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Prof. Paul Landau, PhD

Senior Research Fellow

(10–11/2020, 02–03/2021)

Areas of Interest

  • Politics and religion
  • South and southern Africa
  • The visual image

Anti-Apartheid as a Sacred Secularity

This project deals with the mobilisations of anti-apartheid affect as a worldwide movement, creating and re-creating sacred-secular spaces of interaction. Following the exile of the African National Congress to Tanzania, Zambia, and other locations abroad, groups of activists formed in the United States, the United Kingdom, both Germanys - the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) -, and the Soviet Union, liaised with the ANC and agitated against the South African government's racist policies. The GDR Solidarity Committee drew on trade unions and student associations for support, while “disinvestment” activists in universities in the West, various Protestant churches, and the socialist-leaning British Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) also organised events and campaigns. Exiled revolutionaries and activists from South Africa liaised with all of these groups across Cold War divisions, tying military preparation to a gathering public outcry.

H.-G. and I. Schleicher, Quinn Slobodian, Arianna Lissoni, and other historians, many working in the last five years, have mapped and charted much of this terrain. Up to now, however, the historiography of anti-apartheid has registered successes and failures according to vague internal logics in view of the intransigence of the apartheid system. My approach will be different, forefronting the sharing of meaning through iconic signs, the subsumption of contradictions in motives and aims, and the deferral of this-worldly benchmarks to secondary status. Anti-apartheid created social spaces held together by the absolute (and fully defensible) view of the target as evil, episodically connected by South African exiles and traveling university students. The initial aim is to sketch provisional ethnographies of particular efforts: modes of argument and agitation, performative components. Research is commencing in the archives of Freie Universität and Humboldt University in Berlin as well as of Leipzig University, of the activist churches, and in government records pertaining to anti-apartheid and the ANC.

My analysis will investigate comparatively studies of the birth and growth of other sacralised but non-religious phenomena, and so draw on sociology, anthropology, and performance- and visual media-studies, engaging scholarship from Talal Asad, Martin Jay, Charles Taylor, Philip Gorski, and the various participants and contributors to the "Multiple Secularities" forums and approaches.


2014 – present

Professor of History, University of Maryland, Maryland (USA)

2011 – present

Fellow, Centre for Historical Studies, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg (South Africa)

2010 – present

Adjunct, African American Studies, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Maryland (USA)


Associate Professor of History, University of Maryland, Maryland (USA)


Associate Professor of History, Department of History, Yale University, New Haven (USA)


Assistant Professor of History, Department of History, Yale University, New Haven (USA)

Relevant Publications

  • Landau, Paul S. Mandela and the revolutionaries: Spear. University of Ohio Press & Jacana Press, forthcoming.
  • Landau, Paul S. “Moments of Insurgency: Christianity in South African Politics, from the 18th Century to Today.” In Multiple Secularities Beyond the West: Religion and Modernity in the Global Age. Edited by Marian Burchardt, Monika Wohlrab-Sahr and Matthias Middell, 189–215. Religion and its others: studies in religion, nonreligion and secularity 1. Boston: De Gruyter, 2015. 
  • Landau, Paul S. “Did Evangelists Help Create the Individual in Southern Africa? From the Files (1854-1885) Of J. M. Mackenzie, the Foremost British Late-Victorian “Missionary Imperialist”” In Individualisierung Durch Christliche Mission? Edited by Martin Fuchs, Antje Linkenbach and Wolfgang Reinhard, 599–618. Studien zur außereuropäischen Christentumsgeschichte (Asien, Afrika, Lateinamerika) 24. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2015.
  • Landau, Paul S. “Political Systems, African.” In The Princeton Companion to Atlantic History. Edited by Joseph C. Miller, Vincent Brown and Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, 376–79. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2015.
  • Landau, Paul S. “Robert Moffat and the Invention of Christianity in South Africa.” In Cultural Conversions: Unexpected Consequences of Christian Missionary Encounters in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. Edited by Heather J. Sharkey, 139–54. Religion and politics. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2013.
  • Landau, Paul S. “Johannesburg in Flames’: The 1918 Shilling Campaign, Abantu-Batho, and Early African Nationalism in South Africa.” In The People's Paper: A Centenary History & Anthology of Abantu-Batho. Edited by Peter Limb, 255–81., 2012.
  • Landau, Paul S. “The ANC, MK, and ‘The Turn to Violence’ (1960–1962).” South African Historical Journal 64, no. 3 (2012): 538–63. doi:10.1080/02582473.2012.660785 .
  • Landau, Paul S. “Transformations in Consciousness.” In Cambridge History of South Africa: Volume 1, from Early Times to 1885, 392–448. Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Landau, Paul S. Popular Politics in the History of South Africa, 1400-1948. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511750984 .
  • Landau, Paul S. “Language.” In Missions and Empire. Edited by Norman Etherington, 194–215. The Oxford history of the British Empire companion series. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • Kaspin, Deborah D., and Paul S. Landau. Images and Empires: Visuality in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. 
  • Landau, Paul S. “Hegemony and History in Jean and John L. Comaroff's "Of Revelation and Revolution".” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 70, no. 3 (2000): 501–19.
  • Landau, Paul S. “The Spirit of God, Pigs and Demons: The ‘Samuelites’ of Southern Africa.” Journal of Religion in Africa 29, no. 3 (1999): 313–40. 
  • Landau, Paul S. “‘Religion’ and Christian Conversion in African History: A New Model.” Journal of Religious History 23, no. 1 (1999): 8–30.
  • Landau, Paul S. “Explaining Surgical Evangelism in Southern Africa: Teeth, Pain, and Faith.” Journal of African History 37, no. 2 (1996): 261–81.
  • Landau, Paul S. The Realm of the Word: Language, Gender, and Christianity in a Southern African Kingdom. Social history of Africa. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1995.
  • Landau, Paul. S. “The Illumination of Christ in the Kalahari Desert.” Representations 45 (1994): 26–40. doi:10.2307/2928601 .