A major, original, ethnographic contribution to the study of Yoruba Christianity, African Instituted Churches, and gender roles.”
—Allan Anderson, University of Birmingham

How does inhabiting a female body affect the experience of indigenized Christianity in Africa? Spirit, Structure, and Flesh addresses this question by exploring ways ritual, symbol, and dogma circumscribe, constrain, and empower women in African Instituted Churches (AICs)ónew denominations founded by Africans skeptical of dogmas offered by mainstream churches with roots in European empires.

Crumbley investigates the beliefs and practices associated with institutionalized female roles in three of the most important AICs. These practices include the prohibition against the ordination of women, the expectation that women avoid holy objects and sites during menstruation, and the congregational seating arrangements that construct asymmetrical relations of power. While gender distinctions seem to signal an absence of female autonomy and power, Crumbley argues that women count in the day-to-day life of these churches, whether ordained or not, and that these women exercise agency.

Deidre Helen CrumbleyDeidre Helen Crumbley is associate professor of Africana studies in the interdisciplinary studies division of North Carolina State University, where she teaches courses in African and African diaspora studies, with emphases on ritual, symbol, and inequality.

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• 2008 hardcover, University of Wisconsin
Press, ISBN 978-0-299-22910-8 is still available.

the cover of Crumbley's book is a photo of a woman's hand as she is running past, wearing a white trailing dress.

May 2010
LC: 2008013449 BR
200 pp.   6 x 9

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Paper $29.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-22914-6
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“What makes Deidre Crumbley’s work unique is, first, her focus on women’s
. . .  roles in the institution-alization of these churches 
. . .  and second, her detailed and empathetic accounts of church services, which reflect her own experience growing up in an African American storefront church.”
—Elisha P. Renne, Journal of Religion in Africa


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