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Title:Contested authorities and the politics of perception: deconstructing the study of religion in Africa
Authors:Dijk, Rijk vanISNI
Pels, PeterISNI
Book title:Postcolonial identities in Africa / ed. by Richard Werbner and Terence Ranger. - London: Zed Books
Geographic terms:Africa
Subjects:African religions
Abstract:By bringing the active challenge to ethnographic authority by people written about to the fore, the authors of this chapter hope to raise some doubts about the matter-of-factness with which ethnographers maintain their identity as scholarly writers who do their research in some 'field' far away from 'home'. Focusing on the study of religion in Africa, they present two cases in which the tactical behaviour of both the anthropologists and their interlocutors challenges the hegemony of their attitudes towards each other's production of knowledge. The authors first discuss an element of anthropological fieldwork which, in practice, has been rare: the initiation of the researcher into secrets held by local religious leaders. Here, ethnographers (act as if they) accept the hegemony of the 'other' cultural practice while being initiated. Second, they describe a case from van Dijk's own fieldwork and show how the researcher was obliged to go through a penitential exercise after having produced a text in a popular magazine which insufficiently recognized the inspirational authority of religious leaders in the field (Born-Again preachers in Blantyre, Malawi). Bibliogr., notes, ref.