Empire of Religion

Chidester, David


  • Lecture by David Chidester considering the genealogy of comparative religion. This lecture was presented as part of the Mellon Sawyer Seminar in Comparative Global Humanities.
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When I read the title of this talk, Religions, Imperial Pasts, Global Futures,
it made me think I had this strong personal resonance with the title.
Because both of my father's parents were Methodist missionaries.
They went independently to India and met there and got married about 1915.
And then, my father was born in India and grew up in India.
And then, he went back to India later on and
I was actually conceived in India when he was there.
So when I think of these kind of religions, imperial pasts and global
futures, when I grew up I thought that was a normal life for everybody, that we
had all these people from India visiting all the time in Springfield, Missouri.
But it turned out that wasn't normal, but it's
kinda been amazing trajectory for these people who traveled the world like that.
So I am gonna turn things over to Brian.
And I look forward to hearing the talk.
>> See if I can do that.
Does that work?
Yes, welcome, everyone.
And thank you, Dean Auner, for that introduction.
It is a real pleasure to be able to introduce our speaker, but before that,
I would also like to thank Lisa Lowe and the Center for Humanities for
providing a really wonderful years worth of events around this Sawyer seminar and
the exploration of comparative global humanities.
It has been a wonderful year, and
I think this event will prove to be a great addition to it.
And it's really nice on this occasion.
I want to make kind of an announcement.
The religion department was, of course,
pleased to be invited to join the non-seminar and to have religious
studies sort of identified as an analytic matrix within that framework to
think about the humanities and what it means to be human, etc.
And it has been a wonderful collaboration but
we've also just completed another wonderful collaboration that's issued into
a new higher that we're all very excited about.
And on this occasion seems particularly appropriate to announce that higher,
the religion department will be welcoming a new member in the fall
Elana Jefferson-Tatum who is an expert on Africana religious traditions and
the traditions of Vodun as they circulate around
the Atlantic Ocean diasporic communities.
So she'll be offering for those students out there, a new course in the fall
called Africana Sacred Matters and I hope you'll look up her work and
look up that course and think about taking it and help us welcome her to campus.
I think it's a really great moment and it marks a kind another set of
collaborations between the department of religion and the consortium on studies and
race colonialism and diaspora.
So I'm very pleased to make that announcement.
Look for the religion department brochure.
Shameless plug.
>> [LAUGH] >> Sorry.
Let me turn into the proper introduction.
I'll take a little time doing this begging my guests' forgiveness here.
But it feels incumbent upon me to provide some framework for
thinking about a Professor Chidester's work which is both extensive and
impressive in its depth and its sort of analytical focus.
He is, of course, internationally recognized scholar,
of what we would variously call comparative religion,
the study of religion, the history of religions, religious studies.
We have a lot of rubrics by which we call what we do,
by which we identify our field.
But no matter what we call it, certainly Professor Chidester has earned
a great deal of recognition within our field.
Earned his PhD from the University of California at Santa Barbara,
in the program in Religious Studies, which is itself
a highly distinguished program with a long roster of very important scholars faculty.
He went on very early to establish himself as an innovative thinker in our field.
I think particularly well suited to unsettle some of our accustomed habits.
And I think it's for that reason that he is twice, not once, but twice, been
awarded the American Academy of Religion's Award for Excellence in Religious Studies.
That would be nice to get one time, quite frankly.
[LAUGH] So Professor Chidester's list of published works I think is too long and
too rich to rehearse here, but it spans everything from early studies of
Jim Jones and the People's Temple, to the religions of southern Africa.
To comparative explorations around ethics, death, dying, transcendence.
Well, let's just say in our age of fake news and alternative facts,
he's maybe someone you could look to if you wanted to understand
a snake oil salesman such as we have recently elected, if I can say that.
You might wanna look at his book, Authentic Fakes,
which offers a kind of dizzying romp through religion and popular culture and
takes in another celebrity president, Ronald Reagan, along the way.
So I send props out to that book.
It won't be the focus of today's discussion, I don't think, but
it is a fun book and it's one that challenges conceptions of religion and
popular culture.
What we wanna call attention today I think are to two books,
David's book Savage Systems, Colonialism and
comparative religion in southern Africa from 1996 and
then empire of religion, imperialism and comparative religion from 2014.
These two books marking substantial intervention in the rethinking of what it
means to do religious studies and what the history of our discipline has been.
To think about the history of that discipline and
just provide a little back drop, let me run through a prepared kind of
text here and I hope, again, crave your indulgence.
I'd begin by calling attention to an important textbook written by
one of the leading scholars at University of California Santa Barbara, Walter Capps,
who wrote a book called Religious Studies: The Making of a Discipline,
published in 1995.
It runs to nearly 350 pages.
It's a substantial book and it's a very valuable book but I was noticing that
it's only on page 339 that you notice the word colonialism appearing.
And if I'm correct, that's the first and
only time the word colonialism appears in a book on the making of religious studies.
Rather remarkable, in light of what we're about to hear, I think.
And it comes, notably, in a chapter entitled, The Future of Religious Studies,
or a brief section, I should say.
The Future of Religious Studies.
So Capps was looking in the right direction,
but only just barely registering on his radar as it were.
In that context, he refers to the work of Charles Long,
who had recently garnered attention within the field for demanding that scholars
attend to the ways that colonial, social, political, and cultural structures had led
to the privileging of certain views of religion within a discipline.
Long had written in 1986, an important book called Significations.
And it represented its own kinda groundbreaking intervention for
its attempt to bring a measure of reflexivity and
political accountability to the study of religion.
Because according to Long, it would no longer be enough for
a scholar of religion to simply bring the otherness of religion home for
analysis, Long called upon scholars to actively attend to this
situatedness of their own frameworks, categories and modes of knowing.
And among the most prominent structures that he identified shaping
modern western understandings of religion was European colonial oppression.
If you turn briefly to Long's book, I find it rather interesting,
if you look at the index, you see a series of entries under C,
bracketing some entries on Colonialism, colonization, colonized people.
Now what brackets those entries?
On the front side is an entry for the cogito of Rene Descartes.
And on the back side, if you will,
is an entry for color, parentheses, see also, race.
I think this immediately suggests something really interesting and
significant about the moment marked by Long's book.
A moment in which the long and
hallowed genealogy of religious studies as a strand of modern European intellectual
history, where in pride of place is given to the cogito of Descartes.
Is suddenly brought up short, not simply by the abstract issue of color, but
by the very embodied histories of peoples of color under colonization.
Long, in a sense raised a question that was yet to be answered,
which was how would the field of religious studies respond to the hitherto forgotten
place of color, colonialism and oppression within its own disciplinary development?
Well, change takes time of course, and
disciplinary change may take even more time.
You sense this again if you look at Capps' book.
In Capps' narratives,
interestingly enough you actually begin with the cogito with Descartes.
In the sense that he tells the story of the origins of modern religious
study as the story of modern European thought.
For Capps, one of the distinguishing elements of modern religious studies has
been the quest to identify the so-called essence of religion.
