Civilising barbarians

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Civilising barbarians missionary narrative and African textual response in nineteenth-century South Africa
Physical Description:
231 p. ; 22 cm.
De Kock, Leon
Witwatersrand University Press
Lovedale Press
Place of Publication:
Johannesburg, South Africa
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Missions -- South Africa -- History -- 19th century
Spatial Coverage:
South Africa


General Note:
Includes bibliographical references (p. 208-223) and index.
Statement of Responsibility:
Leon De Kock

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Permissions granted and all rights reserved by the author, Leon De Kock.
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Half Title
        Half Title
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents
        Page 1
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    1. Disciplinary intersections
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    2. The making of colonial orthodoxy
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    3. A savage civility
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    4. Subversive subservience
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    5. Missionary heroes and the miraculous conversion of Africa: A story in books
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    6. Afterword
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    Select bibliography
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    Back Cover
        Back Cover 1
        Back Cover 2
Full Text


'^ .^^T~.,A -,^ Nr^^^ ^'

Missionary Narrative and African Textual Response
in Nineteenth-Century South Africa





Missionary Narrative and African Textual Response
in Nineteenth-Century South Africa






Witwatersrand University Press
1 Jan Smuts Avenue
2001 Johannesburg
South Africa

ISBN 186814 298 1

Leon de Kock 1996

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording,
or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

First published 1996

The cover illustration shows Major W.L. Geddes at the head of the Lovedale boarders in drill
formation in the grounds of the famous institution. Geddes was boarding master at Lovedale circa
1940 when this picture was included in R.H.W. Shepherd's Lovedale South Africa: The Story of a
Century. Picture by courtesy of the Cory Library, Rhodes University.

Typeset by Photoprint, Cape Town
Cover design by Photoprint and Celeste Burger
Printed and bound by Kohler Carton and Print, Pinetown

This book is dedicated to Margaret, Luke, and Charis,
without whom it would have appeared
too soon or not at all


I wish to acknowledge the support and encouragement of Ivan Rabinowitz, a
fine listener and a highly discerning reader, who has given generously of his
time, sympathy, and imagination. Greg Cuthbertson has been an unfailing
friend and supporter, always willing to offer moral support and material help.
Others whose discussions with me made an impact on this study include
Stan Ridge, David Attwell, Tim Couzens, Richard Elphick, Keith Dietrich,
Annamaria Carusi, Mike Hyman and Johannes du Bruyn. Among librarians,
Dawie Malan, Monique Smith and Mary-Lynn Suttie have been friends and
assistants of the highest calibre.
Acknowledgements are due to the following journals, in which earlier
versions of material in this book have appeared: The English Academy Review,
Journal of Literary Studies, Missionalia, Journal of Theology for Southern Africa,
English in Africa and Alternation.




1 Disciplinary Intersections

2 The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy

3 A Savage Civility

4 Subversive Subservience

5 Missionary Heroes and the Miraculous Conversion of Africa
A Story in Books

6 Afterword


Select Bibliography












Nations, writes Benedict Anderson in Imagined Communities, share with
individuals the predicament of having to construct identity out of simulta-
neous acts of memory and forgetting. Awareness of being embedded in what
Anderson calls secular, serial time, with all its implications of continuity, yet
of forgetting the experience of continuity, engenders the need for a narrative of
identity (1991:205). In the wake of South Africa's supposed rebirth as a
nation in 1994, it is perhaps apposite to consider what has been remembered,
and what forgotten, in the country's popularly imagined regeneration.
We know, from innumerable items of news and talk, as well as the news-talk
characteristic of that more recent form of public communion, the radio talk
show, that apartheid died for South Africa to be reborn. Less frequently, but
no less volubly, we have also heard calls for the death of colonialism. The
history of colonialism, however, has all too often found its enunciation in the
coarser tones of militant anti-colonial rhetoric. The word 'colonialism' is then
used as a thunderblow, to denote a self-evident evil, not an object of analytical
enquiry. Even in university essays, perhaps on J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for
the Barbarians in a second-year literature course, 'colonialism' is likely to be
brought into service as a conceptual bludgeon: the colonisers were the real
barbarians; 'they' did bad things.
For the most part, however, the popular imagination seizes upon apartheid
and its supposed birth in 1948- only a year after India unshackled itself from
British imperialism as an all-encompassing evil of the last resort in the
modem world, the apotheosis of colonial domination, transformed into the
legislative fiat of a modem, if perverse, nation-state. In the remembered
genealogy of the 'new' South Africa, apartheid often figures as an incorpora-
tive, originary point of emergence, while the finer distinctions of continuity
and discontinuity between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, between
colonialism in a past as strange as another country, and apartheid in the
second half of this century, seem to have become so blurred as to be almost
invisible. Even the more recent memory of apartheid itself is becoming
difficult for the very newest, emerging generation to recall. The history of

2 Civilising Barbarians

formal apartheid is slowly but surely passing beyond phenomenal, lived
experience and, for many young people, now resides only in books, pictures,
documentaries sources which must themselves compete with thousands
upon thousands of visual information items in a time of acute information
Yet in a very real sense the meaning of the imperial past, and its con-
sequent colonial conditions, cultures, and polities, have, as Edward W. Said
observes in Culture and Imperialism, 'entered the reality of hundreds of millions
of people' and still exercise tremendous force as a 'highly conflictual texture of
culture, ideology, and policy' (1993:11). I do not profess in this book to
explain the persistence, in contemporary reality, of the imperial or colonial
past in the form of Said's categories. That would be a vast undertaking indeed.
My more modest aim is to recall more fully the memory of that particularly
pervasive strand in the making of a South African nation, and of African
nationalism, the nineteenth-century 'civilising mission'. In view of the
contemporary belief that nations and their constitutive identities are brought
into being partly, but significantly, by acts of imagining and of narration
(Anderson 1991; Bhabha 1990; Said 1993), this book seeks to explore some of
the ways in which a relentlessly book and print-driven civilising colonialism
sought to inscribe in 'barbarous' Africans the precepts of a largely Protestant,
Western modernity (contemporaneous, in southern Africa, with the telegraph
and the press) and to implant in their minds dreams of a 'rational', Christian
community of peasant individualists drawn away from what was conceived as
heathen abjection in degrading tribal conditions.
Whether this was right or wrong is not really the issue, although the
recalling of it is likely to stir up many emotions. The more general interest in
the project is to understand the negotiations of identity in the many narrative
forms by which African subjectivity was brought into question and refor-
mulated under conditions of tremendous upheaval in the nineteenth century.
The term 'narrative' in this sense refers to all those enunciative acts, whether
verbal (the sermon, classroom lesson, informal talk, public lecture) or in print
(the bible, newspaper, book, periodical, letter) which derived from a master
narrative of Protestant conformity, and found their form in the lofty medium
of English. These narratives sought to retell the story of proper human
subjectivity in a context of coercive military and cultural warfare. My
particular interest in the nineteenth century, therefore, lies in the dramatic
contests over the moral destiny of South Africans, and over the very nature of
identity. It has become common cause in recent interdisciplinary scholarship


to point out that both Africans and Europeans were transformed by these
processes (Comaroff 1991, Elphick 1992, Hofmeyr 1993), even though the
ostensible thrust of the civilising mission was to remake Africans in the
European image. As Jean and John Comaroff have argued so forcefully in their
influential, if controversial book, Of Revelation and Revolution (1991), the
signifying dimensions of cultural exchange (in contrast to earlier emphases on
capital, class, and official politics) can be seen as central to such 'contests of
conscience'. In particular, scholarship has begun to regard what has come to
be known as 'identity politics' (cf. Greenstein 1994) as a revealing source of
insight into both micro- and macro-contexts of colonial contestation.
The negotiations of identity, and the struggles involved in sustaining,
modifying, or revolutionising the self in the nineteenth century found their
form in narratives, in story, projection, and response. To be sure, these
narratives and counter-narratives were implicated in the larger play of power
and conflict, unity and dislocation. They were the stories people told each
other in diverse contexts and they include the more philosophical 'narratives
of legitimation' employed to underpin ideological positions. They involved, in
addition, the complex, back and forth interpenetrations of orality and literacy,
the establishment of literate orthographies for 'vernacular' languages, as well
as the growing ascendancy of English as a master code, the ultimate fount of
civilised life from which lowly 'Kafirs' were benignly invited to drink.
It will be clear that, broadly conceived, this is a very large subject. My aim
in this book is to keep this broad sense in mind while concentrating
selectively on various written sources in which one can detect traces of the
larger process. Not surprisingly, then, missionary interactions are examined as
one of the prime sites of the civilising mission and its generating narratives,
although the subject of this book is not missionary discourse per se. In
addition, some key responses of Africans who were themselves missionary
subjects are examined, as are other sources in which the confines of textually
imposed identity can be seen to undergo intriguing transformations.
One of these transformations perhaps the most important was the
emergence of African nationalism from the long history of material, moral,
and philosophical struggle in the Eastern Cape. In this transformation, diverse
African polities were gradually drawn together within a Christian ethic of
egalitarianism (cf. Chapman 1993, De Kock 1993a). It is one of the more
interesting ironies of South African history that while the millenarian message
of Christianity was ultimately betrayed by Europeans in the exclusion of all
Africans, including 'civilised' converts, from the Union of South Africa in

4 Civilising Barbarians

1910, the subversive potential of the Christian ethic continued to undermine
the moral authority of white rule. In this study, I try to look more closely at
the pre-eminent centre of conversion and education in the Eastern Cape, the
Lovedale institution, in terms of its contribution to fashioning narratives of
identity for African people. After identifying particular tropes within which
subjectivity was defined, I examine examples of the way in which some
African subjects themselves subverted, internalised, or rewrote imposed
narratives of proper identity. I also look at the narratives of missionary
heroism found in the writings of Robert Moffat and David Livingstone, as well
as the beginnings of an African story of national emergence within the
beckoning modernity of the late Victorian world.
Were the barbarians in need of civilising, or were the civilisers the true
barbarians? As the paradoxical semantic irresolution of the title implies, this
question deconstructs itself because it relies on an unsustainable polarity. Yet
it is just such a dualism which provided the context for the tortuous labours of
the mission fields, and set the constraints for an emerging African solidarity in
the face of European imperialism in southern Africa. It is therefore within this
paradox that the subject begins to define itself, although it is only possible to
do this outside the suppositions about people and their lives also implicit in
the title that so wrenched the history of the nineteenth century. The
forgotten links between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in this view,
relate to the colonial unfolding of the South African 'race relations' story,
which prepared the ground for twentieth-century apartheid. There is a larger
plot, a greater range of characters, and more ambiguous forces at work in this
story than the less finely orchestrated, Gothic tale of apartheid's horrors in the
popular conception. And it is perhaps necessary to consider this larger
colonial plot again so that its sequel can be more richly understood, so that,
for example, one may disabuse many English-speaking South Africans (and
their international counterparts) of their liberal innocence, or remind many
black South Africans of their historical involvement in colonial processes, and
of the need to bring that involvement into conscious memory, so that our
newer narratives of identity will at least be rooted in, and germinated by, a
profounder sense of a shared past.



Any study wishing to explore the discursive procedures by which a 'civilising'
colonialism in nineteenth-century South Africa' sought to inscribe2 orthodox
forms of subjectivity in 'barbarous' Africans, must have recourse to the
assiduous attempt by missionaries to create a universal regime of truth. The
attempt by missionaries, particularly, and by the colonial administration at the
Cape generally, to re-invent the lineaments of African subjectivity prepared
the ground for momentous cultural struggle. This book describes some of the
ways in which an aggressive colonising discourse3 was appropriated and
contested by Africans, even as they were marked and changed by it. The study
deals with civilising discourse in English and with the appropriations of this
discourse by Africans in textual forms of English.
My approach falls within the ambit of what has come to be known as
postcolonial analysis, since it seeks to describe across a gulf or post of both time
and epistemology some of the conditions of possibility for a peculiarly colonial
discourse. Implicit in this post, then, is both a temporal and an oppositional
element: the intervening century has seen, in the development of ideas and in
the cultural politics of anticolonialism, a revision of the founding assumptions
of colonialism. Said describes this process as 'the massive intellectual, moral,
and imaginative overhaul and deconstruction of Western representations of
the non-Western world' (1993:xxi). Postcolonial analysis has, however, not
really gained much of a foothold in South Africanist socio-cultural discussion,
nor was it employed very much as a conceptual tool of resistance in the years
of apartheid.4 My sense of the need for such a study therefore derives from the
conviction that certain foundational aspects of a culturally embedded
colonising discourse in nineteenth-century South Africa need to be

6 Civilising Barbarians

established on a broader scale than has been attempted before. This could not
be done without some straddling of disciplinary boundaries. Historians have
long been working on the colonial archive in its material sense as a repository
of events that are supposed to have occurred. Many postcolonial literary
scholars, on the other hand, have become accustomed to the poststructuralist
turn, in which the universalising humanism of the knowing Western subject -
whose voice is strongly evident in the colonial archive has been contested as
a fiction contingent upon an order of signs which themselves serve particular
interests. The fictions of Western humanism, in the postcolonial view, have
been embodied in signifying economies whose assumptions of immanent truth
need to be decentred and destabilised, in keeping with the notion, drawn from
poststructuralism, of the deferred nature of meaning in language. The
potential for cross-disciplinary engagement between history and this kind of
theory would therefore seem to be self-evident, but the literary and the
historical have generally not been allowed to converge in the field of South
African cultural-historical debate. In other words, there has been little
systematic attempt either by historians (and indeed by specialists in the social
sciences in general), or literary-cultural scholars, to read what is thought of as
the broader historical record as a cultural construct, although significant
advances in this direction have been made in recent work by certain
historians, cultural anthropologists and postcolonial critics.5 Literary-cultural
scholars in southern African studies who work within the interrelated
paradigms of postmodernism, poststructuralism and postcolonialism' have
tended to restrict themselves to talking about literary texts, or more broadly
defined cultural objects (which may include events such as funeral orations
where political and contextual elements assume greater importance than
formal qualities6), but such scholars have generally not felt inclined to extend
their particular reading skills to the larger textual manifestations of social
history.7 This study aims to provide just such a reading, although within
carefully circumscribed areas.
If literary scholars have tended to locate their work within generic
categories of literature, historians and more general readers have often found
what is thought of as literary theory inaccessible, dense, and even pretentious.
Part of the reason for this perception among historians has been the tendency
in literary-critical work of a theoretical nature to adopt a high level of assumed
understanding and to disdain careful explanation of its procedure. In the
memorable formulation of one of the most impenetrable cultural analysts,
Gayatri Spivak, 'plain prose cheats' and 'clear thought hides' (in De Kock

