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Anchoring Democracy in Indigenous African Institutions 1

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image of African and Asian Studies
For more content, see Journal of Asian and African Studies.

ABSTRACT Scholars have suggested the importance of integrating African democratization process with grassroots institutions for longterm consolidation. However, the major problem remained the inadequacy of secularism in disentangling the religious from the non-religious intertwined in indigenous African institutions. This essay reconsiders the Burckhardtian notion of secularism for a recalibrated definition that embraces a trajectory of transposed values. Debunking the Burckhardtian notion opens up an analytic terrain relegated to the "religious." Thus indigenous African religions are re-conceptualized as civic religions to shed light on their public aspects. The essay then identifies collective ceremonies and the attendant secular/civic rituals as the grassroots institutions "housed" in indigenous African religions. The analysis also locates the disjuncture between independent African states and the grassroots institutions at this level of collective ceremonies, perceived as "sacral" or "irrational." The objective is to harness them as African building blocks for democratic consolidation.


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