discordance through consensus

Kirsch, Thomas G. 2014. Discordance through Consensus. Unintended Consequences of the Quest for Consensuality in Zambian Religious Life. Journal of Southern African Studies 40 (5): 1015–1030.

"This article takes the example of religion in Zambia, and more particularly African-initiated Christianity, to explore how people in the Gwembe valley deal with differences in religious outlook and practice. Present-day religious practices in the Gwembe valley are pluralist, dynamic and characterised by blurred boundaries that are re-negotiated according to context and situation. Yet this religious pluralism only rarely leads to open conflicts because people tend to keep a low profile during everyday interactions between members of different religious communities, doing their best to avoid arguments either by staying clear of delicate issues or by striving to come up with a minimum consensus. At the same time, when focusing on what in particular is consented to from a more abstract point of view, it becomes clear that there are marked contradictions to the consensuses reached, even when the ethnographer follows one and the same person through a sequence of interactions with different participants. Thus, in contrast to Max Gluckman’s famous remark that ‘conflicts in one set of relationships, over a wider range of society or through a longer period of time, lead to the reestablishment of social cohesion’, it is the stress on consensuality on the micro-social level that produces discordance on the macro level of sociality."