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Savage Systems

Colonialism and Comparative Religion in Southern Africa
David Chidester

BUY Paper · 324 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813916675 · $27.50 · Nov 1996

Savage Systems examines the emergence of the concepts of "religion"and "religions" on colonial frontiers. The book offers a detailed analysis of the ways in which European travelers, missionaries, settlers, and government agents, as well as indigenous Africans, engaged in the comparison of alternative religious ways of life as one dimension of intercultural contact. Focusing primarily on ninteenth-century frontier relations, David Chidester demonstrates that the terms and conditions for comparison--including a discrouse about "otherness" that were established during this period still remains.

A volume in the series Studies in Religion and Culture


This work is the most through study of the meaning, construction, and definition of religion in any specific area of the world. It is a model that could be adopted with profit by scholars working in other areas of the world.

Charles Long, University of California, Santa Barbara

A highly original critical history of comparative religion in southern Africa that opens up the field well beyond South Africa and puts Euro-American work on notice about the bearing of tis political context. The book is on the cutting edge of comparative religion internationally and could serve well as a text in the methodological courses increasingly required in departments of religion.

Eugene M. Klaaren, Wesleyan University

About the Author(s): 

David Chidester is Professor of Comparative Religion and Director of the Institute for Comparative Religion in Southern Africa at the University of Cape Town. Among his preivous publications are American Sacred Space, Religions of South Africa, Shots in the Streets: Violence and Religion in South Africa, and Religion and Public Education: Options for a New South Africa.

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