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Title: Literacy, identity and protest : the Khoi of South Africa and the Ojibwa of Upper Canada c1820-1850
Author: Close, R. E.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2003
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Historical treatments of the indigenous experience in the nineteenth-century British Empire have often failed to appreciate the role of literacy and of missionary patrons of literacy, and in particular their role in community formation and empowerment. This analysis of literacy among the Khoi of South Africa and the Ojibwa of Upper Canada between 1820 and 1850 focuses on the Khoi who formed the Kat River Settlement in 1829, and the Ojibwa Mississauga who reclaimed their Credit River reserve in 1825. It tracks the role of missionaries and Bible literacy in community formation and in indigenous political activism until the Kat River Rebellion in 1850 and the abandonment of the Credit River village in 1848. The comparison draws on theories of literacy and nationalism to challenge post-colonial perspectives that have undermined the agency of indigenous peoples and missionaries in political protest. This analysis of literacy among the Khoi and Ojibwa recognises the importance of both literacy skills and literacy social practices in the formation of community identity, community mobilisation, and protest. It shows that literacy was not only a means of social control for missionaries, colonial authorities and white colonists, but a source of empowerment for indigenous elites who ascribed their own meaning to literacy for their community-building enterprises. For their part, missionaries aided nationality formation both by using Christianity and literacy symbols to encourage group cohesion and by supporting the development of written vernacular languages. Literacy social practices established the church as a political and governing institution among the Khoi as well as reflected the community's efforts to embrace European civilisation, a pre-condition for their entitlement to own land. The Mississauga, whose political institutions were intact, relied on their literacy and writing ability more explicitly to strengthen the power of the chiefs and to generate income and secure territorial interests.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available