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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Robert Hamill Nassau. Missionary Ethnography and the Colonial Encounter in Gabon
Author:Cinnamon, John M.ISNI
Periodical:Le Fait Missionnaire: Social Sciences and Missions
Geographic terms:Central Africa
colonial period
Religion and Witchcraft
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
About person:Robert Hamill Nassau (1835-1921)ISNI
External link:https://doi.org/10.1163/221185206X00058
Abstract:Robert Hamill Nassau served as a Presbyterian missionary in present-day Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon from 1861 to 1906. This article argues that Nassau's writings might be productively approached as a positioned ethnography of the late 19th-century colonial encounters in equatorial Africa, with emphasis on competing religious systems, opportunity and instability, production of knowledge, and everyday discipline and struggles at mission stations. The article draws selectively on Nassau's abundant corpus to examine two dimensions of his ethnographic experience and production. First, it interrogates multiple contradictory dimensions of his most overtly ethnographic work, 'Fetichism in West Africa' (1904). The aim is not to reduce it to the ethnography of missionary consciousness but, rather, to evaluate its uses today for historical anthropology. The article pays special attention to Nassau's published folktales as ethnographic documents. Second, the article probes the intimate, creative ambiguities of Nassau's long-term rapport with his 'key informant', Anyentyuwe Fando, a Mpongwe Christian woman who spent much of her life at Baraka Mission on the Gabon Estuary (present-day Libreville). Through his relationship with Anyentyuwe, who helped to raise his motherless daughter and who also served as a key informant for 'Fetichism' and other works, Nassau gained important insights into African experiences of daily life in the mission. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]