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The making of colonial Missionary heroes and the miraculous Material Information Title: Civilising barbarians missionary narrative and African textual response in nineteenth-century South Africa Physical Description: p. Notes General Note: Includes bibliographical references p.

Statement of Responsibility: Leon De Kock. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. First published The cover illustration shows Major W.

Geddes at the head of the Lovedale boarders in drill formation in the grounds of the famous institution. Geddes was boarding master at Lovedale circa when this picture was included in R. Picture by courtesy of the Cory Library, Rhodes University. Greg Cuthbertson has been an unfailing friend and supporter, always willing to offer moral support and material help. Awareness of being embedded in what Anderson calls secular, serial time, with all its implications of continuity, yet of forgetting the experience of continuity, engenders the need for a narrative of identity In the wake of South Africa's supposed rebirth as a nation in , it is perhaps apposite to consider what has been remembered, and what forgotten, in the country's popularly imagined regeneration.

We know, from innumerable items of news and talk, as well as the news-talk characteristic of that more recent form of public communion, the radio talk show, that apartheid died for South Africa to be reborn. Less frequently, but no less volubly, we have also heard calls for the death of colonialism. The history of colonialism, however, has all too often found its enunciation in the coarser tones of militant anti-colonial rhetoric.

The word 'colonialism' is then used as a thunderblow, to denote a self-evident evil, not an object of analytical enquiry.

Even in university essays, perhaps on J. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians in a second-year literature course, 'colonialism' is likely to be brought into service as a conceptual bludgeon: the colonisers were the real barbarians; 'they' did bad things.

For the most part, however, the popular imagination seizes upon apartheid and its supposed birth in only a year after India unshackled itself from British imperialism as an all-encompassing evil of the last resort in the modem world, the apotheosis of colonial domination, transformed into the legislative fiat of a modem, if perverse, nation-state.

In the remembered genealogy of the 'new' South Africa, apartheid often figures as an incorpora- tive, originary point of emergence, while the finer distinctions of continuity and discontinuity between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, between colonialism in a past as strange as another country, and apartheid in the second half of this century, seem to have become so blurred as to be almost invisible.

Even the more recent memory of apartheid itself is becoming difficult for the very newest, emerging generation to recall. The history of 2 Civilising Barbarians formal apartheid is slowly but surely passing beyond phenomenal, lived experience and, for many young people, now resides only in books, pictures, documentaries sources which must themselves compete with thousands upon thousands of visual information items in a time of acute information overload.

Yet in a very real sense the meaning of the imperial past, and its con- sequent colonial conditions, cultures, and polities, have, as Edward W.

Said observes in Culture and Imperialism, 'entered the reality of hundreds of millions of people' and still exercise tremendous force as a 'highly conflictual texture of culture, ideology, and policy' I do not profess in this book to explain the persistence, in contemporary reality, of the imperial or colonial past in the form of Said's categories.

That would be a vast undertaking indeed. My more modest aim is to recall more fully the memory of that particularly pervasive strand in the making of a South African nation, and of African nationalism, the nineteenth-century 'civilising mission'.

In view of the contemporary belief that nations and their constitutive identities are brought into being partly, but significantly, by acts of imagining and of narration Anderson ; Bhabha ; Said , this book seeks to explore some of the ways in which a relentlessly book and print-driven civilising colonialism sought to inscribe in 'barbarous' Africans the precepts of a largely Protestant, Western modernity contemporaneous, in southern Africa, with the telegraph and the press and to implant in their minds dreams of a 'rational', Christian community of peasant individualists drawn away from what was conceived as heathen abjection in degrading tribal conditions.

Whether this was right or wrong is not really the issue, although the recalling of it is likely to stir up many emotions. The more general interest in the project is to understand the negotiations of identity in the many narrative forms by which African subjectivity was brought into question and refor- mulated under conditions of tremendous upheaval in the nineteenth century. The term 'narrative' in this sense refers to all those enunciative acts, whether verbal the sermon, classroom lesson, informal talk, public lecture or in print the bible, newspaper, book, periodical, letter which derived from a master narrative of Protestant conformity, and found their form in the lofty medium of English.

These narratives sought to retell the story of proper human subjectivity in a context of coercive military and cultural warfare. My particular interest in the nineteenth century, therefore, lies in the dramatic contests over the moral destiny of South Africans, and over the very nature of identity. It has become common cause in recent interdisciplinary scholarship Introduction to point out that both Africans and Europeans were transformed by these processes Comaroff , Elphick , Hofmeyr , even though the ostensible thrust of the civilising mission was to remake Africans in the European image.

As Jean and John Comaroff have argued so forcefully in their influential, if controversial book, Of Revelation and Revolution , the signifying dimensions of cultural exchange in contrast to earlier emphases on capital, class, and official politics can be seen as central to such 'contests of conscience'.

