NEW PUBLICATION a media ban and religious competition in Kinshasa

Katrien Pype's chapter on "Nzete Ekauka versus the Catholic Church. Religious Competition, Media Ban and The Virgin Mary in Contemporary Kinshasa." has been published in Religion, Media and Marginality in Modern Africa, eds. F. Becker, J. Cabrita and M. Rodet, Cambridge African Studies Series, Ohio University Press, 2018, pp. 202-228.

Since 1986, Brother Raphael Minga Kwete has been receiving divine messages from the Virgin Mary, Jesus, the saints, as well as Catholic leaders such as Padre Pio and Francis of Assisi in his compound commonly known as "Nzete Ekauka" ("the dessicated tree"). During the 1990s, this compound was the arena of fervent prayer gatherings where Catholic clergy, intellectuals, politicians, and even figures of the local music scene could be seen praying. Nowadays, the compound is nearly empty. The exodus started in the early 2000s, and today only a few dozen people (mainly women) continue to attend daily prayers, donate money, and spread the Virgin’s messages more widely. An informal media ban was issued by the Catholic Church in the early 2000s. The Nzete case-study will situate media presence, production, and aesthetics within a larger field of competition between orthodox Catholicism and more popular forms of engagement with Catholic spirits. In addition, the idea of the Virgin Mary as a spirit who addresses the Congolese through the prophet, draws our attention to the transformations urban religiosity has undergone in the late postcolonial era, and to the enduring role of Catholic clergy in urban Africa.


a pamphlet produced by the prophet Frère Raphael Minga-Kwete (picture taken in 2012)

a pamphlet produced by the prophet Frère Raphael Minga-Kwete (picture taken in 2012)

Participation in Electronic Modernity - Reflections Based on Ethnographic Research in Kinshasa

On May 9 2018, Katrien Pype delivered a key note at the Participatory Videofilm Festival #1 (organized by researchers at the University of Ghent, Belgium).

She introduced three different ways of alternative forms of "participation", beyond the act of filming and performing. First, her ethnographic research on the production of evangelizing television serials has drawn her attention to the fact that, if people act and watch filmed drama, this can have spiritual consequences. Participation in electronic modernity here also includes participation of one's soul, of spirits, and of invisible powers. Second, her research on political subjectivities in the Congolese blogosphere has pushed her to reconsider acts such as clicking and remediating digital content. Digital citationality, so she argues, connects to the emergence of the political subject in similar fashion as citing other people's voices construes the social person in local pedogagical understandings. Finally, participation by proxy, as informed by her research on elder people's usage of mobile phones (they often ask others to send text messages or make phone calls on their behalf) can often be the only way in which people can participate in electronic modernity while respecting local parameters of seniority and bigmanity.

studying digital creation stories - new challenges for media research in Africa - book chapter (2018)

Katrien Pype has contributed a chapter to the book "Palgrave Handbook for Media and Communication Research in Africa", edited by Bruce Mutsvairo, and published with Palgrave MacMillan (2018).

The goal of the volume is to identify new challenges and opportunities for media research in Africa. Contributors work in African universities and beyond.

Katrien's paper is called "The Devil is in the Rumba Text. Commenting on Digital Depth", and deals with the possible meanings of digital clips that circulate in the Congolese digital sphere in which music (and audiovisual clips) of contemporary Congolese rumba musicians are interpreted as embedded in occult worlds, especially the Illuminati world.

The main challenges described are (a) the lack of a generic label for this genre of instructive clips; (b) the inaccessibility of the uploaders and producers (refusal to be interviewed, to identify themselves); and (c) the lack of interest or consideration by many of my interlocutors in Kinshasa regarding the message and intentions embedded in these clips. 

Methodologically speaking, I was inspired by Fabian's proposal (2008) for producing commentaries - as a more appropriate genre of ethnographic writing in the digital era. In Ethnography as Commentary. Writing from the Virtual Archive (2008), Fabian argues that the easy accessibility of empirical data online significantly transforms theory production, ethnography and analysis. 

update (May 16 2018): The chapter has now been published - DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-70443-2_14
In the book: The Palgrave Handbook of Media and Communication Research in Africa, pp.245-262