Disciplinary Intersections 7

1992a:40). Despite the danger of such hiding and cheating, though, my own
rhetorical situation is defined by a desire to reach a broader readership, and by
the positioning of my research between literary theory and socio-historical
enquiry. I therefore feel obliged to explain theoretical notions afresh to this
more diffuse audience without making too many assumptions about shared
procedure. I shall, therefore, return to key theoretical terms and their
explanation. But first, some comments on the role and place of theory are
needed. Why bother with difficult, and perhaps unnecessary, abstractions in
the first place?
In the South African case, theory is more than a convenient but
dispensable aid for entering the subject of colonial history. In my view, theory
should not be an eager appropriation, in a typically 'colonial' way, of
impressive and abstruse 'international' ideas in order to confound and impress
one's fellows in the antipodean backwaters. The point is simply that certain
developments in recent thought about founding assumptions in all language-
based systems of knowledge have made it impossible to proceed without
considering the way in which such developments affect the revision of history.
The very conception of knowledge and its production has changed to such an
extent that all disciplines in the social sciences have been forced to reconsider
how objects of knowledge have come into existence. This is why it has
become a commonplace to say that postmodernism invites, promotes or makes
inevitable the collapse of disciplinary boundaries (see for example Pool
(1991:313) in anthropology; Elphick (1992:17) in history). In a more specific
way, 'South Africa' can be regarded as a condition whose very historical
making is derived partly from the creation of a certain kind of colonial
knowledge about Africans, Europeans and the land, as I shall argue in the
course of this book. Understanding nineteenth-century South Africa as a
colonial order in these terms (that is, in meta-terms which relativise the
founding constructs of colonial knowledge) requires the use of postcolonial
forms of understanding.
Framed in this way, theoretical premises inhabit the subject in a material
and immediate sense. 'Theory' is thus anything but 'a baggage of abstract
learning, out of touch with real life ... talking about real life at a level of
abstraction, by people who are incomprehensible, endorsed by institutions'
(Spivak in De Kock 1992a:39). The notion of decolonising knowledge, which
is germane to theories based on the idea of postcolonialism, relies on an
enquiry into Western ways of objectifying and domesticating its Others and
their worlds from a central point of humanist influence (Europe). It involves

8 Civilising Barbarians

the recognition that language was employed within larger configurations of
power and influence, as discourse, to gain mastery over the worlds of Europe's
Others. 'South Africa' is a case in point. To understand the constitution of the
country as a particular configuration of differential relations involving land,
power and culture, one needs more than the materialist version of history in
which relations and forces of production and their articulation in social classes
are explained. One needs, in addition, an understanding of the very framing of
the material dynamics of history within the signifying economies of
representation. In this regard, the cultural anthropologists Jean and John
Comaroff (1988:6) have remarked that, in historical sociology, 'there remains
a tendency ... to explain processes of domination in terms of political and
economic forces ... realpolitik is given precedence over ritual, material factors
over the moral suasion of the sign'.
It is not my intention merely to reverse the hierarchy suggested by the
Comaroffs and favour representation as a determining factor above political
and economic forces. The historian Clifton C. Crais (1992b:100) remarks that
the issues of 'definition and difference, language and identity' are at the centre
of both 'the colonial encounter' and postmodernism. For him, the question is
whether historians can 'secure a beachhead' between what he characterises as
the older social history and the new linguistic turn. Crais sees the answer as a
concession to postmodernism that 'language does not faithfully reflect an
objective social reality, while at the same time insisting that while discourse is
constitutive, it is not determinative'. The main problematic, he says, is to
move 'away from a history of experience and towards a history of the
consciousness of experience'.
Another historian, Mary R. Anderson (1992:571), argues that while
'meaning' encompasses both mental processes of understanding as well as
'external' experience, the history of meaning is prior to the history of
experience. This, she argues, is because experience is itself shaped and limited
by the inherited, already constituted world of meanings in which and from
which it is constructed. Both Crais and Anderson appear to agree on the
minimum condition that no experience of'history' is unmediated by structures
that inhabit language and culture, and that the consciousness of experience is
an important dimension of historical enquiry. Crais rightly emphasises the
relevance of both material and representational forces in the making of history
(see Marks 1993), while Anderson, following Derrida, introduces the caveat
that 'consciousness' is never fully 'present' and should not be treated
unproblematically as a category. The material-representational relation is one

Disciplinary Intersections 9

I have relied upon in this book in that I cite established versions of 'material'
history for a necessary grounding of ideas about the politics of identity. The
two realms, 'representational' and 'material', should not be regarded as
separate. Signification tends to saturate matter and assign meaning to things
in various ways: it inheres, for example, in practices such as the disciplinary
procedures at Lovedale which I describe in Chapter 3. The external world is
apprehended conceptually, through discursive frames of 'knowledge' in which
both material and linguistic forms of signification play a part. 'Theory' is
integral to an understanding of such processes.


I have suggested that a postcolonial perspective is helpful in understanding
how agents of Western enlightenment sought to restructure the lives of
autochthonous South African people in the nineteenth century. This is
because the 'post' in postcolonial implies an undoing of the putatively
universal categories which were at the heart of colonialism. I have also
suggested that postcolonialism derives from poststructuralism in certain
important ways. Clearly, then, the use of these terms should be elucidated
before they can be assumed as implicit in the context of this book.
When scholars try to explain postmodernism, which is often taken to be a
more broadly applicable category than poststructuralism (but which never-
theless derives from poststructuralism in important respects8), a frequent point
of departure is the conception of the human subject in Western metaphysics.
This is because the Renaissance-humanist movement assumed a coherent and
unified subject in its own image, and projected the idea of such a subject as
norm on to the Others of the New World. What is thought of as colonialism is
thus fundamentally related to a certain conception of subjectivity, while the
'post' theories in their turn have argued against the falsifications inherent in
Western representations of the subject.
An interrogation of colonial impositions of subjectivity is a prominent
procedure in the novels of J.M. Coetzee. Writing about Coetzee's novel
Dusklands, Stephen Watson (1990:41) has characterized the novelist's
representation of colonialism as 'the projection of a certain mental aberration
located exclusively in the divided consciousness that is a special feature of
Western humanity'. Watson adds that the colonising project of the West was
set in motion when '[Western man] embarked upon his Cartesian project of
separating subject from object, self from world in a dualism which privileged

10 Civilising Barbarians

the first of the two terms and thereby assured his domination of nature and
any other obstacle he might confront'. For Watson, such dualism is inherent
in colonialism, since 'the alienation that entered modem philosophy with
Descartes translates itself, in the field of action, into a will to power whose
appetite is voracious, limitless, precisely because there is an unbudgeable void
at the very heart of it'. Colonialism is an expression of this void: 'Just as
Western people conquer nature in an effort to conquer their own self-division,
so they cannot desist from enslaving other human beings who necessarily
confront them as that Other, alien and forever threatening'.
This synoptic description helps us to understand the position of the
uniquely confident Victorian subject (usually white and male) who believed it
was a God-given mission to subdue and Christianise Africa, and who made
such an effortless division of the world into the civilised and the savage in a
subject-object framework. Within the traditional humanist conception of
subjectivity, a belief in transhistorical truth made it possible to think of
culturally determined categories such as 'civilised' and 'savage' as unmediated
and literally God-ordained. Colonial forms of knowledge (that is, the
knowledge marshalled as a legitimating rationale for colonisation) depended
precisely on a notion of the masterful Western subject as a repository of truth
and immutability.
In contrast, the revolution of knowledge in the twentieth century
culminating in the 'post' theories overturned the idea that subjectivity could
exist outside of historical, ideological, cultural, psychological and linguistic
determination. 'The humanist position tends to see the individual as the agent
of all social phenomena and productions, including knowledge,' writes Brenda
K. Marshall (1992:87). 'It is this unified, rational, controlled subject of
humanism which leads to a questioning of the notion of the subject by
contemporary theorists.' Histories of the development of a revised approach to
subjectivity in the 'post' modes generally cite Ferdinand de Saussure as a figure
of key importance. Saussure proposed a model of structural linguistics which
suggested the arbitrary nature of linguistic reference by emphasising that
language is a differential network of meaning and that there is no self-evident,
'real' or 'natural' link between the signifier and the signified which subjects
could take as a privileged relation (Norris 1982:24). This is because, under-
stood as a system of differences, language has no absolute referents or positive
terms. A linguistically-based system of meaning is thus without a centre; it is
inherently unstable, always unfinished, and subject to error and reversal.
'Language is in this sense diacritical, or dependent on a structured economy of

Disciplinary Intersections 11

differences which allows a relatively small range of linguistic elements to
signify a vast repertoire of negotiable meanings' (p.25).
These general insights are developed in different ways in postcolonial
literary-critical positions in which there is a critique of the self-privileging
Western subject (author) who pre-constitutes his or her 'object' of writing
(the African, Maori, Aborigine etc.) in terms which seek to foreclose the play
of difference. Such a deconstructivee' position is also generally taken to be a
major revision of Cartesian dualism, which places subject and object in a
relationship of antagonism, and in terms of which, as Watson's argument
suggests, colonialism was conceptually framed. 'In the framework of the
postmodern moment, neither the observer (the subject) nor the observed (the
object) are autonomous entities; rather, they are culturally constituted,
culturally interpreted, and mutually referential' (Marshall 1992:49).
The generalised notion of 'discourse' adopted in postcolonial theories is
therefore derived from the broad notion that human subjects are embedded in
greater contexts of signification, which they help to create but which are also
constitutive of their subjectivity. In approaches based on the idea of discourse
in such terms, there can be no originary sources of truth (such as the Bible) or
universal categories which purport to be derived from such 'truth'. What is
taken to be 'truth' in such transcendental terms will be seen variously as the
ideological interpellationn' of the subject, or a 'logocentric'9 device of fore-
closure to be deconstructed, or the discursive expression of particular interests
masquerading as general wisdom. As suggested earlier, critics in the post-
colonial moment straddle an historical divide: they offer critiques of concrete
historical instances of logocentric closure (indeed, they are frequently the
colonial Others or their descendants who feel compelled to speak back from
what is sometimes called a 'space of difference'), and in doing so they employ
aspects of the 'post' theories to assert a disidentificatory self-expression, or to
help dissolve the deeply embedded residues of colonialist discourse which
remain long after formal colonialism has departed. Perhaps the most
celebrated example of such work is Said's Orientalism (1978), in which the
Western world's construction of the Orient as Other in powerful and multiple
operations of discursive imperialism is laid bare. The postcolonial field of
cultural-literary analysis is, however, wide in range and scope.'10 This study has
been conducted in the desire to make visible some aspects of the discursive
ordering of colonialism in South Africa, and it takes as a general basis ideas
about the human subject such as outlined above.

12 Civilising Barbarians


Postcolonial approaches are not without their own problems, some of which
relate to a continuing vigilance about presuppositions and an awareness of the
strategic historicity of the 'post' mode (see Parry 1987; Slemon & Tiffin 1989;
Sangari 1987; Spivak 1990; Carusi 1991a; Van Wyk Smith 1991; Ahmad
1992; Chrisman 1993). Such theories do not present themselves as one
position or one side of an argument, but as a range of critical strategies in
diverse contexts sharing some presuppositions. A problem which needs to be
addressed briefly here, since it relates to the construction of material in this
work, is the variously articulated debate about the concept of binarity. The
identification of binarity as a mainstay of logocentric procedure the
deceptive assumption that opposition adequately convey the presence of
referents beyond the indeterminacy of signification is one of the main facets
of poststructuralist theory. This aspect of Derridean critique is peculiarly
problematic for the scholar of colonialism who draws, to some extent, on
Frantz Fanon's much earlier theory of 'Manicheism'," which I discuss in
Chapters 2 and 3. Fanon perceived a particular kind of binarism as the major
force of colonialist psychology in The Wretched of the Earth (1961), in which
he declared, 'The colonial world is a Manichaean world' (1961:31). Fanon
described the colonialist imperative to reduce the colonial Other to a negative
term in a system of Manichean binaries succinctly when he asserted that the
'native' in the colonial scheme of things represented 'not only the absence of
values, but the negation of all values'; he was the 'enemy of values', the
'absolute evil', the 'corrosive element', the 'depository of maleficent powers'
(pp.31-32). In this study, I have identified and described Manichean frames of
reference and description constitutive of colonialist discourse, and I have tried
to show how even the subversion of orthodox discourse tends to be formulated
from within the Manichean perspective.
The adoption of an approach which recognizes the operation of a binary
system of meaning and value, however, runs the risk of preconstituting its own
object of study and replicating such binary closure in the name of academic
research. The fact that one describes a binary scheme of representation,
perceived to have operated in the past, means that one runs the risk of
becoming implicated in the process by which, according to Spivak (1976:lix),
'each term in an opposition is after all an accomplice of the other'. In some of
the best recent work on colonialism in various disciplines, one finds
admonitions against the closure inherent in theories which posit an enduring

