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An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa

J. W. Fernandez

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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Religion/Theologie


We cannot, the author argues, adequately understand the religious imagination without knowing the historical, social, and cultural matrices from which it arises. Accordingly, his book explores the Fang culture of Gabon as a set of contexts from which emerges the Bwiti religion. In addition to experience with missionary Christianity, Bwiti uses a great reservoir of images and ideas from its own past. Professor Fernandez analyszes how they are recreated into a compelling religious universe, an equatorial microcosm.
Part I, a detailed ethnographic account of Fang culture after colonial encounter, addresses the attendant problems. The author discusses the European influence on the self-concept of the Fang, family life and kinship, and political and economic relationships. Part II analyzes in greater detail the religious implications of European administration and missionary efforts. In Part III the author shows how the malaise and increasing isolation of part of Fang culture achieve some assuagement of the Bwiti religion, which seeks a reconciliation of the past and present.
James W. Fernandez is Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University and author of many studies in this discipline.

Originally published in 1982.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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