religious power, political power, politics of recognition, public sphere, new media, mediated religion, hegemony, sacred canopy


In many African countries, since the nineties, there is a subtle contest going on between religious and political leaders. At the heart of this contest is what Rosalind Hackett described as the redefinition of the categories of power and status, which cease to be primarily tied to material wealth or political connection, but rather to spiritual authority and revelation. This is a struggle for the hegemonic control of the society in the Gramscian sense of the term. While political leaders may use the coercive arms of the state – military might as well as their control of the financial resources of the state to impose their authority, religious leaders on the other hand assume the posture of moral icons, personalities endowed with superior knowledge based on divine revelation. As these contestations are played out in the public sphere, the way the leaders are able to portray themselves to their public will determine their followership. This explains the importance of mediation in the process of politico-religious contestations. In the eyes of the public, political leaders have the physical or raw power - the Italian concept of autorita; while the religious leaders have the moral power - autorevolezza. This paper uses these concepts as metaphors to present a general explanation of how the contestation between religious and political leaders plays out in the public sphere of the new media.


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