Critical Research on Religion
David Chidester Critical Research on Religion 2013 1: 87 DOI: 10.1177/2050303213476103 The online version of this article can be found at: http://crr.sagepub.com/content/1/1/87 Published by:
Colonialism and religion
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Rondebosch. colonizing and colonized religion have been shaped by oceans.uk/journalsPermissions. 2013
.nav DOI: 10. a pageant unfolded that displayed the four-stage stadial model of human progress. at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. human development proceeded through the barbarism of pastoralists and the culture of agriculturalists to culminate in urban civilization (Calloway. the world watched a tribute to Great Britain that bore traces of imperialism. South Africa. with the Mediterranean. contact zones. this stadial model was adopted by liberal imperialists during the nineteenth century as a warrant for the British Empire. As a contribution to a symposium on critical approaches to the study of religion.com
Abstract As critical research on religion. Beginning with the savagery of hunter-gatherers.com
Downloaded from crr. Email: davidc@iafrica. Taking the imperial ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics as a point of departure. this stadial theory was illustrated by savage drumming. the migration from farms to cities. This tableau of human evolution was launched by the actor Kenneth Branagh playing the part of the great civil engineer. Mantena. 2008: 77. this article recalls how the drama of the colonizing Prospero and the colonized Caliban has been a template for analyzing religion under colonial conditions. sea changes. University of Cape Town. In the Olympic opening ceremony. intercultural relations.
Keywords Caliban. South Africa
1(1) 87–94 ! The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permissions: sagepub. 2010: 59. 7701. and analytical possibilities in the study of colonialism and religion. and diasporic circulations. Like Shakespeare’s enchanted isle. Indian. Developed in the European Enlightenment.1177/2050303213476103 crr. hybridity
On 27 July 2012. and the revolution of commerce and industry.com by guest on May 7.sagepub. and religion.sagepub. colonialism. the study of colonialism and religion directs attention to religious creativity within the asymmetrical power relations of contact zones. directed by ﬁlmmaker Danny Boyle. 2005). Isambard Kingdom
Corresponding author: David Chidester.co. this article indicates some of the important landmarks.Article
Colonialism and religion
University of Cape Town. Following a single tone from the Olympic Bell and patriotic hymns. and Pacific worlds emerging as crucial units of analysis. Pocock. Atlantic. Private Bag.
Whereas the psychoanalyst Octave Mannoni developed a problematic theory of inherent colonial dependency in Prospero and Caliban (Mannoni. 1996. appropriated the words of Prospero’s ‘‘savage and deformed slave. the pioneer of the Industrial Revolution. 2004). The Tempest. that when I waked. This imperial performance was ﬁnalized in the closing ceremony. John Stuart Mill. 1986: 123).’’ Caliban (International Olympic Committee. Sounds. if I then had waked after long sleep. promoted the ‘‘religion of humanity’’ proposed by Auguste Comte. the indigenous Caliban was dispossessed of the island he inherited. adopted the masterÀslave dialectic in The Tempest as a template for analyzing colonial situations. in which Caliban’s same lines were repeated by Winston Churchill before the athletes from all the nations of the world ﬁled into the stadium to ﬁt within the pattern of the ﬂag of the United Kingdom (International Olympic Committee. Will make me sleep again. Under colonialism.133–141)
Strangely. exploited for his labor. as in Alfred Milner’s
Downloaded from crr. Originally performed in 1611 when the English were colonizing Virginia and Guyana. Brunel introduced an imperial display of colonizing power. The clouds methought would open and show riches Ready to drop upon me. the magician of urban civilization. ‘‘has its ﬁnger on what is most essential in the dialectic between colonizer and colonized’’ (Hulme. ‘‘‘Prospero and Caliban. in dreaming. (III. 2006: 144).sagepub.ii. a Muskelreligion. led by ‘‘prophets and high priests of civilization. De Coubertin. What does any of this have to do with religion? Founder of the modern Olympics. to science. 2002: 253). 2000: 580). the modern Prospero. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears. which was underwritten by an ideology of human progress from savagery to civilization. through religion. 2012b). the architect of modern Britain. which has often been regarded as an age of secularizing modernity. anticolonial theorists. that give delight and hurt not. as Barbara Bush has noted. 1956 ). were locked in complex spirals of power and dependence. and sometime voices That. to be celebrated through a recurring sacred festival (Alkemeyer. and subject to new dreams of redemption. was clear that his International Olympic Committee was presiding over a religion. many new ‘‘religions’’ emerged in Great Britain. forced to speak (and curse) in an alien language.com by guest on May 7. 2012a). 2013
. In the era from Brunel to Churchill.88
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Brunel. for example. which would culminate in a religion of humanity based on altruism (Wernick. Under the spell of Prospero’s magic. and sweet airs. Making a religion out of imperial expansion. collaboration and resistance’’ (Bush. Brunel.’’ which would purify and thereby redeem the human population (Herrick. whereas Francis Galton argued for a religion of eugenics. And then. Thomas Huxley proclaimed himself as the bishop of the church scientiﬁc (Livingstone. a religio athletae. devotees of the British Empire could equate imperialism with religion. Pierre de Coubertin. By stealing Caliban’s lines. especially in the Americas. 2009: 351).’ colonizer and colonized. Mill argued. 2008: 103–105). The religion of humanity. who traced an evolutionary progression from magic. I cried to dream again. ‘‘is not only entitled to be called a religion: it is a better religion than any of those which are ordinarily called by that title’’ (Raeder. the father of scientiﬁc positivism. as Peter Hulme has observed. Making a religion out of science. The isle is full of noises. who recited from Shakespeare’s The Tempest:
Be not afeard.
