chapter  10
12 Pages

Religion and Politics

ByStephen Ellis, Gerrie ter Haar

The idea that politics and religion form two distinct fields is not common to all societies, nor has every language had exact equivalents for these two terms in their vocabularies. Towards the end of colonial period there also emerged the first texts from African intellectuals trained in European methods, who were able to describe in the academic vocabulary of their day religious and cultural systems that they knew from within. Among all colonial categories of thought to which new meaning was attributed by nationalist ideologues from the mid-twentieth century, politics took pride of place. The former colonial metropoles were also pleased to make use of the continuities between colonial and nationalist rule for purposes of their own. Getting access to spiritual power is deemed to be a field in which women excel. There are numerous accounts of a spiritual underworld where people may make money through contracts that promise worldly riches in return for a pact with the Devil.