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Senior Research Seminar: Professor Harri Englund (University of Cambridge)

When Jan 17, 2020
from 04:15 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Edmund Leach Room, Department of Social Anthropology Free School Lane, Cambridge
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Professor Harri Englund (University of Cambridge)

Africa as an Altar of Sacrifice: The Struggle for Epistemic Justice

Taking my cue from Talal Asad’s claim that secular redemptive politics has no place for the idea of the redeemer submitting him- or herself to suffering, I ask how epistemic justice would look like if it was inspired by the figure of Christ on the Cross. I propose an answer by presenting some aspects of the work and vision pursued by David Clement Scott as the head of the Blantyre Mission in Malawi between 1881 and 1898. Moved by vernacular thought and determined to bring black and white together in an African Church, Scott eventually faced mounting criticisms from the Church of Scotland, white settlers and colonial administrators alike. His programme of reversals and learning presented an alternative to Cecil Rhodes’s monopolistic schemes and to settlers’ alienation of land and labour. Scott’s vision sought future prosperity for all, but crucial to it was a sense of sacrifice that went beyond the usual missionary injunction to give one’s life to Africa. I explore epistemic justice as a matter of sacrifice in which the missionary went against the prevailing racial prejudices to assert Africans as the owners of knowledge and land.

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