Social Media Use and the Reconfiguration of Religious Virtual Community and Religious Authority Among Prophetic Ministries in Botswana

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Gabriel FAIMAU, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana
New Media, including social media, play a central role in producing and reproducing socio-cultural and religious discourses and practices. The presence of new media has not only brought changes in the way religious beliefs are practiced but also the ways religious meanings are expressed. In the past 2 decades or so, scholars have studied the relationship between new media and religion. Generally speaking, scholars have been dealing with questions relating to the intersectionality of religious engagement, new media technology and digital culture, particularly how new media technology informs and influences religious engagement and how new media technology enables religious groups to practice and preach their religious beliefs to a broad audience. This paper focuses on the use of social media among prophetic ministries in Botswana and how social media have contributed to the making of religious virtual communities and the reconfiguration of religious authority. Two questions will be explored. Firstly, in what ways does the use of social media among prophetic ministries in Botswana facilitate the formation of religious virtual communities? Secondly, how is religious authority perceived and understood within the context and constellation of social media use? Against the general notion that the flow of religious knowledge through the use of social media allows for a more democratic approach to religious communities and religious authority, this paper argues that the synergy between prophetic ministries in Botswana and technological use of social media in fact maintains the traditional characteristics of a religious community in the formation of religious virtual communities on the one hand and reaffirms religious authority of religious leaders on the other.