Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Journal for the Study of Religion]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/rss.php?pid=1011-760120180002&lang=en vol. 31 num. 2 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/img/en/fbpelogp.gif http://www.scielo.org.za <![CDATA[<b>Materializing Religion: Essays in Honor of David Chidester</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200001&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en <![CDATA[<b>Decolonizing the Study of Religions: Muslim Intellectuals and the Enlightenment Project of Religious Studies</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200002&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The term 'religion' as a discursive term occupies a dominant, but neglected feature of Muslim intellectual reflections since the 19th century. Intellectuals from Muhammad Abduh (he died in 1905) to recent scholars like Nasr Hämid Abü Zayd (he died in 2010) have used religion as a critical term to develop a critique of tradition and modernity, and a strategy for renewal. This discourse may be compared with the study of religion since the 19th century that has also used religion to develop a perspective on the religious history of humankind. In this contribution, I argue that the two intellectual traditions that have employed religion - Kantian and the modern Islamic - point to very different ways of relating to the world, to the self and the 'other', and to the political condition of modernity. Rather than using the hegemonic Western tradition to make a judgment on the modern Islamic, I use the latter to point to the former's peculiar proclivities. Using the modern tradition among Muslim intellectuals, I invite an inquiry into both from each other' s positions. <![CDATA[<b>Race and Materiality in African Religious Contexts</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200003&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article intends to explore the various approaches to materiality and religion that have been used in the study of religions in Africa, and in South Africa in particular. It explores recent scholarship on materiality and religion advanced by David Morgan (2012) as well as Dick Houtman and Birgit Meyer (2012), and then turn to David Chidester (2018), with some attention to Johan Strijdom (2014) to examine the framing of the debate in the Southern African context. The aim is to point out specific ways in which religion scholars privilege materiality of visuality, space, and ritual studies, at the expense of other ways of knowing and being. The article then advances some suggestions as to why or how these regimes are sustained and point out some problematics. It examines the use of everyday material objects in new religious movements in South Africa and interrogate their contested reception. The article moves to unpack how contemporary debates about the indigenous and new religious movements or cults in South Africa represent conflicts on what 'things' may possess sacred qualities and how they may be endowed with religious authority. In this regard, the article will focus on the taxonomies and afterlife of things in the work of Arjun Appadurai (1988, 2006) and its location in relation to the black body, to explore how black bodies are scripted and imagined in relation to material religion. Finally, it raises some questions on how local debates about religion and materiality - with respect to the embodied and things - represent not just disruptions over what constitute religion, but also about how contests over the use of everyday objects signal the emergence of indigenous ways of knowing and being in African religious contexts. <![CDATA[<b>Frontier Zones and the Study of Religion</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200004&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article focuses on the concept of the frontier zone as a central critical term in Chidester's oeuvre. Understood as a site where difference is articulated, encountered, and governed, the frontier zone is a productive, insight-generating notion. Its usefulness pertains not only to the study of colonial settings in which scholarly knowledge about religion in Africa took shape via the introduction of religion as a category, but also to the study of religious plurality in contemporary European cities, which is here proposed to approach as new postcolonial frontier zones. <![CDATA[<b>Can't Help Lovin': David Chidester's Pop Culture Colonialism</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200005&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article examines the likability of hip-hop star Kanye West and The Voice champion Jordan Smith to explain the colonial terms for our pop culture taste. The writings of David Chidester establish the tie between religion and colonialism as an axiomatic one; he also argues that popular culture is a rich site for formations of religion. West and Smith offer an opportunity to argue the connection between these two strands of scholarly observance, showing the fractal effects of colonialism in Africa on the preferences of pop culture consumption in America. The attraction to West's unlikability is the other side of the easy adoration for Jordan Smith: like those colonists who gave religion to those colonized subjects they dominated, pop consumers refuse to admit their intimate and needful connection to those idols who resist their control. Although organized by particular instances, this article seeks to encourage those in pop culture studies to see the erotic work of dislike; it seeks to encourage those in religious studies to see how pop subjects carry forward the classificatory imprints of colonial frontiers. <![CDATA[<b>Fakecraft</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200006&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The essay defines and explores the dimensions of 'fakecraft'. It unpacks authenticity in relation to problems of