Disciplinary Intersections 13

moral and descriptive antagonism between coloniser and colonised in binary
terms. In history, for example, Elizabeth Elboumrne (1992:2) cautions against
making the converts of missionary Christianity appear as 'the duped and
agentless victims of processes beyond their control', since this approach has
the effect of occludingg agency'. Although many people were to some extent
victims, Elboumrne writes, there should also be a recognition that 'mission
Christianity was used constructively by many individuals seeking positively to
reconstruct a broken world' (p.2). Similarly, historian Richard Elphick
(1992:16), following the Gambian missiologist Lamin Sanneh (1989; 1993),
offers a non-binary model of 'translation' (which he aligns with a post-
modernist orientation) as a way of explaining Christianisation in southern
Africa. Elphick avers that 'two systems of thought do not "collide"; rather, real
people negotiate their way through life, grasping, combining, and opposing
different elements which the scholar (but not necessarily the actor) assign to
different origins'. For Elphick, 'differences over meaning involve struggles for
power, but ... power relations are multiple, widely diffused through society,
and often do not correspond neatly to the "big" divides of class vs. class,
nation vs. nation, or sex vs. sex'.
Elphick also emphasises 'mutual incomprehension, selective hearing, and
struggle over meaning' (1992:15). These features compel one to question
monolithic models such as a theory of class struggle, which foregrounds the
broad processes of domination at the expense of local and individual struggles
over meaning. In a similar spirit, the Comaroffs (1991:7) comment that in
studies of the great evangelical encounter in Africa, the implicit question
'Whose side were the Christians really on?', which underlies much early work,
reduces complex historical dynamics to the 'crude calculus of interest and
intention, and colonialism itself to a caricature'. Once the motives,
intentions, and imaginings of persons living or dead are allowed to speak from
the historical record, the Comaroffs write, it 'becomes impossible to see them
as mere reflections of monolithic cultural structures or social forces' (p.10).
This is especially true of the colonial encounter, and of the civilising mission
in particular. Yet, the writers note, historians and anthropologists may be
accused of not having paid sufficient heed to those voices not having done
justice to the complexities and contradictions on either side of that encounter.
'They are robbed of any real internal dynamism or agency, any organizational
complexity or cultural variation, even as they are drawn into the embrace of
the modem world system' (p.10).
The Comaroffs insist on a subtle interplay of mutual influence and counter-

14 Civilising Barbarians

influence between missionaries and their African interlocutors (see Comaroff
& Comaroff 1991:170-97). What emerges from their approach is a denial of
any easy-to-hand binary model of 'the' missionaries against 'the' Africans,
evident for example in the approach ofNosipho Majeke (Dora Taylor) in Role
of Missionaries in Conquest (1952). It can be argued, following those who
advocate a less monolithic approach, that such one-to-one models run the risk
of replicating the essentialism inherent in colonialist attempts to foreclose
This argument has been made by literary-cultural critics as well. One
example is the criticism of Arun P. Mukherjee (1991:28), who questions the
tendency of postcolonial literary critics to 'perform several homogenising
functions which produce an essentialised "native" who is devoid of race,
gender, class, caste, ethnic, and religious markers'. Mukherjee (p.30) points to
postcolonial theory's ability to '[lock] us into binary opposition of coloniser/
colonised, domination/resistance' and argues that this 'monolith created by
the unitary discourse of the postcolonial theory stands in place of the plurality,
heterogeneity, and specificity of literatures subsumed under the unitary name
assigned to them' (see Gates 1987; Slemon & Tiffin 1989; Ashcroft et al.
1989; Thomas 1994). To a certain extent, all these criticisms relate to
relatively recent academic practice in which the experience of autochthonous
people, or of the various players in colonial situations, are unwittingly
reappropriated (and therefore recolonised) in reductive frames of reference,
often by metropolitan scholars.
In historical writing about religion, in particular, there has been a gathering
swell of reaction against binary models which assume that Christianity was
little more than a tool of imperialism, and that it is best analysed within the
context of colonial imposition or capitalist machination. Scholars such as
Sanneh (1989; 1993), Richard Gray (1990a), Elphick (1992), Elbournme
(1992), Paul Landau (1992), Norman Etherington (1994), Terence Ranger
(1994), to name only the more obvious, have argued for the shift characterized
by Ranger (1986:10) as one from 'the unpeopled structures of political
economy to a primary concern with experience and consciousness'. This shift
entails a move away from large models of explanation, and towards history
'from below' rather than history based on 'official', state, imperial or other
more customary sources. It is often concerned with oral or otherwise 'ordinary'
evidence of individual people whose experience contradicts clumsy social
theories or dualistic schemes. It emphasises the diverse, individual experience
of Christianity and the special role of conversion in the reconstruction of

Disciplinary Intersections 15

identity during traumatic, and transitional, historical epochs. Overall, it seeks
to emphasise the role of African agency in the colonial process, a process that
it refuses to simplify in terms of the tendency in older scholarship to seek
'monocausal' explanations or to detect imperial conspiracies behind even the
most localised interactions.
The approaches characterized here as a general shift are themselves diverse,
and they offer rich perspectives within a new style of revisionism which takes
issue with an earlier, often Marxian, programme of scholarly revision. Yet they
run the risk of underspecifying the extent to which missionaries,
administrators, and other colonial agents can still be perceived to have worked
within the parameters of a resilient and capacious civilising discourse, despite
many internal differences among themselves, and in spite of the fact that
Africans responded creatively and unconformingly to the colonising thrust. In
particular, it seems unwise to ignore excellent research such as, for example,
that which is recorded in D.M. Schreuder's 1976 article, 'The Cultural Factor
in Victorian Imperialism: A Case Study of the British "Civilising Mission"',
simply because it does not share the newer emphases. Schreuder's article was
important because it questioned still earlier scholarship which characterized
British imperialism as 'reluctant'. Schreuder insisted on the 'more expansive,
energetic and belligerent cultural roots of British nineteenth-century colonial
activity' (p.283). He produced a large body of evidence relating to the Cape to
support his thesis that the 'administrative mind' in the colonial periphery
consciously sought to conduct 'social engineering', drawn from what he
describes as 'cultural hubris' and 'civilizing zeal', within a dynamic thrust of
the 'master-culture of the nineteenth century' (p.284).
We have learnt to become wary of such sweeping claims, yet a reading of
Schreuder's article shows a sensitivity to differences and a great respect for
evidence. Schreuder says that it would be 'quite wrong to suppose uniformity
in Cape administrative practices towards African groups', but that diversity at
the micro-level of districts does not alter the 'apparent overall pattern of
thought-idioms at the macro-level of "ideology" the ideas general to the
administration, the suppositions and values common as denominators of its
cultural beliefs and attitudes' (p.288). He goes on to cite a large body of
evidence, drawn from a diverse range of contexts in the Cape, to support the
argument that both the earlier and later nineteenth-century administrative
policy in the Cape shared the desire to 'undermine chieftainship and political
authority; to encourage a labour supply; to provide a secure market for Cape
commerce; and to "civilise" pagan tribesmen in short, to "integrate" Africans

16 Civilising Barbarians

into the colonial society, partly as consumers and producers, even more as
agricultural labourers and a potential working class on the public works and
mines' (p.290).
In Schreuder's argument, a 'combination of territorial advance and cultural
conversion' (p.291) was widely regarded as a panacea for the development of
the colony, particularly in the era of Victorian imperialism.
To advance arguments like the above is not to claim that such colonising
aspirations were successful in reality, or to imagine that they were deployed as
a conspiracy. Even Schreuder argues that 'Failure awaited most of these
schemes, disappointment clouded most of these high Victorian hopes of
Progress' (p.303). Similarly, Frederick Cooper (1994:1529) reminds us that
'Recognition of the much greater power of the Europeans in the colonial
encounter does not negate the importance of African agency in determining
the shape the encounter took'. A recognition of the large body of evidence
pointing to a generally articulated civilising discourse does not, in my view,
necessarily amount to a misrecognition of African insurgency, or an
assumption that colonial processes are reducible to the effects of such a
discourse alone. Nor does it imply a view of colonial interaction framed
entirely within a coloniser-colonised, domination-resistance mould. Yet to
underspecify the enormous aspirations of colonising discourse, and its
considerable institutional afflatus, is to forget that agency, disavowal,
conversion, appropriation, negotiation and creation occurred within the
constraints of what Schreuder calls a 'belligerent' civilising mission.
One does need to consider carefully Cooper's (1994:1517) warning of 'The
risk ... that in exploring the colonial binarism one reproduces it'. Cooper sees
the difficulty as being able to 'confront the power behind European
expansionism without assuming it was all-determining'. For him, the binaries
of coloniser/colonised, Western/non-Western run the risk of constraining the
search for 'precise ways in which power is deployed and the ways in which
power is engaged, contested, deflected, and appropriated' (p.1517). Perhaps
the better approach is to differentiate between binarisms in their primary
operations as historically embedded discursive effects, widely employed by
colonisers themselves, and sceptical appraisal of the ambit of such binarisms -
appraisal that does not underestimate the range and scope of such dualistic
schemes in their historical sense, nor imagines that the experience of
colonialism itself is in any way reducible to the effects of these binaries alone.
In terms of this study, for example, how does one deal with the perception that
evangelists, administrators and others of a colonialist persuasion in the

Disciplinary Intersections 17

nineteenth century themselves adopted relentlessly binarist categories of
knowledge? For a scholar to review missionary-colonial writings now and not
come up against the leaden insistence on certain elementary tropes derived
from the civilised-barbarian dyad is hardly conceivable. Certainly, the
heterogeneous range of voices in the record will not fit into dualistic
conceptual schemes. But an equally inescapable perception is that reductive
coercion into just such schemes of reference is precisely how missionaries and
their colonial fellows in general conceived their relations with African
subjects (see Bolt 1971; Brantlinger 1986). In my reading of missionary
documents and books (of which only a small percentage are explicitly
discussed in this work) I was struck by the near-stupefying tenacity of
Manichean description. Everywhere I looked I came across missionaries doing
precisely what Mukherjee sees Western literary scholars doing: reducing
heterogeneity and plurality to a binary scheme in which one term
predominates and determines the other. I therefore do not wish to underrate
what I regard as evidence of the Manichean basis of missionary discourse
(Chapters 2 and 3). However, it is one thing to describe the attempts by
missionaries and others to enforce a coercive narrative of identity on people,
and quite another to argue that such a narrative adequately reflects the
experience of colonial interaction. Indeed, I have found it invigorating to look
at the ways in which people who have been institutionally colonised (such as
pupils or former pupils who have willingly gone through the rigours of a
Lovedale education) nevertheless subvert from within the terms by which
their identity is supposedly defined, in a manner which is strikingly similar to
deconstructive practice (Chapter 4). Likewise, it has been a revealing exercise
to examine the possibility that missionaries deluded themselves in their
insistence on particular terms of reference regardless of major discrepancies
between their African experiences and their evangelical or imperial narratives
(Chapter 5).
I have sought to present, therefore, a description of civilising discourse in a
general and introductory manner which includes the characterisation of
Manichean binarism as its own foundational aspect. Disavowing 'founda-
tionalist' history (see Prakash 1992) surely implies that earlier instances of
such narrative capture should be exposed and their effects probed. This book
therefore proposes that it is important to examine, in a more broadly based
manner than an examination of 'literature', or empirical 'fact' alone, what is
perceived as a discursive edifice which itself had a tremendous will to power
and an enormous essentialising impetus. It is precisely in the interstices of this

18 Civilising Barbarians

discursive order and the semi-conforming responses of its agonistic12 subjects
that hybrid forms of colonial identity emerged. In order to describe this
discursive monolith (if I am allowed its existence) which in its institutional
operations played an important, if limited, role in identity formation, I
characterise it in terms of its own essentialising bias, which is not the same
thing as offering an analytical model of colonialism in essentialising, binary
terms. Such a paradoxical process, described in deconstructive criticism as the
'double gesture' (Jay 1992:56; 64-71), means that one inhabits a vocabulary in
order to render it problematic. Eagleton (1990:24) captures this sense of
paradoxical articulation when he argues that 'Sexual politics, like class or
nationalist struggle, will thus necessarily be caught up in the very
metaphysical categories it hopes finally to abolish; and any such movement
will demand a difficult, perhaps ultimately impossible double optic, at once
fighting on a terrain already mapped out by its antagonists and seeking even
now to prefigure within that mundane strategy styles of being and identity for
which we have as yet no proper names'.


