[NB - this announcement was already posted to H-soz-u-kult]
This compact course concentrates on methodological problems in working with sources in mission archives and the parameters of their contribution to the social history of change and continuity in African communities and the evolution of the Christianity practiced in them. It will take its concrete examples from Basel Mission archival materials that originated in the Ghanaian kingdom of Akuapem and will concentrate on work with an African voice. It is situated in the context of an ongoing project aimed at publishing and evaluating the annual reports to the Basel Mission by the Ghanaian pastor Theophilus Opoku (184*-191*).
Historians engaging with non-European history are constantly engaged in the challenge to unearth the voice of the inhabitants of the region in question. Staff members of European missions were the prime producers of documents conveying such “indigenous” voices and this holds especially for the African context. The “field of force” surrounding documents written by African clergy within the framework of a European mission society is complex. Like other missionary societies in the high colonial period the Basel Mission was anxious to propagate its own orthodoxy. But missionaries on the ground were involved in continuing negotiations between their attempts to found their imagined ideal communities, and the reality of community structures around them – negotiations which they may well have preferred to conceal from the “fathers of orthodoxy“ at home. Their African employees will also have been involved in constant negotiations about “best practice” with the traditional authorities around them. If the “voices” of indigenous employees are available to us as sources, can we filter out the values taught by the missionary society, in order to assess their validity and usefulness as sources for the history of African communities?
Within the general framework of social history this course will concern itself with the history of religions in the sense that it will examine Theophilus Opoku’s reports on his dialectic interaction with leaders of traditional cults. It will also concern itself with grassroots political history in the sense that it will examine Opoku’s unusually graphic documentation of relations with the Kingdom of Akuapem in the early 20th century. Its goal is to establish a working community, in which all the participants sharpen their skills in the reading of the original texts and in re-constructing the context to which these texts lead us. The specialised faculty will foster interdisciplinary exchange, whereby the compact format and the exclusive venue are conducive to an intensive learning experience and lively exchanges in an intimate setting. The Seminar language will be English. Opoku’s annual reports were written in English, and relevant flanking documents from Basel missionaries are also, largely, available in English translation.
FACULTY: Michelle Gilbert, anthropologist from Trinity College, Hartford CT with four decades of experience in and with Akuapem; Nana Opare Kwakye, theologian from the University of Ghana, Legon; Guy Thomas, historian and archivist of the Basel Mission Archives at mission 21; Paul Jenkins, historian and former archivist of the Basel Mission.
PREPARATION: Upon admission an electronic reader containing core texts to be read in preparation for the event will be made available. Thorough preparation is required in order to ensure the quality of exchanges during the seminar.
REGISTRATION: Please submit your application for admission to this course before 31 July 2014 to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following documents: letter of motivation detailing why you are interested in the course and how it connects to your current or future research, short CV (one page). For further information email or call us on +41 (0)61 267 34 82.
REQUIREMENTS: This course is addressed to graduates in the field of History, Theology, Social Anthropology, African Studies or related disciplines.
COST: A fee of CHF 150.- (approx USD 170.-) will be levied to cover the cost of the joint lunches, coffee breaks and other. In cases of hardship the fee may be waived on application.
CREDITS: An attestation of participation will be issued by the organisers. Students in African Studies at the University of Basel will earn two ECTS credit points by learning contract.
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