Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival: A History of Dissent, C. 1935-1972

By Shaw, Mark | International Bulletin of Mission Research, January 2014 | Go to article overview

Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival: A History of Dissent, C. 1935-1972


Shaw, Mark, International Bulletin of Mission Research


Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival: A History of Dissent, c. 1935-1972.

By Derek R. Peterson. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2012. Pp. xx, 344. $103; paperback $34.99.

Derek Peterson's Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival is an important and highly original contribution to the growing scholarship on the East African Revival. While avoiding the reductionism that sees religious movements as thinly veiled political protests, Peterson argues that it was precisely the religious commitments, theological vision, and spiritual passions of the revival that had the most profound social and political impact.

For Peterson, Christian conversion in Africa is a political act. It is a pledge of ultimate allegiance and the launch of a new kind of journey. For many revivalists this allegiance and journey were defined in vernacular versions of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, pervasive throughout eastern Africa in the early part of the twentieth century. This kind of literature (along with post offices, bicycles, conventions, and the introduction of bookkeeping) created a new "cosmopolitanism" that transcended the tribalist politics of the region, what Peterson (following John Lonsdale) calls "ethnic patriotism." The ethnic politician, whose respectability depended on silence about one's private life, saw the revival's insistence on public confession as treasonous. In contrast, "converts thought of themselves as pilgrims on the road toward another home" (4). …

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