The quest to find the sine qua non,
that without which religion would not be what it is.
Capps tells us that is a fundamentally Cartesian project in its temper.
Insofar as in Descartes, we have what Capps calls the starting point for
the making of the discipline of religious studies.
Now, while the cogito and its European legacy serves to launch Capps survey,
it would be another decade or
so before commentators really inspired by a range of new developments
around what we today think of as post structuralism and post colonialism.
Would begin to suggest that the methodological standpoint occupied by
Descartes was not in fact one of scientific objectivity.
But one that might better be described using Walter Mignolo's phrase,
the hubris of the zero point.
Or the illusion that western intellectual history was the only fair and
accurate game in town and what a game it was, or is.
Here's how one of the founders of modern religious studies,
Cornelis P Tiele, spoke of the discipline in 1897.
All she desires, she, the science of religion.
All she desires to do is to subject religion to unprejudiced investigation,
in order to ascertain how it arises and grows and
what are its essentials, and in order to thoroughly understand it.
Talk about hubris, I guess.
Now with his call to attend to the darker side of western modernity,
Walter Mignolo directs us back to the work of Charles Long.
Here it's interesting to note that Long was deeply grounded in the traditions of
western phenomenological study of religion.
And he was himself something of a card carrying member
of the so-called Chicago School of the History of Religions, which owed so
much to the grand theories of.
But even while Long was comfortable drawing on Descartes, Kant, Hegel,
he proved able also to query the vaunted western
intellectual posture of methodological transparency, if you will,
that zero point, the illusion of objectivity.
In the phase of this European transparency,
Long invoked liberationists, black, native American theologians
to counter transparency with what he called the opaque.
For him, it wasn't white, European, Protestant, theologians and scholars but
figures like James Cone and Vine Deloria who brought the reality of suffering and
oppression to the foreground.
And thereby challenged historians of religion to deconstruct their comfortable
and comforting hermeneutics of religion to a more rigorous engagement with race,
colonialism, and what Long called the concrete embodiments of matter.
So Long was one of those who helped to see how the modern study of religion was
implicated in the project of what we call European Self Fashioning.
And he did really what we would think of today as a kind of Saedian
discursive deconstruction of this tradition of Western thought.
But without invoking Saed, Saed yet had not yet
really made his impact within the field of religious studies I would suggest.
And the way, I think, someone like Professor Chidester to come along and put
these pieces together and really reveal to us, in sometimes harrowing detail,
this history of a darker side of our own discipline.
But turning quickly to David's work, I want to let him speak.
[LAUGH] You can note that one of the two teachers to whom he
dedicated his ground breaking book Savage Systems was none other than Charles Long,
who was one of his teachers.
And as he told us yesterday,
whom he valued as the bringer of problems, the one who continually posed problems.
And you can see how Long's books signification really is that.
It's a problem-inducing book, it causes a crisis.
Well, in Savage Systems and other works from around the mid-1990s,
Professor Chidester began calling for the academic study of religion to
itself be interrogated as a set of historically situated practices.
Savage Systems and his more recent Empire of Religion, set themselves the task of
bringing into view the ways modern approaches to the study of religion
are from the very beginning, caught up with the dynamics of colonial frontiers.
The disciplinary history offered by Savage Systems comes to us appropriately enough,
given Long's earlier tension to the oceanic transits of colonialism.
This argument comes to us, I think, in waves almost.
Not the waves and phases of familiar, temporal typology but more spacial
cycles and circuits of transit between frontier outpost and imperial metropolis.
As emergent categories of knowledge deployed in sites like southern Africa
to exert local control were then supplemented or
inflected by modes of imperial theorizing taking place in the metropolis.
Where the metropolis' goal, he argues,
was to come up with these universal taxonomies to make sense of the world.
Well, like all the trading ships and military vessels that sail back and
forth across the oceans, the metropolitan and the local wash back and
forth in Savage Systems.
Fostering in time what Professor Chidester has memorably and
somewhat terrifyingly dubbed, comparative apartheid religion.
And modality of apartheid religion, we see such purportedly transparent and
globally valid categories as fetishism, totemism, primitivism
deployed to undergird local systems of colonial control, segregation and other.
At the same time, the disciplinary history of Europe's encounter with other religions
can be viewed as the sinister conjugation of conceptual categories with social,
racial and political borders.
Thus, Professor Chidester explores how Europeans vacillated
between remarking on the absence of religion in southern Africa, and
suddenly discovering it as inactive, if primitive presence.
In the end, the invention of religion itself serves to
bolster colonial conquest and missionary conversion, while the closure or
fixing of taxonomies supports the closure of real colonial boundaries.
This is the imperial past, I imagine we'll hear something about today and I think it
leaves us to ask that pressing question, what is the future of religious studies?
And I look forward to hearing both about the past and
about the future from Professor Chidester.
I hope you'll join me in welcoming him.
[APPLAUSE] >> Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Thank you to Mel and Sawyer.
Thank you, Brian.
Thank you all for being here.
I feel like I was attending my own funeral, there.
Thank you very much, that was nice, anyway, it was wonderful, thank you.
I used that line yesterday, also.
So I've been asked to speak to you, and I'm happy to speak to you.
Thank you for being here, about religion.
A recent scholarship, In the academic
study of religion, shows us that religion is a modern invention.
A western construction, a colonial imposition, and an imperial expansion.
So religion is made up.
The very own notion of religion is a fabricated category, but
there it is, acting like it was something.
Like race, which does not exist, but
it's everywhere, has real consequences in the real world.
So what do we do with this fabricated, yet real religion?
Here, I want to dwell on this question by exploring three formations of religion,
colonial, imperial, and global.
I'll introduce formations by examining a ship wreck, a war dance,
and an alien abduction in South Africa.
Historical fragments, these cases reveal the historical contingency of the basic
category religion, by tracking in circulation through colonial situations,
imperial appropriations, and globalizing transmutations.
These cases also suggest how the concept of religion, as well as beliefs,
practices, and social formations that might be regarded as religion have emerged
within the shifting power relations of colonial, imperial, and global formations.
By the way, I'm from Cape Town, South Africa.
Nice to meet you. This is great, I came here for this.
Anyway, here's my whole story.
I'm gonna tell you the whole story very briefly.
The anchor.
During the early 19th century, an anchor cast ashore from a shipwreck on
the Eastern Cape Coast of South Africa became a focal point for colonial
missionaries, travelers, and government agents to formulate a theory of religion,
in order to assert that indigenous people in the Eastern Cape had no religion.
Instead of having a religion,
Africans exhibited abundant superstition, the defining opposite of religion
which was displayed in their superstitious worship of the anchor.
For their part, Africans of the Eastern Cape developed a conceptual
opposition between sea and land.
Distinguishing not only between people of the sea, the alien intruders who came from
the sea and should have remained in the sea, and the people of the land.
But also between gods of the sea and gods of the land.
Which articulated the colonial situation in highly charged symbols.
They could be designated as religious.
The second thing I wanna look at is a war dance.