in this sense. In Africa. 1983: 212). In Southwestern Nigeria. and values on indigenous people. 2001: 11). Imperial mastery. 2012). ‘‘The colonial world is a Manichean world. omnipotent and omnipresent monarchy [was] almost the sole ingredient of imperial ideology as it was represented to Africans’’ (Ranger. asserting his indigenous ancestral ownership against Prospero. and they had the Bible. was an instrument of colonizing power. economic exploitation. which deemed any territory empty of human habitation and available for European possession if the land was not being cultivated through settled agriculture. the Bible. On the colonized peripheries of empire. practices.sagepub. as the historian Terence Ranger has observed. has explored the complex ways in which religion has been fashioned and refashioned in the asymmetrical power relations of colonial contact zones. entering new territories—imperial religion was not imported as a pure product to be consumed. In the name of a civilizing mission. damaged. empty land. this implicit religion of the United Kingdom was often displayed. Certainly.11. In Southern Africa. 1995) that provided a sacral warrant for the political domination. has often been rendered as a dualism. whereas Christian missionaries redeﬁned their gospel in opposition to indigenous practices of initiation. Schwarz. colonial violence against indigenous religions. 2011: 93). ‘‘Which thou tak’st from me’’ (I.’’ Caliban exclaimed. During the ﬁve hundred years of European colonization of the world. for example. simultaneously alien and indigenous. 1967: 25–45. colonizer and colonized. who celebrated him as an emblem of Great
Downloaded from crr. my mother. 2000). these relations were hybrid.331–332). In colonial situations. 1969: 23). Prospero had taken control through the power of his book. was not legitimated by religion.’’ as Frantz Fanon held (1963: 41). has featured in this history of interreligious engagement. however. where the Malagasy revolt in 1947 against French colonial rule provided the impetus for Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban. as in the case of Prospero. territorial containment.’’ which also promised universal redemption (Sandison. embodying and enacting ‘‘the creative ways in which Malagasy in diﬀerent parts of the island reacted to colonial intrusions and transformations alike’’ (Cole. the ‘‘white men’s magic’’ (Wimbush. and religious identities were made in Africa and remade in the Atlantic world (Peel. at least as rendered by the great Shakespearean scholar G. or deﬁled by the colonial encounter. ‘‘the ‘theology’ of an omniscient. it was religion. The opposition between Prospero and Caliban. reﬁned by John Locke. as Jennifer Cole has observed. imperial pageantry has been displayed in rituals of power. through the Protestant doctrine. Not a Manichean dualism. now we have the Bible and they have the land’’ (Mondlane. Recent research on religion and colonialism. religion was invoked to certify ownership of land. These relational strategies of religious self-fashioning were worked out in local negotiations over meaning and power. which Eduardo Mondlane invoked in opening The Struggle for Mozambique: ‘‘When the whites came to our country we had the land. 2010: 235). indigenous religion was not inevitably destroyed. polygyny. 2013
. such as the aggressive ‘‘extirpation of idolatries’’ in the Americas. and missionizing imposition of alien beliefs. under colonial conditions. giving rise to the common anticolonial aphorism.Chidester
religion of empire or John Buchan’s ‘‘church of empire. Africans sacralized their ancestors in reinforcing indigenous claims on land that were under threat by colonialism (Landau. colonization might directly attack local religious beliefs and practices. Like Prospero’s magic book. Yoruba ethnic. Wilson Knight. those ‘‘ceremonies of possession’’ (Seed. ancestral rituals have continued to mediate the history and memory of colonialism. from the Roman Catholic division of the New World into Spanish and Portuguese spheres. In Madagascar. As religion in motion—crossing seas.com by guest on May 7. of nulla terris. and ancestral sacriﬁces. ‘‘This island’s mine by Sycorax. cultural.
