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Religious Change in Zambia: Exploratory Studies. Front Cover. Wim M. J. van Binsbergen. Kegan Paul International, - Social Science - pages.
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Given the political salience of both religion and ethnicity in Zambian politics, this research locates an understudied aspect in the discourse on religion and politics in Zambia, namely the multiple relations between religion, ethnicity and politics. Accordingly, this contribution posits the significance of ecumenical consciousness among churches and argues for a contextual ecumenical ecclesiology.

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Author: Teddy Chalwe Sakupapa 1. Keywords: Christian nation ; Christianity in Zambia ; church and state ; ecumenism ; ecumenical movement ; ethnicity ; religion and politics. Restricted Access. Add to Cart. Have an Access Token? Enter your access token to activate and access content online. Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token. Have Institutional Access? African spirituality is about both the affirmation of a South identity based on a particular historical experience, and the dissolution of that identity into an even wider, global world.

Spirit possession is increasingly agreed to constitute a transformation, in recent millennia, of the religion of Palaeolithic hunters whose religious expression has been mediated world-wide often in shamanistic forms iconographically marked by deer and circle-dot motives, which passed through Mesopotamia and the eastern Mediterranean basin in the second millennium BCE in the particular form it took in the Northern half of Eurasia by the onset of the Neolithic. It is likely that this North and Central Eurasian spiritual expression was considerably indebted to the emergence of art, symbolic thought, and language by somatically modern man in Africa from , BP and especially , BP onwards.


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Yet it is my impression that African cults of possession and mediumship derive primarily from a common Old World stock emanating from North and Central Eurasia, and not so much from the direct intra-African descendent forms of the Later Palaeolithic. More recently, both Islam and Christianity emerged in a Semitic-speaking cultural environment which was not only geographically close to Africa, but towards whose genesis African influences have been highly important: Mesopotamian influences on ancient Judaism have been stressed by scholarship from the late nineteenth century, but it is only in recent decades that the great influence of ancient Egypt on that seminal world religion is widely admitted and studied in detail; 11 by the same token, it is increasingly clear that the cradle of the Semitic languages is to be sought in Northeast Africa where even today the wider linguistic super-family of Afroasiatic has its greatest typological variety , and that many of the basic orientations of the Semitic civilisations of Western Asia may have parallels if not origins in the African continent.

To try and define the conditions under which the process of the creation of locality in the face of a confusing and identity-destroying outside world takes place, is the main challenge of cultural globalisation studies today. Central to my argument is that African spirituality consists in a political scenario, and that in that context the minutiae of contents of a specific cultural repertoire, and a specific biologically or socially underpinned birth-right, are largely or even totally irrelevant.

The above positioning of African spirituality has deliberately deprived the concept from most of its entrenchedly parochial and mystical implications. For instance, a number of spiritual complexes, including one revolving on the veneration of dead kings, another on girl's initiation and the spirit of menstruation and maturation named Kanga, another on commoner villagers' ancestral spirits, yet another on spirits of the wild as venerated in cults of affliction and in the guilds of hunters and healers, together make up the spiritual life world of the contemporary Nkoya ethnic group.

Moreover, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Islamic Swahili long-distance traders penetrated into the land of Nkoya and left some small cultural traces there. All these complexes define insiders and outsiders in their own right, to such an extent that most Nkoya people today could be said to be outsiders to most of what in some collective dream of Nkoya-ness would be summed up as the basic constituent features of the Nkoya spiritual world! All Nkoya men are in principle excluded from participation in and knowledge of the world of female initiation; women and all male non-initiate hunters are excluded from the hunters' guild's cults except from the most public performances of its dances and songs, and so on.

Over the past decade, my research on identity, culture and globalisation in Zambia has concentrated on the annual Kazanga festival, 15 the main rural outcome of a process of ethnicisation by elite urban-based Nkoya in the s. The main feature of this festival is that elements from all these spiritual domains with exception of Christianity, which however contributes the festival's opening prayer and the canons of decency governing dancers' clothing and bodily movements are pressed into service in the two-day's repertoire of the festival.

The effect is that thus all people attending the festival, whose globally-derived format including a formal programme of events, the participation of more than one royal chiefs seated together, the re-enactment of girl's initiation dances by young women who have already been initiated, the use of loudspeakers, the opening prayer and national anthem, the careful orchestration of dancing movements by dancers who are uniformly dressed, and who receive payment for their activities, etc.

Or rather, if they notice the difference they appreciate the modern, virtualised form even more than the original village forms. However, one might also argue that it is only by sleight-of-hand that the illusion of a more extensive insidership is created here whereas in fact the essence of the virtualisation involved is that all people involved, also the original insiders, are turned into outsiders, banned from the domain where the original spiritual scenario could be seen to be effective.

When such transformations of inside participation and outside contemplation and exclusion exist, already within one cultural an linguistic community with a small window on the wider, ultimately global world, we should be very careful with claims as to the sharing or not sharing of the spirituality involved. This may be a difficult position to accept for cultural essentialists including many Afrocentrists. Yet it is a position which I have extensively elaborated and which subsumes my entire intellectual career. It is the position in which I claim to be a Dutchman, a professor of intercultural philosophy, a Southern African sangoma , and an adoptive member of a Nkoya royal family, all at the same time.