In 1905, the British Association for the Advancement of Science visited
South Africa where they beheld an authentic Zulu war dance.
That was organized, staged and
performed on the sugar plantation of one of the association's host.
The display of religious savagery reinforced the theoretical distinction
between the primitive and the civilized in theorizing about religion.
As the leading anthropologist of religion on the trip Alfred C Hayden observed,
and I'll come back to this, South Africa affords a most favorable field for
the study of, now listen to this, division of labor.
The ethnology of the lower races and the sociology of the higher races.
So this will be the great divide between the citizens of world religions,
civilized, and the remnant, the left over, the primitive, the savage sort.
Of course, we'll see that authentic Zulu war dance,
it was staged intentionally to illustrate the distinction between savagery,
the same people performing in the war dance,
then changed their costumes and Christian civilization.
So shipwreck, a war dance, last but not least,
as we look to the future, an alien abduction.
During the early 20th century, the Zulu used to call himself a witch doctor,
then he called himself sangoma, then a sanusi and now Shaman Credo Mutwa,
the master of Zulu dreams, prophecies, and mysteries.
He emerged in the global circuit of neo-shamanism as the bedrock of African
indigenous authenticity to underwrite a variety of projects including new age
spirituality, alternative healing, encounters with aliens from outer space,
testifying to his own experience of alien abduction, which he found traumatic.
Credo Mutwa related indigenous African knowledge about extraterrestrials,
especially, focusing on the Chitauri,
the evil race of shape-shifting alien reptilians.
Drawing on local African traditions,
Credo Mutwa reinforced a global conspiracy theory.
So that's what I wanna do, that's the whole story.
Is that all right?
We don't know, we could quit there, actually, that is the whole story.
I've written about these things, the shipwreck in Savage Systems.
The war dance in Empire of Religion.
The alien abduction in Authentic Fakes and Wild Religion.
Talk about shameless promotion here, these books will be available in the lobby.
>> [LAUGH] >> But here,
I wanna see what happens when we bring these three things together.
First, the shipwreck.
In 1800,
the first representative of the London Missionary Society in Southern Africa,
the former soldier, farmer, linguist, and biblical scholar, J T Van der Kemp.
So he goes to the Eastern Cape, first missionary representing
the London Missionary Society and he reports back on the Eastern Cape.
In a preliminary assessment of indigenous religion,
of the clauses speaking people of the region,
Van der Kemp had made a surprising discovery, he found no religion.
An absence, and you know what, it's a remarkable discovery of an absence.
If by religion he said, we understand reverence of God and
the external action by which that reverence is expressed,
I never could perceive that they had any religion nor any idea of religion.
So a total absence of religion in the Eastern Cape.
Obviously, he's operating with a certain Protestant definition of religion,
Christian assumptions about the content of religious worship.
But nevertheless, he reports back this remarkable discovery of an absence.
As evidence of this denial, Van der Kemp pointed to the presence,
so the absence of religion, the presence of superstition.
And so here we find religion as the oppositional term.
It is defined in opposition to its absence,
except superstition's not an absence.
Going back to the very notion of religio, what did it mean in ancient latin?
No one knows.
Etymology of religio, what did it mean?
To pay attention, to repeat, binding relations, no one knows.
It's a big argument.
But everyone knows religio was the opposite of superstikeo.
Conduct based on ignorance, fear of the unknown and
the fraud of devious priestcraft.
So in any case, this is what Van der Kemp finds in the Eastern Cape.
An abundance of superstition demonstrated by the local regard for
an anchor that had been cast ashore by a shipwreck off the Eastern Cape Coast.
There lays near the mouth of the Cayascaman, an old anchor.
Belonging to a ship, which was lost on the coast.
Cacabey, who governed the country as far as I could find out, about that year 1780,
ordered a piece of this anchor to be cut off.
The African who was employed in this work, died soon after.
The accident was enough for these people who've taken their heads that the anchor
the power punishing everyone who should treat it with disrespect and
also some dominion over the sea.
In order to reconcile it, it has been honored with a peculiar name and
when any African passes by, he salutes it.
So absence of religion, presence of superstition,
demonstrated by this regard for an object, for this anchor.
By the way, this is not a photograph of the anchor.
It's a woodcut from the 1850s.
This anchor persisted as a symbol of the absence of religion
in the Eastern Cape for decades.
Now, the act of preserving, naming and
saluting the anchor, what is that all about?
If people actually did that, it might have signified
some measure ritualized control, over the unnatural death.
The unnatural violence that had been unleashed in the eastern cape during
the early part of the 19th century.
After all one source of this unnatural violence and
death, could in fact be located as coming from the sea.
From the European invaders and
colonizers were like the anchor did not belong on the land.
The distinction between sea and land is symbolic opposition that the anchor could
easily have marked was an important aspect of Paulza King 's political vocabulary.
In reports from 1815 the Paulza King is quoted as saying,
that the people who have come from the sea,
should have kept in their own land,
meaning the sea, should have stay in the sea.
But they had risen from the bottom of the sea.
Seeing the top mast first gradually more and more, until they beheld the hull.
And then, come out the natives of the water.
The colonial official, who was reporting this, that the Paulza king said always,
Europeans are people of the water, was citing it as an example of
superstition of ignorance, of causes fear of the unknown.
Anyway, it could just as easily have been read as a political statement
resistant to European colonizers who had no business in this country and should
have of kept it in their own, it could of easily been read as a political statement.
But what proliferated after this were forms of religious discourse and
practices based on the opposition between sea and
land, for both alien and indigenous people in colonial contact zones.
A new orientation of the land was often articulated precisely in terms of
the opposition between land and sea.
Drawing on earlier mythic themes, the identification of Europeans with the sea
became a symbolic template for interpreting the colonial encounter.
We find the case of the war leader, and religious visionary
who died in 1819, also known as the Lynx.
He developed this observation of sea and
land into an indigenous theology that identified two gods.
The god of the white people, that's kinda [INAUDIBLE].
So it was one god, the god of the white people, who had punished white people for
killing his son by casting them into the sea.
And the god of the deeps, who dwelled under the ground but
had ultimate dominion over the sea.
So there's a way in which leading actually a military
opposition against colonial settlements developed a religious
vocabulary much like the anchor mediating between sea and
land, dominion over the sea, but dwelling in the land.
So this recurring colonial thematic of sea and land
was developed in the early part of the 19th century throughout southern Africa.
For example, a Zulu creation myth in 1850s.
According to one account of this myth,
[COUGH] God made human beings, black and white.
To the white human beings, he said,
you must live in the midst of the water in the sea.
We also said, you must wear clothing, carry guns, and live in the sea.
And then, to the black human beings, you must go naked,
carry spears but live on the land, live in this land.
So anyway, my point in this first part as we look at a shipwreck, here's a material
object, caster saw on the ship, subject to multiple interpretations.
It was used by colonial missionaries, travelers, and
government agents as a sign of absence,
the absence of religion, and abundant superstition that signified that absence.