In particular, scholarship has begun to regard what has come to be known as 'identity politics' cf. Greenstein as a revealing source of insight into both micro- and macro-contexts of colonial contestation. The negotiations of identity, and the struggles involved in sustaining, modifying, or revolutionising the self in the nineteenth century found their form in narratives, in story, projection, and response.

To be sure, these narratives and counter-narratives were implicated in the larger play of power and conflict, unity and dislocation. They were the stories people told each other in diverse contexts and they include the more philosophical 'narratives of legitimation' employed to underpin ideological positions. They involved, in addition, the complex, back and forth interpenetrations of orality and literacy, the establishment of literate orthographies for 'vernacular' languages, as well as the growing ascendancy of English as a master code, the ultimate fount of civilised life from which lowly 'Kafirs' were benignly invited to drink.

It will be clear that, broadly conceived, this is a very large subject. My aim in this book is to keep this broad sense in mind while concentrating selectively on various written sources in which one can detect traces of the larger process.

Not surprisingly, then, missionary interactions are examined as one of the prime sites of the civilising mission and its generating narratives, although the subject of this book is not missionary discourse per se. In addition, some key responses of Africans who were themselves missionary subjects are examined, as are other sources in which the confines of textually imposed identity can be seen to undergo intriguing transformations.

One of these transformations perhaps the most important was the emergence of African nationalism from the long history of material, moral, and philosophical struggle in the Eastern Cape. In this transformation, diverse African polities were gradually drawn together within a Christian ethic of egalitarianism cf.

Chapman , De Kock a. It is one of the more interesting ironies of South African history that while the millenarian message of Christianity was ultimately betrayed by Europeans in the exclusion of all Africans, including 'civilised' converts, from the Union of South Africa in 4 Civilising Barbarians , the subversive potential of the Christian ethic continued to undermine the moral authority of white rule.

In this study, I try to look more closely at the pre-eminent centre of conversion and education in the Eastern Cape, the Lovedale institution, in terms of its contribution to fashioning narratives of identity for African people. After identifying particular tropes within which subjectivity was defined, I examine examples of the way in which some African subjects themselves subverted, internalised, or rewrote imposed narratives of proper identity.

I also look at the narratives of missionary heroism found in the writings of Robert Moffat and David Livingstone, as well as the beginnings of an African story of national emergence within the beckoning modernity of the late Victorian world.

Were the barbarians in need of civilising, or were the civilisers the true barbarians? As the paradoxical semantic irresolution of the title implies, this question deconstructs itself because it relies on an unsustainable polarity. Yet it is just such a dualism which provided the context for the tortuous labours of the mission fields, and set the constraints for an emerging African solidarity in the face of European imperialism in southern Africa. It is therefore within this paradox that the subject begins to define itself, although it is only possible to do this outside the suppositions about people and their lives also implicit in the title that so wrenched the history of the nineteenth century.

The forgotten links between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in this view, relate to the colonial unfolding of the South African 'race relations' story, which prepared the ground for twentieth-century apartheid. There is a larger plot, a greater range of characters, and more ambiguous forces at work in this story than the less finely orchestrated, Gothic tale of apartheid's horrors in the popular conception. And it is perhaps necessary to consider this larger colonial plot again so that its sequel can be more richly understood, so that, for example, one may disabuse many English-speaking South Africans and their international counterparts of their liberal innocence, or remind many black South Africans of their historical involvement in colonial processes, and of the need to bring that involvement into conscious memory, so that our newer narratives of identity will at least be rooted in, and germinated by, a profounder sense of a shared past.

The attempt by missionaries, particularly, and by the colonial administration at the Cape generally, to re-invent the lineaments of African subjectivity prepared the ground for momentous cultural struggle. This book describes some of the ways in which an aggressive colonising discourse3 was appropriated and contested by Africans, even as they were marked and changed by it.

The study deals with civilising discourse in English and with the appropriations of this discourse by Africans in textual forms of English.

My approach falls within the ambit of what has come to be known as postcolonial analysis, since it seeks to describe across a gulf or post of both time and epistemology some of the conditions of possibility for a peculiarly colonial discourse.

Implicit in this post, then, is both a temporal and an oppositional element: the intervening century has seen, in the development of ideas and in the cultural politics of anticolonialism, a revision of the founding assumptions of colonialism.

Said describes this process as 'the massive intellectual, moral, and imaginative overhaul and deconstruction of Western representations of the non-Western world' xxi. Postcolonial analysis has, however, not really gained much of a foothold in South Africanist socio-cultural discussion, nor was it employed very much as a conceptual tool of resistance in the years of apartheid.

