Gesture and Power: Religion, Nationalism, and Everyday Performance in Congo (Duke University Press, 2015)
Yolanda Covington-Ward is an assistant professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.
"My research interests revolve around the relationship between social connections, interpersonal interactions, and group identities, and how they impact and are impacted by physical bodies. I have examined these relationships in regards to gender, religion and nationalism, and am now turning my interests to self-perceived health and well-being. I have conducted extensive ethnographic research in the Democratic Republic of Congo and amongst Liberian communities in the United States. My monograph, tentatively titled “Gesture and Power: Religion, Nationalism, and Everyday Performance in the Congo,” blends history and ethnography to argue that everyday cultural performances in interpersonal encounters are crucial sites for staking political and religious claims. Using the BisiKongo ethnic group as a case study, I focus on incidents of “performative encounters” in which the body is used strategically to transform interpersonal social relationships in meaningful ways, through gestures (bimpampa), dances (makinu), and spirit possession (kuzakama)." - Faculty Profile, Department of Africana Studies, 1/25/16