SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

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

Full text not available from this repository.


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: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Anthropology & Sociology
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Anthropology and Sociology
ISSN: 15347311
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2015 16:29

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item