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The Spiritual in the Secular
Missionaries and Knowledge about Africa

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POD; Published: 7/20/2012
ISBN: 978-0-8028-6634-9
Price: $ 46.50
358 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6.14 x 9.21
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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.

Contributo rs:
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
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."
African Studies Review
"Does an admirable job of untangling the multiple layers of missionary motivations for taking part in the production of Western scientific knowledge about Africa, and . . . opens up a new line of inquiry about the nature of the global networks that these actors helped to create and sustain."
International Bulletin of Missionary Research
"This is a very important volume of essays. Together, they paint a rich picture of the mutual influence of Western mission work in Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This collection aims to portray the mutual dependence between the European missionaries and the Africans in all spheres of endeavor."
Journal of Ecclesiastical History
"This is a very engaging book because, although written as individual essays, these is no doubting the fact that they have been written to tell an important story dealing with aspects of mission history that have sometimes escaped its undiscerning narrators."
Journal of Contemporary Religion
"This is a remarkable collection of highly informative, well-researched, and penetrating chapters."
International Journal of African Historical Studies
"An impressive and well-researched anthology on the role of missionaries in the production of European knowledge about Africa. . . . Presents a persuasive argument that missionary research provided important foundations for later African studies."
"An assured and insightful volume."
Journal of African History
"A first harvest of historical study of missionaries in their guise as producers of secular knowledge, as distinct from their much better known guise as Christian evangelists. The hope has to be that the book will serve as a seedbed for a second generation of research on this promising subject."