Now, if we look at the other side of that colonial divide,
you find African innovators, African thinkers, African strategizers,
who are reading this anchor as a fundamental opposition between sea and
land which has incredible range of symbolic and
material residence in the conflicts in the Eastern Cape.
So to conclude this section, under colonial formations, I'm suggesting
that religion is an oppositional term in colonial conflicts, is that all right?
Can we stop there?
How are you doing, are you okay?
You all right?
This is a nice room, I like it here.
Just one more thing in the Eastern Cape.
As I develop in the book, Savage Systems, every European reporter from this region
Reported that the local people had no religion until 1858 when the colonial
magistrate JC Warner reported that they had actually a religious system.
They have a religious system.
Beliefs and practices that are local,
indigenous religious system is a religious system.
Well, this followed the emphasis of the magisterial system
to keep colonized people in place.
And so, JC Warner, in that context discovered they had a religious system
that provided psychological security, and social stability that did what?
Kept them in place.
So this cause a religious system was like the colonial magisterial system
keep people in place.
Local administrative system of management and control.
Here`s a lovely picture of, here's J.C. Warner.
Who discovered.
He doesn't look so big, does he?
Anyway, he was the first to discover religion.
All right, that`s the anchor.
Can we move on to the war dance?
So the colonial formation is opposition religion opposed superstition sea,
opposed to land is an opposition term.
Leading eventually to the role of religion as a colonial history of containment.
Management and control of local populations.
The War Dance.
On August 23, 1905, delegates of the British Association for
the Advancement of Science were received by Marshall Campbell,
owner of the Mount Edgecomb Sugar Estate near Durban.
As they approach this extensive plantation, the astronomer J Stark Brown,
recall they saw bands of Zulu men in all their savagery and
war array, approaching, singing and shouting.
All with very weird effect.
After a guided tour of the sugar refinery, the delegates proceeded to an open field
where they witnessed a dramatic display of Zulu savagery.
According to Brown the authenticity of this performance,
something that needed to be seen to be properly appreciated.
Was certified by the savage costumes, savage rhythms,
savage ferocity of Zulu dancers in their barbaric array of skins, ornaments,
feathers and most wonderful variety of headdresses,
some nearly naked, others in fantastic costumes, as quite to baffle description.
The dancers appeared grotesque in the extreme.
For over an hour, these dancers enacted wild dances
that Brown found almost equally impossible to describe for their full meaning.
Even a sightseers' was difficult to grasp.
First the whole line, he said, three and four deep, began to stamp and move about,
rhythmically keeping time to a monotonous chant which they all intoned together.
While this is going on, the chiefs and braves,
one after another dashed out of the ranks, and went through the presence of
sanguinary conflicts with imaginary foes shouting and capering wildly and
stabbing with their sticks with devilish voracity all the time.
Browns spoke of this wild dance with its pretended conflicts was a war dance.
Now we'll get to this in a bit but there was no such thing.
Which was no such thing.
War dance was a colonial category, anything that the,
colonizers found threatening and weird and dangerous.
So there actually was no such thing as a war dance we'll get to that.
But what was remarkable about this is that the representatives
the British Association for the Advancement of Science reported
back to London what they had witnessed was an authentic Zulu ritual,
an authentic Zulu war dance and all of these leaders of the association,
especially is leading anthropologists of religion.
AC Hayden and.
No, this is Sidney Hartland.
They gave reports of what they had witnessed was an authentic,
indigenous Zulu ritual.
Dangerous, frightening, savage, frenzied.
This was part of the measure of it's authenticity.
It was wild, and they were brought back, we witnessed this wild thing.
And then over and over again, they say, we were frightened by this wild thing.
But we would have been more frightened,
if their spears had not been replaced by sticks.
Over and over again in their reports they show,
like Hartland says, a war dance was first performed.
It was of most exciting description for the member gradually brought
up what looked like a perfect fury, dancing, leaping, and yelling.
Had they had spears as they would in their natural condition instead of long thin
sticks or wands which they waved about, it would've been really terrifying.
AC Hayden, also the natives dance war dances,
we were very grateful they didn't have spears.
What's going on here?
Here was an opportunity for imperial scientists, imperial researchers,
imperial theorist, to do all kinds of field work.
Although it was staged and
managed by the owner of this sugar plantation, Malcolm Campbell.
Although it was carefully orchestrated to scare the **** out of them.
That's part of a measure of its authenticity in an environment in which
six or seven months later war did break out, the so-called Bambatha rebellion.
One of the reporters of that said there is no
act passive in it's nature which a native can commit that portrays hostile intent.
There is no act passive in it's nature.
You know a religious ritual,
a religious ceremony, symbolic, let's just say pretend conflicts.
There is no act passive in it's nature which a native can commit that betrays
hostile intent more plainly than a war dance.
So this colonial focus on Zulu religious ritual, it could be a cleansing ritual,
a purifying ritual, a gathering ritual.
Why war ritual?
It was scary.
Now the whole point of this display for the British Association for
the Advancement of Science, was that the participants in the war dance
went backstage and dressed up
in European Christian clothing.
They were representative of native Christians dressed in European clothing
and performing such popular songs as God Save The King, Home Sweet Home.
Anyway as Brown, the astronomer himself recognized this was
all done to show us the contrast between the heathen and the Christian Zulu's.
So now we still have colonial construction of religion as an opposition,
in this case between Christian and heathen, civilized and savage.
There's a kind of expectation however,
in the imperial register that the heathen can become Christian.
That this religious opposition can be transposed,
transformed, changed.
And there's a kind of proposition,
expectation that the savage can become civilized.
You know so we're moving now from a construction of religion as opposition to
a construction of religion as opposition and transformation.
The notion of progress.
Of course, in the case of the progress from
savage to civilized it is infinitely postponed,
infinitely delayed.
You can never get there.
So that's my war dance.
There were many other people.
There's John Dube, one of the founders of African National Congress.
He was there also and he reinforced this idea to the British Association,
the whole point of what you saw was to show the difference between savagery and
He had been trained at Oberlin College.
He was a minister.
And he raised money from the British association for his mission.
There was another fellow named Mohandas Gandhi, who was also present at this.
Who said that John Dube is somebody you really should get to know.
So I guess here we've got religion as opposition,
religion as transposition, religion as this kind
of diverse Different religious interests are all coming together here.
When the report went back to London, all that was erased.
And all that was left was this stark opposition [COUGH]
between savagery and civilization.
And then one last thing, E S Hartland was so impressed at the war
dance by a witch doctor, a ritual specialist,
who had a lovely necklace, like a really beautiful necklace.
And so Hartland goes to a local dealer in African
artifacts and purchases this necklace.
Yeah, it's nice, it's in the Pitt Rivers Museum at the moment.
Anyway, here's the authentication for it.
The witch doctor's necklace made of horns, etc., belonged to a Zulu well-known to
myself, those are from the dealer, the dealer says this.
He belongs to a tribe near the doctor was on a visit to Durban for
the purpose of trading, he was wearing this necklace.
When I purchased it, he was not willing to part with it.
