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Dr Joel Cabrita

Dr Joel Cabrita

Lecturer in World Christianities

Joel Cabrita is accepting applications for PhD students.

Departments and Institutes

Centre of African Studies:
MPhil Supervisor
Faculty of Divinity:
Lecturer in World Christianities

Research Interests

My research is on the history of Christianity in Southern Africa, particularly from the early twentieth century to the present day.

My first book is Text and Authority in the South African Nazaretha Church (2014). It tells the story of how the Nazaretha Church - one of South Africa's largest religious organizations - created a new body of sacred scriptures. 

I am currently writing the transnational history of an influential Christian faith healing movement called Zionism. Unrelated to Jewish Zionism, the movement initially took its name from its location in the small mid-Western town of Zion, Illinois. By the late nineteenth century, Zion teachings had spread across North America, Europe, Australia, as well as into parts of Asia and Africa.

South Africa, and in particular around the mines of the Witwatersrand, became key areas for both European and African Zionist believers. My research traces the changing relationship between North American and black South African Zionists, examining how the latter used their links to an American church as a means to improve their standing within the apartheid-era state.

Research Supervision

I welcome applications from potential PhD students on any aspect of World Christianity, including historical and contemporary global manifestations of Pentecostalism and related faith-healing movements, the history of independent Christianity in Africa and the nineteenth and twentieth-century missionary movement. My other interests include religion and textual culture (including debates surrounding the relationship between orality and literacy), as well as the relationship between religion and politics in Africa and more broadly.

Key Publications

Authored Books

  • Empire of Healing: South Africa, United States and the Transatlantic Zion Movement (under contract with Harvard University Press)
  • Text and Authority in the South African Nazaretha Church (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

 Edited Collections

  • (with F. Becker), Special Issue on ‘Africa in the Indian Ocean’, The Journal of African History, Vol. 55, No. 2 (2014).

 Journal Articles

  • 2015 ‘The People of Adam: Divine Healing and Racial Cosmopolitanism in the early twentiety-century Transvaal, South Africa', Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 57, n.p. 
  • 2014 (with F. Becker) ‘Performing Citizenship and Enacting Exclusion on Africa’s Indian Ocean Littoral’, The Journal of African History, Vol. 55, No. 2. pp. 1-11.
  • 2014 ‘An Introduction to The Letters of Isaiah Moteka: The Correspondence of a Twentieth-Century South African Zionist Minister’, Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 163-198.
  • 2012 ‘Patriot and Prophet: John Dube’s 1936 Biography of the South African Churchman Isaiah Shembe’, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 38, No. 2, pp. 1-18.
  • 2010 ‘Politics and Preaching: Chiefly Converts to the South African Nazaretha Church, Obedient Subjects and Sermon Performance’, Journal of African History, Vol. 51, No. 1, pp. 21-40.
  • 2010 ‘Texts, Authority and Community in the South African Ibandla lamaNazaretha (‘Church of the Nazaretha’), 1910-1976’, Journal of Religion in Africa, Vol. 40, No. 1, pp. 60-95.
  • 2009 ‘Isaiah Shembe’s Theological Nationalism, 1920-1935’, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 609-625.
  • 2005 ‘Women, Hunger, the Eucharist’, Concilium: International Journal for Theology, (Special edition, Guest Editors: Christophe Boureaux, Janet Martin Soskice, Luiz Susin), Vol. 41, pp. 184-194.

 Encyclopedia Articles

  • 2012 ‘Isaiah Shembe’, in E. Akyeampong and H. L. Gates (eds.), The Dictionary of African Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 363-365.