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Defining the Heathen in Ireland and Africa: Two Similar Discourses a Century Apart

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For more content, please see Le Fait Missionnaire.

This article looks at two different missionary projects separated by space and time: British Protestant missions to Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century; and Irish Roman Catholic missions to Africa in the 1920 and 1930s. It argues that in both cases missionary discourses were strongly influenced by prevailing public attitudes towards the 'other', in the earlier case the Irish, in the later case, the Africans. Using evidence from a range of contemporary mission publications, the article highlights the similarity between British Protestant efforts to 'colonise' Ireland in religious terms and later Irish Catholic attempts to create a 'Spiritual Empire' in Africa in the context of the recently-formed Irish Free State and in contrast to the ostensibly materialistic and corrupting influences on Africa of British imperialism. Cet article se penche sur deux projets missionnaires séparés dans le temps et l'espace: les missions protestantes britanniques en Irlande au milieu du 19e siècle, et les missions catholiques irlandaises en Afrique dans les années 1920-30. Il montre que, dans les deux cas, le discours missionnaire a été influencé par la façon dont le rapport à l'«Autre,» qu'il soit irlandais dans un cas ou africain dans l'autre, était généralement conçu. Par l'analyse de nombreuses publications missionnaires, le texte révèle les similarités existant entre les efforts des protestants britanniques pour «coloniser» religieusement l'Irlande et, plus tard, les efforts des Catholiques irlandais pour créer un «Empire spirituel» en Afrique dans le contexte du nouvel Etat Libre d'Irlande et d'un désir de se distinguer des influences matérialistes et néfastes de l'impérialisme britannique en Afrique.


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