And so then Flinder sold it to Hartland, and
it ends up at the Metropolitan Center of Theory Production.
So now we've got another layer to this history,
colonial opposition, imperial transmutations here,
imperial appropriations.
Where now, this necklace becomes raw materials to
appropriate from the colonial periphery, takes the Metropolitan Center.
So, in South Africa, religion has persisted as an oppositional term,
marking the opposition between savage and civilize.
But imperialism rendered religion as an evolutionary process,
a progression from savagery to civilization.
However, a promise infinitely deferred which disguised imperial
ambitions of appropriation.
I got one more, are we all right here?
I see you, I don't see any of you, you're all over here out of my field of vision.
All right.
Alien abduction.
While indigenous religion has been denied and contained under colonial
conditions and collected and managed within imperial ambitions.
Indigenous religion has undergone a reevaluation in a globalizing era,
now I hope we start to move towards the future.
Credo Mutwa has been described internationally as a Zulu shaman,
the keeper of Zulu tradition.
Although, in South Africa some years ago,
he was also widely characterized as a fake, a fraud, and a charlatan.
An extremely creative and imaginative author, artist, sculptor,
Credo Mutwa has been celebrated within the global network of contemporary
Neo-shamanism as the High Sanusi of the Zulu nation.
The highest grade of African shaman, and
official historian of the Zulu people of South Africa.
Over his long career, Credo Mutwa has been adept at reinventing himself in
relation to various alien appropriations of his authenticity.
During the 1950s, Credo Mutwa was used to authenticate African artifacts for
a curio shop in Johannesburg.
I say you think back to this Flinder who authenticated a Zulu necklace for
E S Hartland, this is what Credo Mutwa did for a living in the 1950s.
Through his writings in the 1960s, his tourist attraction in Soweto in the 1970s,
and his cultural village in Bophuthatswana in the 1980s, he was
used to authenticate the racial, cultural and religious separations of apartheid.
I quote Credo Mutwa, apartheid is the high law of the gods.
He wrote that in the early 1960s, it is the highest law of nature.
Continuing to support the apartheid regime in the late 1980s,
he wrote the foreword to a book, South Africa the 51st State.
This is a great book arguing that the US should not have sanctions against
South Africa, but should welcome South Africa as its 51st State of the Union.
And as Credo Mutwa said, South Africa was the only hope in the region to
defend against communists, militants and rebels such as the ANC terrorists.
Now then, during the 1990s, as he acquired the label, shaman, through interventions
of Bradford Keeney, Steven Larson and other exponents of New Age spirituality.
Credo Mutwa's authority was invoked to authenticate a diverse range
of enterprises in saving the world from human exploitation,
environmental degradation, epidemic illness, endemic ignorance,
organized crime, and this is what I'll focus on, extraterrestrial conspiracy.
In all of these things, he was the pure voice of indigenous authenticity.
One of Credo Mutwa's supporters, the New Age conspiracy theorist David Icke,
produced a five hour video, The Reptilian Agenda,
based on interviews with the Zulu shaman.
In this video, Icke explains, where it enters into a unique human being,
the most incredible man has been my honor to meet.
Mutwa is the keeper of the ancient knowledge, the truth of history,
as opposed to the nonsensical version of history we get from universities.
The true history confirmed by Icke's recent research and Mutwa's
ancient knowledge, centered on a global conspiracy of aliens from outer space.
You know David Icke, right?
He was a former sports broadcaster in Britain.
He developed a distinctive blend of New Age
spirituality with political paranoia.
In which he identified the central secret, a conspiracy ruling
the world as the work of shape-shifting reptilians from outer space.
According to Icke, these extra terrestrial reptiles interbred with human beings,
establishing a lineage that can be traced through the pharaohs of ancient Egypt,
the Merovingian dynasty of Medieval Europe,
the British Royal Family, and every President of the United States.
>> [LAUGH] >> There you go.
Although they plotted behind the scenes in a secret society, the Illuminati,
the aliens are these hybrid bloodlines who are in prominent positions of royal power,
political power, economic power,
all over the world, occasionally shifting into their lizard-like form.
Yeah, that's right.
These aliens maintained a human appearance by regularly drinking human blood
which they acquired by performing rituals of human sacrifice.
So this is David Icke's story, he finds confirmation,
authentication from Credo Mutwa.
So, invoking the African authority of Credo Mutwa to confirm this conspiracy
theory about blood drinking, shape-shifting reptiles from outer space,
Mutwa declared, to know the Illuminati, Mr David, you must study the reptile.
In The Reptilian Agenda, Credo Mutwa confirms that extraterrestrials,
the Chitauri, a shape-shifting reptilian race that has controlled humanity for
thousands of years.
They actually joined up to save the world.
They went to the great pyramid in Cheops to stop the Illuminati from
performing a human sacrifice.
Anyway, been very helpful to us.
But my point here is in this new construction of religion,
we're not finding an oppositional term, we're not finding a progression.
There's something else going on here.
This quite extraordinary mobility now of local authority,
anchored authority, indigenous authority,
Zulu authority being mobilized in this imagination of a global conspiracy,
even extra-terrestrial conspiracy, we're definitely getting big here.
Now, Credo Mutwa has personally experienced alien abduction.
According to Credo Mutwa, Zulu tradition provides wisdom on how to capture aliens,
prepare aliens, cook aliens, eat aliens from outer space.
We all know this, right, we know how to cook a good alien from outer space.
In 1958, a UFO crashed in the mountainous area of Lesotho.
A friend invited Mutwa over for
a meal, promising that they would be dining on something holy,
which turned out to be the meat of an extraterrestrial known as a Grey.
Following African tradition,
they had to eat this meal in a deep hole in the ground.
As Mutwa reports, the meat of the alien was tough and
dry, requiring much chewing, and it had the same taste as a copper coin.
After eating the flesh of a God, Mutwa and
his companion became deathly ill, suffering intense pain for
a week, which seemed like 100 years, blind to death and unable to breathe.
After a week, they went stark, raving, laughing mad.
Then suddenly, Mutwa recalls, he was a person reborn.
All his senses were expanded.
I could see colors beyond colors.
I could hear voices in my head.
Taste buds souped up.
Ecstasy of trans extraordinary sensory experience.
We were one with the entire universe.
By eating the alien, Mutwa had acquired an extraterrestrial sensorium.
David Ike asked him in the video, do you think those senses you experienced
are like the senses of the Chitauri, these reptilian aliens from outer space?
Yes, senses like no human being has.
So, by contrast to this extra-terrestrial ecstasy, in 1959,
Credo Mutwa underwent another alien abduction, the agony of alien abduction.
While looking for medicinal herbs, in what is now Zimbabwe, Mutwa was
taken into a spaceship of the Chitauri, disappearing for a period of four days.
Again, as a kind of alien abduction pays meticulous attention to the senses,
to embodiment,
to this visceral experience, he hears a strange humming sound the whole time.
Pictures flood his mind, horrible metallic Chemical smells.
He says, I have smelled them.
I have personal experience of them.
