Mennonites and Post-Colonial African Studies  book cover
1st Edition

Mennonites and Post-Colonial African Studies

ISBN 9780367474324
Published March 2, 2021 by Routledge
316 Pages

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Book Description

This book examines the evolution of post-colonial African Studies through the eyes of Africanists from the Anabaptist (Mennonite and Church of the Brethren) community.

The book chronicles the lives of twenty-two academics and practitioners whose work spans from the immediate post-colonial period in the 1960s to the present day, a period in which decolonization and development have dominated scholarly and practitioner debate. Reflecting the values and perspectives they shared with the Mennonite Central Committee and other church-sponsored organizations, the authors consider their own personal journeys and professional careers, the power of the prevailing scholarly paradigms they encountered, and the realities of post-colonial Africa. Coming initially from Anabaptist service programs, the authors ultimately made wider contributions to comparative religion, church leadership, literature, music, political science, history, anthropology, economics and banking, health and healing, public health, extension education, and community development.

The personal histories and reflections of the authors provide an important glimpse into the intellectual and cultural perspectives that shaped the work of Africanist scholars and practitioners in the post-colonial period. The book reminds us that the work of every Africanist is shaped by their own life stories.

Table of Contents

Foreword Aliko Songolo  Introduction John M. Janzen, Harold F. Miller, and John C. Yoder   Part One: Pioneers  Chapter 1: Donald JacobsMissionary, Anthropologist, Church Leader, John C. Yoder  Chapter 2: Melvin LoewenMissionary, Educator, Banker to the World, John C. Yoder  Chapter 3: David W. ShenkMissionary, Professor, "Saved One," Friend of Muslims John C. Yoder  Part Two: Professors   Chapter 4: The Road to Ghardaïa: Investigating a Community Deep in the Sahara Leads to the Study of Global History, Donald C. Holsinger  Chapter 5: The Anthropology of Health and Healing in Africa  John M. Janzen  Chapter 6: Encountering and Demythologizing Africa, Curtis A. Keim  Chapter 7: A Career in the Literature and Folklore of Africa, Karen R. Keim   Chapter 8: From Chipembi, Zambia to Michigan State University: Reflections of a Mennonite Africanist Educator, John D. Metzler  Chapter 9: The Economics of Development, E. Wayne Nafziger and John C. Yoder  Chapter 10: Mary K. Oyer and David A. ShankRecognizing and Embracing African Aesthetic and Spiritual Canons, James R. Krabill  Chapter 11: Saȉd Sheikh Samatar and Lydia Glick Samatar—Love, Poetry, and History in the Horn of Africa  Lydia Glick Samatar, Jonathan Lurie, Peter B. Golden, and David D. Laitin  Chapter 12: Historical and Political Perspectives on African Culture, John C. Yoder  Chapter 13: How Africa and the Mennonite Central Committee Touched My Life, Lauren W. Yoder   Part Three: Practitioners  Chapter 14: Establishing Private-Public Partnerships to Improve Health Services in Africa, Franklin C. Baer  Chapter 15: We Live to Serve Others with a Holistic Touch, Musuto Mutaragara Chirangi  Chapter 16: Combatting Malaria and Sleeping Sickness by Building Entomological Research Capacity in Africa, David L. Denlinger  Chapter 17: Africa: A Transformative Place, D. Merrill Ewert  Chapter 18: Learning from Africa: An Educator/Administrator’s Post-Colonial Pilgrimage, Ronald J. R. Mathies  Chapter 19: Three Anthills, and the Pot will Catch the Fire: Fremont and Sara Regier’s Lifelong Calling to Service in Africa, Sara M. Regier  Chapter 20: Working as an Applied Anthropologist in Public Health, P. Stanley Yoder  Part Four: Observations from Outside  Chapter 21: Mennonites, Jews, and the Historical Roots of an Africanist Ethos, Steven M. Feierman  Chapter 22: Perspectives on Afro-pessimism, Afro-optimism, and African Culture, Paul Gifford  Chapter 23: Reckoning with Colonialism and Mennonite Service: Reflections on Race, Class, Gender, and Power in Africa, Emily Welty 




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John M. Janzen is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Kansas, USA.

Harold F. Miller served as a fraternal ecumenical service worker in Tanzania, Sudan, and Kenya, and is now retired in Virginia, USA.

John C. Yoder is a Professor Emeritus of History and Political Science at Whitworth University, USA.


"Intensely personal at times, and biographical in scope, this collection of essays takes its readers through four general sections: Pioneers, Professors, Practitioners, and Observations from the outside. The Pioneers section highlights three early Africanists from the Mennonite tradition: Donald Jacobs, Melvin Loewen, and David W. Shenk … Ultimately, this volume is a wonderful account of a generation of scholars and practitioners of and in Africa from the Anabaptist tradition that made a profound impact on African Studies. It had the honest and vulnerable feel to Bronislaw Malinowski’s A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term (1967), about scholars and researchers from the Global North, often unprepared, conducting fieldwork in the Global South."

Adam Mohr, University of Pennsylvania

"At heart of this book are the stories of twenty-one young American men and women who went to Africa during the 1960s and 1970s as volunteer teachers and development workers under the umbrella of the Mennonite Central Committee (a faith-based, humanitarian, relief and development organization), and who ended up pursuing careers in African Studies either as university professors or as development practitioners … The essays in this book show how historians and anthropologists who had initially focused their research on a single ethnic group became interested in regional and global interconnections, and how the concept of "development" evolved from attempts to make African societies more like those in the West to collaborative projects that reflected local voices. The Mennonite Central Committee itself underwent dramatic changes as it developed new working arrangements with African partners …Most of the contributors to this volume have retired from their university or agency positions, but their reflections capture some of the hopes, contradictions, and failures of the time when a cohort of young, white, and mostly male Americans from a culturally marginal religious tradition set out to change Africa, only to discover that they had been changed instead."

Robert Harms, Yale University

"As a historical and cultural marker, this volume is needed in church, academic, and NGO libraries. As a question for all who hold some part of the future of Africa peoples and places in their hearts, it calls for more than one reading."

Nancy Heisey, Professor of Bible, Religion and Theology, Eastern Mennonite, University, Harrisonburg, Virginia

"Mennonites and Post-Colonial African Studies is a major contribution to Mennonite engagements with the wider world in the late twentieth century. Although to some degree the experiences of its subjects may defy generalizations, this book marks an important effort to bridge Mennonite studies into a broader intellectual and cultural context of transnational relationships after the end of colonialism in Africa. Although one cannot say with much certainty how much the lessons these individuals learned was truly typical for Mennonite volunteers abroad in the mid-twentieth century, this collection is a valuable resource in the ongoing discussion about Mennonite participation in scholarship and development that transcends global divides."

Jeremy Rich, Marywood University, USA

"This earnest book documents the lives of a cohort of men and women who, in the 1960s and 1970s, helped to define the academic study of Africa. All of the 22 people whose stories are told here were Mennonites, formed in a Christian tradition of non-violence … Here there are no grandiose claims. The book's analytical modesty reflects the organising principle of Mennonite religious life: one is responsible for authoring one's life with intention. This revealing book deserves to be read by all those interested in the social history of our shared scholarly enterprise."

Derek R. Peterson, Ali Mazrui Collegiate Professor, History Department and the Department of Afro-American and African Studies, University of Michigan, USA