Modern Kongo Prophets: Religion in a Plural Society

Modern Kongo Prophets: Religion in a Plural Society

Modern Kongo Prophets: Religion in a Plural Society

Modern Kongo Prophets: Religion in a Plural Society

Excerpt

The prophet movements of Lower Zaire are well known to students of religious movements, partly because of their scale and political impact, and partly because of the volume of published material on them, notably Andersson Messianic Popular Movements in the Lower Congo. On the other hand, the numerous interpretations of Kongo prophetism are generally deficient in dealing with both the social and the cultural context. The sociological deficiency is largely a question of theory: scholars evaluate the social context in terms of such value-laden, ill-defined and impractical concepts as oppression, messianism, and syncretism. Cultural interpretations suffer from the fact that the interpreters of prophetism have been mostly either sympathetic to the movement but without knowledge of KiKongo or, knowing the language, have been loyal to an opposing movement.

Lower Zaire is central to a territory occupied by the BaKongo (sing. MuKongo, NKongo), which they call Kongo and which has been divided since 1895 among the Republic of Congo (capital: Brazzaville), formerly French Congo; the Republic of Zaire, formerly Belgian Congo (capital: Kinshasa); and Angola, with Cabinda, formerly a Portuguese colony. The BaKongo number some three million people, but in recent centuries they have not had a unitary political system, nor are their language and culture sharply different from those of their neighbors. They have had extensive and profound relations with Europe since the sixteenth century, and in Zaire (with which this book is chiefly concerned) they are among the best educated and most influential sections of the national population.

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