He goes through an eternity of pain during this alien abduction and
is returned to earth bearing a horrible non-human smell, and missing his trousers.
Mutwa was attacked by dogs, but saved by local villagers who recognized this odor.
And so since that time, I've been a very confused person.
Now Credo Mutwa is a brilliant author, artist, sculpture,
very imaginative, creative, innovative in Zulu tradition.
Here you him innovating in the idiom of outer space,
of extra terrestrial encounters and abductions.
Quite an extraordinary transposition of alien traditions.
Anyway, he says we should look out for these aliens.
>> [LAUGH] >> There's one So
ship wreck, war dance, an alien abduction.
These historical fragments show how religion has registered
differently in colonial, imperial, and global formations.
First, in the colonial register, we find religion as an oppositional term defined
by its opposite superstition, which was allegedly abundant amongst Africans,
signifying the lack of religion in South Africa,
as we call that opposition did not go unchallenged.
Africans reconfigured the colonial opposition
as an opposition between sea and land.
It goes on.
That's a Walmart arriving in South African shores.
A new encounter between the aliens from the sea and the people of the land.
The oppositional character of the term religion might very well go back to
ancient Roman usage.
But we find it even during the European enlightenment,
where definition of religion as an oppositional term
were developed by key thinkers such as Immanuel Kant, moral reason.
That sounds all right, an essential definition of religion.
How do you define moral reason?
By pointing to its absence amongst Jews who suffer from superstition,
repetition of meaningless rituals, and [INAUDIBLE] still opposition.
[INAUDIBLE] profound feeling absence of religion, sounds like,
how did he define that profound feeling by pointing to its absence amongst Jews.
So we find even during the enlightenment period, this colonial oppositional
usage of the term religion persisted.
Second, in the imperial register, we find religion as an evolutionary term.
Position our timeline from primitive to civilized,
best illustrated by the stadial theory of progression, from primitive hunter
gatherers to pastoral culture, and settled agriculture to urban civilization.
So you've got this sort of evolutionary trajectory of religion.
In this developmental scheme,
indigenous religion had to be pushed along towards civilization, but imperial
domination control required an infinite deferral, postponing indefinitely,
entering into citizenship within the imperial world of world religions.
In the meantime, indigenous religions were subject to what I've called the triple
mediation, linking indigenous people, colonial middlemen, and
imperial theorists in the production of knowledge about religion.
And so, this triple interchange of different actors engaged in producing
knowledge about religion, the transaction between the Zulu Sangoma,
the middle man Flinders, and the imperial theorist Hartland,
who appropriated the Sangoma's necklace for the Pitt Rivers Museum,
it's just one example of this ongoing process of producing knowledge, but
also exercising force since the Sangoma did not want to part with the necklace.
And this imperial legacy lives on and the reappropriation of the appropriations.
This imperial legacy lives on and the reappropriation of the appropriations,
generating new forms of indigenous sovereignty and indigenous spirituality.
Third, in the global, that's an authentic Zulu war dance.
This is my president.
This is a authentic Zulu wedding dance,
or war dance, I'm not sure.
Third, in the global register which is characterized by the increased pace and
scope of the movement of people, money and technology, but
also ideals of human solidarity, images of human possibility.
Religion is a transposable term replaced by other terms such as spirituality but
also transferred to a range of apparently nonreligious activities,
such as sports or capitalism.
So, we have this new fluidity with the very usages of the term religion,
as a transposable term.
The global register has also produced a commodification of religion.
In these transpositions, religion by any name signifies sensory immediacy,
promising direct experience but
also technological mediation through electronic media.
Global religion is religion in motion defined by mobility, fluidity,
and circulations, unanchored from any stable bedrock whether on land or sea.
Unanchored from any necessary relation between statements of,
unanchored from any necessary relation between statements and
facts in a proliferating swirl of signs.
I conclude now.
I'm not sure how this is gonna work, let's see, shall we see how this works?
I could just stop, no let's see what happens.
Global religion, now I'm going into the future here, signaling
the future of religion in the present, is a mix of authenticity and fakery.
In a book on religion in American popular culture, I argue that even fakes, frauds,
and charlatans can do real religious work.
By religious work, I mean symbolic labor.
In the fields and factories of the transcendent and
the sacred dealing with gods and ancestors,
producing sacred objects, sacred times, sacred spaces.
Thamsanqa Jantjie, the fake signer at the Nelson Mandela Memorial
of December 10th, 2013 was an authentic fake.
Remember this?
Okay, operating in the realm of free signifiers.
Perhaps signifying nothing, but revealing South Africa's,
what I'm gonna call spectral governance,
a ghostly governance that merges religion, law,
and politics, with respect to religion.
In his home in Bochabela, in the free state,
John Chi was known as a songdoma, a shaman.
He was a ritual specialist, except everyone knew he was fake songdoma
pretending to be a traditional religious healer,
using sacred medicines to treat ailments and holy water to chase away evil spirits.
Although he had been employed by the African National Congress at other events,
John Chi was reportedly hired for the Nelson Mandela Memorial by
a company owned by the head of the African National Congress Religious and
Traditional Affairs Desk.
So this signing, swirl of signs,
relates to religion.
He was a fake songdoma.
He was appointed by the ANC religious affairs desk.
Of course, that was run by the office of manager of ANC spokesman,
Jackson Mthembu, who certified him to participate in the memorial.
Although religious imagery certainly featured in John Chi's spectral vision of
angels descending on the stadium during the Mandela Memorial.
Religious significance, traditional, Christian,
inter-religious floated freely inside African public life.
So I'm using him as a signifier, signifying nothing but
perhaps signifying this circulation of traditional religion,
Christian religion, inter-religious.
Relations floating freely in South African public life.
With respect to law and order John Chi reportedly was also a fake lawyer
in Bochabela, dressing up in silks and taking cases to court.
His own encounters with the law,
which included charges of housebreaking, malicious damage to property, theft,
rape, kidnapping, and murder, never resulted in conviction.
Not even when he allegedly committed fraud against the Department of Justice.
Charges were apparently dropped because he was deemed
not psychologically fit to stand trial.
Nevertheless, John Chi's freedom from consequences seemed symptomatic of
a regime of spectral governance that pretended to enforce law and order.
Finally, by spectral governance I refer to the ghostly appearances,
the haunting traces or the ceremonial performances of government.
Now of course, it's not unique to South Africa, this governance by
fakery was brought into a certain kinda focus by the work of Tommy John Chi,
in his cartoon Fraudsters of the Nelson Mandela Memorial.
Our cartoonist Zapiro, plays John Chi gesticulating wildly,
surrounded by angels, next to South African president Jacob Zuma and
United States president Barack Obama.
Seriously, Obama asks.
Next to me on the world stage was an incompetent fraud?
As Obama's adviser explains, yes, sir.
And the sign language interpreter was no better.
South African political commentator Richard Poplak,
in article paying tribute to the only honest man in the stadium of fools,
found that John Chi's fakery highlighted the pretense of the event.
