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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs': Missionary Language-Learning in Mid-Nineteenth Century Natal
Author:Gilmour, Rachael
Year:2007
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Volume:33
Issue:3
Period:September
Pages:521-538
Language:English
Geographic terms:South Africa
Natal
Subjects:missions
Zulu language
learning
identity
1850-1859
1860-1869
Religion and Witchcraft
History and Exploration
colonialism
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03057070701475294
Abstract:This article examines responses to the Zulu language among missionaries in Natal in the 1850s and 1860s, addressing their relationship not only to the work of colonization, but also to missionaries' own evangelical self-conception. It argues that for many missionaries the experience of second-language learning came to be definitive of their evangelical identity. In a positive sense, learning to speak Zulu was considered as the indispensable key to the central tasks of mission, whether primary attention was given to preaching, translation, or interpreting 'the minds and modes of thought' of Zulu-speakers. However, attitudes to the Zulu language were driven as much by anxiety as by a sense of confidence, or cultural and religious superiority. The insecurities commonly felt by novice language-learners were sometimes exacerbated as missionaries were exposed to censure or ridicule by the Zulu-speakers they sought to convert, and concerns about the sinful nature of the 'unsaved' Zulu were mapped on to attitudes to language. This article thus demonstrates some of the ways in which missionaries established, reinforced, or reconsidered their own evangelical identities by means of their relationship to the Zulu language, and explores some of the worries and fears that underpinned their conceptions of language-learning. The themes of laughter and contamination symbolize in different ways the dangers which language-learning could pose to missionaries' sense of self, power, or propriety. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]
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