Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

Existence between Awakening and Last Days

Temporal logic, religious praxis, and the individual’s self-placement within the Pentecostal movement in Latin America

Gunila Ariane Wittenberg


Especially in developing and emerging nations, fundamentalist movements are ubiquitous. In many Latin American countries, countless individuals have been marginalized and impoverished in the course of social upheavals and structural transformation. These people appear not to be able to understand their misfortune through prevailing interpretive models and thus to be searching for new ways out of the crisis. The Pentecostal movement seems to pave such a path for many of them. This is the fastest growing religious community within Christianity and Catholic-stamped Latin America. Otherwise than with the charismatic renewal-movements, the socially marginalized are drawn to the traditional but still not established  Pentecostal communities. The question thus emerges of why precisely the poorest people join a movement marked by both experience of the Holy Spirit and a focus on Last Days.

From a sociological perspective, the problem of integration can no longer be addressed without consideration of religious phenomena. In the case of this movement, the decisive element is not integration into society but integration into the community. This dissertation project inquires into whether affiliation with the Pentecostal movement makes it possible for individuals to find a new place in the social structure on the basis of a new temporal logic. This would be defined both through the “new beginning” on the day of awakening and eschatological expectation.  Such a new beginning would be subject to a double control: through, on the one hand the movement’s strict regimentation and, on the other hand, the believer’s rational way of life. The analysis will here focus on the relation between temporal logic, religious praxis, and the self-location of the individual within the social structure.