Well, international public philosopher Slavoj Zizek argued that the fake
interpreter called attention to the ceremonial pretense of care for
the people, because his message was the dignitaries don't really care about you.
To his fake translation, John Chi rendered palpable the fate of the entire ceremony.
Now lets give John Chi the last word here.
In an interview, he seemed to adopt this position, this analysis
of his performance by saying that he was faking to expose a bigger fraud.
Even if they call me a fake, he exclaimed, I am the great fake.
Because I expose what is going on in the government and the system.
In conclusion, Is Barack Obama still President?
Did anything change while I've been away?
In conclusion, colonial, imperial, and global.
In a globalizing age, the formations of religion that we've considered are written
on top of each other.
While religion is transposable, diffused, and
disbursed through popular culture, social networks,
political mobilizations, economic transactions,
so a religion is transposable and diffused,
religion retains its oppositional character and developmental promise.
Religion provides resources and strategies for
opposing aliens, converting heathens,
expanding empire, and transcending the fact Based world.
Merging with law, politics and economics, specters of religion bear traces of
colonial and imperial legacies, suggesting that global futures of religion
are already inscribed in colonial and imperial past.
Thank you. >> [APPLAUSE]
>> There's food in the back.
>> I actually have a question which was partially answered
by your last conclusion which is whether or not colonial,
imperial, and global couldn't be co-terminus in a way,
you've narrated this as if it's chronological in some way.
But it seems to me that you're also implying that the colonial continues
within the very study of religion itself,
so I just wonder if you could talk about that.
>> That's absolutely right.
I think what I said at the end was these registers,
which are kind of arbitrarily distinguished as colonial,
imperial and global, are written on top of each other.
Of legibility, so they persist.
And so it's cumulative,
but also disjunctive, I mean depending on where you are and
when you are, you may engage this religious formation different ways.
But I was just saying that they are written on top of each other, retained,
so the colonial and the imperials retained, the colonial and imperials,
the globals retained, and so you have these three things, yeah, retained.
>> [SOUND] >> Thank you,
dude, my mind is kind of still reeling but
several questions, but just one to start out at least.
With the colonial and the imperial,
you've shown quite clearly how western interpreters of religion
are creators of a category that has been used to do real work in the world.
So with this global category are we not also still co-creators of
a category that fosters the kind of global transpositions that you're talking about?
Thinking about even just this rubric of ultimate concern that became popular
in the 60s and 70s after Paul Tillich and people like that.
And become a way of thinking about everything from sports to Marxism,
etc., as religion.
So to what degree does the story continue that we are the fabricators of
categories that then are picked up by the Mutwas as in others and
used to create new religious rules?
Is that a fair question?
>> Yeah, are we the fabricators of categories?
Yes we are, where ever we are, but
I wouldn't want to give us too much authority or
sense of control or that we're in charge.
So I think about these things like in pre-colonial situation.
A lot of what we might think of as religious
activity, ritualized activity, invocation of ancestors,
sacrifice of animals, purification rituals.
A lot of religious activity went into building up a home, so that's what we did.
Under colonial conditions of disposition and
displacement driven from home, now what do you do?
How are those religious, if you want to call them religious activities,
deployed and struck by different strategies or
were developed under colonial conditions of displacement to deal with dislocation.
How you make a home away from home, how do you bring the ancestors back to that home?
How do you re-purify that home?
How do you stop the demands of the ancestors when they appear in dreams
asking for sacrifice of cattle, when you've got no animals?
So under those different, shifting conditions.
So to move quickly here, again these things are written
all on top of each other in different situations and circumstances.
Here's Credo Mutwa, he's also building a home.
[INAUDIBLE] so there's, now, I guess I'm imposing this category home, but
he is building a home.
He built a home in Credo Mutwa village in Soweto, and
during 1976, due to an uprising, they threw him out, burned down his home,
right-thinking students, because he seemed to represent tribalism, apartheid,
justifying the bizarreness of African traditions.
Then he went to and built a village there, he got driven out.
Went to [INAUDIBLE] game reserve, built a village there, got kicked out.
He's had a hard time finding a home until
he was discovered in cyberspace as his new home.
He's alive and well in cyberspace, he's alive and well in electronic media.
Celebrated through publications, videos, proponents of new age spirituality.
He's home.
Now the resources and strategies by which he built up that home are different
than what I'm imagining were pre-colonial, colonial.
So global increase pay sense scope of the movement of all these things.
There is something going on here
that's worthy of our attention as we look to the future of religion.
I painted a dark future of spectral governs, law, politics and religion,
that is ghostly, it's no where.
But I wish I had a brighter vision of the future.
Partly because all of these things are written on top of each other,
the colonial stage, the imperial stage, even patriarchal.
>> Thank you so much.
[COUGH] I really enjoyed this and it also got me thinking about other kind of
examples of Captain Cook in Hawaii and also things like this.
>> Yeah.
>> But I was wondering, I know this is terrible oversimplification of things, but
in some ways it got me thinking about religion as a mode of performing
political alterity.
That then gets misrecognized by those in power across this cultural divide,
and I'm wondering if you think that kind of a phenomenon can happen also
outside of a colonial context across other lines of power and difference.
I mean I was thinking perhaps of speaking in tongues in the United States or
other places, I'm just wondering about other kinds of religious rituals that
potentially get misread in this way.
>> Probably happens everywhere doesn't it?
I mean understanding is misunderstanding, but
then is there an understanding?
Where is the bedrock of authentic understanding?
So I'm sure it happens everywhere, and
it's fascinating to wonder about
The specificity of the locations of these breakdowns in communication.
And one thing when I started looking at travelers, missionaries and
colonial agents entering into these zones
of intercultural contact, relations, exchanges,
profound misunderstandings, was first it kinda sound strange,
but when Africans laughed at missionaries.
So the missionary, Robert Moffat, comes in and says, I've learned enough of your
language to know that Mudimu is God.
Now that term in [FOREIGN] languages has many multiple meanings.
It's a much disputed term, indigenous term, what about me?
Missionary Robert Moffard, he latched onto one meaning.
He appropriated that term as the god of his Christian mission.
And he took the term for ancestor, bedemu, and said that's the term for devils,
demons, and so on.
So it's an engagement.
It's a translation.
It's an appropriation.
Anyway, over and over again he reports.
When he tells people this, they laugh at him.
They laugh uproariously at him.
They think this is the funniest thing they have ever heard, this
ridiculous absurd transposition of basic categories.
And he would say to them, well, I'll get the last laugh after you die.
You're not gonna laugh when you go to hell and things like that,
but to me, it's more than misunderstanding.
That laughter resonates for me as an engagement with the incongruity.
You know, that in between space of where things just don`t fit together.
And many of these travelers, missionaries and so on,
would say that laughter was evidence that Africans can`t think.
That they are incapable of thinking.
But it`s a kind of thinking.
It`s a kind of reflection on the incommensurability, the misunderstanding.
But the mismatch, the misfit, in these contact zones of incongruity.
But taking, I don't know where else, I always love these questions.
