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The Spiritual in the Secular
Missionaries and Knowledge about Africa
PAPERBACK; Published: 7/20/2012
ISBN: 978-0-8028-6634-9
355 Pages
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Trim Size, in inches: 6.25 x 9.25
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Series: Studies in the History of Christian Missions

David Livingstone's visit to Cambridge in 1857 was seen as much as a scientific event as a religious one. But he was by no means alone among missionaries in integrating mission with science and other fields of research. Rather, many missionaries were remarkable, pioneering polymaths.

This collection of essays explores the ways in which late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century missionaries to Africa contributed to various academic disciplines, such as linguistics, ethnography, social anthropology, zoology, medicine, and many more. This volume includes an introductory chapter by the editors and eleven chapters that analyze missionary research and its impact on knowledge about African contexts. Several themes emerge, including many missionaries' positive views of indigenous discourses and the complicated relationship between missionaries and professional anthropologists.

John Cinnamon
Erika Eichholzer
Natasha Erlank
Deborah Gaitskell
Patrick Harries
Walima T. Kalusa
John Manton
David Maxwell
John Stuart
Dmitri van den Bersselaar
Honoré Vinck
International Bulletin of Missionary Research's Outstanding Books of 2012 for Missionary Research
Dana L. Robert
-- Boston University School of Theology
"This much-needed volume showcases excellent research on the relationship between missionaries to Africa and the social and physical sciences. Patrick Harries, David Maxwell, and their fellow authors explore how missionaries made unique contributions to scientific knowledge about Africa but have been given little credit for doing so. The Spiritual in the Secular succeeds in finally setting the record straight."
Mark A. Noll
-- University of Notre Dame
"Serious scholarship has long moved past the stereotype of missionaries as bumbling colonialists mindlessly serving the interests of hegemonic imperialism. But not until this book has the significant contribution of missionaries to careful scientific investigation been properly probed. Backed by unusually careful research, these chapters show how missionary mastery of local knowledge has contributed significantly to a wide range of sciences -- geology, ethnography, social anthropology, linguistics, and more. This book is especially welcome for its setting aside of ideological denunciation (or affirmation) in favor of disciplined empirical investigation."
Derek Peterson
— University of Michigan
"The Spiritual in the Secular offers a series of compelling studies documenting the scholarly work that missionaries did. . . . Reopens a closed chapter in the history of science."
David Martin
— London School of Economics
"This book deals with contributions to social policy, social amelioration, and the advancement of knowledge, made in the course of mission by an extraordinary gallery of different kinds of people, Africans very much included. . . . The lingering ghosts of misapprehension are served notice by a band of sober scholars, and we see emerging the lineaments of complicated truths."
Joel Robbins
— University of California, San Diego
"At a time when the historical and contemporary boundaries between the sacred and the secular in the social sciences are under intense examination, The Spiritual in the Secular will resonate well beyond the particular historical situations its contributors so compellingly illuminate."