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David Chidester

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780520297654

Published to California Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520297654.001.0001

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(p.124) 10 Apartheid

David Chidester

University of California Press

Apartheid was established in South Africa between 1948 and 1994 as a force of exclusion and incorporation, excluding people from citizenship and exploiting people as labor. This chapter suggests that the term apartheid, meaning “separation,” was formative for certain ways of thinking about religion. One of the architects of apartheid, the anthropologist W. M. Eiselen, was a leading expert on indigenous religions in South Africa. Eiselen’s writings on African religion illustrate three overlapping types of comparative religion—a frontier comparative religion based on denial and containment; an imperial comparative religion assuming evolutionary progress from savagery to civilization; and an apartheid comparative religion creating and reinforcing boundaries to keep people apart. Although apartheid was formally established as a racist policy of separation in South Africa, the making and maintaining of boundaries has been a recurring feature of religious formations.

Keywords:   apartheid, boundaries, civilization, frontier comparative religion, imperial comparative religion, indigenous religion, savagery, South Africa, W. M. Eiselen

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