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Paula Montero

When compared to the extensive historiography on missionary activity, the anthropology of missions is a relative newcomer, emerging as such in the context of the recent critique of the colonial system. In view of the importance of historiographical literature in outlining the subject, on the one hand, and of the impact of the decolonization of the African continent on anthropology, on the other hand, my purposes in this essay are, firstly, to examine how the historiography of colonial America and of African colonialism has handled the subject of missions; secondly, to describe the role of missionary activity in the historiographical debate in the context of the crisis of colonialism; and, lastly, to analyze how post-colonial critique has given rise to a new anthropology of missions.

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Portrait

Jean Comaroff

Jean Comaroff, Peter Geschiere, Kamari M. Clarke, and Adeline Masquelier

Colonial frontiers, we have long been told, put conventional categories at risk. I grew up on one such frontier, itself an anachronism in the late-twentieth-century world—apartheid South Africa, where many of the key terms of liberal modernity were scandalously, publically violated. Religion was one of them. Some have argued that the act of separating the sacred from the secular is the founding gesture of liberal modern state making (Asad 2003: 13). In this, South Africa was a flagrant exception. There, the line between faith and politics was always overtly contested, always palpably porous. Faith-based arguments were central to politics at its most pragmatic, to competing claims of sovereignty and citizenship, to debates about the nature of civilization or the content of school curricula. As a settler colony, South Africa had long experimented with ways to ‘modernize racial domination’ (Adam 1971) in the interests of capitalist production, frequently with appeals to theology. After 1948, in contrast with the spirit of a decolonizing world, the country fell under the sway of Afrikaner rulers of overtly Calvinist bent. They set about formalizing a racial division of labor that ensured that black populations, the Children of Ham, remained economically subservient and politically marginal.

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The Uncanniness of Missionary Others

A Discursive Analysis of a Century of Anthropological Writings on Missionary Ethnographers

Travis Warren Cooper

’ peoples, women, and queer folks; the recent disavowal of … reflexivity and experimentation; and what George Marcus has recently termed a ‘crisis of reception.’” Describing anthropology’s decolonized, decolonizing turn, these scholars focus on the

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Erick White

, topic of study for the earliest anthropologists of Buddhism, who instead focused primarily on monastic actors, rituals, and institutions in the peasant villages of decolonizing, modernizing Asia in the 1950s and 1960s. In reimagining the relationship

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Portrait

J. D. Y. Peel

Marloes Janson, Wale Adebanwi, David Pratten, Ruth Marshall, Stephan Palmié, Amanda Villepastour, and J. D. Y. Peel

Edited by Richard Fardon and Ramon Sarró

aftermath of decolonization to the beginning of the twenty-first century. We now cannot help but live with this decision. What we can do is to recall John, in due fashion, as an intellectual ancestor—one of those giants on whose shoulders we all totter