As an introduction to a history of comparative religion, this chapter identifies the material mediations—imperial, colonial, and indigenous—that produced, authenticated, and circulated knowledge about religion and religions. Highlighting the importance of indigenous African religion, especially Zulu and Thonga religion, in the emergence of imperial comparative religion between the 1870s and the 1920s, this chapter situates the history of the study of religion in the imperial, colonial, and indigenous exchanges within one zone of interaction, South Africa. Reviewing selected literature on the history of the study of religion and religions, the chapter shows how the discourse has moved from discovery, through invention, to intercultural mediations of knowledge about religion and religions.
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