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Conversion to ChristianityHistorical and Anthropological Perspectives on a Great Transformation$
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Robert Hefner

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780520078352

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520078352.001.0001

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The Local and the Global in Southern African Religious History

The Local and the Global in Southern African Religious History

(p.65) Chapter Three The Local and the Global in Southern African Religious History
Conversion to Christianity

Robert W. Hefner

University of California Press

This chapter tries to make a case for the defense and looks at everything that can be argued against the identification of African religion with the microcosmic and of mission Christianity with the macrocosmic. It then turns to the key question of literacy, arguing that there was no necessary connection between its introduction into much of southern Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and conversion to Christianity, even though there was an actual connection. The generalizing potentialities of literacy have become available to the spokespersons of African religion. The ways in which mission Christianity was much less macrocosmic than the conventional model supposes are explored. It is noted that much of the continuing history of the religion in southern Africa, whether of Christianity or of African religion, lies in the working out of “this dialectic between the local and the central”.

Keywords:   African religion, Christianity, southern Africa, mission, history

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