Indirect Rule, the Mission Encounter and Witchcraft in Colonial South-eastern Congo, 1910-1960

Danford Room 2nd floor Arts Building (R16 on the campus map)
Wednesday 10 January 2018 (16:30-18:30)

Speaker: Reuben Loffman, Queen Mary, University of London 

Traditionally, historians have seen witchcraft as acting as a way in which non-elites held colonial officials, missionaries and African intermediaries to account in Katanga, south-eastern Congo. In the 1930s, the African iteration of Watchtower, Kitawala, took over much of south-eastern Congo with Kitawala activists targeting missionaries, colonial-supported chiefs and even colonial officials on occasion. This paper does not deny that witchcraft and the occult was used as a means of challenging colonial racial, religious and class hierarchies. However, discourses of witchcraft were also mobilised by colonial-supported chiefs to attempt to entrench their position particularly in situations in which their authority was unstable. Chiefs’ appeals to the occult placed Catholic missionaries in a difficult position as they opposed their excess but feared undermining chiefly authority as it was key to enforcing the colonial order from which they benefitted.

Reuben Loffman is currently a Lecturer in African History at Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL). He is currently completing a book manuscript on the relationship between the Church and the colonial administration in the territory of Kongolo, in the Tanganyika province (South-eastern DRC), under Belgian rule. His future projects explore the ways in which witchcraft interacted with colonial and post-colonial constructions of statehood in the Congo. Together with Benoit Henriet, Reuben is also working on the ways in which Unilever created cycles of economic dependency in the Congo during the colonial period and beyond. Lastly, he is interested in the ways in which the US interacted with the Congo over the long twentieth century, from 1885-1997, and will publish a monograph with Routledge about this topic in 2020-1. 

Part of the Africa Talks Seminar Series Spring 2018.

Talks are held in the Danford Room, 2nd floor, Arts Building (R16 on the campus map). 

All welcome. 

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