Half London' in Zambia: Contested Identities in a Catholic Mission Schoolby Anthony Simpson

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  • International African Institute

    'Half London' in Zambia: Contested Identities in a Catholic Mission School by AnthonySimpsonReview by: Carol SummersAfrica: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 74, No. 3 (2004), pp. 477-478Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the International African InstituteStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3557020 .Accessed: 14/06/2014 22:58

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  • BOOK REVIEWS 477

    by the municipal bureaucrats and politicians in Ladysmith and Newcastle who are flocking to East Asia to entice industrialists to Northern Natal. The discourse on globalisation ('There Is No Alternative') is itself shaping the process and is, therefore, as disabling as the process itself. Unfortunately, far from presenting her readers with a 'politically enabling conception of globalization', she paralyses them with disempowering jargon.

    INEKE VAN KESSEL

    African Studies Centre Leiden

    ANTHONY SIMPSON, 'Half London' in Zambia: contested identities in a Catholic mission school. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, for the International Africa Institute (paperback ?16.95, ISBN 0 7486 1804 X). 2003, 224 pp.

    This is a thoughtful ethnography about the relationships and rituals within an elite, post-colonial boarding school where Catholic expatriates suffered crises of confidence, school administration was reordered from a Catholic system to a British public school model, and young men found their own ways to adulthood.

    Simpson taught at this pseudonymous school during the 1970s and 1980s, before a period of more formal research in the 1990s. He portrays the expatriate religious order sympathetically, discussing the theology that guided the Brothers who ran the school. Beyond Brothers' subjective assessments of their role as simple community members serving students, though, he details how their residence, patterns of socialisation, and sense of international community marked Brothers apart from any Zambian context. Brothers lacked the connections to family, local community, and the region beyond the school, that shaped students and staff.

    Whatever Christian humility and simplicity the Brothers sought to model, the school was full of ambitious Zambians (of mixed religious backgrounds) admitted through competitive exams. Zambian students and staff, Simpson argues, accepted ideas of hierarchy at every level of school relations. Zambian staff ran strict classrooms and tolerated no questioning of teachers' authority. Prefects and leading students held administrative responsibilities, and enjoyed perks, such as private bedrooms and the opportunity to decorate their own space. New students went through rituals that mocked the uninitiated as animals until they had their 'tails cut'.

    The dissonance between the Brothers' ideology of community and service and the Zambian students' pursuit of individual achievement meant, Simpson argues, that instead of being a hegemonic structure of discipline and civilisation, with panoptic awareness and control of students' bodies and minds, the mission school was relatively open. The most emphatic promoters of discipline and 'civilisation' proved to be not the expatriates, but the Zambian staff and students who saw it as a marker of their distinction. Thus the discipline of the school was coordinated not by a Marian theology of compassion, but by articulate, organised prefects, many of whom were Seventh Day Adventists.

    Simpson's study attacks the stereotype of mission schools as places where white colonisers forcibly and intentionally re-made African bodies and minds. Instead, missionaries were constrained by Zambians. And students arrived at the school so eager to be re-made that they intemrnalised ideas of individuality, ambition, discipline and civilisation, protested classroom crucifixes, and

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  • 478 BOOK REVIEWS

    debated Christianity, pursuing their own personal salvations, often through non-Catholic fundamentalism.

    This study emphasises students' agency. Students monitored what they were offered, and did with it what they chose. Simpson's depiction is very structural in depicting forces, factions and resources within the school, but barely extends beyond it to mention national education regulations and university opportunities. Like the Brothers' perspective, it is remarkably divorced from the changes Zambia experienced from the 1970s through the 1990s. It follows no alumni. It does not explore whether students' consciousness and conscientiousness were effective in shaping life achievements. There are plenty of hints here that students in the 1990s were emerging from the school into a Zambia radically different from the land of copper and opportunity of the early years. Economic collapse, very limited democratisation, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and crises in higher education were Zambia's realities as the young men Simpson followed left the secondary school he studied. Did students' initiatives prepare them for these conditions, train them to make positive change, or encourage them to fantasise about 'London' and 'civilisation'? This study raises excellent questions about schooling's meanings, and calls out for historical contextualisation.

    CAROL SUMMERS

    University of Richmond

    JUDITH A. BYFIELD, The Bluest Hands: a social and economic history of women dyers in Abeokuta (Nigeria), 1890-1940. Oxford: James Currey (paperback ?17.95, ISBN 0 85255 600 4; hard covers ?45.00, ISBN 0 85255 650 0); Portsmouth NH: Heinemann (paperback US$24.95 ISBN 0 32507 008 3; hard covers US$64.95, ISBN 0 32507 009 1). 2002, 304 pp.

    Byfield has produced an excellent historical study on the emergence, consolidation and (temporarily) crises of the adire cloth industry in Abeokuta, Nigeria. Adire is the Yoruba name for indigo resist-dyed textiles, often on imported cotton cloth. Women buy and process the raw materials, dye the cloths and also take care of the distribution. It features a variety of patterns created by raffia or starch as resist-dying agent. Starch is either painted or stencilled onto the cloths. Ibadan has been the principal centre for the free hand-painted textiles, Abeokuta for all the other methods. Several studies have already been written on adire cloth, however, mainly descriptive or focusing on the post-colonial period. This study is not only a valuable addition to the scarce amount of literature on early African textile production in its social and economic context; it also sheds new lights on the dynamic ways in which women engaged in the colonial political economy. Furthermore, it counterbalances the idea that increased consumption of imported cloth necessarily indicates absolute decline in local industries. The main strength of the book under review is that it demonstrates that the rise of the colonial state and the interwar depression had different consequences for men and women, and that these African producers and entrepreneurs also shaped these political and economic changes, mediated not only by gender, but also by class. The book gives an outstanding integration of the political, gender, social and economic history of women dyers in Abeokuta. The book could have benefited from a stronger emphasis on the art historical perspective, which would have allowed a fuller understanding of the relationship between customers and dyers.

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    Article Contentsp. 477p. 478

    Issue Table of ContentsAfrica: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 74, No. 3 (2004), pp. 315-487Front MatterReflections on Witchcraft, Danger, and Modernity among the Tuareg [pp. 315-340]Drinking, Rumour, and Ethnicity in Jimma, Ethiopia [pp. 341-360]Maintaining Difference and Managing Change: Female Agrarian Clientelist Relations in a Gambian Community [pp. 361-382]Entrustment and Its Changing Political Meanings in Fuladu, the Gambia (1880-1994) [pp. 383-410]Making Ethnic Elites: Ritual Poetics in a Cameroonian Lyce [pp. 411-432]The Making of the Ogoni Ethnic Group [pp. 433-453]Review ArticleReview: History and Identity in Senegambia and on the Upper Guinea Coast [pp. 454-464]

    Reviews of BooksReview: untitled [pp. 465-466]Review: untitled [pp. 466-468]Review: untitled [pp. 468-470]Review: untitled [pp. 470-471]Review: untitled [pp. 471-474]Review: untitled [pp. 474-475]Review: untitled [pp. 475-477]Review: untitled [pp. 477-478]Review: untitled [pp. 478-479]Review: untitled [pp. 479-480]Review: untitled [pp. 480-482]Review: untitled [pp. 482-483]Review: untitled [pp. 483-485]Review: untitled [p. 485]Review: untitled [pp. 486-487]

    Back Matter

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