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Of Revelation and Revolution: The Dialectics of Modernity on a South African Frontier by
Jean Comaroff; John L. Comaroff
Review by: Alinah Kelo Segobye
The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 32, No. 2/3 (1999), pp. 624-625
Published by: Boston University African Studies Center
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168.131 on Thu. 52).624 BOOK REVIEWS communities. It is richly presented with details of the daily lives of people.In the secondvolume of Of Revelationand Revolution. John and Jean Comaroffare a rare breed of researchersin the landscapeof southernAfrican studies.anthropology. By JohnL.they aim "tocapturethe broadest possiblespectrumof signifyingpracticesin any lived world"(p.ethnography. They have forged a multidisciplinaryapproachthat mergeshistory. it also shows how people resistedmissionarydomination.$70. 1991) and reactsto criticismsagainstit.drastic changes to the tenets of Tswanaculturalidentity. 35 illustrations.The accountof colonialismas lived experienceaffectingpeoples'cultures has been by and large documentedby anthropologists.and studiesof materialculture.and occasionallyresortingto the bruteforce of the colonial governmentto enforceEuropeanculture. the Tswanaway of life in the specific historical contextof the colonial encounter.Nevertheless.They have producedtwo volumes of historicalanthropologythat document in an unprecedentedway. puttingreadersunfamiliarwith Volume 1 at a disadvantage.They explore how this encounterbetween men and women from different culturesstarteda process thatsaw eventualcolonial domination.who began working in southernAfrica from the 1930s.Volume 2. xxiv. The subjectof this second volume is the colonial encounterbetweenmissionaries and southernTswana throughoutthe nineteenthcentury(1820-1920). 588.the monographintroducesthe readerto an extensive body of scholarshipon the postcolonial African state and is a rewarding-if at times difficult-read. $24.Their "missionaryimperialism" included underminingchiefly authority.However. This content downloaded from 216. both European and Tswana.This book is thus an expose of how one society was transformedby missionariesas agents of colonialism. Chapter2 outlines the manner in which the London Missionary Society and Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society operated. Pp.Chicago:The Universityof ChicagoPress.00 cloth.95 paper. JOAN VINCENT Barnard College OF REVELATIONAND REVOLUTION:THE DIALECTICSOF MODERNITY ON A SOUTHAFRICANFRONTIER. 13 Nov 2014 06:44:31 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . makingthemactive agentsin this processof change. and Jean Comaroff. Historianshave tended to dominate the debate over the colonial experience in southernAfrica with accountsof the impactof the colonial encounteron different groups. Chapter1 reviews the Comaroffs'first volume (Chicago.159. It is to the Comaroffs' credit that they have workedhardin the last two decadesto bridgethe gap between anthropologyand history. 1997.

For example.Volume 3 is eagerlyawaited.1997). missioraries were instrumentalin the creation of the migrant labor system. OurGendered Past (Johannesburg. Missionary abhorrencefor Tswana culturalpractices meant that theirquest for refashioningthe people undertheirevangelizinginfluencewent far beyondspreadingthe gospel. as was demonstratedby Kgosi Tshekedi Khama.I The Comaroffsdemonstratehow missionarydisempowerment was often resisted by groups such as women. An interestingsubthemeof these chaptersis the reconfigurationof gender relations. Chapter8 summarizesthe personalimpactof colonial evangelismon Tswana people. focusing on the missionarydesire to changeTswanapatternsof subsistence(replacingherding with cultivation). Wadley.168. extendedfamily systems. The Tswana indigenized Europeanculture and Christianityas much as they were changed by these new experiences. By creating a dependency on cash exchange. Kent. 1998). and medicine.SouthernAfrican archaeologistsare also unpackingthe presentmyth of Tswanawomanhood. is widely representedas a neocolonial caricature. particularlythe dialectical nature of missionary/Tswanaencounters. the authorsdemonstratehow colonialism "promised equality but sustainedinequality"(p. LucasMangope. Using case studies. L. This content downloaded from 216.demonstratinghow genderrelationswere differentlyconstitutedin precolonialsouthern Africansocieties.It is ironic thatcuiTentlyfavored"traditional" Tswananormsof gender relationscan apparentlybe tracedback to VictorianEngland.the subjectof so many sociological and other studies.131 on Thu.who used his knowledge of European cultureto resistcolonial rule. Chapter9 summarizesthe key themes raised in this book. 13 Nov 2014 06:44:31 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . ed.who was also a Tswana "chief' now turnedChristianDemocratpolitician. material culture (especially clothing). architectureand the use of space. World War I and increasing migrationto the diamondand gold industriesof South Africa permanentlydislocated the Tswanaworldview. This is a highly commendable work..159.It will be an excellentresearchcompanionfor futurescholars. invaluable to the scholarly readerof southernAfricanstudies.andculturalstudies. The resultanthybridTswanaperson.which remainsa dominantfeatureof southernAfricansocieties.. The "subjectother"createdthrough missionaryevangelismcould be a challengeto the colonial state.however. ALINAHKELOSEGOBYE University of Botswana See for example S. Gender in African Prehistory(New York. ed.Tswanahistory.BOOK REVIEWS 625 Chapters3 to 7 probe differentdimensionsof Tswana identity. within the Comaroffs'Mafikeng study areauntil recently lived the formerpresidentof the Republicof Bophuthatswana. exchange (introducing a cash economy). 396). The Comaroffsgive furthersubstanceto the study of the peasantizationof African societies.