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Setting Out (Again): Ethnographic Deliverance in Malawi


The following is an experimental work of anthropology in the form of an ethnovella, a work informed from experiences that brought me to the field site for my dissertation research, a relatively small Pentecostal-charismatic ministry in Southern Malawi in 2011-2012. It takes seriously the ethical and epistemological demand made upon all persons who enter Pentecostal-charismatic scenes in search of breakthroughs: namely, to submit themselves narratively in the form of testimony as a precondition for the kind of inquiry generated within the space of the congregation. In doing so, it interrogates presumptions made with regard to ethnographic practice and representation, demonstrating that a work of anthropology can sometimes operate alongside ethnography. Ultimately a non-linear, narrative performance that attempts to evoke an ontology of deliverance that an ethnography to come will hope to enunciate, this dissertation relies on memory and creativity to account for an ethnographic fiction, in the truest sense of the term. At a moment in the discipline when new forms and accounts are finally being offered their place in the long wake of a crisis of representation, this dissertation is a contribution to fresh experiments in ethnographic writing (e.g., Pandian and McLean, eds. 2017) within the context of a revitalized anthropology of becoming (e.g., Biehl and Locke, eds. 2017), one which attempts to express what I have referred to elsewhere as “the joyfulness in prefiguration’ (Price 2016). In this regard, the work is, like most works of anthropology, provisional—only more radically so, by design.

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