This could not be done without some straddling of disciplinary boundaries. Historians have long been working on the colonial archive in its material sense as a repository of events that are supposed to have occurred. Many postcolonial literary scholars, on the other hand, have become accustomed to the poststructuralist turn, in which the universalising humanism of the knowing Western subject - whose voice is strongly evident in the colonial archive has been contested as a fiction contingent upon an order of signs which themselves serve particular interests.

The fictions of Western humanism, in the postcolonial view, have been embodied in signifying economies whose assumptions of immanent truth need to be decentred and destabilised, in keeping with the notion, drawn from poststructuralism, of the deferred nature of meaning in language. The potential for cross-disciplinary engagement between history and this kind of theory would therefore seem to be self-evident, but the literary and the historical have generally not been allowed to converge in the field of South African cultural-historical debate.

In other words, there has been little systematic attempt either by historians and indeed by specialists in the social sciences in general , or literary-cultural scholars, to read what is thought of as the broader historical record as a cultural construct, although significant advances in this direction have been made in recent work by certain historians, cultural anthropologists and postcolonial critics.

If literary scholars have tended to locate their work within generic categories of literature, historians and more general readers have often found what is thought of as literary theory inaccessible, dense, and even pretentious. Part of the reason for this perception among historians has been the tendency in literary-critical work of a theoretical nature to adopt a high level of assumed understanding and to disdain careful explanation of its procedure.

In the memorable formulation of one of the most impenetrable cultural analysts, Gayatri Spivak, 'plain prose cheats' and 'clear thought hides' in De Kock Disciplinary Intersections 7 a Despite the danger of such hiding and cheating, though, my own rhetorical situation is defined by a desire to reach a broader readership, and by the positioning of my research between literary theory and socio-historical enquiry.

I therefore feel obliged to explain theoretical notions afresh to this more diffuse audience without making too many assumptions about shared procedure. I shall, therefore, return to key theoretical terms and their explanation. But first, some comments on the role and place of theory are needed. Why bother with difficult, and perhaps unnecessary, abstractions in the first place? In the South African case, theory is more than a convenient but dispensable aid for entering the subject of colonial history.

In my view, theory should not be an eager appropriation, in a typically 'colonial' way, of impressive and abstruse 'international' ideas in order to confound and impress one's fellows in the antipodean backwaters. The point is simply that certain developments in recent thought about founding assumptions in all language- based systems of knowledge have made it impossible to proceed without considering the way in which such developments affect the revision of history.

The very conception of knowledge and its production has changed to such an extent that all disciplines in the social sciences have been forced to reconsider how objects of knowledge have come into existence. This is why it has become a commonplace to say that postmodernism invites, promotes or makes inevitable the collapse of disciplinary boundaries see for example Pool in anthropology; Elphick in history.

In a more specific way, 'South Africa' can be regarded as a condition whose very historical making is derived partly from the creation of a certain kind of colonial knowledge about Africans, Europeans and the land, as I shall argue in the course of this book. Understanding nineteenth-century South Africa as a colonial order in these terms that is, in meta-terms which relativise the founding constructs of colonial knowledge requires the use of postcolonial forms of understanding.

Framed in this way, theoretical premises inhabit the subject in a material and immediate sense. The notion of decolonising knowledge, which is germane to theories based on the idea of postcolonialism, relies on an enquiry into Western ways of objectifying and domesticating its Others and their worlds from a central point of humanist influence Europe.

It involves 8 Civilising Barbarians the recognition that language was employed within larger configurations of power and influence, as discourse, to gain mastery over the worlds of Europe's Others.

To understand the constitution of the country as a particular configuration of differential relations involving land, power and culture, one needs more than the materialist version of history in which relations and forces of production and their articulation in social classes are explained.

One needs, in addition, an understanding of the very framing of the material dynamics of history within the signifying economies of representation. In this regard, the cultural anthropologists Jean and John Comaroff have remarked that, in historical sociology, 'there remains a tendency It is not my intention merely to reverse the hierarchy suggested by the Comaroffs and favour representation as a determining factor above political and economic forces.

The historian Clifton C. Crais b remarks that the issues of 'definition and difference, language and identity' are at the centre of both 'the colonial encounter' and postmodernism. For him, the question is whether historians can 'secure a beachhead' between what he characterises as the older social history and the new linguistic turn. Crais sees the answer as a concession to postmodernism that 'language does not faithfully reflect an objective social reality, while at the same time insisting that while discourse is constitutive, it is not determinative'.

Barbarian: Explorations of a Western Concept in Theory, Literature, and the Arts

The making of colonial Missionary heroes and the miraculous Material Information Title: Civilising barbarians missionary narrative and African textual response in nineteenth-century South Africa Physical Description: p. Notes General Note: Includes bibliographical references p. Statement of Responsibility: Leon De Kock.


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Civilising barbarians

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