1887

n Historia - Consuming Christianity : deconstructing missionary accounts of cannibalism in Vendaland in the late nineteenth century

Volume 49, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0018-229X
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Abstract

<b>Die vertering van die Christendom : die dekonstruksie van die verslae van sendelinge oor kannibalisme in Vendaland in die laat negentiende eeu.</b> <br>Die verslae van Berlynse sendelinge oor oorlogvoering tussen Tshivendasprekers maak gewag van 'n paar gevalle waar die liggame van ontslape vyande "geskend" of "onteer" is deur, of in opdrag van die heersers van die oorwinnaars. Etlike van hierdie verslae beskryf ook die beweerde eet of gebruik van verwyderde liggaamsdele. <br>Op een vlak sou 'n mens hierdie verslae eenvoudig kon verwerp. Verhale van kannibalisme is seker een van die uiterste vorme van die vervreemding van Afrikane gepleeg deur Europeërs. 'n Obsessie met kulturele evolusionisme het gelei tot 'n teenoorstelling van die eie ontwikkelde "beskawings" en die "woestheid" of "barbarisme" van die Afrikane; van die "lig van die beskawing" en die "duisternis van die heidendom". <br>In hierdie artikel kom ek tot 'n ander gevolgtrekking. Deur middel van 'n gevallestudie van konflikte waaraan verskillende faksies binne die Mphaphuli-groep gedurende die laat negentiende eeu deelgeneem het, argumenteer ek dat die eintlike kwessie nie is of die gebeure beskryf in hierdie verslae "werklik" gebeur het nie. Dit gaan eerder daaroor dat die strydende partye toegelaat het, en selfs aktief gesorg het daarvoor, dat die sendelinge geglo het dat kannibalisme wel plaasgevind het. Op grond van hierdie benadering poog ek dan om hierdie gebeure se moontlike betekenisse en waarde vir beide sendelinge en Afrikane te dekonstrueer.

Berlin missionary accounts of warfare among Tshivenda-speakers make a number of references to cases where the bodies of fallen enemies were "abused" or "defiled" by, or on the orders of, the rulers of victorious factions. A number of these accounts also describe the purported consumption or use of body parts severed from the vanquished. <br>On one level, one may simply reject these tales. Stories about cannibalism were arguably the most extreme form of "othering" perpetuated by Europeans against Africans. In their obsession with cultural evolutionism, they dichotomised what they saw as their own developed "civilisations" and African "savagery" or "barbarism"; the "light of civilisation" and the "darkness of heathenism". <br>In this article, I have come to a different conclusion. By means of a case study of conflicts involving various factions among the people during the late nineteenth century, I argue that it does not really matter whether the events described in these accounts "really" happened or not. Rather, what is important is that the contending parties allowed, or even encouraged, the missionaries to believe that they did. From this starting point, I attempt to deconstruct some of their possible meanings and value for missionaries and Africans.

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/content/hist/49/1/EJC38145
2004-05-01
2016-12-09

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