The project to describe the representational character of missionary-colonial
discourse strikes me as important because the subject has not been dealt with
at all comprehensively from the point of view of cultural analysis. There is
very little scholarly work on South Africa in which a general introduction to
the representational basis of colonialism is offered, and scant scholarship
which reads history as a cultural 'text' (see Biersack 1989), attending to the
cultural ordering of history as well as the historical ordering of culture. The
best work in this area has emerged from history and cultural anthropology.
The appearance in 1992 of Crais's book, The Making of the Colonial Order:
White Supremacy and Black Resistance in the Eastern Cape, 1770-1865 (1992a),
and the Comaroffs' Of Revelation and Revolution in 1991 were the first works in
which questions of representation and the cultural negotiation of identity in
relation to nineteenth-century South Africa were treated broadly and
Whereas the Comaroffs' emphasis falls on the 'anthropology of missions'
(1991:7) and a broad cultural analysis of the 'colonization of consciousness
and the consciousness of colonization' (p.xi), and whereas Crais's work is
aimed at a comprehensive account, incorporating questions of representation
and identity as well as the material forces of history, this book, considerably

Disciplinary Intersections 19

more modest in scope, seeks to describe the making, in the nineteenth
century, of a discursive orthodoxy by literary means as a basis upon which
identity was negotiated and reformulated in ongoing cultural exchanges
between Africans and Europeans. I believe that missionaries in the nineteenth
century, and more particularly those whose institution, Lovedale, I examine
more closely, were crucial agents in the construction of a literary basis for self-
apprehension by those regarded as Other in the particular colonial milieu of
the nineteenth century. As I argue in Chapter 2, many Africans in the Eastern
Cape were impelled by large-scale military defeat in the first half of the
century towards a realisation in the second half that some concession to
orthodox forms of the civilising mission, particularly the prospects held out by
missionary education, was necessary in order to advance beyond peasantry and
serfdom. Lovedale is particularly important because of the role it and its later
outgrowth, Fort Hare University, played in the education of African
intellectuals in the Eastern Cape who went on to establish nationalist
movements such as the African National Congress (see Williams 1970).
Framing the subject in such terms means, however, that the more usual
disciplinary limits of 'literature', 'English', and 'history' have to be breached.
The representational contexts in which subjectivity was negotiated in colonial
South Africa in the nineteenth century are, I maintain, far broader than the
category of 'literature' will allow, yet 'English'3 as a cultural factor in the
making of contexts of subjectivity is too important to be ignored. I have
therefore tried to go beyond the customary limits of studies about 'English in
Africa' (the title of a journal which has traditionally published articles on
South African literature in English) and regarded as potential texts for analysis
the colonial archive as a whole. I have, however, been compelled to select
exemplary texts and to contain the archival material within the demands of
my particular arguments. The point nevertheless is worth making that whereas
the disciplinary English study may look at the results of colonisation in the
form of 'black literature' in English, this book wishes to describe, broadly,
some of the prior representational processes in which colonial subjectivity was
negotiated, and some of the representational modes in which colonising
discourse was appropriated and redeployed.
My engagement with history is also not entirely standard, since it does not
pretend to offer strictly diachronic and meticulously detailed empirical
research on a micro-area of study. My emphasis on 'some' of the processes
involved in a deeply complex area of history implies that I shall argue for a
certain degree of discursive synchrony in an otherwise extremely diverse

20 Civilising Barbarians

history. Areas of historical focus are Glasgow Missionary Society and Free
Church of Scotland archival material, archival documents relating to the
Lovedale institution in the Eastern Cape between 1870 and 1890, the African
newspaper Imvo Zabantsundu in the 1880s and other newspapers, and certain
selected book-length narratives which set the context for, and describe, the
'rise' of the 'New African' (by Robert Moffat, David Livingstone, John A.
Chalmers, Tiyo Soga and John Knox Bokwe). In some cases I rely on well
researched historical accounts in order to formulate ideas about
representational contestation. For example, in Chapter 2, in which I seek to
describe very generally the broad patterns of discursive 're-making' as
evidenced in the Eastern Cape and, more particularly, by the rise of the
Lovedale institution, I rely on a range of established historical narratives about
general patterns of events (without trying to reinvent such history) and
suggest that a representational orthodoxy supplemented this history in
important ways. Drawing on Foucault's theory that the individual subject's
relation to power is 'agonistic', I try to demonstrate the general discursive
parameters within which African subjects were drawn into missionary-
colonial orthodoxy in the Eastern Cape. My claims are not absolute, in that
different time-and-place contexts will show different patterns of missionary
agency and African response, but I do claim to identify some particularly
widespread discursive problematic that can be typified as generically
'colonial' in the broader South African context.
An important element in my motivation is precisely to suggest a strong
discursive basis for colonial orthodoxy in a general sense. It is fitting to recall
Jean and John Comaroffs proposition (1991:17) that despite the postmodern
insights about indeterminacy which we often use so profitably in unpicking
colonial certainties, (South African) history presents us with a reminder that
in material social relations, reductive orthodoxies have often succeeded in
imposing themselves over time and distance. How is it, the authors ask, that
'history keeps generating hegemonies that, for long periods, seem able to
impose a degree of order and stability on the world'? How do relatively small
groups of people often 'succeed in gaining and sustaining control over large
populations and in drawing them into a consensus with dominant values'? The
Comaroffs turn to a carefully theorised conception of Gramscian hegemony,
which they see as moulded within cultural-discursive terms, to answer their
My project has partly been to characterise as discursive the surprisingly
persistent hegemonies described above, and I find the Eastern Cape example

Disciplinary Intersections 21

particularly suggestive. By its very nature, this book suggests that the instances
discussed are drawn from a more general, and totalising, Victorian order. It
was in the nature of the colonising ethos to adduce the Other to the Same, to
subsume the particular and the heterogeneous under the general and the
known. My argument claims to suggest instances, in cross-section, of this
broader colonising process, much in the same spirit as Said (1978:14) when he
describes the 'persistence and durability of saturating hegemonic systems like
culture' and argues that 'nearly every nineteenth-century writer ... was
extraordinarily well aware of the fact of empire'. Said, who in Orientalism had
to deal with a vast documentary archive, writes, 'There still remained the
problem of cutting down a very fat archive to manageable dimensions, and
more important, outlining something in the nature of an intellectual order
within that group of texts without at the same time following a mindlessly
chronological order' (p.16). Said here relies on a relation between the general
and the particular which I have found helpful in framing my own subject. Said
describes his position as a fear, on the one hand, of 'a coarse polemic on so
unacceptably general a level of description as not to be worth the effort', and,
on the other, of 'so detailed and atomistic a series of analyses as to lose all
track of the general lines of force informing the field, giving it its special
cogency' (p.8).
Such 'special cogency' is remarkably similar to the Comaroffs' sense of the
hegemonicc'. Hegemony is an indispensable concept because it offers the
analyst a way of understanding precisely the 'general lines of force' (Said) and
the 'consensus with dominant values' (Comaroff) by which culture is entailed
in power. I have found particularly illuminating the exposition of hegemony
offered by the Comaroffs (1991:21), who explain culture as 'the shared
repertoire of practices, symbols, and meanings from which hegemonic forms
are cast and, by extension, resisted'. Alternatively, they argue, culture can be
seen as 'the historically situated field of signifiers, at once material and
symbolic, in which occur the dialectics of domination and resistance, the
making and breaking of consensus' (p.21).
My methodological emphasis on general and representative cultural
orthodoxies, backed up by documentary sources in particular instances (which
I regard as representative), relies on an understanding of colonial processes of
subjectification as a widespread, generalising endeavour in which a certain
hegemony emerged from an order of cultural signs and practices. No study that
I am aware of has regarded the South African colonial order as a discursive
event. Certainly, no literary study has gone backwards, behind the colonising

22 Civilising Barbarians

forms such as the written novel, poem, play, essay, etc., to establish the
existence of a discursive field within which English was entailed in the
cultural dimensions of colonial power.'4 English as a discipline has also
generally disdained serious consideration of its own emergence out of the
bloody, unequal colonial distribution of power, preferring to affiliate itself with
European modernism and the supposedly enlightened view of art above
politics (see Morphet 1994). Nor has any historical or other study that I am
aware of devoted primary attention to colonialist discourse on its own terms,
and not as an adjunct to material history. The instances of colonialist
discourse and its resistance that I cite in this study are seen in relation to this
larger context, this indisputably powerful system of naming which is implicit
in the term 'colonial' and its understanding in the first place.
The emphasis on discourse makes a further qualification necessary, namely
the use of the terms 'colonial' and 'colonialist' and their reference in particular
instances of citation, in this book, to missionary colonialism. Given this study's
focus on signification and representation, I have found missionaries an
inevitable subject. One may argue that the sovereign role of missionaries was
the cultural reproduction of particular forms of representation, and the
painstaking, cross-lingual cultivation of a receptive space in the hegemonicc)
sphere of consensual evangelisation. Missionaries were pre-eminently agents
of cultural influence and change. Other colonial agents, such as
administrators, traders, farmers, and settlers in general, attended to the
material facets of the colonial encounter, but missionaries were destined to
transform the coercive processes of colonisation into the cultivation of
civilisationn'. Although the cultural agency of missionaries was always aligned
with Christianity and Commerce as the three C's (see Bosch 1991:305; Bundy
1988:37-40), theirs was the domain in which signs were most assiduously
contested and the imperialism of a European version of Christian truth most
forcefully practised. John Comaroff (1989:680-81) has reminded us that
'colonialism did (and does) not exist in the singular, but in a plurality of forms
and forces'. Similarly, there are various refractions of 'colonial discourse',
'missionary discourse' being one of them. Comaroff proposes that the separate
but interdependent purveyors of colonialism were the state, which emphasised
the politico-legal aspects of British rule; the settlers, whose domain was the
socioeconomic dimensions of race relations in a new agrarian society; and the
mission, which traded in the signs and practices of what Comaroff calls
'bourgeois European culture' (although by all accounts missionaries were
frequently less than bourgeois). Despite the variation in articulation, the

Disciplinary Intersections 23

substance of the colonising project, over the long term, 'was all of these things,
in proportions determined on the battlegrounds of history the bodies and
societies, the territories and cultural terrains of South Africa, white and black'
Following this argument, my argument relies on a similar understanding of
the part-whole relationship of missionary discourse to the broader discourse of
colonialism of which it was a constitutive part. The sense of a wider colonial
interaction is argued by Crais (1992a:94-95), who describes as one of a series
of 'colonial paradoxes' the fact that the reproduction of a 'civilised' patriarchy
in the Eastern Cape depended on 'barbarous' practices: it became increasingly
clear to both the British colonial elite and to many bureaucrats, Crais avers,
that economic growth in the colony would ultimately rest not on free labour,
but on its opposite: 'Counter to their most cherished ideals, economic growth
and human progress depended on subjection and the violence which
accompanied the denial of freedom ... what was already clear by the end of
the 1820s was that the contradiction of the "barbarous" basis of "civilized"
colonial life had become an anxious issue for the nascent British colonial
elite.' Njabulo Ndebele (1987:219) writes that colonial subjects 'soon
discovered that the newly promised freedom was premised ultimately on the
subject's unfreedom ... the very concept of freedom came to be standardized
... according to the specification of imperial powers'. As my title implies,
'civilising' the 'barbarians' was a deeply paradoxical process involving the
construction of the Self as well as the Other in a manner that rendered ironic
the cherished ideals and certainties of an Enlightenment left behind on the
shores of Europe. Missionaries, although only a part of the 'civilising' process,
played an important role in holding back conscious suggestion of such irony by
stabilising and legitimating, in the name of a Christian God, the unstable
signifiers of civilisationn'.


The shape of this book is related to an examination of various modes of
textual contestation, and it does not always adhere to a strict chronology.
Chapter 2 offers a broad focus on the general process under description, while
Chapters 3 and 4 seek to provide particularly suggestive instances of this
process. In Chapter 3 the study turns to a discussion of discourse pertaining to
Lovedale in its founding phases and, more particularly, during the highly
successful era of Dr James Stewart. In Chapter 4 the book explores the manner

24 Civilising Barbarians

in which this discourse was 'mimicked' internalised, re-appropriated and
subtly undermined within the constraints of colonial orthodoxy in the
person of John Tengo Jabavu and his newspaper, Imvo Zabantsundu. Whereas
Chapters 3 and 4 deal with particular examples of missionary narratives of
identity and counter-narratives, Chapter 5, like Chapter 2, again seeks to
establish broad characteristics of an enabling colonialist orthodoxy, but in
Chapter 5 this is regarded via a discussion of book-length narratives rather
than the more dispersed everyday forms of representation such as the sermon,
the classroom lecture, the dialogue or the newspaper report (traces of which
are examined in Chapter 2). My narrative develops towards a culmination in
the figure of Tiyo Soga, whom I deal with at some length in Chapter 5 as a
prime embodiment of agonism as a form of response to missionary discourse
and its effects. I must emphasise at the outset, therefore, that this book does
not offer a strictly diachronic, exhaustive account of missionary and other
forms of 'civilising' colonialism. My choice of focus is methodologically
consistent, in that I look at similar themes in different representational media.
Chapter 5, while returning to the time introduced in Chapter 2, offers
thematic progression in the sense that it shows how missionary colonialism
was consolidated in the most influential medium of the time, the book. The
progression in argument, therefore, is from general representational
presuppositions and the making of colonial orthodoxy (Chapter 2), to the
example of Lovedale's institutional discourse (Chapter 3), to counter-
discourse in Imvo (Chapter 4), to the formal apotheosis of missionary
colonialism, the book-narrative (Chapter 5). Similarly, I do not pretend to
offer a geographically complete account. Many of my examples are drawn from
the Eastern Cape, but in Moffat and Livingstone I take examples of missionary
discourse from the northern Cape and beyond. I claim that Moffat and
Livingstone's books set a general imperial context for southern Africa, as a
result of their influence, which overrides geographic particularities. Further, I
argue that the emergence of the 'New African' in the Eastern Cape -
particularly this figure's narratively shaped 'rise' in book form is not
unrelated to this more general context of missionary colonialism, which, in
the nineteenth century, was undergirded by the universalising ethos of the
imperial book.
However, to talk about books and textual objects in terms of a more general
notion of textuality means that one's own study cannot escape the
implications of textuality. My focus on narratives of identity and on the
constructed nature of colonial discourse must also apply to narratives of

