Catholic Women of Congo-Brazzaville: Mothers and Sisters in Troubled Times

By Bernault, Florence | African Studies Review, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Catholic Women of Congo-Brazzaville: Mothers and Sisters in Troubled Times


Bernault, Florence, African Studies Review


HISTORY Phyllis Martin. Catholic Women of Congo-Brazzaville: Mothers and Sisters in Troubled Times. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009. xiv + 262 pp. List of Abbreviations. Maps. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $65.00. Cloth. $24.95. Paper.

Phyllis Martin's latest book may not have the theoretical and narrative scope of her extraordinary study Läsure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (Cambridge University Press, 2002), but her inspiring study of Catholic women in the Congo offers many critical insights for historians of equatorial Africa, of Christianity, and of gender identities. Martin examines how the concept of motherhood became a contested category between indigenous people and colonial rulers, and she uses the case of Catholic converts to shed innovative light on women's experience in modern Congo. She is interested in understanding why the Catholic Church attracted converts in the early phase of the colonial period, thus making an important contribution to the history of African Christianity. As always, her study is characterized by exemplary attention to actors at the grass roots. She privileges popular visions of the Church among the Congolese, and offers a careful reconstruction of the various agenda sought out by the men and women who made Catholicism their own.

To allow for a detailed, finely tuned history of Catholic women over more than a century, Martin had to limit the geographical and thematic scope of her study. The book focuses on the "lower" Congo only, and pays little attention to Protestant missions, to the Congolese independent churches that emerged during colonialism, and perhaps more surprisingly, to modern Pentecostal Churches that now dominate the spiritual and political life of the Congolese. At times, this strategy narrows the significance of Martin's conclusions. For instance, the spiritual and social work achieved by Catholic women's fraternities would be better contextualized if compared with the presence of Pentecostal converts in the same terrains. Catholic Church members do worry about their spiritual competitors, and these concerns make up a significant part of their experiences and everyday strategies. Although Martin provides nuanced and convincing answers to the question of why people joined the Catholic Church, she leaves unasked the question of why many did not.

The organization of the book is chronological, spanning more than a century. The first four chapters look at the period before 1940, and the last two chapters and the epilogue extend the narrative up to the early twenty-first century. Looking at the life of Catholic female converts and the emergence of Christian families from the late nineteenth century to the 1920s, Martin argues that the Church successfully combined its teachings with local kinship systems and rituals (death, marriage, coming of age) . She confirms the findings of the anthropologist Joan Burke in the DRC, that the metaphor of maternity helped local families come to terms with the loss of a daughter to a congregation of nuns. In this sense, the Catholic Church affirmed the local valuation of women in terms of motherhood. This perspective usefully complements Sandra Greene's concept of the "displacement" of indigenous beliefs by Protestant missionaries in Ghana, in her Sacred Sites and the Colonial Encounter (Indiana University Press, 2002). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Catholic Women of Congo-Brazzaville: Mothers and Sisters in Troubled Times
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.