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Title:'An Incomprehensible Miracle': Central African Clerical Intellectualism versus African Historic Religion: A Close Reading of Valentin Mudimbe's 'Tales of Faith'
Author:Binsbergen, Wim vanISNI
Periodical:Journal of African Cultural Studies
Geographic term:Subsaharan Africa
African religions
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
History and Exploration
About person:Valentin-Yves Mudimbe (1941-)ISNI
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0090988052000344638
Abstract:This article discusses the African scholar Valentin Mudimbe as one of the great creative cosmopolitan minds of our times. The abundance of autobiographical detail in Mudimbe's oeuvre allows the present author to situate Mudimbe in a particular social and intellectual context. He reads this oeuvre as a sustained attempt at autobiographical self-definition. Concentrating on 'Tales of Faith' (1997), the author shows this book to be an intellectual and spiritual autobiography disguised as a detached history of ideas of Central African intellectuals in the twentieth century. He looks at Mudimbe from two different perspectives: the historical and anthropological study of Central African religion as an established academic subdiscipline (which is virtually ignored by Mudimbe), and African historic religion (which does not play a role either in his personal self-construction). After identifying and discussing Mudimbe's discursive methods as essentially poetical (under the guise of modern philosophy), the author pinpoints what 'Tales of Faith' is about (i.e. the adventure of clerical intellectualism in Central Africa during the twentieth century), what meta-contents it contains (i.e. homelessness as Mudimbe's central predicament), and what all this means for the practice and the study of African historic religion, the uninvited guest of 'Tales of Faith' and of Mudimbe's work in general. This leads to a critique of Mudimbe's quest for universalism which seduces him to court the very European hegemonism he has so clearly exposed. Finally, the author compares Mudimbe's itinerary with his own; their two paths turn out to have been amazingly parallel even if they appear to have ended in opposite destinations. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]