Brian D. Goldstone F'17, F'10
Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs 2017
Institute of African Studies
Diagnosing the Devil: Psychospiritual Interventions in West Africa
This project investigates the emergence in West Africa of Pentecostal prayer camps as alternative sites for the treatment and diagnosis of psychiatric disorders. Moving between these controversial healing centers, on the one hand, and the domain of transnational NGOs and human rights groups on the other, the project explores the challenges facing the nascent field of global mental health and the limits of biomedical reason—with excursions along the way into colonial psychiatry, the vicissitudes of humanitarianism, and a Pentecostal revolution that continues to burn its way across Africa’s social and religious landscape. Initial findings from this research have appeared or are forthcoming in both scholarly and journalistic outlets. One piece will tell the story of a family’s harrowing 18-year journey through Ghana’s mental health system, from the country’s psychiatric clinics and traditional shrines to the charismatic prophetess at whose secluded prayer camp they are now residing; another considers the widely circulated images—depicting men and women in chains, in cages, in various states of confinement—through which the prayer camps have been brought to global awareness. Ultimately, the articles suggest that public representations of these "new asylums" fail to consider what they offer to those who seek refuge there.
Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2010
A Fire Upon the World: The Passions and Powers of Pentecostalism in Northern Ghana
This dissertation assesses the conceptual and ethnographic itinerary of miracles in northern Ghana, a rural, often pathologized region whose largely Muslim population has recently become the object of evangelistic efforts undertaken by Pentecostal-charismatic churches from the south. Drawing upon extensive fieldwork and archival research, as well as a range of philosophical, historical, literary, and theological materials, the project explores the myriad grammars of wonder through which miracles—as sign events, as technologies of conversion—have so passionately, unremittingly, and indeed controversially made their way into this long-vilified hinterland. To apprehend the salvific and world-constituting powers of the miraculous, this project suggests, is to perceive a repertoire of practices and sensibilities that lie at the heart not only of the charismatic incursion into northern Ghana, but of the proliferation of this brand of Christianity across the continent as a whole.