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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:European Missionaries and the Development of Tswana Identity
Author:Volz, Stephen
Year:2004
Periodical:Le Fait Missionnaire: Social Sciences and Missions
Issue:15
Period:December
Pages:97-128
Language:English
Geographic terms:South Africa
Botswana
Subjects:missionary history
ethnic identity
Tswana
Religion and Witchcraft
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Ethnic and Race Relations
External link:https://doi.org/10.1163/221185204X00131
Abstract:Through their long years of residence among Tswana people and their development of written forms of Tswana languages, missionaries became acknowledged by other Europeans as experts on Tswana culture. Their notions of Tswana ethnicity became incorporated into European understandings of Africans and, eventually, into Tswana understandings of themselves. The development of Tswana identity began long before colonialism, and not just in the minds of Europeans but as a product of the interaction and changing relationships among different groups of people, both European and African. Although during the nineteenth century Tswana people identified themselves primarily as belonging to different 'merafe' (chiefdoms or tribes) and not as 'Tswana', overlapping ancestries and periodic reconfigurations of 'merafe' had nevertheless produced a common culture and numerous political and other ties between their members. In the nineteenth century, Tswana increasingly identified themselves in contrast to Europeans and other Africans, culminating in the development of Tswana nationalism during the colonial era. Certainly, Tswana identity has been invented, but it is an ongoing process that has involved mutliple actors and circumstances. This article takes a closer look at the role of European missionaries - the London Missionary Society, the Wesleyan Methodists, the Paris Missionary Society, the Hermannsburger Lutherans and the Berlin Missionary Society - in that process prior to the colonial era. 'Tswana' in this article refers to those people and cultures in the nineteenth century that eventually also became classified as 'Western Sotho', located mostly in what is today northwestern South Africa and eastern Botswana. Bibiogr., notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]
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