The Indigenous As Seductive and Disruptive: A Theorerical Revision

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Federico SETTLER, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
In the context of Southern Africa, the history of religions has been closely tied to the classification of of the indigenous as an explanatory category. Chidester (1996, 2014) along with King (1999) and Masuzawa (2005), have argued that the classification and manufacturing of religion in the postcolony relied on imperial ideas of the indigenous. Scholars such as Rattansi (1994), Mignolo (1999), Lugones (2008) and Maldonado-Torres (2007), respectively, point to the limits of postcolonial approaches, the crisis of canon, and the need to theorise decoloniality. Both postcolonial and decolonial scholarship draw on the indigenous to both disrupt hegemonic knowledge regimes, as well as a way to bolster anti-colonial movements and discourses.

Thus, I propose to explore what happens when the indigenous uncouples itself from not just from traditional taxonomies of religion, but also the methods of knowledge production. The particular manifestations of the indigenous that I explore are the recent uses of spirit possession among young, queer activists during protests related to decolonizing the university curriculum in South Africa, and public discourses related to the recognition of indigenous healers, and their healing practices. In these contexts, the idea of the indigenous relies (1) on the body as a site of knowledge production, (2) spirit invocation and possession as a mode of discernment and resistance, (3) the demand for recognition of indigenous healing practices while resisting being regulated by the postcolonial state. In centering the indigenous through embodied practices of social resistance, these activists produce a register that expels heteronormative patriarchs and white feminists, ultimately privileging their indigenous ways of knowing and being largely unaffected by hegemonic modes and methods self-expression. The indigenous as a religious category thus emerges as a necessary container and catalyst of resistance, recovery and self-authoring in postcolonial South Africa.