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Durham e-Theses
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The Nuer Messianic Jewish Movement: Authority and Authenticity in Ethiopia’s Western Frontierlands

GIDRON, YOTAM (2020) The Nuer Messianic Jewish Movement: Authority and Authenticity in Ethiopia’s Western Frontierlands. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 14 January 2024.


This thesis is an ethnographic history of the evolution of Evangelical Zionism and Messianic Judaism among Nuer communities living in Ethiopia’s Gambella region, along the border with South Sudan. It explores the emergence of these faiths, starting from the 1990s, out of older Evangelical Protestant groups, and examines how the truth claims, institutions, and practices associated with them have changed the ways in which local communities shape their collective existence and understand their place in the world. At its most particular level, this thesis traces the evolution of a religious movement that has until now not been the subject of any scholarly interrogation. By doing so, however, it also challenges previous studies of Christian conversion and revival in Nuer society and South Sudan more broadly, which primarily linked them to local experiences of violence and marginalisation. Instead, this study situates the evolution of Evangelical Christianity within a longer history of knowledge exchange and political and spiritual transformation in the frontierlands.

Earlier scholarship emphasised the centrality of spiritual authorities and institutions in the articulation of communities and social order in Nuer society. Over the past half-century, as a result of a range of interconnections made possible due to Gambella’s position as an increasingly globally connected frontier zone, churches have assumed this role. This study focuses on one strand of Evangelical Zionist churches that emerged and proliferated through a process of schism, and whose theologies have been explicitly concerned with the critique of state power and the identification of those institutions, legal orders and practices understood to be authentic from the perspective of divine, biblical history. Contributing to recent debates in the anthropology of Christianity, the thesis investigates how the value of various media—in particular, words, blood, and cattle—transformed over time under the influence of Christianity, thus also transforming the ways in which people organised themselves and related to each other and to God.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Jan 2021 11:41

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