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Journal Articles Revue CONFLUENCE Sciences & Humanités Year : 2022

Conversion and Conversation: The Paradoxes of Missionary Work


It is time to take stock of the theoretical and empirical contribution of J. and J. Comaroff 's major work, Of Revelation and Revolution, two volumes of which have been published (with a third one forthcoming), which remains largely unknown to the French public. This historical anthropology of colonial evangelism focuses on the encounter between the Nonconformist missionaries of British origin and the Tswana of South Africa. The paradigm of colonial interaction applied to the period from 1820 to 1920 breaks with a one-sided reading in terms of domination and resistance, in order to better underscore the contradictions and ambivalences of each protagonist and the two-way relationship that formed the basis of the exchanges that occurred. But the dialogue of symbolic forms which underpinned the ideological dispute did not exclude the interplay of power relations, a subtle dialectic where the relationship between civilisation and evangelisation was negotiated in everyday life and material culture. The use of the notions of hegemony and ideology sheds particular light on the dual interplay of conversation and religious conversion, giving ample room to the "bricolages" and agency of the natives. This vast project started by the Comaroffs seeks to fulfil an ambitious desire for synthesis and draws on an "archival ethnography" which concerns both historians of colonialism and anthropologists of the contemporary.
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hal-03760699 , version 1 (25-08-2022)


  • HAL Id : hal-03760699 , version 1


André Mary. Conversion and Conversation: The Paradoxes of Missionary Work. Revue CONFLUENCE Sciences & Humanités, 2022, 1, pp.167-194. ⟨hal-03760699⟩
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