Pentecostal Panopticism and the Phantasm of “The Ultimate Power”
This chapter studies the African Pentecostal phantasms of supernatural visibility, surveillance, and the procedures of power transacted in cinematic realism. Through the concept of panopticism as both a mode of supernatural surveillance and a representation of the triumph of Christian power, Adelakun analyzes a Nigerian Christian television drama of the early 1990s, Agbara Nla (The Ultimate Power), which became hugely popular partly because it was released on the threshold of Pentecostal cultural expansion in Nigeria. Its visual images became a defining representation in Pentecostal/Yoruba/Nigerian films of the omniscient power that can transcend space and time to “see” human activities. This chapter explores how the Pentecostal imaginary manufactures and overcomes the threatening “other” through metaphors of sight and surveillance; how Pentecostals repudiate their anxieties about supernatural visibility through representing their God as one who wields “the ultimate power”; and what the implications are for freedom of expression and religious worship in a pluralistic democratic society of the Pentecostal exorcism of the other’s demons.