Meaning Production in the Civil Religious Mozambique

Samuel Joina Ngale


The Tsonga tribal and Mozambican national identities are civil religious constructs. They resulted from sacrificial ritual performances, the expropriation of traditions and symbols, and the creation of sacred spaces. Formed as a linguistic, cultural, religious and tribal unity, the Tsonga provided a historical genealogy and structural template for the emergence of Moçambicanidade as a civil religion. Drawing upon postcolonial theory and discourse analysis, the essay uses the analytical category “civil religion” as a focusing lens in order to explore the dynamics of national solidarity in selected main archival sources: First, the construction of the Tsonga narratives of the tiMhamba, the Sacred Woods and the expropriation of local traditions recorded in Henri-Alexandre Junod’s, the Life of a South African Tribe; second, the pedigree of a heightened value for union, Protestant work-ethics and education, bequeathed to Eduardo Mondlane and evident in his The Struggle for Mozambique. Since the focus of the essay is on the productions of civil religion rather than their reception, evidence is drawn from textual analysis rather than from fieldwork methods. As a consequence of the analysis, the study argues that both Tsonga and Moçambicanidade are subaltern identities to modernity, perhaps destined to fail, but existing within the frame of modernity as its alter ego.

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