Chapter 12 Africa and America Revisited: A Critical Analysis of Widengren’s Comparative Method

In: The Legacy, Life and Work of Geo Widengren and the Study of the History of Religions after World War II
Daniel Andersson
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This chapter analyses how the idea of the High God is applicable on the African and American scene respectively. Widengren gives a pervasive reading of contemporary (and sometimes pre-colonial or traditional) African and American ethnographic material and tries to link his typology of the hauptmotiv of the High God to the archaeological and oral traditional material from these two continents. Widengren seldom, however, distinguish between indigenous, pre-colonial or contemporary African and American cultures. He does not discuss migrations, religious shifts or syncretistic processes. What Widengren should have done in order to make his effort more worthwhile was being more careful with the source material and how the comparisons are executed. It would also have been helpful if he more clearly had demonstrated how the “African” and “American” thoughts regarding the concept of the High God was linked to the Iranian historical cultural context.

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