The construction of 'religion' and the perpetuation of 'tradition' among Pogoro Catholics, southern Tanzania
This thesis is an ethnographic account of contemporary religious practice among a Bantu agricultural people in Southern Tanzania, the majority of whom are affiliated to the Roman Catholic Church. It examines the dialectic between Christianity and what the Pogoro consider to be 'traditional' practice as resulting in a locally defined Catholicism and in the separation of formal, official Christianity from 'traditional practice'. The thesis looks at how the existence of an institutional religion, in this case Catholicism, defines some aspects of local practice as traditional in opposition to it, while, at the same time, elements of Christian practice have been adopted by the community in a non institutional way. The thesis describes Pogoro Christianity, the role of the Church and Pogoro perceptions of it and gives an account of that which they consider to belong to the realm of 'tradition'. Traditional practice is not in actuality unchanging, but any changes in traditional practice must be legitimated by the authority of the dead and the spirits. The first part of the thesis provides the historical and geographical background. This is followed by a chapter on the Catholic Church in the area and official Catholic practice. Local Catholic practice and perceptions of the church and Christianity are described and accounted for. The next section looks at what is constituted as belonging to the realm of 'tradition'. The core chapters in this section describe girls puberty rites, funerals and the relationship with the dead. It is here that Catholic practice enters the realm of 'tradition'. A chapter examines the place of witchcraft eradication movements among the Pogoro, and in East and central Africa, to demonstrate how 'tradition' can and does change, and to provide a contrast with the position of Christianity among the Pogoro. This is dealt with in the final chapter in which I argue that there are limits on the 'traditionalisation' of Christianity among the Pogoro, and in other similar societies, and that these limits are to some extent a function of the institutional nature of Christianity.