Missionaries and morals: climatic discourse in nineteenth-century central Southern Africa

Endfield, G.H. and Nash, D.J. (2002) Missionaries and morals: climatic discourse in nineteenth-century central Southern Africa Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 92 (4). pp. 727-742. ISSN 0004-5608

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Abstract

The letters, personal papers, and journals written by British missionaries based at mission stations within and around the Kalahari region of central southern Africa in the nineteenth century provide an invaluable insight into time- and place-specific interactions with local cultures and environments. This article employs a range of unpublished and published missionary correspondence and travelogues to examine two key aspects regarding the conceptualization of and responses to climatic variability in the region. First, we explore the way in which missionaries positioned climate variability within a moral economic framework and illustrate their attitude towards local drought myths and rainmaking superstitions. This reveals a degree of conflict in the respective environmental ideologies of missionaries and the local populations. Moreover, while missionaries appear to have linked drought to moral degradation, local populations had their own "environmental religion" or climatic philosophy that located the arrival of the European within a framework of climatic change. Second, we examine the introduction of irrigation technology to the region by the missionaries. The actual construction of irrigation projects provided a forum for cultural interaction, but findings also indicate that irrigation was considered to be not only a practical response to climatic conditions in the region and a means by which the missionaries could assert some ideological control over this environment, but also a route towards moral redemption of the local populations and environments.

Item Type: Journal article
Subjects: F000 Physical Sciences > F800 Physical Geography and Environmental Sciences > F850 Environmental Sciences
F000 Physical Sciences
DOI (a stable link to the resource): 10.1111/1467-8306.00313
Faculties: Faculty of Science and Engineering > School of Environment and Technology > Applied Geosciences
Faculty of Science and Engineering > School of Environment and Technology
Depositing User: editor environment
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2006
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2013 14:06
URI: http://eprints.brighton.ac.uk/id/eprint/1000

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