book review: african religions by jacob k. olupona22 Mar 2021
What are the main ideas?
- there is no easy and simple way to categorize or classify african religions.
- because of the role of ancestors, there no clear line between monotheism and polytheism in african religions. this “binary remains irrelevant in an african context.”
- african art is intimately tied with spirituality. unlike european understandings of art, the most important artworks are pieces that get used in festivals, rituals, etc. so even the idea that art is rare or unique doesn’t translate within an african context.
- christianity and islam have been intermixing with african indigenous traditions for centuries. in some ways and places, it is not even possible to pull these three ways of spiritual relating apart.
- (my interpretation of a more neutral point): christianity has had a destructive relationship with
- in many ways, african religions/spiritual is just (if not more) alive outside of the continent, in the diaspora, as inside.
If I implemented one idea from this book right now, which one would it be?
- do not try to compare or understand african religions with a western european lens; it doesn’t make sense.
How would I describe the book to a friend?
this book is an incredibly dense survey of african religions, spirituality and their interconnection with social and political structures across history and geography. this book is a breadth-first exploration of some major themes in african religions, each time dipping a toe or two into a few specific faiths. he seems to do a good job of highlighting tensions and contradictions where they exist. having read this book, i feel prepared to do deeper dives into more specific geographically or conceptually bound religious/spiritual traditions.
reminder: book review structure