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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'The Abandoned Mother': Ageing, Old Age and Missionaries in Early and Mid Nineteenth-Century South-East Africa
Author:Sagner, Andreas
Year:2001
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Volume:42
Issue:2
Pages:173-198
Language:English
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:missions
elderly
Xhosa
History and Exploration
Religion and Witchcraft
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Historical/Biographical
Cultural Roles
Sex Roles
Link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3647258
Abstract:This essay examines issues of ageing and old age in Xhosa-speaking communities in South Africa in the early and mid-nineteenth century. Drawing primarily on records of the Wesleyan Methodist and London Missionary societies, the article analyses the construction of Xhosa ageing, old age and death in missionary writings. The primary medium of missionary reflection was the figure of the 'abandoned mother', modelled on contemporary British metaphors, that represented yet another atrocity story for legitimating the mission enterprise and the emerging colonial regime. The article argues that there were fundamental contrasts in the images of ageing and dying of the Xhosa and those of the missionaries. Early nineteenth-century Xhosa strove after 'this-worldly' concerns and longevity rather than for the Christian sense of spiritual eternity. Although poverty in old age and dying in the bush were real, the descriptions by missionaries of misery in old age and the construction of the image of the 'abandoned' elderly must be seen as part of the missions' broader civilization project. Notes, ref., sum.
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