stronger in Africa than the Aryan Thor or the Semitic Jehovah (Chidester. ‘‘Uhuru.’’ in solidarity with Black Muslims in the United States indicated how a history of colonialism. 1985 : 68).’’ anticolonial struggles for liberation in Africa often announced new dreams of redemption. Du Bois as a deity of African political sovereignty. enslavement. Kwame Nkrumah: ‘‘Seek ye ﬁrst the political kingdom and all other things will be added to you’’ (adapting Mt 6:33). (Belhassen. B. ‘‘Uhuru!. ‘‘our mestizo America. E. which poised Caliban between either conversion to the religion of the book or adherence to ancestral heritage. ‘‘FREEDOM HI-DAY ´ saire. Ce between the primitive and the civilized by having Caliban proclaim. The Yoruba god Shango.sagepub. Shango. Prospero is the man of cold reason. as if imprisoned. Caliban X is heard singing.com by guest on May 7. who was interpreted by W. but it was constantly being undermined by the ﬂuid nature of colonial encounters and exchanges that generated new ways of remythifying ´ saire’s Caliban suggests the relations between Prospero and Caliban in colonial situations. At the play’s conclusion. Not creating tempeˆte by the Martinican poet and politician Aime Calypso Calibans.90
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Britain’s ‘‘colonizing. 2013
. philologist Roberto Ferna and a hero of diaspora. and diasporic circulations. and oppression could be sublated. FREEDOM HI-DAY!’’ (Ce The opposition between the savage and the civilized might have been established by imperial theory and colonial practices. to explore the dynamics of religious creativity under colonial conditions. 1966 : 255). god of storms. Ce
I was trying to ‘‘de-mythify’’ the tale. has circulated widely throughout the Atlantic world. an African slave struggling for liberation as he appears in Une ´ Ce ´ saire (1985 ). with a Caribbean ﬂavor.’’ What is most obvious. especially her will to raise savage peoples from superstition and bloodsacriﬁce. transnational connections. a portrait of the ‘‘enlightened’’ European. a hero of hybridity. these recastings have been political interventions in imperial and colonial myth-making. If colonialism was the furnace in which an indigenous nationalism might be forged. Explaining his project as a dramatic revision of the ´ saire observed: opposition between the civilized and the primitive. Caliban has been recast as the hero of the colonial encounter. religion could provide a template for national redemption. But recent research has moved beyond the stark opposition between submission and resistance. as we ﬁnd in the motto of Ghanaian liberator. And I see the whole play in such terms: the ‘‘civilized’’ European world coming face to face for the ﬁrst time with the world of primitivism and magic. as Prospero remains on the island. I am always surprised when others consider him the wise man who ‘‘forgives. Under the slogan. ‘‘Caliban’’ (1989 ). the man of methodical conquest—in other words. simultaneously erased and retained in memory. Let’s not hide the fact that in Europe the world of reason has inevitably led to various kinds of totalitarianism. To me Prospero is the complete totalitarian. For anticolonial activists in the Americas. and invoke the Yoruba deity. 2007).’’ according to the Cuban ´ ndez Retamor in his inﬂuential essay. even in Shakespeare’s version. 2007). demonstrating diasporic religious creativity as an important legacy of colonialism (see Johnson. 1972: 176)
´ saire’s Caliban refused Prospero’s image of him as a savage and rejected the Although Ce ´ saire deconstructed the colonial opposition legitimacy of Prospero’s civilizing mission. is the man’s absolute will to power.’’ change his name to ‘‘X’’. Adopting the name.
Downloaded from crr. Ce some of the important ways in which religion has been linked with anticolonialism in new nationalist movements. taboos and witchcraft and the attendant fears and slaveries. to a more enlightened existence’’ (Knight. ‘‘X. while providing a basis for new forms of interreligious solidarity beyond colonial borders.
