Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: January 26, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412964623 | Print ISBN: 9781412936361 | Online ISBN: 9781412964623 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Molefi Kete Asante
The word animism comes from the Latin term anima , which means breath . The term animism was first used in reference to African cultures by the British anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor in his book Primitive Culture in 1871. Tylor defined the term as a general belief in spiritual beings. After Tylor, other anthropologists used the term to refer to African religion, usually contending that all African religions have as a minimum the idea of material and immaterial things having breath or a soul. This minimum constituted for these authors the idea of a religion that was one of the oldest forms of belief on the Earth. Some even tried to date its origin to prehistoric times on the African continent. The idea that a soul existed in every object, animate or inanimate, appeared to represent the sine qua non of religion. A particular soul, in this construction, would exist ...