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n Historia - Intersections of gender and race in the missionary correspondence of deaconess Anneliese Dörfer, East and South Africa, 1936-1967

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Abstract

This article traces the way Sister Anneliese Dörfer, a German deaconess, recorded and reported on constructions of gender and race during her thirty-year long interaction with Africans in the service of the Berlin Mission Society, first in British East Africa (1936-1940) and then in the northern Transvaal (now Limpopo Province), South Africa (1952-1967). Throughout this period, hierarchies seem to have been constructed in such ways that white women who wanted to build working relationships, or friendships, with black women and men, required a realization of the restrictions associated with their gender, as well as the privileges conjoined to their whiteness. By transgressing some and embracing others of the "rules" imposed by colonial society and the state, white women could broaden their playing fields to a significant extent. As has been argued by Deborah Gaitskell, religion was the one field in particular in which the growing racial divides of the twentieth century could be overcome. Initially, in her early correspondence back to Germany, Dörfer expressed the desire to become as black as the members of her African congregations. She soon had to learn that "becoming black" was unimaginable not only to the colonial officials and her male missionary employers, but also to the African congregations she was trying to integrate into. Through the years the realization came that it was not by becoming black, but by putting the privilege of whiteness at the disposal of African communities, that trans-racial friendships had value for Christians categorised as black.


Hierdie artikel ondersoek die wyses waarop suster Anneliese Dörfer, 'n Duitse diakones, gedurende haar dertig-jaarlange loopbaan in die Berlynse Sendinggenootskap, eers in Brits-Oos-Afrika (1936-1940) en daarna in noord-Transvaal (tans Limpopoprovinsie) (1952-1967) konstruksies van gender en ras waargeneem en weergegee het. Dit blyk dat hiërargieë regdeur hierdie periode sodanig gekonstrueer is, dat wit vroue wat werksverhoudinge, of vriendskappe, met swart mans en vroue wou bou, bewus moes wees van die beperkinge wat met hulle gender, sowel as die voorregte gepaardgaande met hulle "witheid" geassosieer is. Dit was wel vir wit vroue moontlik om hulle speelveld betekenisvol te verbreed deur hulle te verset teen sommige en neer te lê by ander van die "reëls" wat deur die koloniale samelewing en die staat afgedwing is. Soos Deborah Gaitskell aanvoer, was godsdiens by uitstek die een veld waar die groeiende rassekloof van die twintigste eeu oorbrug kon word. Aanvanklik, in haar vroeë korrespondensie terug Duitsland toe, het Dörfer die begeerte uitgespreek om so swart soos die lede van haar gemeentes in Afrika te word. Sy moes spoedig besef dat dit onvoorstelbaar was vir haar om swart te word - nie net vir die koloniale owerhede en haar manlike sendeling-werkgewers nie, maar ook vir die Afrika-gemeentes waarin sy probeer integreer het. Deur die jare het die gewaarwording gekom dat dit nie daarop aangekom het om swart te word nie, maar om die voorregte gepaardgaande met haar "witheid" tot die beskikking van Afrika-gemeenskappe te stel. Daardeur het vriendskappe oor rassegrense heen vir swart geklassifiseerde Christene waarde verkry.

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/content/hist/53/2/EJC38321
2008-11-01
2016-12-07
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