Angels and Ancestors: Prophetic Diversity and Mobility in the City

  • Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon
  • Melekias Zulu
  • Eric Worby
Part of the Global Diversities book series (GLODIV)


On almost every block of inner-city Johannesburg there is a poster advertising the wondrous capacities of a “Prophe t, ” one who is said to come from a distant region of Zimbabwe or further afield. The phenomenon of prophets selling their services has spread rapidly in the post-apartheid era; it has come alongside a resurgence of new evangelical and Pentecostal prophetic movements in the city, while adherents to older Zionist and Apostolic traditions persist in gathering on the mountainsides and beneath the bridges of the city. Some evangelical prophets hire soccer stadiums to prophesy during Easter, while others conduct ceremonies on the peripheries and mining wastelands of the city. How can we understand the resurgence of prophecy, and what can it tell us about the post-apartheid urban condition? In this chapter, we make a twofold argument. First, we propose that in its contemporary use, the “prophet ” is a divinely authorised reader and mediator of disjunctive spatial, temporal and moral orders. Second, we argue that prophets are compelled to provide empirical evidence that a provisional freedom and mobility in the city can be achieved—indeed that it can be made visible as an accomplished, if evanescent, fact. At the same time, however, by incarnating the word of God or channelling the Holy Spirit, they can also foreclose certain possibilities for their followers, while imposing forms of social, moral and gendered control.


Diverse Diversity Holy Water Beer Bottle Holy Ghost Order Order 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Elements of this chapter appeared in the narrative piece ‘Prophets of the city’ by Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon in the e-book Writing Invisibility: Conversations on the Hidden city produced by the African Centre for Migration & Society with the Mail & Guardian, also part of the “Super-Diversity, South Africa” project of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon
    • 1
  • Melekias Zulu
    • 1
  • Eric Worby
    • 2
  1. 1.African Centre for Migration & SocietyUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.Humanities Graduate Centre and Department of AnthropologyUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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