Disciplinary Intersections 25

history in general, since all such textual assemblages represent a
contemporaneous history in the making, a running story of the distant or
immediate past in the present moment of apprehension. I have already argued,
earlier in this chapter, for a relationship between the 'textual' and the
'material' facets of history which recognizes the discursive basis of historical
depiction. What is pertinent here is to question the status of my own
representations of the past. Clearly, any work which draws on theories of
textuality cannot pretend to offer foundational or unassailable versions of
truth about the past when the status of transcendental truth beyond
signification is itself brought into question.
Two points can be made in this regard. First, this book examines narratives
of .what are taken to be facts and not unmediated facts themselves. In this
sense, it is a study about how other historical subjects sought to make sense of
their own present realities in discourse, and how such discourses appear to
have been integral to broader configurations of power. Second, despite the
recognition that history is both discourse and event, one does not necessarily
have to subscribe to a hopelessly relativistic position of absolute
undecidability. The very relation between reality and discourse is such that
while reality is dumb (it contains no stories of its own making, it is inchoate),
reality also only exists as such (as the concept of reality) in relation to the
ceaseless human activity of interpretation. When one talks history, then, one
talks in a discursively constituted linguistic order of human interpretation
about a past whose traces are partially evident in prior discursive events
('evidence' generally consists in verbal accounts, earlier interpretations). For
Tony Bennett, 'the past as traces already in discourse (the historic past) acts as
the referent for the historian as if it were pre-discursive' (in Jenkins 1992:12),
and within this qualified sense, certain rules of reliability and credibility serve
to enhance a historical narrative's purchase on extra-discursive reality. For
clearly, in my view, there is always some purchase on reality in a historical
account, even if that connection is no more than a recognition that a certain
story has been told in a certain way about an ascertainable event. It is surely
not a necessary consequence of theories which use the prefix 'post' that reality
is denied an independent existence. This straw man is all too often conjured
up in rhetorical broadsides against a practice of writing perceived as
irresponsible. As Marshall (1992:171) notes, 'there is no project afoot in
postmodernism ... to suggest that there is no past, no "real" historical
referents'. There is, however, 'an insistence that those referents are only
available in the present through textualized forms'. In my understanding, it is

26 Civilising Barbarians

in the conjunctions of ascertainable events (by sensory evidence, by multiple
perception, by significantly concurring accounts) and their appropriations in
verbal discourse that the 'linguistic turn' in history should make itself most
valuably felt. In this view, it is not necessary to adopt the attitude that there is
no such thing as truth in the ordinary sense of the word. Unexceptionable
truths, such as the fact that these words are printed on paper, abound in our
everyday lives. It is only when dealing with large philosophical claims to truth
about people and their supposedly intrinsic nature, about the allegedly
essential attributes of races, nations or individuals as conveyed by forms of
representation, and about the character of events in time, that a great deal of
awareness is necessary in relation to the semantic interface between such
claims and their referents, and about the degrees of reflexivity these claims
Rather than opt for an entirely relativistic position of undecidability in
accordance with a hard view of poststructuralism (that any positive
description is an essentialisation supporting particular interests), one can
argue, like Paul Jay (1992:70), that it is naive to believe deconstructive
thinking can ever be deployed in an idealised and pure form without political
interest. How deconstructive thinking is used, Jay says, is ultimately'
determined by the politics of each critic (p.71). What, otherwise, would the
point be of a 'postcolonial' criticism, if not to define a political interest
(anticolonialism, revealing the discursive belligerence of colonialism), and to
formulate a 'non-foundational, ethical political discourse that can matter' (Jay
1992:52)? In this sense, my own representations of particular facets of the
colonial process in the nineteenth century in specific, and arguably
representative, instances, are written against the grain of that history's own
legitimating terms. Nevertheless, even though much of the writing in this
book works to contradict the surface import of other, colonialist, writing
(thereby safeguarding itself from claims to objectivity), there are important
interpretative turns in my argument in which I fashion my own literary tropes
to reconfigure the history under discussion in terms opposed to and different
from its surface narratives. Here I am happy to declare my interest as
politically and historically relative to my view of an ethical political discourse
which is postcolonial in both the temporal and oppositional senses of the
In such an argument, one might then ask, what distinguishes the ethical
value of one account from any other? More specifically, what distinguishes the
colonialist or imperialist view of South Africa's history from my own? It is here

Disciplinary Intersections 27

that one can, I believe, claim certain affirming values. Not all accounts are
equal. The ones examined in this book, for example, patently exhibit
discursive closure of a decisive nature. Narratives such as my own, which seek
to reveal the historical contingency and the literary constructedness of earlier
attempts to pass discourse off as reality, must by extension claim a greater
degree of discursive reflexivity. In the absence of positivistic values, they can
arguably claim a lesser degree of foreclosure. But even in their positive claims,
narratives such as my own may be said to have the (unfair) advantage of a
metacritical awareness never available to the historically embedded subjects
who feature in this study. That is, one has the advantage of hindsight and
review along with developments in theories of knowledge and historiography
(which are also historically embedded). This advantage may be unfair, but it is
mitigated by the sheer violence ascertainablee) and the mendacity of the
colonial process in South Africa.
I must also emphasise that I do not regard my interpretation of African
response to missionary orthodoxies as a case of speaking for or giving voice to the
African subject from a position of critical objectivity, an act which is generally
recognized as problematic (see Alcoff 1991). I am able to comment on African
response because Africans affected by missionary colonialism have in fact
voiced their own positions. I have found examples of such expression in
archival sources. My work has been to review critically the degree of discursive
mediation, subversion or mimicry which is evident in these texts, but this
remains a critical act. It is not 'intercultural truth'; it does not seek to cross
boundaries of culture and capture, in description that is 'entirely valid' (Van
Wyk Smith 1991:29), features of'otherness'.'6 Instead, this is criticism which
reviews narratives of othering and then discusses the way in which those
affected by such narratives have written counter-narratives in response to such
If this book tells a story, then, it is the story of how a colonial order partly
based on evangelical colonialism (despite the many contradictions between
missionaries and other colonial agents) seeks to rewrite the cultural precepts of
identity for people made subservient by war and imperial expansionism, and
how some of the colonised people internalise these texts and begin to rewrite
them in an emergent narrative of African nationalism. In this sense, it is a
story of conquest, yearning for a reconstructed world, and betrayal. The
African elite who readily assimilated missionary education in the hope of
joining the millenarian society implicit in the promise of civilisation and
Christianity, and who looked eagerly to the fulfilment of grand humanitarian

28 Civilising Barbarians

ideals associated with the name of Victoria and formulated in the face of
settler colonialism and Boer hostility, were ultimately betrayed as the 'liberal'
Cape Colony was drawn into the first version of South Africa in 1910. While
this study cannot hope to cover such expansive areas of history, the narratives
of identity proffered by missionaries and the counter-narratives discussed here
occur within this larger story of colonial duplicity which, if not consciously or
maliciously formulated, nevertheless worked to savage effect in the name of



Your cattle are gone, my countrymen!
Go rescue them! Go rescue them!
Leave the breechloader alone
And turn to the pen.
Take paper and ink,
For that is your shield.
Your rights are going!
So pick up your pen.
Load it, load it with ink.
Sit on a chair.
Repair not to Hoho.
But fire with your pen.
-I.W.W. Citashe (1882)'

In the latter part of the twentieth century most intensely in the 1970s and
1980s English-speaking literary scholars, critics and writers in South Africa
could be found arguing about the relationship between art and politics. These
debates, variously articulated in response to divergent impulses, generally saw
traditionalists arguing against the corruption of form and high standards in
literature by the increasing prevalence of revolutionary sentiment, while more
radical scholars criticised their opponents for refusing to allow the political
role of literature (in this debate, literature in English).2 However, few
participants in this argument seemed to recall or argue the more fundamental
point that, to an important extent, the orthodoxy of English as a dominant


30 Civilising Barbarians

medium of educational discourse in South Africa, and the institutionalisation
of this discourse (by which English 'literature' is privileged as an area of study),
was won by blood.3
By this I mean that the ascendancy of English as a principal medium for
social empowerment among many black South Africans was secured in the
nineteenth century on frontier battlefields by colonial soldiers who resorted to
scorched earth tactics to decimate their 'savage' enemies (Mostert 1992:1130).
For Africans in the nineteenth century, the link between 'culture', 'English'
and revolutionary turmoil was more than a matter of polite debate. The
ultimate consequence of, for example, the Frontier Wars in the Eastern Cape
between 1779 and 1878 for the Xhosa was that the locus of socio-cultural
empowerment shifted from an autochthonous sphere to the politically
compromising colonial milieu. War, attrition and the loss of land often meant
that the only avenue open for advancement in the new colonial order was the
European-led mercantile economy, or peasantry, while the educational
infrastructure supporting the new system was largely in the hands of
missionaries (see Hunt Davis 1969; Mills 1975; Cobley 1986; Bundy 1988;
Mostert 1992; Crais 1992a). Africans aspiring to social elevation in colonial
society had little choice but to embrace Protestant values which were
embedded in the exalted medium of English and promoted in missionary
education. 'English' in this sense was the bearer of a cultural and intellectual
regime in which the dominant values, drawn from Enlightenment thinking
but corrupted in the deferred colonial context (Bosch 1991:302-13), were
progressive individualism, modernisation, capitalism, and ultimately racism.4
At the end of the twentieth century the relationship between English and
social empowerment is still complex and fraught with the implications of
colonial history, but many have lost sight of the bloody genesis of this link,
and the need continually to gauge the relationship between English in its
disciplinary guise and its role in broader relations of power (see Dunton 1993).
The process of what is sometimes called the 'Westernisation' of black
South Africans is extremely complex, and I have emphasised the element of
warfare for the sake of perspective. The colonisation of people in what only
later became known as an entity ('South Africa') was achieved by ink as well
as blood, in the irruption of a powerful new order of representation which ran
parallel with outbreaks of war. My suggestion is therefore that a violence of
similar proportions to that of warfare was committed on the epistemic5 level by
the powerful repressions, the far-reaching censorship and the iron hand of
what historians Robinson and Gallagher (1961:7) call the 'Victorian world

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 31

mission'. The vehicle of this 'world mission' was an English which bore
terrible certainties and was seldom tolerant of alterity. It was a language of
closure and myopia, yet it represented an empire which could cause great
turbulence for those who would not respect its insistence on orthodoxy.
I have chosen to concentrate largely on the Eastern Cape 'frontier' area
because of its singular importance in the history of cultural contestation in
South Africa (see Crais 1992a; Mostert 1992:228), and because developments
there are, I believe, illustrative of the wider theatre of struggle between
European cultural agents and indigenous South Africans in the nineteenth
century.6 At stake in the struggle on the 'frontier' was nothing less than the
nature of reality, the proper forms of social life, and the highest questions of
morality, religion and philosophy. Wars were waged on the ground, policies
were framed in Cape Town and London, and the 'eager feet' of missionaries
(Orr 1975), driven by the spirit of evangelism, were busy in the 'interior', but
the greater context of all this activity was an emerging narrative in which the
unequal struggle between different orders of signs was slowly resolved in favour
of colonial hegemony, where the greater power ultimately lay, even though
resistance and transformation could never be comprehensively managed. The
term 'frontier' is problematic (Legassick 1980) and I use it here to suggest both
a geographical and cultural contact zone (Pratt 1992:6-7) where forms of
knowledge and identity were contested at the same time as wars were fought
for land and physical control of the environment. Frontiers are 'uncharted
spaces of confrontation spaces in which people fashion new worlds by
negotiating hitherto uncommunicated signs' (Comaroff & Comaroff
The argument that physical and representational wars were coterminous is
well illustrated by an historical anecdote in R.H.W. Shepherd's tome on
Lovedale, Lovedale South Africa (1940:400), where he records that some of the
lead type of the Lovedale mission press (then at Tyumie) was melted down to
make bullets during the War of the Axe (1846-47). It is an open question
which form of lead was ultimately more persuasive in forcing traumatic and
momentous change on the Xhosa and other people in the nineteenth century.
Perhaps the lesson of the anecdote is that both kinds were responsible, each
answering different exigencies. What seems clear, though, is that the lead of
printing type was an enduring and consistent agent of change.
The issues raised by representation vis-a-vis the history of frontier conflict
in the Eastern Cape (let alone the rest of southern Africa) are highly complex
and potentially boundless. To delimit my subject and to avoid the obligation

32 Civilising Barbarians

to re-establish 'material' history, I rely on reliably researched, existing
accounts for a context of events (not an unquestioned history of facts) in which
to survey the shape of missionary narrative and the representational
procedures of a civilising colonialism. Although the vastness of written
archival sources is daunting, there are strong thematic correspondences in
much of the literary material on missionary work and 'culture contact', so that
a degree of generalisation is necessary. This is so because the efforts of
missionaries to 'civilise' African people, particularly in the Eastern Cape, were
founded on the imperative to force multiple, heterogeneous forms of social
organisation and belief in non-Christian communities into a new, Christian
mould. This was a reductive and generalising mission driven by the need to
impose the history of the Same on what was regarded as Other.7 Ultimately,
the process was designed to enforce an orthodoxy of identity. This means that
traces of verbal and written forms of representation available to modem
researchers can be scrutinised as examples of this broader process.
Although the laborious processes of missionary teaching over generations
in the face of resistance and opposition in some cases, and gradual
acquiescence in others, cannot be captured in the shape of a seamless or
monolithic narrative of events, it is reasonable to assert that between, say;
1800 and 1880, substantial progress was made by European agents in rupturing
the autochthonous belief-systems of Xhosa and other communities. The early
history of missions is not a straightforward success story (see Williams 1959),
but the argument remains that even in the first three decades of the century,
when converts were hard won and scarce, the mission station 'occupied a
critical interstice in the colonial encounter in which Africans came to better
understand the material and intellectual consequences of colonial expansion'
(Crais 1992a:101). There is, in addition, a degree of symmetry, on the one
hand in the decline of African power in the Eastern Cape in the nineteenth
century as the Hundred Years' War on the frontier dragged on, and, on the
other in the gradual increase in the success of an institution such as Lovedale,
along with the general encroachment of the European mercantile economy.
Hunt Davis (1969:58), whose work looks specifically at the impact of
education in the nineteenth century, characterises the broad process of
change as a growing dependence on the European economy brought about by
loss of land, the destruction of political independence, and the impact of
military defeat. Hunt Davis (1969:288) writes that the early educational work
of the pioneer missionaries, along with their other attempts at acculturation,
made little headway, but in the second half of the century, rapid changes

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 33

among the Nguni removed African unwillingness and unreadiness to accept
what the missionaries were offering. In the last quarter of the century, 'a
generation of Africans reached adulthood which included many (the middle
sector) who accepted Western culture, or much of it, as the norm'. They
sought to conduct their own lives in what they considered a 'civilised' manner
and also were anxious to acculturate their fellow Africans. They thus gave
major support to schools, churches, and other institutions of Western
These 'rapid changes' among the Nguni owed their existence to the
interlocking efforts of missionaries and other agents of the 'civilising mission'.
Modem South African historians generally assert the complementary role
played by these various players. Colin Bundy in The Rise and Fall of the South
African Peasantry (1988:37), for example, writes,

Missionary enterprise, ultimately, was concerned to transform
social institutions and practices that were alien or incompatible
with capitalist society into ones that were compatible, and
hence to encourage a total change in the world-view of the
people in whose midst they lived ... the mission societies and
their most influential spokesmen sought consciously to
restructure African societies along lines that would attach
them securely to the British capitalist economy.