Can everything, especially everything spiritual, be expressed in language? The answer is inevitably: no, of course not. Can everything, especially everything spiritual, be transferred from the specific domain of one language to that of another language? Here the answer is: yes, to a considerable extent, but not totally.

That cost is both interactional and conceptual. An exploration of this cost amounts to defining the place and structure of anthropological field-work as a technique of intercultural knowledge production; it is here that the introspection mentioned in my introduction comes in.


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Without engaging with the insiders along the locally defined lines of etiquette, implied meanings, shared local secrets, it is impossible to attain and to claim insidership. Without engaging with the linguistic and conceptual bases of such communality as the insiders create by means of their spirituality, it is impossible to achieve insidership in their midst. Such insidership is a social process also in this sense that it cannot just be claimed by the person aspiring it; quite to the contrary, it has to be extended, recognised and affirmed by those who are already insiders, and who as such are the rightful owners of the spiritual domain in question.

These are complex processes indeed.

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Not only the original outsider such as the anthropologist seeking to enter from a background which was initially far removed from that of the earlier insiders, but also these insiders themselves in their process of affirming themselves as insiders, have to struggle with massive problems of acquisition of cognitive knowledge, language skills, details of organisational, mythical, theological and ritual nature. Also the initial outsider seeking to become insider must perform in order to affirm her eligibility as insider, and this adds a layer of potential insincerity to all claims of intimate spiritual knowledge of secluded local domains.

Yet, despite all these qualifications, I can only affirm that, yes, the very many distinct domains of locality created by African spiritualities are as knowable to the initial outsider as they are to the earlier insiders. The difference is one of degree and not of kind. Meanwhile knowing is not the same as revealing, and an entirely new problematic arises when one considers the problem of how much or how little the outsider having become insider in a specific domain of African spirituality, is capable of revealing the knowledge she has gained, to the outside world, globally, and in principle in a globally understood international language.

Here at least three problems loom large:. Here the answer is: yes, to a considerable extent, but not totally cf. Quine's principle of the indeterminacy of translation.

Religion in Zambia

Can one mediate inside knowledge to outsiders without betraying the trust of fellow-insiders? John A. In: African Studies Quaterly 2. Article Dirk J. Paidea World Philosophy Conference Paper.

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Article Isaac M. Mugambi's Contribution. I have claimed that in principle African spirituality is a political scenario devoid of specific cultural contents.

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In actual fact however the range of variation in the cultural material that has gone into the myriad specific constructions of African spirituality, although wide, is not entirely unlimited. Let me give an example. In , when guided by a hospitable new roadside acquaintance into a West African village in Guinea Bissau for the first time in my life, I could blindly point out the village shrine and improvise meaningfully on its social and spiritual significance, merely on the basis of having extensively participated in village shrine ritual in South Central Africa, at a distance of 5, km across the continent, and having written comparative accounts of shrines in South Central and Northern Africa.

The same similarity exists in the field of divination methods, albeit that here the underlying common source is not Ancient Egypt but late first-millennium CE Middle-Eastern Islam having undergone the distant influence of Chinese I Ching which goes back to the second millennium BCE. African spirituality as boundary production and boundary crossing at the same time. Adopting a formal perspective that takes the greatest possible or should I say: an impossibly great distance from cultural specificities, I have suggested that African spirituality is a political scenario of community generation through spiritual means.

In other words, African spirituality is a machine to generate boundaries.

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However, a boundary which is entirely sealed is no longer negotiable and amounts to the end of the world. The very nature of a boundary in the human domain is that it is negotiable, albeit only under certain conditions, and at a certain cost. I have attempted to spell out some of these conditions and costs. The argument, if found not to be totally devoid of sense, has implications for intercultural philosophy beyond the mere analytical study of African spirituality.

For also intercultural philosophy itself could be very well defined in the very same terms I have now employed for African spirituality.

While forging a specialist inside language amongst ourselves as intercultural philosophers, we intend the boundary which we thus erect around ourselves to be porous, and to be capable of being transgressed by those we seek to understand, and by whom we seek to be understood. Both within, and across, that boundaries there will be limitations to the extent to which we can know, understand, represent and mediate; but the possibilities are well above zero.

Besides my reluctance to spell out, at this point, whatever would appear to be the specific contents of African spirituality after all, another set of questions continue to bother me, leaving me rather dissatisfied with the above argument while upholding its general thrust, which would ultimately point to a definition of religion beyond ontology, beyond metaphysics, as mainly a necessarily contentless vector of sociability.

African spirituality is not only a social technology but also a technology of individuality, of self. Is this reason to distinguish between, let us say, social spirituality the technology of community and religious spirituality the technology of self? Is such a distinction at all possible?

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Or is spirituality best understood as the nexus between self and community? The following dilemma arises at this point. Therefore my emphasis, in the above argument, on the implied political dimension of African spirituality, is demonstrably one-sided.