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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Race, ethnicity, and assimilation: the influence of American anthropology on Christian-Muslim relations in British Northern Nigeria
Author:Shankar, ShobanaISNI
Periodical:Social Sciences and Missions = Sciences sociales et missions (ISSN 1874-8937)
Geographic terms:Northern Nigeria
ethnic relations
External link:https://doi.org/10.1163/18748945-02901022
Abstract:This article traces the influences of American anthropology and racial discourse on Christian missions and indigenous converts in British Northern Nigeria from the 1920s. While colonial ethnological studies of religious and racial difference had represented non-Muslim Northern Nigerians as inherently different from the Muslim Hausa and Fulani peoples, the American missionary Albert Helser, a student of Franz Boas, applied American theories and practices of racial assimilation to Christian evangelism to renegotiate interreligious and interethnic relations in Northern Nigeria. Helser successfully convinced the British colonial authorities to allow greater mobility and influence of 'pagan' converts in Muslim areas, thus fostering more regular and more complicated Christian-Muslim interactions. For their part, Christian Northern Nigerians developed the identity of being modernizers, developed from their narratives of uplift from historical enslavement and oppression at the hands of Muslims. Using new sources, this article shows that a region long assumed to be frozen and reactionary experienced changes similar to those occurring in other parts of Africa. Building on recent studies of religion, empire, and the politics of knowledge, it shows that cultural studies did not remain academic or a matter of colonial knowledge. Northern Nigerians' religious identity shaped their desire for cultural autonomy and their transformation from converts into missionaries themselves. Notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]