Religion, hybridity, and the construction of reality in postcolonial Africa

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Mabiala Justin-Robert Kenzo
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That Africans are incurably religious has been one of the pillars on which current knowledge on Africa and the Africans is built. However, the accuracy of the claim is questionable on a number of fronts. The paper suggests that the real significance of the question is that it raises the issue of cultural determinism and indeterminism. Taking our cue from the postmodern and postcolonial criticism, we argue that cultures (or religions) are not ready-made packages that are passed on from one generation to another. Rather, cultures are transmitted through processes that can be described in terms of interactivity, negotiability, indeterminacy, fragmentation, and conflict. More importantly, humans are active participants in these processes. Based on this view of culture, the paper argues that the religious identity of Africans is a matter of constructed hybridity. Our reading of Ben Okri's Famished Road further demonstrates that Africans are neither incurably religious nor incurably irreligious. Instead, they skillfully and creatively construct their identity borrowing insights from resources that are both endogenous and exogeneous to Africa and their own tribal contexts.

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