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Missionaries and the Ethnographic Imagination. Reflections on the Legacy of Henri-Alexandre Junod (1863–1934)

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This article consists of a reflection on the ethnographic and political legacy of the protestant missionary Henri-Alexandre Junod. A member of the Swiss Mission, Junod was one of the few missionaries to enjoy the recognition of “professional” anthropologists in his time (among them, Malinowski himself, who praised his pioneering ethnography on the Thonga of southern Africa). But beyond his important ethnographic legacy, his work as a missionary brought him into contact with many perplexities and paradoxes. Besides living and working in the Union of South Africa – present day South Africa – he lived for many years in Mozambique, where at certain times, his presence – and that of the protestant missionaries in general – was not well accepted by Portuguese Colonial Regime. Today, the policies on bilingual education, the process of reinvention of the Shangaan identity, the multicultural dilemmas of post-socialist Mozambique and the role of the Protestant churches in the formation of the civil society, cannot be understood without a systematic and renewed reflection on the legacy of Henri-Alexandre Junod. Cet article propose une réflexion sur l'héritage ethnographique et politique du missionnaire protestant Henri-Alexandre Junod. Membre de la Missions Suisse Romande, Junod fut un des rares missionnaires qui fut reconnu de son vivant par les anthropologues "professionnels" (entre autres Malinowski lui-même qui loua son travail ethnographique sur les Thonga d'Afrique australe). Au-delà son héritage ethnographique, le travail de Junod comme missionnaire l'exposa aussi à plusieurs perplexités et paradoxes. En plus de vivre et travailler dans l'Union d'Afrique du Sud – aujourd'hui Afrique du sud – il vécut durant de nombreuses années au Mozambique où, à certains moments, sa présence – et celle des missionnaires protestants en général – ne fut pas bien acceptée par le régime colonial portugais. Aujourd'hui les politiques d'éducation bilingues, le processus de la réinvention de l'identité Shangaan, les dilemmes multiculturels d'un Mozambique postsocialiste et le rôle des églises Protestantes dans la formation d'une société civile ne peuvent pas être compris sans une réflexion systématique et renouvelée de l'héritage d'Henri-Alexandre Junod.

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