STRUCTURE AND FLUIDITY IN KHOISAN RELIGIOUS IDEAS 1 BY ALAN BARNARD (University of Edinburgh, Scotland) The extreme complexity of the whole pre-Bantu ethnology of South Africa manifests itself especially in research into the true nature of the ancient Bushman religion. It appears impossible to arrive at reliable con- clusions without detailed inquiry also into the religion of the Hottentots and the Bergdama. Wilhelm Schmidt (1929: 301) Before I begin my discussion of Khoisan religious ideas, a few words about the theoretical perspective used in this paper may be of interest to some readers. Broadly, it is 'structuralist' and based on the idea of regional comparison as a key to the understanding of both the region as a whole and particular cultures within it (cf. de Heusch, 1982). The relevant structures are conceived neither as universal (as generally in the L6vi-Straussian sense of 'structure') nor as peculiar to specific societies or linguistic communities (as often in structural linguistics), but rather, as regionally-based. What earlier writers have described merely as cultural differences are seen here as part of this larger, regional structure of beliefs and practices--a structure of structures. To some degree, indigenous thinkers have an intuitive knowledge of this
Journal of Religion in Africa – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1988
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