And you found that in South Africa.
Is it anywhere else?
Well, I'm not everywhere, so I don`t know.
People must go and find it, what they find.
Other thoughts?
>> [INAUDIBLE] I wonder about media.
So for example, you as a writer, primarily.
We saw photographs.
I did think of Nimetrafu the film.
Thinking about these different media of representing these kinds of ritual and
religion and, well if you think that there are different ways in spaces or
media through which that increments our ability.
Shines through or is allowed to sort of glimmer in the background of sort of
interpretations that might get shut down along the way or something like this.
>> Yeah, I'm sure that is.
I am sorry I left out a part where Credo Mutwa explains to us that modern
electronic media is ushering in the return of these aliens from outer space.
So they're preparing us to accept the Chitauri's return.
So now, there he's using electronic media, especially films.
By the way, he blames, what was it?
ET, the extra-terrestrial.
He said, it all starts there.
And then we're gonna get ready for their return.
Now that's a particular religious reading of media, of film.
So I don't know where else.
Incommensurability, I'm sure glimmers everywhere.
I don't know how things actually fit together.
I laugh a lot, cuz the laughter comes from a sudden perception of incongruity,
things that don't fit.
Sigmund Freud wrote a book on jokes.
Have you ever read it?
It's the least funny book ever.
There are only two jokes.
Do you know this?
One is metaphoric condensation.
Where two increments or things are jammed together.
You know this, right?
Metaphoric condensation.
Where poor man goes, meets rich man.
Poor man comes back and talks to poor friends.
Poor man says to poor friends, rich man treated me famillionarily.
See it's not a funny joke, but it jams together familiar and millionaire.
And then metonymic displacement.
From the expected to the unexpected, there are only two jokes.
And that's when rich man slips on banana peel and falls down.
Those are two jokes.
Freud and two jokes.
But these are forms of incongruity that we also find in religion.
These condensations and displacements.
>> I'm really struck by the contrast between the first two cases and
the final case in the way that science is this sort of engine of knowing, but
also of establishing these categories in the first two cases.
And these are science sort of expeditions under the sign of science.
And then in the latter case, I know on the one hand it seems like science kind of
turns into something else or goes away.
And so I have a couple of questions related to that.
One is on the disciplinary one, the point at which religion,
religious studies like anthropology becomes a humanities or
humanistic social science something but it's not science in the same way.
But the other is the figuring of the fake and I was reminded, I can't remember.
It was the late 90s, early 2000s, there was some sort of scandal in
the Cancer Research World in South Africa where there was a researcher.
I knew him, cuz he was my sister in law's PhD adviser who made up data.
So all of the sudden all of these findings and
all these careers were sort of destroyed.
And so thinking about the figuring of the fake at this particular moment not
only interrogates the political and those categories, but science itself.
>> Yeah, right. Right, yeah, yeah.
>> It's interesting to think here how you see science as either continuing or
disappearing or going somewhere else in this trajectory.
>> That's a really interesting question.
You're absolutely right about,
we live now in this new era of the fake, which affects everything.
>> [INAUDIBLE] >> No, it's all right.
>> Different kinds of fakes.
>> Different kinds of fakes, yeah.
Like degrees of fakery.
We can do a scientific scale of
degrees of fakery from 0 to 10.
0 is no fakery.
10, fakery resulting in death.
I'm adopting that from the scale of analyzing violence, but
anyway, back to scientific continuum of the paper.
But you ask a really profound question.
Just quickly, I think you're right.
During the colonial era, scientific expeditions,
data gathering of various kinds.
The imperial era collating these Data for
scientific enterprise and create a moot with science.
It is an indigenous knowledge system.
You could break it down into biology, psychology, and other sorts
of things if you wanted to, knowledge of plants, and herbs, and things.
He claimed it as a science, not the kind of science taught in the universities,
but indigenous, local, acknowledged systems, scientifically.
This would be recognized as scientific as we decolonize our curriculum.
I suppose, from the science still features
in here as a signal of authentic knowledge production.
But the thing is, I suppose, with [INAUDIBLE] what I was stressing was,
is on personal immediate visceral experience of eating an alien from outer
space and then being abducted by an alien from outer space.
But at the same time, he does cloak this with a kind of
appropriation of the legitimacy of science and the authenticity of science.
There was a researcher just a couple of weeks ago from
our [INAUDIBLE] Institute for Advanced Studies,
who recommend [INAUDIBLE] as a guide for South African political life and
intellectual life and a kind of rejuvenation of South Africa.
So he`s still percolating and alive and well, old.
>> Thank you so much for your lovely talk.
I had a question and a comment.
My question was more related to translation and
interpretation and the role of African, sort of,
interpreters in this sort of [INAUDIBLE] that Belen said that you speak
about in religion as opposition, religion as evolutionary.
And the other comment I had was related to sort of the alien
abduction experience and the age of the reptilians.
Unfortunately, for [INAUDIBLE] this has made its way to American TV screens.
There's a series, People Appear, that is about people who have
been abducted by reptilians and greys and Nordics.
So maybe that's something you would want to look at.
>> Your first question was about African interpreters.
>> The role of sort of, in this collection of knowledge
of religion and collision of knowledge.
As the sort of interpretation changes, what is the role of African interpreters?
Specifically, I'm thinking of, for me,
I've looked more closely at Eastern Africa and looking at even at,
sort of, colonial expeditions, or missionaries going in.
Their interpreters were often the same sort of key people.
>> Okay, okay, okay, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly, interpreters.
Okay, so on that, in both savage systems and empire religion,
I have really tried to work hard to foreground indigenous actors,
indigenous agents, indigenous interpreters.
Not as translators, but as thinkers in their own right,
as theorists in their own right.
So one of my key texts is published in 1868 and
1870 under the name of Henry Callaway, who was a great missionary.
But it was actually mostly written by the Zulu
convert catacus and later deacon [INAUDIBLE].
He wrote most of the thing.
It's signed by him.
There's one column in Zulu and one column in English.
So you could say he was an interpreter, you could say he was a translator.
You could say he was a native informant, I don't know.
I like to think of himself as an important thinker struggling
with the contradictions of the colonial situation.
And so I'm gonna work really hard to see
the role in all these situations of,
African thinkers and theorists and so on.
Now about alien abduction, and it's one of [INAUDIBLE] arguments,
is that the electronic media has stolen African traditions.
He said we know how to capture aliens from outer space, bury space rubbish.
We know all these things.
We were the original Men in Black, whatever that is, but
getting back to the science question anyway, alien abduction.
Have you ever seen the alien abduction test?
There's a scientific test to see if you've been abducted by aliens.
Do you know this?
One of the questions is, do you remember being abducted by an alien?
If you say, because what they do is they erase your memory, so, if you
do not remember being abducted by an alien, you were abducted by an alien.
Now if you do not remember, how many of you do not remember if you were?
>> [LAUGH] >> Scientific proof that you were abducted
by an alien.
All right, thank you all so much.
This was great.
>> [APPLAUSE] >> Thank you.