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Confessionalised Medicine. The Norwegian Missionary Society’s Leprosy Narratives From Madagascar 1887–1907

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Chapter Summary


In the 1870s, two missionaries, one British and the other Norwegian, produced two books with almost identical titles. This chapter addresses the divergences in the ways James Sibree and Lars Dahle portrayed the Malagasy people and society. Both Sibree and Dahle were familiar with each others' work. However, significant contrasts between the British and Norwegian societies at the time made both the missionaries' background, and the context for the reception of their ethnographic work, vary. The chapter discusses the contrasts between the texts in relation to social and cultural processes in the authors' home societies. Missionary writings contributed in important ways to the constitution of ethnography as a field of knowledge, and as a written genre. The ethnographic descriptions in both books reveal a racial and civilisational hierarchy with different degrees of savagery and civilisation.

Keywords:British; civilisation; James Sibree; Lars Dahle; missionary ethnography; Norwegian


This chapter investigates the mission endeavour of the Moravian Church in Eastern South Africa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The main analytical focus is the agency and appropriation strategies of the black Moravians and their apparent failure of bringing their religio-political aspirations to fruition. This will be shown through case studies of the black Moravian minister William Mazwi and his struggle for equal recognition within the Church, and of dissenting congregants at the Moravian mission station Shiloh and their fight for rights to landownership at the station. The double bind communications of the missionaries revolve around racial categories linked to notions of difference and sameness: the Moravian mission theories involve an emphasis on racial authenticity simultaneous with an insistence on 'civilising practices.' The chapter shows the ambiguity of the discourses of the Moravian missionaries.

Keywords:double bind communications; Moravian Church; William Mazwi




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