Nigeria and the World Seminar (Zoom)


Wednesday, May 11, 2022, 12:00pm to 2:00pm


Online Only

"From 'Man of Letters' to 'Man of God': The Social Origins of Clerical Authority In Nigeria"

Attend this event via Zoom


Ebenezer ObadareDouglas Dillion Senior Fellow for Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) .


Jacob Olupona

Darren Kew

Co-sponsored by UMass Boston's Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development (CPDD).

This event is online only. Please click the "Read More" link for full instructions on how to attend this seminar.

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Pentecostal pastors enjoy an unprecedented authority in contemporary Nigerian society, capturing politics, public policy, popular culture, and, crucially, the moral imagination. What explains the sudden rise to social preeminence of Pentecostal pastors and the attraction of pastoring for young Nigerians? Why do Nigerians turn to Pentecostal pastors for answers to the most urgent personal, political, socio-economic, and moral questions? Whence, in short, the ubiquitous authority of the Pentecostal pastor? Prompted by these questions, and alert to parallel developments and patterns within a broader African context, I examine the social origins of clerical authority in Nigeria. I argue that the newfound visibility and authority of the ‘Man of God’ in contemporary Nigeria have been acquired at the expense of the ‘Man of Letters’, the latter’s social stock and all-round prestige having plunged in inverse proportion to the ascent of the former. Although I speak primarily from a contemporary African standpoint, the phenomena addressed in my presentation illuminate the changing character of rule amid the fluctuations of regional political transition and global economic transformation.

Speaker Bio:

Ebenezer Obadare is Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow for Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Before joining the Council, he was Professor of Sociology at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. He is also Senior Fellow at the New York University (NYU) SPS Center for Global Affairs, as well as Fellow at the University of South Africa’s Institute of Theology. Obadare was Ralf Dahrendorf Scholar and Ford Foundation International Scholar at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where he completed his PhD in Social Policy in 2005. His primary areas of interest are civil society and the state, and religion and politics in Africa his. He is the author/editor of numerous books, including Pentecostal Republic: Religion and the Struggle for State Power in Nigeria (2018). His next book, forthcoming from the University of Notre Dame Press, is titled: Pastoral Power, Clerical State: Pentecostalism, Gender, and Sexuality in Nigeria. Obadare is editor of The Journal of Modern African Studies.