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Empire of ReligionImperialism and Comparative Religion$
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David Chidester

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226117263

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226117577.001.0001

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Classify and Conquer

Classify and Conquer

(p.59) Chapter Three Classify and Conquer
Empire of Religion

David Chidester

University of Chicago Press

Concentrating on the work of Friedrich Max Müller, who is often identified as the founder of the modern study of religion, this chapter shows how Max Müller's classification of religions based on language was both reinforced and undermined by evidence from South Africa. The chapter recovers relations among imperial theorists, colonial experts, and indigenous informants to examine the colonial classification of religions advanced by W. H. I. Bleek and Henry Callaway, who distinguished between the poetic Khoisan religion of the sky and the prosaic Zulu religion of ancestors. By attending to Max Müller's relations with South Africa, this chapter identifies basic features of imperial comparative religion—its global scope, centralized intellectual production, and complex intercultural mediations that linked theorizing at the imperial center with colonized peripheries of empire.

Keywords:   Bleek, Callaway, classification, colonialism, imperialism, Khoisan religion, language, Max Müller, Zulu religion

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