identity, the aura of the original, and commodification. It then shows how notions of authenticity and the fake generate centers and peripheries in the study of religion. The essay explores how traditions of African descent in the Caribbean and Brazil have long been marginalized in the study of religion as lacking depth or authenticity. The essay then takes up a specific example of fakecraft and its prolific work, namely in early modern Christianity's process of purification and self-definition through evaluations of demonic possession as 'real' or 'fake', terms that were then applied to the west coast of Africa. In the broadest terms, the article argues that fakecraft - discourses of the real versus the merely mimetic - is basic to religion-making. <![CDATA[<b>'Everything is Plastic': The Faith of Unity Movement and the Making of a Post-Catholic Religion in Uganda</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200007&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en One of David Chidester's long-term fascinations in the academic study of religion is his nuanced scrutiny of the sensorial features of contemporary religious life. Chidester uses an approach of multi-sensorial imagination of matter to investigate the plasticity and elasticity of religion to innovate and accommodate changing religious and spiritual desires and how such adaptions ensure the popularity of religious participation in a contemporary, technology-saturated society. Based on an ethnographic investigation of a new religious movement in Uganda, this essay mobilizes some of the analytical concepts developed by Chidester to think through the material dynamics of African religious life in the context of changing socio-economic, cultural, and political contexts of Africa. <![CDATA[<b>'Senses': Assessing a Key Term in David Chidester's Analysis of Religion</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200008&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The purpose of this article is to illustrate and assess Chidester's use of the 'senses' as an analytical term in his study of religion. Under 'senses' Chidester includes not only the five conventional senses of Aristotle, but also analyzes metaphorical uses of the senses in religious discourse, the visions and dreams of mystics and shamans, and eventually new media as extensions of the human senses. Chidester's analysis of the senses in European Christian discourses on the one hand, and in colonial and postcolonial African indigenous religion and imperial religious studies on the other hand, is compared and assessed. Although he does not offer a systematic comparison of these case studies, I argue that his analysis lends itself to an explicit comparison of the senses as material aspects of religion and show how his contextualized and historically nuanced analysis of the senses in religion and religious studies informs a critical study of religion. Since critical assumes judgment, values need to be explicated in terms of critical theories, which in my view need further elaboration. <![CDATA[<b>TV is the Devil, the Devil is on TV: Wild Religion and Wild Media in South Africa</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200009&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en In keeping with trends in the academy and the rapidly increasing presence, power, and persuasion of digital and electronic media on the African continent and in the global economy, the study of religion and the media in South Africa has become a flourishing field of intellectual inquiry. The expanse of the field in terms of approaches, both methodological and theoretical, demonstrates the multiple and complex interactions between religion and the media in a diverse range of societies and settings. In light of its recent history of apartheid and transition into democracy in the middle 1990s, when paradigmatic constitutional and political changes took place in which the relationship between religion and the media was reconstituted, the South African context, in particular, is ripe for exploring media technology and practices in relation to the political economy of the sacred. This essay pays tribute to David Chidester by testing the possibilities of his theory of 'wild religion' against two vignettes of wild media in South Africa. The first, characterized as TV is the devil explores the apartheid government's pre-emptive religiously saturated ban on television. The second example, described as the devil is on TV assesses viewers' responses to the television program, Lucifer. I argue that when read with Chidester's theorization of the 'wild ambivalence of the sacred', these examples evoke the hitherto under-explored wild character of both religion and the media. <![CDATA[<b>Tracking the Indigenous Sacred, Chidester-style</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200010&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The article evaluates David Chidester's Wild religion (2012) for what it teaches us about tracking and studying the 'indigenous sacred' in contemporary South Africa, and, by extension, in Africa more generally, and the diaspora. By adopting a more dynamic and open-ended approach to religion as a set of resources and strategies, Chidester provides critical insights on the production, appropriation, and interpretation of indigenous religious myths and rituals in the post-apartheid setting. <![CDATA[<b>Ironies of Christian Presence in Southern Africa</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200011&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Christianity was meant to be one of the most potent weapons in the armory of European Imperialism. John Philip characterized mission stations as the cheapest and the best military posts any wise government can employ to defend its frontiers against the predatory incursions of savage tribes (Villa-Vicencio 1988:44). Christianity was meant to colonize the conscience and consciousnes s of the colonized in ways that