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Title: Why do we need the White man's God? : African contributions and responses to the formation of a Christian movement in Cameroon, 1914-1968
Author: Thomas, Guy Alexander
ISNI:       0000 0001 3521 8286
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2001
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This study analyses local processes of appropriating Christianity in anglophone Cameroon. It centres upon Christian communities which were established under the auspices of the Swiss/German Basel Mission (BM). Earlier research on the BM in Cameroon deals mainly with metropolitan, colonial and institutional dimensions of mission history. Other related work on the relevance of the missionary enterprise to specific areas and peoples barely extends beyond the 1920s. With few exceptions, "native" agents - African clergy, sub-clergy and lay people - and their functions in mediating Christian faith have received little attention during the period under review here. Thus the necessity to overcome this limitation is addressed by placing African agency at the core of my thesis, employing a comprehensive comparative approach. The study takes up two suggestions put forward by several serious scholars from the mid-1960s: first, to recognise Christian advance in Africa as a black advance and second, to shift the emphasis from metropolitan mission history to local histories of religious encounters and Christianity. Bearing this reorientation in mind, the present research interlaces two strands of historical reconstruction. The first strand maps out the broader context of interaction between the key parties who influenced the BM's agenda: European missionaries, colonial officials, merchants, planters and African Christians and non-Christians. The second strand relates to local levels of contest or accommodation between African traditional belief systems and social institutions on one side, and "native" agents, evangelism and conversion experiences on the other. African participation in the evangelisation programme is examined from several vantage points. The partially overlapping themes are presented in seven chapters. They include the impact of the First World War, connections between colonial rule and missionary activity, linkages between religion and economic development, the role of traditional authorities (precepts and practices of chiefs and secret societies) in legitimising religious change, the vemacularisation of Christianity, nationalism and autonomy, and conversion, Christian adherence, and "native" agency. To conclude, the path from foreign missionary control to African church leadership is appraised. Written sources, interviews and photographs feed into a multi-pronged approach geared to elaborate the social-historical dimension of the missionary enterprise. The analysis of encounters with Christianity through biographical evidence is combined with reflections on the political, economic and social transformation of the mission field. Through its comparative framework the study seeks to add to a large picture of the interplay between colonial rule, Christian movements and the evolving concepts of traditional authority, identity, and modernity in 20th century sub-Saharan Africa.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral