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The Vitality of Karamojong Religion: Dying Tradition or Living Faith?

The Vitality of Karamojong Religion: Dying Tradition or Living Faith?

By Ben Knighton. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate Publishing, 2005. Pp. xvi, 349. $99.95 / 55 [pounds sterling].

Indigenous religious traditions are still alive in many parts of the globe. In spite of the disruption of their traditional worldviews, many indigenous people still maintain a sacred path that is different from those of other religious traditions. In many contexts, indigenous people have contended with conversion pressure from other religions, globalization, colonization, and postmodernity. This book deals with the traditional religion of the Karamojong people of Uganda. Using oral traditions, extensive ethnographic research, and historical and anthropological approaches, Knighton describes a religious life that is rich in symbols, rituals, sacred places, sacred practices, metaphors, and experience of the numinous. In a field often plagued by such problems as blatant stereotypes, sentimentalism, essentialism, and facile generalizations, Knighton presents a balanced analysis of Karamojong religion. This indigenous religious tradition has proven to be resilient and resistant to external forces. Knighton writes that the traditional culture of the Karamojong people dates back only to the 1830s, when diverse ethnic groups and practices were permanently amalgamated. Since then, the traditional culture has been very adroit at responding to the vagaries of historical change.

No religious tradition is static. The Karamojong people have been able to respond to the challenges of modernity through their own creative sensibilities and impulses. Internal changes and metamorphoses within Karamojong religion are integral parts of the tradition itself; they are not generated because of coercion from outside agents. African people have been able to maintain their religious autonomy in spite of the onslaught of globalization and postmodernity. Gerhardus Cornelius Oosthuizen once remarked that there is a big chasm between the Western worldview and the African traditional perspective. In order to overcome this methodological impasse, one needs to be rigorous and sympathetic. Knighton clearly fulfills these two requirements.

This is an important book. I applaud the author's sympathetic, detailed, and critical study of Karamojong religion. This monograph will be very useful for scholars in anthropology, religious studies, history, cultural studies, and mission studies.

Akintunde E. Akinade, from Nigeria, teaches world religions as Associate Professor of Religion at High Point University in High Point, North Carolina.
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Author:Akinade, Akintunde E.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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