Conversion to christianity in African history before colonial modernity: Power, intermediaries and texts

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Rüther, K.: Conversion to christianity in African history before colonial modernity: Power, intermediaries and texts. In: Medieval History Journal 12 (2009), Nr. 2, S. 249-273. DOI:

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Sum total of downloads: 247

This article examines different paradigms of conversions to Christianity in regions of Africa prior to the advent of colonial modernity. Religious change, in general, connected converts and various intermediaries to resources and power within specific settings. Even though African cultures were oral, conversions generated the production of texts which became important print media and were at least partly responsible for prompting conversions elsewhere in the world. The first case study explains how mission initiatives along the so-called West African slave coast almost always resulted in failure between 1450 and 1850, but how these failed efforts figure as important halfway options which reveal fundamental mechanisms of conversion. The dynamics of interaction were different in the African Kingdom of Kongo, where conversions became intimately entwined in the consolidation of political power and where, subsequent to the adoption of Christianity, new understandings of power evolved. Last but not least, in South Africa, again, another paradigm of conversion developed within the nexus of conflict and settler violence. Contested narratives of Christianity and conversion emerged as settlers tried to keep Christianity as a religious resource to be shared among whites only.
License of this version: Es gilt deutsches Urheberrecht. Das Dokument darf zum eigenen Gebrauch kostenfrei genutzt, aber nicht im Internet bereitgestellt oder an Außenstehende weitergegeben werden. Dieser Beitrag ist aufgrund einer (DFG-geförderten) Allianz- bzw. Nationallizenz frei zugänglich.
Document Type: article
Publishing status: publishedVersion
Issue Date: 2009
Appears in Collections:Philosophische Fakultät

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pos. country downloads
total perc.
1 image of flag of Germany Germany 110 44.53%
2 image of flag of South Africa South Africa 22 8.91%
3 image of flag of Tanzania, United Republic of Tanzania, United Republic of 22 8.91%
4 image of flag of United States United States 20 8.10%
5 image of flag of Netherlands Netherlands 6 2.43%
6 image of flag of United Kingdom United Kingdom 6 2.43%
7 image of flag of Canada Canada 6 2.43%
8 image of flag of Zimbabwe Zimbabwe 5 2.02%
9 image of flag of Belgium Belgium 5 2.02%
10 image of flag of Europe Europe 4 1.62%
    other countries 41 16.60%

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