CHRISTIANITY AND THE EWE NATION: GERMAN PIETIST MISSIONARIES, EWE CONVERTS AND THE POLITICS OF CULTURE

in Journal of Religion in Africa
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Abstract

Focusing on the mid-nineteenth-century encounters between missionaries from the Norddeutsche Missionsgesellschaft (NMG) and the Ewe, this essay shows that the NMG employed a romanticist, Herderian notion of culture and nationhood to establish order and impose power, and sought to prevent Ewe converts from adopting Western influences in their own way. Through an analysis of the NMG's attitude to language and the nation, its linguistic and ethnographic studies, which were devoted to turning 'scattered Ewe tribes' into one 'people', and the education of Ewe mission workers in Westheim (Germany), it is argued that, rather than denying African converts their 'own culture', attempts were made to lock them up in it. Missionary cultural politics, the essay argues, thrived on a paradoxical coexistence of appeals made to both the new notion of the nation as a marker of 'civilisation' and an 'authentic' state of being. Thus, the NMG used the notion of the nation as a means to exert power, to assert the superiority of the West and to control converts' exposure to foreign ideas.

CHRISTIANITY AND THE EWE NATION: GERMAN PIETIST MISSIONARIES, EWE CONVERTS AND THE POLITICS OF CULTURE

in Journal of Religion in Africa

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