Religion and politics in sub-Saharan Africa

TitleReligion and politics in sub-Saharan Africa
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsS.D.K. Ellis, and G. ter Haar
Secondary TitleThe journal of modern African studies : a quarterly survey of politics, economics and related topics in contemporary Africa
Pagination175 - 201
Date Published1998///
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsAfrica, Church and State, Country, peace, politics, religion, Subsaharan Africa, witchcraft

In the considerable number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa in which political institutions have largely broken down, religious discourse can be seen as an attempted remedy by means of a reordering of power. The numerous popular texts on witchcraft and other perceived forms of evil reflect the preoccupations of Africans with the way in which power is exercised in their societies. Since these texts are particularly concerned with the dangers that can arise when power is not properly organized and controlled, they can be considered a commentary on a world in which power is seen as being too often an instrument of evil people who use it to destroy peace and harmony. This article sketches a theory which clarifies the relationship between religion and politics in Africa. It first discusses what religion is, and how it may best be studied. Then it examines a couple of popular religious texts chosen by way of illustration, before passing on to some further observations on the way in which power is organized and perceived in various African societies. Finally, it draws some conclusions about religion as a political idiom. Notes, ref

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Citation Key1796