Bundy's view is supported by the evidence of Charles Pacalt Brownlee, for
example, who as Secretary for Native Affairs in 1876 declared, 'We have ... a
higher mission to discharge towards the barbarous tribes on our borders than
to govern them simply from disinterested motives'. For Brownlee, who grew up
in a missionary family and spoke fluent Xhosa, the mission of civil society in
the Cape was 'to elevate them and enlighten them, and raise them in the scale
of civlisation', and, in his view, 'the missionaries are the agency by which
people are enlightened and educated' (in Schreuder 1976:287).
The history of mission education during the course of the nineteenth
century and the gradual transformation of agro-pastoralists into subjects of a
new capitalist order has been well documented and need not be researched
anew (see Du Plessis 1911; Bruwer 1988; Bundy 1988; Crais 1992a). It is
within this more general context that an enquiry can be conducted into the
part played by the cultural agents of civilisation and their major weapon:
literacy and the representation of a Utopian realignment of the world, backed

34 Civilising Barbarians

by greater military and social power. On a conceptual level, however, it strikes
me as imperative to consider how one views the processes involved in the
making of a cultural orthodoxy in which colonial relations would eventually
be forged. Here, one needs to consider how identity is constituted and by what
means it is permeated by currents of influence and power in the world in
which individual subjectivity is enveloped. What does it mean to talk about
processes of 'subjectification'? Indeed, can one adequately discuss colonial
processes without such a conceptual footing? How are subject positions
negotiated in times of change and conflict? Once a basis for understanding
such processes has been established, I shall review some of the procedures by
which administrators and missionaries sought to reconstitute the subjectivity
of 'barbarous' people in the Cape, and take a critical view of concrete
instances of missionary representation. Finally, I shall discuss the effects of
such cultural acts on subjects by looking at some of the broad, known
responses to the general processes under description.


Compelling insights about the operations of social power on individuals are
offered by Foucault in his essay, 'The Subject and Power' (1982). Foucault
presents a general description of the modes by which individuals are made
subjects. One may also see his theory as a description of the relation between
orthodoxy and oppositionalism within relations of power.
On the question, 'why study power?', Foucault (1982:777) answers that his
work has tried to deal with 'modes of objectification which transform human
beings into subjects'. The question of power emerges because 'the human
subject is placed ... in power relations which are very complex' (p.778). In
delineating common characteristics of struggles against power, Foucault
suggests that they are what he calls 'struggles against the government of
individualisation'. For him, 'What is questioned is the way in which
knowledge circulates and functions, its relations to power. In short, the regime
du savoir' (p.781). Describing his subject as a 'form of power' rather than any
particular institution, Foucault writes that such power 'applies itself to
immediate everyday life which categories the individual, marks him by his
own individuality, attaches him to his own identity, imposes a law of truth on
him which he must recognize and which others have to recognize in him'. It is
a form of power which, in Foucault's view, 'makes individuals subjects'. Two
meanings for the word 'subject' are given: subject to someone else by control

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 35

and dependence; and tied to one's own identity by a conscience or self-
knowledge. Both meanings suggest a form of power which subjugatess and
makes subject to' (p.781).
The cultural transmission which occurred in the nineteenth-century Cape
Colony arguably involved a 'government of individualisation' in which a
circulation of knowledge was integral not only to imperial-colonial relations of
power (bringing African subjects under colonial power), but also (and perhaps
more importantly) to the making of new conceptualisations of individuality -
the 'form of power which makes individuals subjects' and in which subjects
themselves recognize a new 'law of truth'. This seems a crucial idea in any
theory of cultural 'power', namely that such power can never be entirely
coercive (although it does rely to a large extent on military force to provide
space in which it may then operate). It is a power which is made effective, in a
manner similar to the working of Gramscian hegemony, by the voluntary
furtherance of such a 'law of truth' by the subject being acted upon. Foucault's
argument goes on to deal precisely with the paradoxical nature of power
relations, since the bringing into play of power relations 'does not exclude the
use of violence any more than it does the obtaining of consent'. Indeed, he
argues that the exercise of power 'can never do without one or the other, often
both at the same time' (p.789).
If consensus and violence are effects of power, the principle of power is to
be found in the idea of 'a total structure of actions brought to bear on possible
actions ... a way of acting upon an acting subject or acting subjects by virtue
of their acting or being capable of action'. At the most abstract level of
description, this is 'a set of actions upon other actions' (p.789). Foucault gives
his abstraction force by harnessing the idea of government: 'To govern, in this
sense, is to structure the possible field of action of others' (p.790). Then, to my
mind, comes the crucial qualification: Power is exercised only over free
subjects, and only in so far as they are free. Where the determining factors
saturate the whole, Foucault writes, there is no relationship of power. Slavery
is not a power relationship. Instead of a 'face-to-face confrontation of power
and freedom, which are mutually exclusive', a much more complicated
interplay is discerned. Freedom may well appear as the condition for the
exercise of power, and its precondition, Foucault writes, since freedom must
exist for power to be exerted. Without the possibility of recalcitrance, power
would be equivalent to a 'physical determination'. The distinction between
slavery, a non-negotiable form of domination, and power, a far more complex
relation between apparently free subjects, allows Foucault to develop a

36 Civilising Barbarians

refinement in his theory of how subjects exercise their relation to power in a
paradoxical manner:

The relationship between power and freedom's refusal to
submit cannot, therefore, be separated. The crucial problem of
power is not that of voluntary servitude (how could we seek to
be slaves?). At the very heart of the power relationship, and
constantly provoking it, are the recalcitrance of will and the
intransigence of freedom. Rather than speaking of an essential
freedom, it would be better to speak of an 'agonism' of a
relationship which is at the same time reciprocal incitation and
struggle, less of a face-to-face confrontation which paralyzes
both sides than a permanent provocation. (p.790)

I regard the notion of agonism as crucial in understanding the apparent
contradiction inherent in a missionary institution, such as Lovedale,
presenting its education as a free choice, but playing a 'belligerent' cultural
role in power relations, as Schreuder might describe it. Lovedale did this by
promoting as knowledge a particular government of individualisation. No one
was ever coerced into enrolling at Lovedale, but the pressure to be educated
was such that missionary knowledge was widely desired. The concept of
agonism also allows for the idea that while many people may have been
influenced by a typical, missionary-induced 'law of the subject', they were not
necessarily submissive to it in the fullest degree. My postulate is that a
relationship of agonism existed, incorporating elements of freedom and
coercion, in which the 'permanent provocation' of incitationn and struggle'
could never be reduced to mere domination.
Further, Foucault's analysis makes it clear that relations of power consist of
actions upon other actions and, more particularly, the structuring of the
possible field of actions of others in the widest sense. For my purposes, this
analysis means that 'cultural' power or the exercise of power in a cultural
domain is integral rather than peripheral to a general theory of power
relations. In the 'structuring' of the possible field of actions for others, the
cultural content of action is of great significance, if culture is understood to
imply precisely forms of human beliefs and practices, and the signs related to
them, which are constitutive elements of any 'field of action'.
Arguably the most important means of structuring a field of action in the
cultural domain is through representation. Writing about concepts which play

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 37

a role in the New Historicism, Louis A. Montrose (1989:16) writes that
representation plays a role in 'form[ing]' and 're-form[ing]' social subjects as
conscious agents. Montrose argues that 'Representations of the world in written
discourse are engaged in constructing the world, in shaping the modalities of
social reality, and in accommodating their writers, performers, readers, and
audiences to multiple and shifting subject positions within the world they both
constitute and inhabit'. Montrose's formulation clearly owes a debt to Foucault,
but his proposition extends the argument to encompass the role played by a
regime of signs in such a process. Particularly relevant is his explanation of the
project of New Historicism, which, he says, 'reorients the axis of inter-
textuality, substituting for the diachronic text of an autonomous literary history
the synchronic text of a cultural system ... the newer historical criticism is new
in its refusal of unproblematised distinctions between "literature" and "history",
between "text" and "context"; new in resisting a prevalent tendency to posit
and privilege a unified and autonomous individual whether an Author or a
Work to be set against a social or literary background' (pp. 17-18).
Montrose's points may seem passe in an international scholarly
environment where socio-political claims upon literary study are already
strong. But the point bears emphasising that there is often an artificial
distinction between the 'text' and its 'background', and between 'texts' and
'history'. In an approach such as suggested by Montrose, the area of enquiry
must be broadened to encompass a more thoroughgoing sense of historicismm',
and a more precise notion of what it means to talk about the 'subjects' of
history/textuality. For Montrose, the term 'subject' suggests an 'equivocal
process of subjectification: on the one hand, shaping individuals as loci of
consciousness and initiators of action endowing them with subjectivity and
with the capacity for agency; and, on the other hand, positioning, motivating,
and constraining them within subjecting them to social networks and
cultural codes that ultimately exceed their comprehension and control' (p.21).
In Montrose's formulation, therefore, processes of subjectification
incorporate the representational transmission of 'cultural codes' which
reinforce 'social networks'. This notion of subjectification, in which
individuals are both shaped and constrained, is helpful when read alongside
Foucault's theory on how individuals can be seen as 'agonistic' subjects of
power. In these terms, one may view the historical experience of the Eastern
Cape as a complex field of relations involving interdependent military, social
and cultural components. Within the broad processes of colonial contestation,
one may propose an interdependency of consensus and violence in which the

38 Civilising Barbarians

missionary's cultural role extends the military one by the missionary's
cultivation of a receptive space among African subjects for the promotion of
Western modernity, which in turn makes the subject society vulnerable to
division. Indeed, as Majeke (1952:20-24) forcefully argues, the missionary role
can be seen to have deepened existing divisions to the benefit of the colonial
incursion. In terms of cultural operations, missionaries acted upon, say, Nguni
subjects by preaching Christianity and evangelising on an apparently
consensual and voluntary basis. However, the ideology supporting their
evangelism (an ideology which the receiving subject had to accept as 'true'
were s/he fully to become a new, Christian subject) depended on a rigid
framework of missionary knowledge a new 'law of truth' and sense of self as a
'locus of consciousness' in Montrose's sense. Further, missionary 'knowledge'
inscribed a typology of the Other which, as will be seen, was severely
repressive and served to constrain subjects within cultural codes which were
difficult to challenge.
The missionaries who arrived at the Cape in the late eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries were, however, not unique in their views of 'barbarism'
and heathenismm'. These notions part of an international language of
European modernity in which the world was divided into civilised and savage
(see Pratt 1992; Mason 1990; Mudimbe 1988; Dickason 1984; Sheehan 1980;
Dietrich 1993) derived from a wider context of ideas. This context needs to
be explored briefly here, since it underlies ideas and debates about the role of
missionaries and of the civilising mission in the nineteenth century.


The subject of colonisation in Africa leads immediately to the history of
slavery, the very idea of which remains in some senses an archetype for the
subsequent history of interaction between Europeans and Africans. Philip D.
Curtin (1964:6) writes that in the later 1780s all European nations together
exported about seventy-five thousand slaves a year from West Africa. About
half these were carried by British merchants. The slave trade itself occurred
within a greater context of Eurocentric and ethnocentric thought about the
differences between European and African people (see Bolt 1971; Lovejoy
1983; Miers & Roberts 1988; Manning 1990).
Implicit in eighteenth-century thinking (and the thinking which made
slavery possible) was the notion of a 'Great Chain of Being'. Eighteenth-
century classifications of nature, such as Linnaeus's Systema Naturae (1735), as

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 39

well as the older Biblical distinction between Ham, Shem and Japhet
(Dietrich 1993:28-29; Adhikari 1992), shared the assumption that race and
culture were closely related (Elphick & Giliomee 1989:526). There was never
much doubt that Europeans were at the top of the natural scale of being.
Voltaire and Rousseau suggested that black people were naturally inferior to
Europeans in mental ability. David Hume argued in 1742 that 'there never was
a civilized nation of any other complexion than white' (in Curtin 1964:42).
Edward Long, a resident of Jamaica, provides an example of what was in all
likelihood a very common view of Africans. In 1774 he wrote that Africans
were 'brutish, ignorant, idle, crafty, treacherous, bloody, thievish, mistrustful,
and superstitious people'; they were also inferior in 'faculties of mind'
(in Curtin 1964:43). By the late eighteenth century when the missionary
invasion of the Cape interior was only beginning the argument that slavery
should be abolished throughout the world was regarded as an advanced, highly
liberal position to hold. The abolition measure was passed in Britain in 1807,
but illicit trade continued for long afterwards.
The literary convention of the 'noble savage', which flourished in the last
three decades of the eighteenth century, remained a convention and did not
form a rationally supported affirmation in the debate about 'savage life'.
Humanitarian thought was not principally interested in the black person as
such. Rather, the aim of the humanitarians was to eradicate what was
perceived as an evil trade in human flesh. Despite opposition to slavery,
evangelical thought was steeped in standard conceptions of relative human
worth. John Wesley, for example, employed the terminology of 'savagery' in a
moral lesson as an example of the influence of unrestrained original sin on
corrupt mankind. For him, African culture was degenerate, showing the lot of
common man without Christianity (Curtin 1964:53).
Such an adverse opinion of African culture was common among prominent
anti-slave trade spokesmen. There was a common assumption in the
eighteenth century that non-Western civilisations represented earlier stages in
human progress, frozen into immobility while the European world advanced.
This idea also derived from a conception of the progress of humankind via the
stages of hunting, pastoral, agricultural and commercial activity. Alter-
natively, this schema was arranged as savagery, barbarism and civilisation. In
such an ordering, Africans were often assessed as 'barbarous' rather than
'savage'. Lack of civilisation was equated with a lack of culture, and Africans
were seen as malleable and oppressed people who would accept with gratitude
whatever might be done for them (see Guy 1983:353).

