By David Chidester
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Additional info for Wild Religion: Tracking the Sacred in South Africa
9 In the history of religions, the ancient city was a religious production. 10 As both human habitation and abode of the gods, the ancient city was founded and maintained as a religious space. In the modern world, the human has increasingly been constituted in and by cities. While only 10 percent of the world’s population lived in cities at the beginning of the twentieth century, Mapping the Sacred | 17 over 50 percent had been urbanized by the century’s end. ”11 If religion refers to ways of being human, to the symbolic resources and strategies deployed in negotiating a human identity, orientation, and habitation, then religion has increasingly been situated in urban environments.
In other words, the Christianity derived from Europe had been converted into African Christianity. Second, members of African-initiated churches, who had been conventionally identified in the earlier scholarly literature as syncretists because they supposedly mixed “pure” Christianity with elements of indigenous African religious tradition, were often adamantly opposed to any contact with indigenous spirituality, healing, medicines, ritual specialists, or even ancestral spirits. Ironically, therefore, African Christians of the European churches in many cases turned out to be more sympathetic to indigenous religion than the Christians of the so-called African indigenous churches.
Second, during the twentieth century, African urbanization has been driven by the profound contradiction that building a rural homestead required urban employment. Since building a home was essentially a religious project, a project centered in the production of a ritual space for sacrifice, healing, protection from evil, and ongoing spiritual relations with ancestors, the linkages between rural and urban have inevitably been negotiated in religious terms. The result has been the production of new indigenous religious meanings that have recast the religious significance of urban space: a migrating sacred moving between city and countryside and a hybrid sacred situated in urban townships.