African Independent Churches in Post-Apartheid South Africa: New Political Interpretations

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Abstract / Description of output

Scholars continue to debate the issue of how African Independent Churches (AICs) relate to politics. Rather than evaluating AICs according to a literal, Eurocentric definition of politics, this article argues for a holistic interpretation of African Christianity that treats politics, like other aspects of the realities of religious communities, as integral to religious discourse. Drawing on a study – including participant-observation and interviews with leaders and ordinary members – of five independent churches in Jabulani (Soweto), the article shows that politics is not now, nor was it during the apartheid era, divorced from the religious sphere in the everyday lives of church members. It demonstrates that local religious communities vitally sustain broadly held popular expectations of obtaining the as yet unrealised benefits of social justice and full citizenship that were the promise of the liberation struggle. Space is thereby opened up to move beyond seeing politics exclusively in terms of direct opposition to or support for government policies and institutions, and to register the political nature of activities such as Sunday worship, group Bible study, and weekday evening prayer meetings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)665-677
JournalJournal of Southern African Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008


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