would make them lose their indigenousness. It was meant to 'make' or 'create' the colonized in the image of the colonizer. The irony of this situation is that, among other things, it created conditions for the desire among the colonized to be free; it contributed to the emergence of African Nationalism through notions like 'brotherhood' and 'oneness in Christ'. It became a serious problem for the Christianized and educated natives to find themselves excluded from the Christian family on the basis of their ethnicity. David Chidester's work on the history of religion in Southern Africa provides a very useful background for exploring the ironies of Christian presence in Southern Africa. Lamin Sanneh's observation about the role played by indigenous religions to enable both Islam and Christianity to take root is invoked in this context. Christianity became part of the complex that laid the foundations for African nationalism and the pan-Africanist ideology. It provided a platform in mission stations and mission schools for the forging of a unified African identity. Education, given to Africans to become 'civilized' and alienated from their African compatriots, instead, helped in creating a consciousness for liberation among the oppressed Africans. <![CDATA[<b>A Faith that Does Justice: The Public Testimony of Oliver Tambo</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200012&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Throughout the 20th century, mission-educated black men rose to prominence in the African National Congress while simultaneously holding leadership positions in the church. Yet, less is written about the faith of these men, and more about their politics; even less studied is the spiritual life of political leaders, what Nelson Mandela, in reference to his struggle companion, Oliver Tambo, called 'the essence' of man. Drawing on the construct of inferiority, this article offers a re-assessment of public testimonies about the ANC's longest serving president, demonstrating how the internal workings of Tambo's faith came to be expressed in the external life and leadership of this devout Christian activist. <![CDATA[<b>Will Religion Survive? A Critical Discussion of the Divergent Answers of two Atheists: Archaeologist David Lewis-Williams and Philosopher of Religion J.L. Schellenberg</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200013&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Underlying this article are the questions of how to demarcate the phenomena to which the term 'religion' refers, and of how to differentiate between interpreting and explaining such phenomena - a matter to which David Chidester has offered guidance. These questions are approached by considering a different but closely related question: Does religion have a future, as answered in important recent books by two eminent scholars, both of them atheists, working in very different academic disciplines. These are the books of archaeologist, David Lewis-Williams, Conceiving God: The cognitive origins and evolution of religion (Lewis-Williams 2010) and philosopher of religion, J.E. Schellenberg's more recent work, Evolutionary religion (Schellenberg 2013). These works provide divergent answers to whether religion has a future - a divergence arising from different views about what constitutes religion. This article refers to their respective views, then provides a critical discussion of both, and ends by engaging, where relevant, with ideas in the work of David Chidester. <![CDATA[<b>David Chidester: An Appreciation</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200014&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Underlying this article are the questions of how to demarcate the phenomena to which the term 'religion' refers, and of how to differentiate between interpreting and explaining such phenomena - a matter to which David Chidester has offered guidance. These questions are approached by considering a different but closely related question: Does religion have a future, as answered in important recent books by two eminent scholars, both of them atheists, working in very different academic disciplines. These are the books of archaeologist, David Lewis-Williams, Conceiving God: The cognitive origins and evolution of religion (Lewis-Williams 2010) and philosopher of religion, J.E. Schellenberg's more recent work, Evolutionary religion (Schellenberg 2013). These works provide divergent answers to whether religion has a future - a divergence arising from different views about what constitutes religion. This article refers to their respective views, then provides a critical discussion of both, and ends by engaging, where relevant, with ideas in the work of David Chidester. <![CDATA[<b>David Chidester Publications (1982-2018)</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012018000200015&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Underlying this article are the questions of how to demarcate the phenomena to which the term 'religion' refers, and of how to differentiate between interpreting and explaining such phenomena - a matter to which David Chidester has offered guidance. These questions are approached by considering a different but closely related question: Does religion have a future, as answered in important recent books by two eminent scholars, both of them atheists, working in very different academic disciplines. These are the books of archaeologist, David Lewis-Williams, Conceiving God: The cognitive origins and evolution of religion (Lewis-Williams 2010) and philosopher of religion, J.E. Schellenberg's more recent work, Evolutionary religion (Schellenberg 2013). These works provide divergent answers to whether religion has a future - a divergence arising from different views about what constitutes religion. This article refers to their respective views, then provides a critical discussion of both, and ends by engaging, where relevant, with ideas in the work of David Chidester.