Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In Loving Memory - Maitũ Eunice Wangechi Gathitũ



The Great One:
The wind blew,
From the northern carrying with it deathly spell,
Howling and wailing as the gust passed,
Taking with it roof tops and leaving the sheep
Naked, uncovered and shaky;

The chimney was gone taken into the heavenly
Like Elijah, clouds of darkness swallowed it.
Gushing rain and wind dampened the hearse;
All silence, deathly silence
In a distant, a dog howled
An owl hooted the great one had fallen.

The hearth reassembled,
Fire of eternity burnt
Bringing with it warmth untold.
The joy of knowing her rekindled
Beauty, laughter, tears filled the room
No longer to depart
Forever yours
She muttered…
- Kĩriakũ Kĩnyua.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Narration of Egyptian Mythology: Max Müller through a Postcolonial Lens

I just finished presenting a paper titled The Narration of Egyptian Mythology: Wilhelm Max Müller through a Postcolonial Lens at the 21st Annual British Commonwealth & Postcolonial Studies Conference (February 17 - 18, 2012 at Hilton Savannah Desoto Hotel in Savannah, Georgia USA.

The Abstract:

The Narration of Egyptian Mythology: Max Müller through a Postcolonial Lens


Friedrich Max Müller in his Introduction to the Science of Religion proposed what he referred to as “the science of religion.” Like his father, Wilhelm Max Müller supported a less partisan approach to religion in which scholars would seek those elements, patterns, and principles that could be found uniformly in the religions of all times and places. The proposal came at a time when many in Europe held that Christian faith could never mix with a program of study devoted to experiment, revision and change. Müller’s proposal was groundbreaking. However, when scrutinized under a postcolonial lens, the work reveals that both senior and junior Müller never moved away from the generally held principle that insisted that Christian ideals and values expressed the highest in human moral and cultural achievement. Both Friedrich and Wilhelm Max Müller likewise remained squarely in the European triumphant intellectualism.

When one considers W. Max Müller’s work on Egyptian mythology in The Mythology of All Races: Egypt, it becomes apparent that the seemingly innocent and objective use of science in the representation of the “Other” is not as transparent as it appears. As one studies Müller’s Mythology, several questions come to mind. Why was Müller quick to remind that even though Egyptian civilization is beyond question, its religious life remained rudimentary without acquiring the sophistication of other “pagan” religions? Why was he quick to trace animism as the principle force from which Egypt mythology evolved? What role did racism and continental chauvinism pointed out by Martin Bernal play in shaping the study of Egyptian mythology and religion? Does Müller’s study of Egyptian mythology masks a connection between European Romanticism and the tensions between Egyptian religion and Christianity that requires unraveling?

In this paper I propose to show first that W. Max Müller’s study masks a construction of ancient Egyptians in which he takes upon himself the power to describe, name, define, and represent the “Other”. Müller’s oversimplification of Egypt mythology denies its complexity. Secondly, the use of animism as a theoretical tool to analyze Egyptian religious experiences forms the basis for Müller’s Orientalism and his idea of henotheism. Thirdly, Müller’s classification of ancient Egyptians as animists follows Hegelian view of Africa as representing the world of “Nature” in its raw state, as opposed to that of Culture or “Spirit”. Animism helps reinforce the stereotypical reading of Egyptian religion and mythology. Fourthly, use of animism reveals a certain level of anxiety that threatens to destabilize the very claim to objectivity as well as any claim to unified notion of history.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Review

Dear reader,
I would like to lead your attention to the review of my recently published book published today at: http://www.mhs.no/aotp?118. The review will also be published in BookNotes for Africa. The reviewer, Dr Knut Holter, is the Prorector for Research & Professor of Old Testament Studies at MHS School of Mission and Theology in Norway.