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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'A real heaven on their own earth': religious missions, African writers, and the anticolonial imagination
Author:Paustian, Megan Cole
Periodical:Research in African Literatures (ISSN 0034-5210)
Geographic term:Africa
About persons:Albert Chinualumogu Achebe (1930-2013)ISNI
Ngugi wa Thiong'o (1938-)ISNI
External link:http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/research_in_african_literatures/v045/45.2.paustian.pdf
Abstract:Through a focus on education and literacy, this essay examines the relationship between missions and Anglophone African literature and teases out the ways in which missions, as put to work by African subjects, enabled new practices of freedom, becoming the ambiguous ally of anticolonial movements and even Marxism itself. Drawing on the early novels and recently published autobiographical texts of Chinua Achebe ('The education of a British-protected child') and Ngugi wa Thiong'o ('Dreams in a time of war: a childhood memoir'), this essay demonstrates that while religious missions were surely implicated in colonialism, they have also been central to Africans' own narratives of improvement ranging from the reformist to the radical, particularly when the horizon of improvement was decolonization. Postcolonial discourse generally points to the role of missions in political empire and the colonization of African culture and consciousness, negating the victim's capacity to even see the scene of his dispossession. While that critique has been a necessary response to Western narratives of Africa, it has also obscured their place within the anticolonial imagination. Somewhat akin to Marxism in this sense, Christianity was a discourse from without, which fuelled emancipatory narratives generated from within Africa. Ngugi and Achebe each offer a way of critiquing and rethinking Christianity not to dismantle it entirely, but to reassemble it toward the needs of the African present as defined by Africans. Bibliogr., notes, sum. [Journal abstract, edited]