40 Civilising Barbarians

This, in summary, was the context of ideas in late eighteenth and early
nineteenth-century Britain, and it was from such an intellectual milieu that
missionary thought took its main premises. Clearly, 'humanitarian' thinking
was severely circumscribed by the more general belief that Africans were an
inferior race. This supposed fact was based on erroneous but nevertheless
scholarly theories of physical causes of inferiority (Comaroff & Comaroff
1991:98-107). Further, British discussion of Africa in the early nineteenth
century took its departure from the eighteenth-century image of Africa.
In view of this, it is not surprising to detect in John Philip's classic
statement prefacing his Researches in South Africa (1828:ix-x) many of the
assumptions described above. Philip declared that while British missionaries
who ventured beyond the borders of what was then the Cape colony, were
'everywhere scattering the seeds of civilization, social order, and happiness',
they were also, 'by the most unexceptionable means, extending British
interests, British influence, and the British empire'. Philip shrewdly detected
how the missionary's rupture of autochthonous communities in the Cape
opened the way for total acculturation: 'Wherever the missionary places his
standard among a savage tribe, their prejudice against the colonial
government gives way; their dependence upon the colony is increased by the
creation of artificial wants; confidence is restored; intercourse with the colony
is established; industry, trade, and agriculture spring up; and every genuine
convert becomes the friend and ally of the colonial government.' For Philip,
this was a cause for celebration, since it represented 'triumphs of reason over
ignorance, of civilization over barbarism, and of benevolence over cruelty and
Philip's view was the ameliorative vision of an humanitarian. Given the
constraints of the general ambit of thought in his time, he could not be
expected to go any further than advocate humane 'salvation' for people whom
he was unable to regard as anything but 'barbarian'. In Philip's view, racial
difference was commensurate with a lack of the master civilisation in whose
discourse Philip's writing found its audience and meaning. This was an
unexceptionable and quite conventional view to hold.
There are similar assumptions in the writings of the liberal poet and
journalist Thomas Pringle. Describing the Xhosa ('Kafirs' or 'Caffers' in the
terminology of the day) in Narrative of a Residence in South Africa, Pringle
asserts: 'They are barbarians; but not savages, in the strict and proper sense of
the term' (1834:414). Speaking of the treatment of Makanna (Nxele), a
diviner who opposed the colony's alliance with the chief Ngqika (Gaika)

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 41

against Ndlambe, another chief, Pringle writes: '... it is melancholy to reflect
how valuable an instrument for promoting the civilisation of the Caffer tribes
was apparently lost by the nefarious treatment and indirect destruction of that
extraordinary barbarian ...' (p.439).
What today may strike one as remarkable naivety in the assumptions about
uplifting 'barbarians', became in the Victorian era a customary brand of
certainty about the 'Victorian world mission' and the 'manifest destiny' of the
Western world (Robinson and Gallagher with Denny, 1961:7; Bosch
1991:298). This world mission involved what Ronald Hyam (1976:49) calls 'a
general conviction that the British had reached the top of the ladder of
progress, and that it was their duty to improve the lot of others'. This
conviction is aptly captured in Lord Palmerston's grand statement, 'Our duty -
our vocation is not to enslave, but to set free; and I may say without any
vainglorious boast, or without great offence to anyone, that we stand at the
head of moral, social and political civilisation. Our task is to lead the way and
direct the march of other nations' (in Hyam 1976:49). J.H. Newman, speaking
in 1852, asserted that Western civilisation 'has a claim to be considered as the
perfect representative society and civilization of the human race, as its perfect
result and limit, in fact' (in Hyam 1976:50). Hyam concludes that
'ideologically the Victorian desire was to improve the rest of the world by a
programme of Christian regeneration to spread civilisation on the British
model, since this was the only and God-ordained perfection open to
mankind' (p.52).
However, cultural suppositions in the Cape in the nineteenth century -
especially the first half of the century were varied and did not always derive
from a homogeneous colonial ethos. As Andrew Ross (1986) is at pains to
point out, the Cape Colony of the early part of the century (as opposed to the
later 'South Africa') was a little known and rarely discussed entity in Britain.
It was regarded as poor and of meagre commercial interest. There is, according
to Ross, scant evidence of what could be called a positive policy towards South
Africa during the first half of the century (p. 11). Ross makes useful
distinctions between the various levels of colonial involvement, lest scholars
see a general 'conspiracy theory' where none exists in an explicit sense, as
Dora Taylor, writing as Majeke (1952), tends to do (see also Cochrane
1987:37). The early governors of the Cape were old fashioned Tories in the
soldierly mould who were accustomed to autocratic rule. As traditional high
Tories they were opponents of the values of liberalism and urban
humanitarianism (Ross 1986:27). For the British authorities at the Cape, says

42 Civilising Barbarians

Ross, no general plan existed to 'convert' heathens across the eastern frontier.
Indeed, Ross argues, the opposite is true (p.29). British governors and
administrators at the Cape often regarded the efforts of philanthropists with
In addition, the early Protestant missionary figures generally came from a
different class than governors and administrators. The evangelical movement
in England (or the Evangelical Revival as it is generally known, which
spawned the many missionary campaigns to South Africa and elsewhere) was
primarily a layman's movement. The majority of evangelical activists were
from the lower middle class or the skilled working class, later to develop into a
new lower middle class that came into being in the developing towns and
cities. These skilled people were a group significantly influenced by
evangelical Protestantism (Ross 1986:38). This is not unimportant, since the
coupling of Christianity and civilisationn' was also a personal creed for many
missionaries based on their own experience.
Transplanted on to the Cape soil, this personal experience of self-discipline
and energetic industriousness often resulted in a misreading of culturally
divergent practices as indolence, and a widespread myopia with regard to the
heterogeneity of people encountered by evangelists. But missionaries were
nevertheless committed to 'civilising the natives' and offering them the means
of participation in the supposed benefits of their civilisation, whereas
colonists, settlers and administrators had a far less Utopian attitude to
Africans. The administrators were concerned with day-to-day government,
while settlers saw in Africans a source of cheap labour. It is thus only by taking
what Ross calls a 'long view' that the missionaries can be seen as conscious
allies of the Cape authorities (1986:36).
However, not all scholars take such a mild view of the collusion between
missionaries and colonial authorities (R. Ross 1982:210-11; Saayman 1991:27;
32; Cuthbertson 1987), and I believe one must ultimately insist on the 'long
view' of African and South African history, since in the end the motives of
authorities, settlers and evangelists dovetailed in the promotion of European
control and dominance in all spheres of life. Certainly missionaries were the
champions of an humanitarian attitude to autochthonous South Africans.
One has to remember that slavery was not finally abolished at the Cape until
1838 (Armstrong & Worden 1989:167), and that this emancipation made the
settlers extremely antagonistic towards missionaries in general (evangelical
leaders in England such as Wilberforce and others in the 'Clapham Sect',
virulently hated by South African settlers, were instrumental in pushing for

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 43

the abolition of slavery). Indeed, throughout the century, some missionaries
were seen as 'protectors' of black interests within the more immediate political
scenario and within the given fact of European dominance. But the longer
view insists that these differences are ones of accent and emphasis. The more
sophisticated philosophical position of evangelical philanthropy, and the
rabid prejudice of Grahamstown settlers and their champion, Robert
Godlonton (editor of the Graham's Town Journal and author of titles such as A
Narrative of the Irruption of the Kafir Hordes, 1836), implicitly shared the
assumptions of 'civilised' superiority drawn from eighteenth-century scholarly
thought (see Mostert 1992:593-99).
Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff (1988:6) express this ultimate sense of
an all-embracing colonialism succinctly when they write, 'In Southern Africa,
nonconformist missions, the vanguards of empire, conjured up new maps, new
systems of relations, new notions of time, production and personhood. From
their very first encounters with native communities ... they sowed the state of
colonialism on which the colonial state and a far more enduring condition
of dependency was founded'. Donovan Williams, in his comprehensively
researched doctoral study, The Missionaries on the Eastern Frontier of the Cape
Colony, 1799-1853 (1959), writes that even 'liberal' attitudes quickly wore
thin in the difficult circumstances in which the missionaries worked. 'It
required but the studied rejection of Christianity,' he writes, 'the hardships of
life in Kaffirland and the recurring frontier wars which impoverished and tried
patience, to make those who had come prepared to save by persuasion, and
who were wont to see the Kaffirs as potentially equal in every respect to the
European, gradually to change their outlook to one which recognized alleged
inferiority and which sanctioned coercion' (p. 173).
Williams quotes a letter in which the Wesleyan missionary John Ayliff
wrote in 1835: 'They are now reaping the reward of their iniquity ... They
have rejected the Gospel which was benevolently sent unto them ... and now
they have the sword' (p.173). Antagonistic as they may have been, the
interests of the settler, the missionary, and the governor coincided in cases
when European dominance was threatened, such as during the War of the
Axe when Lovedale was used as a barracks, and the much-vaunted instrument
of modem learning, lead type, was hastily melted down to make bullets. After
this war, Sir Harry Smith, who was in the habit of demanding that vanquished
Xhosa chiefs kiss his feet (Peires 1981:165), had the following to say to his
defeated adversaries:

44 Civilising Barbarians

Your land shall be marked out and marks placed that you may
all know it. It shall be divided into counties, towns and
villages, bearing English names. You shall all learn to speak
English at the schools which I shall establish for you ... You
may no longer be naked and wicked barbarians, which you will
ever be unless you labour and become industrious. You shall be
taught to plough; and the Commissary shall buy of you. You
shall have traders, and you must teach your people to bring
gum, timber, hides etc. to sell, that you may learn the art of
money, and buy for yourselves. You must learn that it is money
that makes people rich by work, and help me to make roads. I
will pay you. (In Peires 1981:166)

It is here, in the conjunction of an imperial-colonial military humiliation of
the Xhosa and the ideas of cultural transformation central to the efforts of
missionaries, that the 'long view' of ultimate complicity between the different
agents of British imperialism, and the discursive regime founded in 'English',
becomes clear. While making chiefs kiss his feet was a show of arrogance alien
to the style of missionaries, Smith nevertheless articulated in a classic way the
British desire to 'remake' autochthonous South Africa in the image of
'counties, towns and villages', with English as the medium of a mercantile
economy in which individual ownership would supplant the pastoral-
agricultural system of the Xhosa. The work ethic had to be instilled in
otherwise 'naked and wicked barbarians', and Smith made it quite clear what
the position of the Xhosa had to be in the new hierarchy: servants with the
desire for money to buy things in the European economy. In the 1850s,
another governor of the Cape, Sir George Grey, elevated Smith's subdue-and-
civilise intentions to the status of official policy in the Grey Plan (Hunt Davis
1969:214), by which substantial financial support was given to missionary
education as part of a project to 'civilise' the African in Crais's description,
an attempt at 'colonization of the mind' (1992a:200) so that peaceful
conditions might prevail on the frontier.
Missionaries in the Cape Colony and beyond were therefore deeply
involved in the overall policy of colonisation as the three C's Christianity,
Commerce, and Civilisation (Bosch 1991:305). As the Western economy
drew in more Africans, so missionary education became increasingly
important. But this education involved an act of considerable epistemic
dislocation. It was centrally implicated in consolidating, in representational

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 45

forms, the modes of othering which Africans had to negotiate in order to
achieve the social and cultural empowerment of education. In this education,
English was both a means of transmission and a state of ideality the place
where civilisationn' was cultivated. This process was only indirectly related to
literature as such; English literature was but one form of the greater ideality in
which morality, philosophy, Christianity and aesthetics were definitively
universalised in the image of a little island north of Africa. One work of
English literature, The Pilgrim's Progress, was partially translated into Xhosa by
the first ordained black minister, the Reverend Tiyo Soga (Shepherd
1940:145), and had a strong influence on mission educated Africans of the
Cape Colony and beyond. 'Literature' therefore had a clearly defined, but
circumscribed, role in the attempts to colonise consciousness and to recreate
cultural forms.


