“Histrionic Zulus”—Photographic Heterotopias at the Catholic Mission Mariannhill in Natal

To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.


In this article, I argue that certain photographs of Christian converts at the Catholic Mission station Mariannhill in Natal underwent a process of theatricalization, in the decade just prior to World War I. Foucault identified theater-stages as one of the possible places that may be called heterotopias, and also alluded to mission stations in this regard. I explicate what those spaces may have in common with the performative aspects to the production of photographs and the evocation of faith towards benefactor audiences in Europe.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

* Download Chapter 1 (PDF) at * Publisher's description: In Mission Station Christianity, Ingie Hovland presents an anthropological history of the ideas and practices that evolved among Norwegian missionaries in nineteenth-century colonial Natal and Zululand (Southern Africa). She examines how their mission station spaces influenced their daily Christianity, and vice versa, drawing on the anthropology of Christianity. Words and objects, missionary bodies, problematic converts, and the utopian imagination are discussed, as well as how the Zulus made use of (and ignored) the stations. The majority of the Norwegian missionaries had become theological cheerleaders of British colonialism by the 1880s, and Ingie Hovland argues that this was made possible by the everyday patterns of Christianity they had set up and become familiar with on the mission stations since the 1850s.
The notion of faith, the fact that there is such a thing as an experience of faith, is shared by many different people, in many different kinds of religious and spiritual orientations. Faith as an experience and category of and for action has, to a large extent, been avoided as a phenomenon for study in the social sciences. This article is an attempt at exploring how to place faith back into the anthropological view of religious phenomena. It is a study of the work that faith does in the lives of those who hold faith by focusing on the particular geographical and historical location of the Lutheran church in the Soutpansberg, South Africa, which was founded by the Berlin Mission Society in the 1870s. A careful reading of the written missionary sources that are available for the study of mission Christianity allows the teasing out of indications on how Christians experienced faith. The paper argues that where first generation Christian women understood Christianity to mean severing their relationships from non-Christian family and friends, later generations of Christian women saw it as critical to integrate their Christianity into local family relationships and social structures.