africamidtermword - Aaron Houska Africa in the 20th Century...

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Aaron Houska Africa in the 20th Century Fall 2007 Midterm Paper Navigating Social Sea-changes: Cultural Misunderstandings Between British and Africans in the Shire Highlands At the first European contact with those living in the Shire Highland villages, the missionaries led by Bishop Mackenzie arrived speaking no Mang’anja and with no Afric- ans in their party fluent in both Mang’anja and English (White 24). It was an auspicious beginning to a relationship that would be marked by deep mutual misunderstandings. Those missionaries arrived with the nominal intention of wiping out the slave trade, “but they were advancing as an armed group into a region torn my warfare” (18). They were thus initially perceived by the Africans as themselves slave traders, for they took this armed band from village to village, seizing the slaves, and having no-where to take them, added them to their party. Furthermore, their message was clearly lost in transla- tion even upon clearing this misunderstanding. The new booming economy in the vil- lages that the missionaries created (as they had to buy all their goods from the Africans) a newly wealthy society, and “as a consequence, they began themselves to acquire an interest in domestic slave holding” (33). The British aggravated these communication failures by applying their own simplistic and racist concepts of African society, custom, and ability to their colonial policies. It was primarily through profound misunderstand- ings between officials and settlers from Britain and the Africans residing in the Shire Highlands over the concepts of tribe and gender that neither group was able to success- fully enact their vision of society. The British arriving at Magomero at every stage of contact viewed the African concept of Tribe as both universal and singular, a concept by which every African was
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bound to a direct lineage with a common ancestor. Of course, this is far from the case. This contrast was most stark in the latter period of contact, when “the people who origin- ally settled the villages came from a variety of different places. ..but they were not re- lated except in the smallest of family groups” (165). The European settlers treated them as one “tribe,” assuming that they were tied by lines of kinship for many generations. While this misunderstanding certainly created problems for both groups, especially dur-
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course HIST 265 taught by Professor Fisher during the Spring '06 term at Northwestern.

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africamidtermword - Aaron Houska Africa in the 20th Century...

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