Accepted paper:

Return of the Founder? L Ron Hubbard and the Growth of Scientology in Southern Rhodesia

Author:

Rory Pilossof (University of the Free State)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the arrival of L Ron Hubbard (the founder of Scientology), the growth of the church and the conflict with the state in the context of decolonisation, the changing geo-political landscape and civil war in Southern Rhodesia

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the arrival of L Ron Hubbard (the founder of Scientology), the growth of the church and the conflict with the state in the context of decolonisation, the changing geo-political landscape and civil war in Southern Rhodesia. Hubbard arrived in Rhodesia on 7 April 1966, but was to for only three months, as he was forced to leave in July 1966 when his temporary visitors permit was not extended. However, his short stay was noteworthy on several levels. Firstly, the timing of his arrival, just months after the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), is itself of interest. The Rhodesian state initially sought to use Hubbard's arrival as a propaganda coup. Secondly, Hubbard's actions while in Salisbury are worth a closer look. While there, he also tried to ingratiate himself with political elite, but these efforts failed resulting in the refused visa extension. Thirdly, Hubbard's arrival in Rhodesia propagated a rise in the number of Scientologists in the country. In December 1968, the state sought to try and curtail the growth of the movement by banning the importation of any Scientology material into the country. This led to a number of high-level court cases, and eventually an overturning of the ban. The case of Scientology makes fascinating reading. The growth of scientology, the banning and the subsequent court cases highlight the potent mix of religion, race, and politics at time of uncertainty.

panel His03
Alternative histories of decolonisation in Southern Africa