The Importation and Generation of the Religious and the Sacred in Political Song
Joram Tarusarira [+]
University of Groningen
The relevance of studying the “edges” or “adjacencies” of religion is further demonstrated in Chapter 12 by Joram Tarusarisa, who investigates the impact of religious resonances in “Nora”, a Zimbabwean political song. His analysis demonstrates that what is said to be religious and/or sacred is not cast in stone but is the result of practices, discourses and narratives woven around what gets defined as such. He discusses how the song sets apart the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), and its former leader Robert Mugabe and turns them into representations of the religious and/or sacred. Tarusarira’s analysis casts light on how the song’s narratives and discourses created a numinous vision and version of Zimbabwe that was to be delivered by the then President Mugabe, who was said to be “anointed” to guide his followers and deliver them from the land of Egypt (coloniality) to the Promised Land (independence and sovereignty). He demonstrates that the song has an explanatory dimension by which it claims to provide answers to questions of ultimate meaning in times of political instability and conflict that characterized Zimbabwe at the time when the song was composed. In doing so, it provides a theodicy, a narrative that answers ultimate questions concerning life and people’s (Zimbabweans’) place in the universe. Tarusarira’s analysis of the song and its performances is thus a concrete example of how the study of “religion” does not involve the study of a “thing” in itself, but an enquiry into how particular actors and institutions weave particular ideas, discourses and narratives, using a particular language which reflects their subjectivities and interests, to create the religious and/or sacred. The author concludes by stating that the proffered definitions of religion tell us more about those offering them than what they claim to be telling us about religion.