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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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Humanity and Divinity

Humanity and Divinity

(p.193) Chapter Seven Humanity and Divinity
Empire of Religion

David Chidester

University of Chicago Press

Identifying W. E. B. Du Bois as a historian of African religion, this chapter examines his rethinking of fetish, God, and the continuity between African religion and African American religion. Originally agreeing with imperial comparative religion that fetishism marked the beginning of religious evolution, Du Bois eventually critiqued the notion of the fetish as a European invention and an ideological supplement to the slave trade. Initially relying on European reports that the Yoruba believed in God, Du Bois came to emphasize the Yoruba God Shango, who was not like Rudolph Otto's “wholly other” but a deity of political sovereignty. By contrast to an early confidence in the transatlantic continuity of African religion into the Black Church in America, Du Bois eventually stressed the disruptions of slavery and colonialism that separated African religion in Africa from the diaspora.

Keywords:   African religion, Black Church, diaspora, Du Bois, fetish, God, Otto, Shango, Yoruba

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