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Utopian Encounters

Anthropologies of Empirical Utopias


Edited By Maïté Maskens and Ruy Blanes

This volume is an experiment: an enquiry into the possibilities and potentialities of a prospective anthropology of utopia. With different ethnographic contributions studying «empirical utopias» across the world (from ecotopias to religious havens, transnational policies, retirement homes and community agriculture), it looks beyond the commonsense understanding of utopia as a desire, an expectation, a form of imagination stemming from Western political thought. In the process, the volume explores the dynamic dialectic between human imagination and concrete action.

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2 Past Utopias: Religious and Political Temporalities in Contemporary Angola (Ruy Llera Blanes)


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2 Past Utopias: Religious and Political Temporalities in Contemporary Angola

Introduction: Arriving in Ntaya

Ntaya Nova1 is a small rural village located in the district of Maquela do Zombo (Uíge), in northern Angola. It was founded in 1962 by Simão Toko (1918–1984), the leader of one of the most important Christian churches in this country, known as the Tokoist Church, a religious movement that I have been researching over the past years (see Blanes 2014). This church emerged in the mid-1940s among the Angolan Bakongo expatriate community in the neighbouring city of Léopoldville (capital of the then Belgian Congo), but was soon expelled to the Angolan territory (at the time under Portuguese rule) due to suspected anti-colonial conspiracy against the Belgian colony, and placed under the administration of the Portuguese colonial authorities. In the 1950s, many of the followers found themselves in Angolan prisons, forced labour camps and areas of ‘fixed residence’ throughout the territory. But the church and its leader became increasingly notorious in late colonial Angola, due to the autonomist and messianic ideas they directed towards the local communities. The following was particularly significant in the region of Maquela do Zombo, where Toko was born and grew up before migrating to Léopoldville.

Ntaya Nova was founded at the height of the Angolan liberation wars against the Portuguese colonial endeavour (1961–1974), precisely in the war-front provinces of Zaire and...

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