Partha Chatterjee (1993: 6) found that the political. practices. However. therefore. but it is deﬁnitely central to European claims on the imperial heritage of ancient Rome. 2002). and things in colonial exchanges (Keane. colonization has often been exacted upon ‘‘wild peoples’’ but also undermined by indigenous renegotiations of alien impositions. As Bose (2009: 270) has argued. 2013
. and associations. and material force of British colonization had inspired Hindus to emphasize the ‘‘inner’’ or ‘‘spiritual domain’’ of their religion.63–64). not by reducing meaning to structures of domination.’’ must also be a focus of critical research. and associations have been both enabling and disabling. the keyword. in which religious discourses. 1996. Attending to asymmetrical power relations. Drawing historically informed generalizations. religious life under colonial conditions circulated in the Indian Ocean. religion. religious creativity has been generated out of the ‘‘long conversation’’ between colonizers and colonized (Comaroﬀ and Comaroﬀ.com by guest on May 7. 1999) against the background of its
Downloaded from crr. apparently contradictory. the reevaluation of agency. before the arrival of the British the Indian Ocean had long been a region of ‘‘multiple and competing universalisms. but by analyzing meaning in networks. Beyond imperial control. was actually made out of migrations and circulations. the very word. As critical research on religion. Under colonial conditions. perhaps appearing as early as homo sapiens confronting Neanderthals in Europe (Lewis-Williams. words. across oceans. For the study of religion and colonialism. As Sugata Bose has proposed. As a colonial term. practices. and the many ways in which people have found to be modern in a world that includes gods and spirits (Chakrabarty. might be aspects of the same mix. the Indian Ocean is the basic unit of analysis that must be adopted for understanding religion under British colonialism in South Asia. with inhabiting a colony and honoring with worship (Williams. has served as an emblem for the creativity and contestation of religion under colonial conditions. the ocean has become a crucial unit of analysis. Like the fetish in the Atlantic world.’’ Not simply a confrontation between a universalizing Christian civilization and local traditions. on land and at sea. as Raymond Williams noted. In the colonial contact zones between imperial ambitions and indigenous responses. research on religion and colonialism has been a fertile ﬁeld for linking meaning and power.’’ from the Latin root colere. perhaps too much weight has been given to the spirit of empire and the social engineering of colonialism. the colonial encounter introduced another universalism into the mix of religious discourses. scholars have developed revealing insights into the imperial and colonial impact on religion in India.Chidester
Shakespeare’s enchanted isle in The Tempest. an island of indeterminate location in both the Mediterranean and Atlantic worlds. might both be true. or arteries of circulation. 2007 : 12–16). webs. King. After all.sagepub. ‘‘religion. the cargo in the Paciﬁc world. 1985: 87). In one of Shakespeare’s principal sources. which emerged out of mercantile and eventually colonial encounters in West Africa. That conﬁguration might run deep in human prehistory. and colonization. Culture. exiles and shipwrecks. ‘‘culture. Overseen and underwritten by religion. the study of religion and colonialism might be nothing more nor less than the study of religion. interrogating the term’s colonial productions and deployments (Chidester. Both of these generalizations. 1991). By focusing on the land. 2007). Hindus worked out new spiritual aspirations and social allegiances. The Aeneid. the Roman gods are honored by the ‘‘great-souled’’ Aeneas because he will ‘‘crush wild peoples and set up laws for men and build walls’’ (I. whereas Gauri Viswanathan (1995: 185–186) has argued that the British colonial administration entrenched a legislated social identity for religion that for Hindus diminished the importance of private religious belief or experience. is etymologically linked with colonus and cult. public. with all its dream-like riches.
But we also can attend to the many diﬀerent ways in which indigenous people in colonial situations have made something out of the keyword religion for their own intellectual. 2005).com by guest on May 7. ´ Ce ´ saire’s A Tempest. Bose S (2009) A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire. Chidester D (2013) Thinking black: Circulations of Africana religion in imperial comparative religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 3–45. New York: Theater Communications Group. London: Penguin. refuge of the gods. 2013).B. Chidester D (2007) Religious animals. B. pp. Augusta. In: Baxandall L (ed. Trans.Trans. and the spirit of revolt: W. International Olympic Committee (2012a) Opening Ceremony—London 2012 Olympic Games. Olympism: Selected Writings. and Consciousness in South Africa.). Herrick JA (2008) Scientiﬁc Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
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. Lausanne: International Olympic Committee.) Radical Perspectives in the Arts. but I also mean to return to these theories of structural opposition and temporal progression as points of departure for critical analysis in the study of religion. Comaroﬀ J and Comaroﬀ JL (1991) Of Revelation and Revolution. London: Methuen. I mean to reject. such critical investigation of religion will depart from the stadial theory of human progress from savagery to civilization enacted in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics and the implicit opposition between the sub-human savagery of Caliban and the human civilization of Prospero. Kult. 34–60. London: Pearson.E. Fanon F (1963) The Wretched of the Earth. E. Cambridge.sagepub. Downers Grove. Ce Chakrabarty D (2007 ) Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Diﬀerence. At the very least. forthcoming. and Churchill. Chidester D (forthcoming) Empire of Religion: Imperialism and Comparative Religion. MA: Harvard University Press. Chatterjee P (1993) The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories. Ferna Caliban and Other Essays. References
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Author biography David Chidester is Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Institute for Comparative Religion in Southern Africa (ICRSA) at the University of Cape Town. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. London: Thames & Hudson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. In: Hobsbawm E and Ranger T (eds) The Invention of Tradition.
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