Bargaining with God: Religion, Advertising and Commercial Success in Kenya

Dolan, Catherine and Johnstone-Louis, Mary (2009) Bargaining with God: Religion, Advertising and Commercial Success in Kenya. Advertising & Society Review, 10 (4).


This paper seeks to understand how small-scale entrepreneurs in Nairobi, Kenya understand the relationship between religion and commerce through an analysis of shop advertising signs. While the sacred and profane are often theorized as mutually exclusive categories, the paper describes how these spheres are fused through the use religion-referencing signs among small businesses. In contrast to the conventional purpose of business signs, shop owners did not use signs to advertise the nature of their business and/or its products to potential customers. Rather the primary motive in selecting a religious name was to communicate with God in order to manage economic uncertainties and achieve material blessings. The paper highlights three factors that influence the religious orientation of business signs: i) the concept of financial blessing embraced in the materialist ethos of the "Prosperity Gospel"; ii) a belief in the ubiquitous presence of good and evil forces, and the need to mediate these forces in the economic sphere; and iii) the importance of moral conduct in the pursuit of financial gain. The paper argues that these factors render shop signs less a form of advertising per se than a bargain with God.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: small business; entrepreneurship; advertising; religion
Subject(s): Retail
Centre: Oxford Institute of Retail Management
Faculty of Marketing
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2011 11:58
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2015 14:05

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