World Religions Essay

Submitted By mokeju3
Words: 1145
Pages: 5

Although Lawson’s Religions of Africa has the strengths of being compact and normative for leisure reading, the productivity of Lawson for this introductory class is the way his approach and content raise the important questions of research methods, gender selectiveness, and comparison of writing styles for our discussions. As stated previously, Religions of Africa is compact and normative which can be considered strengths for a reader who wants a general overview of a couple of religions in Africa, but these strengths can also be considered weakness for this class. For a general reader, the title itself can be confusing. It is no surprise that Africa has many religions just based on the sheer size of the continent, so one can assume that this book would contain multiple religions based in Africa. The assumption would make sense but it is incredibly incorrect. Lawson only includes two religions in the 100 page book. It is very compact which is beneficial for a reader looking for just an overview but to a class that is interested in the world’s religions, not just two from Africa but multiple, it seems a bit too brief. To Lawson’s defense, he does address this problem in the introduction of the book by stating, “The sheer massiveness of Africa is sufficient to overwhelm anyone who wishes to study some aspect of its contours… Decisions have to be made, therefore, as to what one will study,” (pg. 5). Lawson then goes to say what he decided to include in this book, saying, “Rather than spreading ourselves too thin, we shall narrow our focus down to two African peoples,” (pg. 8). Even with stating the fact that there is too much to study about the African religions in one book, the compactness of the book makes it difficult to see the diversity of the continent in our class. For the general reader this is not the only strength Lawson has. Being normative when talking about any religion can be beneficial and destructive. Lawson’s choice to be normative, I believe, is a good choice for the purpose of appealing to a general audience but not so much to a scholarly audience. To generalize a religion and make it appear as though the religion has no variation and the people practice the religion all the same makes it easy to understand the general appearance of the religion. To fully understand and study the religion, though, is to understand the controversies and differences between regions, families, and even individual people. When talking about the Zulu people and where they reside, Lawson says, “… the Zulu kraal is the primary locus for ritual action. It is in this religious space that crucial religious performances occur periodically,” (pg. 17). This, along with the rest of the description of the kraal, seems to have the assumption that every Zulu person lives in a kraal. This assumption can be disproven by watching the documentary Zulu Zionists where some Zulu people live in cities and work instead of living on a hill in a kraal and living out a religious life. Some Zulu people are even Christian along with being Zulu. This surprising revelation in the documentary seems to contradict Lawson’s writing. Not addressing any variation in a religion can hurt one’s study of a religion and the credibility of the author if read scholarly but for a general reader just looking for an overview, normative writing is an easy way to provide good information without overwhelming the reader. Now while it has been discussed that these strengths can also raise some concerns, these are not the only concerns within Religions of Africa. Other concerns of Lawson’s research methods and gender selectiveness and the comparison of his writing with other researcher’s raise questions in our discussions. Lawson’s research methods are never mentioned throughout the book. Usually an author states his or her creditability in the introduction or in the first couple of pages of the writing but Lawson doesn’t do so. The only mention of research or…