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Title:The creation of Lubaland: missionary science and Christian literacy in the making of the Luba Katanga in Belgian Congo
Author:Maxwell, DavidISNI
Periodical:Journal of Eastern African Studies (ISSN 1753-1063)
Geographic term:Congo (Democratic Republic of)
Christian education
ethnic identity
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/17531055.2016.1254923
Abstract:This article examines the role of missionary social scientific research and Protestant Christian literacy in the making of the Luba Katanga ethnicity in colonial Belgian Congo. While pre-colonial Luba identity was plural and fluid, those located in the polity's heartlands shared a political aesthetic of divine kingship embodied in a rich material culture, which was emulated by neighbouring communities as marker of sophistication and civilisation. Under Belgian colonialism the scale and variety of Luba ethnic identity was limited by indirect rule, labour migration and the creation ethnic taxonomies. In the latter case, new categories of Luba were created by missionary work in ethnography, linguistics, collecting and photography, and these became the basis of linguistic zones for the production of vernacular scriptures and other Christian texts. Biblical literacy was spread by re-gathered ex-slave diaspora and young male Christian enthusiasts via an infrastructure of mission stations and schools in a spirit of grass roots ecumenism and had great appeal amongst labour migrants. The process was aided by the adoption of portable cyclostyled print technology by missionary societies. The article finishes by examining how the Luba cultural project became a political one as local intellectuals, Jason Sendwe and Bonaventure Makonga, sought to turn ethnic communities into political constituencies. The article modifies Benedict Anderson's influential thesis about the emergence of fewer secular print languages in the modern period as the basis for national consciousness, by highlighting the proliferation of missionary produced sacred vernaculars for the purpose of proselytism. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]