Given the conceptual basis of subjectification expounded earlier, and the
historically specific context in which acculturation took place, one can begin
to view the general representational procedures by which African 'barbarians'
were othered, and to take a more concrete view of the typical processes of
representational contestation. An intensive process of metaphorical
description in English was to culminate in a reification of representational
forms, which African people would have to negotiate in the course of
missionary education and, by implication, in colonial society at large.
This examination must begin with the question of figuration or
representation itself. It needs to be recalled that the period under review bears
the marks of an attitude to language and to the idea of 'truth' formed by the
rational empiricism of the Enlightenment Age of Reason, and buttressed by
the implicit certainty of God's plan for the world (Bosch 1991:263-67). The
intellectual benefits accruing from philosophy of figures such as Nietzsche,
Freud or Wittgenstein were not available to writers in the early nineteenth
century. Neither can one expect an appreciation of the 'contingency' of
language and of being so eloquently described by pragmatist philosopher
Richard Rorty. However, we need to recall Rorty's sense of contingency to
appreciate the status of the language used in attempts to attach a new
government of individualisation to subject people in the nineteenth-century
frontier context.
Rorty's argument, in two essays, 'The Contingency of Language' (1986a)

46 Civilising Barbarians

and 'The Contingency of Selfhood' (1986b), relies on Wittgensteinian and
Nietzschean notions about language and truth. The central idea in Rorty's
argument is that there is no essential truth 'out there', only what Nietzsche
called a 'mobile army of metaphors'. To say that truth is not out there, Rorty
writes, 'is simply to say that where there are no sentences there is no truth, that
sentences are elements of human languages, and that human languages are
human creations' (1986a:3). For Rorty, truth cannot exist independently of the
human mind 'because sentences cannot so exist, or be out there'. The world is
out there, but descriptions of the world are not. The suggestion that truth, as
well as the world, is 'out there', is for Rorty 'the legacy of an age in which the
world was seen as the creation of a being who had a language of His own'.
Rorty captures very ably the tendency in missionary writing and thinking
to profess a 'God with a language of His own', whose vocabulary of 'Truth'
coincided with their own. The 'contingency' of language had no place in their
mental outlook, and usually they did not recognize that their 'truths' about
human nature were a particular configuration of historically embedded
metaphoric description rather than intrinsically or essentially true in a way
that could be tested by objective criteria. The temptation to look for criteria,
Rorty writes, 'is a species of the more general temptation to think of the world,
or the human self, as possessing an intrinsic nature, an essence'. That is, it is
the result of the temptation to 'privilege some one among the many actual and
possible languages in which we habitually describe the world or ourselves'
Such privileging leads to an encrustation of metaphor, or, in Rorty's words,
'old metaphors are constantly dying off into literalness' (1986a:6). When the
language of a man such as James Stewart, Lovedale principal between 1870
and 1905, is examined, such metaphor encrustation is abundantly evident. In
a volume entitled Lovedale South Africa: Illustrated by Fifty Views from
Photographs (1894:15), Stewart articulates the classic metaphor of dark and
light: 'And that is just what we labour for a day in the future when the Dark
Continent shall be a continent of light and progress, of cities and civilisation
and Christianity.' Stewart, writing at the close of the century, was distilling
the gathered terminology and metaphoric stasis of a century's 'work among the
heathens'. His language (here embellished for the London audience) reveals
many of the preconceptions which operated throughout the century, and
which were enforced as 'education' on the subjects of missionary endeavour.
His language may therefore provide an insight into the kind of orthodox
discourse used to influence identity and create new forms of subjectivity.

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 47

After introducing the light-darkness idea almost as a literal 'fact', Stewart
exerts his language even further:

[The] new religion took [the African] by the hand and led him
out of a land of thick darkness, gloom, and horror filled with
malevolent shades and dreaded spectral powers and brought
him into the clear, sweet light of a simple belief in a God of
goodness and love, such as Christianity reveals. (p.43)

It was this kind of general mythology about a journey from dark to light which,
scholars now believe, served to mask other journeys taken by what Tim
Couzens (1980), and Jordan K. Ngubane (1971:5) before him, have called
'New Africans'. These other journeys were a departure from agro-pastoralism
and a cattle economy to peasantry and subservience in the mercantile
economy (Peires 1981 & 1989; Bundy 1988; Mostert 1992); from oral culture
within the Nguni tradition to the literary culture of English Protestantism and
a few centres of literary patronage (Kantey 1990:vii; Mphahlele 1980; Sole
1977); from sovereignty over communal lands to large-scale loss of land and of
independence. Throughout the century, the Christian metaphoric overlay
served to obscure these other, not necessarily salubrious, social processes.
Indeed, the 'Christianise and civilise' credo explicitly called for an 'overlay'
of a different kind: a comprehensive re-making of social and cultural
modalities of identity. This depended on a conception of the Other that was
often xenophobic in its intolerance of difference. In missionary writing,
difference was swiftly transcoded into idleness, vacuity, degradation (for
example, marriage rites, circumcision rites, etc.) and then metaphorically
recast as 'low' and 'fallen' states, or as 'spiritual slumber'. Sir Harry Smith's
invective quoted above against 'wicked barbarians' aptly captures the manner
in which a metaphoric trope, derived from cultural xenophobia, acquired in
the South African colonial context the force of orthodox declaration. Such
orthodoxy was backed by the new authorities in the spheres of government
and education, and ultimately by the military policy of 'fire and sword' (Peires
1981:135), or, in the words of Hunt Davis (1969:37), the 'normal manner of
"clearing Kaffirs": bum their homes, destroy their crops, and run off their
Drawing on Lacanian psycho-linguistic theory, Crais (1992a:129) makes
the observation that a 'discourse of condemnation situated around a chain of
signifying dichotomies' was part of a process of'symbolic inversion'. From the

48 Civilising Barbarians

end of the 1820s, Crais writes, 'Africans were increasingly represented as
libidinous, uncontrolled, lazy and disrespectful of established authority'. The
settler, in turn, became what the African was not. 'In this topsy-turvy process
the African became the "Other". In the transition from an imaginary order -
the settler "sees" or "imagines" himself in the African to a symbolic one, the
Other emerged as signifier around which a colonialist discourse was born.' The
identity of the colonialist was, in this view of things, intimately bound to that
of the Other. Crais (1992a:150) argues that 'the central point is that settlers
depended on these negative assessments in their definition of self. Similarly,
the Comaroffs (1991:86) argue that 'Africa became an indispensable term, a
negative trope, in the language of modernity'.
In retrospect, one may look at a composite of representational practices by
which European cultural agents helped prepare the ground for what they
considered a re-making of the African Other. In the process, they
consolidated their own sense of self in the African 'wilderness', locking their
identities into a perpetual Self-Other antagonism whose effects remain
evident today. In the terms introduced earlier in this chapter, these practices
involved a new government of individualisation enforcing altered conceptions
of value, labour, time and space. The key role of representing the new order in
terms of Western subjectivity fell to missionaries. It was the work of the
mission to stress the signs and practices of European culture. This was done, in
my argument, by the assiduous construction of a colonial 'text' for self-
apprehension: a text that depended on the new edifice of literacy in English,
and that exhibits all the selections and exclusions characteristic of narrative in
The composite of practices I am arguing for was clearly no conscious or
general conspiracy. Its constitutive elements tended to be haphazardly
although intensively applied, and a remarkable concordance can be discerned
when one reads the documents relevant to the period, despite the absence of
any politically co-ordinated overall plan. 'New Africans' did not simply
emerge. They developed over decades of intensive representational
realignment in which missionaries sought to inculcate altered forms of
subjectivity and modified cultural practices.
The foundation of all missionary work was the 'reduction' of African
languages to a written orthography (the verb 'reduction' is telling, and it has
unproblematically remained in use in modem scholarship8). The printing press
accompanied the missionary as his foremost weapon of civilisation from the
earliest of times. Van der Kemp, first missionary of the London Missionary

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 49

Society and a pioneer figure in South African missionary history, carried a
small printing press when he arrived at the Cape in 1799 (George 1982:59).
Another early missionary, John Ross of the Glasgow Missionary Society,
transported a Ruthven press to the Cape in 1823, along with a supply of type,
paper and ink (Shepherd 1940:62). John Bennie, who was to lead the efforts
at 'reducing' and learning Xhosa, wrote: 'On the 17th [December 1823] we got
our Press in order; on the 18th the alphabet was set up; and yesterday we threw
off 50 copies... a new era has commenced in the history of the Kaffer nation'
(in Shepherd 1940:62-63). Bennie was describing the founding of the first
mission press, later to become known as Lovedale.
The printing press made it possible to realign an entire cultural order. In
the argument of Mike Kantey (1990:vii), 'one of the most important effects of
these early mission presses was to reduce a rich and diverse oral tradition to a
few centres of literary patronage' (see Peires 1979b; Switzer 1983), although
many would argue that the oral tradition was never so simply 'reduced'. The
realignment brought about by the printing press was the beginning of a very
large process. The press would serve as the basis for a strong literary role in the
cultural conversion of people. Meanwhile, cultural codes for the establishment
of new forms of identity, to be transmitted by 'church, school, [and] printing
press' (Mphahlele 1980:31), would touch on almost every aspect of living.
Housing, clothing, forms of labour and agriculture, modes of belief and
worship in short, almost every daily cultural practice would be affected by
the representations of missionaries.
A juncture in the history of the nineteenth century which allows one a
comprehensive view of the insistence and strength of these new practices and
representations is the response by several missionaries, from a range of
missionary societies, to a circular by Sir Harry Smith in 1848. The circular
invited missionaries to give him their views on the best methods 'to inspire in
the Bantu a desire to cultivate their lands by ploughing and to induce them to
follow habits of industry, the first steps to civilization and equally so to their
embracing of the Christian Faith ... to see the necessity of wearing clothes ...
the use of money ... of establishing schools on such a footing as would ensure
hereafter teachers from among themselves ... of all things His Excellency
requests ... English to the exclusion of the Kafir dialect' (Government
Circular, 17 April, 1848, signed by Richard Southey. In Du Toit 1963:17).
Prior to this circular, a teacher named Adolphus Schaller from Diep Rivier
in Wynberg had sent a memorandum to the governor entitled 'On the
Condition and Improvement of the Moral Character of the Kaffir People', in

50 Civilising Barbarians

which he advocated the introduction of agricultural schools. Schaller wrote
that by such a system 'many valuable members of society might be formed
from the native population, the hitherto ungovernable passions of the Kaffir
people, arising from ignorance, superstition, and poverty, would be
transformed into habits of industry and economy' (Cape, G.H. 22/3,
Memorandum, March 16, 1848. In Du Toit 1963:18).
Taken together, Schaller's opinion and Smith's request reveal a great deal
about the kind of thinking current in the 1840s (see Harington 1980:95-129).
Clearly, half a century of missionary effort had not reversed the condition of
Africans to the satisfaction of colonial agents. Yet Smith and Schaller still
maintain the desire to refashion Africans entirely. Smith envisioned a
'bourgeois revolution' (Legassick 1993:345) to turn the Xhosa into what he
called 'real Englishmen' (in Mostert 1992:769). The reductive paradigm of
Schaller, in which 'industry' and 'economy' are juxtaposed with 'ungovernable
passions' and 'ignorance, superstition and poverty', is typical and became an
entrenched trope in the colonialist discourse of the nineteenth century.
Fanon's 'Manicheism' in colonial relations suggests itself very strongly in these
sources. Caught in what JanMohamed (1985:63) calls the 'vortex' of
Manichean thinking, missionaries particularly the Scottish Presbyterians so
dominant at Lovedale were committed to transforming existing African
culture.9 In doing so, they would be effacing the alterity perceived through the
Manichean model. In Crais's words (1992a:95), the projection of relations
between black and white as a Manichean struggle came to 'dominate every
facet of the colonialist mentality ... emerging in the world of the Eastern
Cape'. The key elements of the commitment to efface alterity are present in
Smith's terms in his circular: cultivation of land, wearing clothes, using
money, using English.
The importance of agriculture in colonial relations was related to the
perception that the pre-capitalist subsistence mode of production had to give
way to commodification of land and labour. JanMohamed (1985:60) observes
that in Kenya the British 'systematically destroyed the native mode of
production'. For JanMohamed, this means that 'the Europeans disrupted a
material and discursive universe based on use-value and replaced it with one
dominated by exchange-value'.
On the discursive level, agriculture and clothing in the Eastern Cape
represented a symbolic 're-dressing' of both the land and the person which was
coterminous with the transformation of precapitalist modes of production into
capitalist ones. JanMohamed (1985:64) writes further that 'we can observe a

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 51

profound symbiotic relationship between the discursive and the material
practices of imperialism: the discursive practices do to the symbolic, linguistic
presence of the native what the material practices do to his physical presence
...' There is great emphasis in the various responses of missionaries to Sir
Harry Smith's circular on the key discursive markers of dress and agriculture
(and one can assume that in their persistent verbal representations to Africans
in the mission fields, there would have been an equally persistent emphasis).
One respondent, Wesleyan missionary William Impey, betrays a rankling
frustration at the intractability of both the land and the people:

Universal history teaches us that no people have ever become
civilized or risen in the rank of Nations until first concentrated
in Societies and invested with personal and indefensible rights in the
soil. Neither of these ingredients are to be found in the present
state of Kaffir society. It is notorious that the Population of
Kaffirland is one of the most scattered imaginable, and
although there is a sort of legal possession which the Kaffir
holds of his plot for cultivation, yet it is not of that definite
kind which gives value to the soil and results in improvement.
The whole of Kaffirland is in fact one vast commonage where
every man lives as he likes, takes temporary possession of any
unappropriated ground and excepting the effect which habit
and continued residence may create has no other tie to the
country in which he dwells. The scattered state of the
population presents insuperable difficulties in the way of all
appliances of government and civilization, as well as of moral
and religious instruction ... (William Impey to Sir H. Smith,
Mount Coke, 22 October, 1850. In Du Toit 1963:88-89.)

Impey went on to advocate the use of 'despotic authority' and the 'strong arm
of power' to achieve the aim of 'concentrating people into societies' so that
they may be governed. He was not to know that in less than a decade an act of
national suicide by the Xhosa (the Cattle Killing of 1856-57) would to a large
extent reverse the condition he complains of and make substantially more
people dependent on the European economy and culture than was previously
the case. But in this piece there is a strong sense of outrage at the simple fact
that the Nguni lived under a system of migratory agro-pastoralism in which
land was held communally and generally regarded as pasturage rather than

52 Civilising Barbarians

agricultural property (Peires 1981:161-69), although missionaries also tended
to ignore the fact that the Xhosa did in fact cultivate land (Lambournme
1992:7). A scene such as Impey's 'vast commonage' was a desert, because it
'lacked definition and defied surveillance' (Comaroff & Comaroff 1991:175).
The land was a 'wilderness' to be turned into a 'fruitful field' (Comaroff
1985:138) or an Edenic garden that would eventually exclude the African
(Grove 1989:169, 186). