Worshipping Bodies: Affective Labour in the Hillsong Church


Corresponding author. Email: matthew.wade@anu.edu.au


The Australian megachurch, Hillsong, is as well known for its music and spectacle as it is for the content of its religious ideas. This is largely due, as Connell argues in his geography of Hillsong, to the peculiar mix of the theological and the modern that a highly globalised and mediatised context can today produce. This paper re-examines the phenomenon of Hillsong through the theory of affect, which has gained notable analytical purchase in geography in recent years. More specifically, it uses the concept of ‘affective labour’ to analyse the specific ways in which bodies are put to work in the spaces of Hillsong worship. We demonstrate the way that Hillsong produces and mobilises affect in order to attain the collective experience of the spectacle, which is so crucial to Hillsong's visibility as a social phenomenon and also to its recruitment of the individual member into the logic and ethos of the church as a whole. We indicate the importance for the success of Hillsong of producing particular kinds of subject, namely, subjects who are at once comfortable, enthusiastic and loyal. By recruiting its followers as affective labourers towards a shared evangelical cause, the embodied and vaguely felt sense of potential of members is mobilised towards the spectacular phenomenon that is the Hillsong church.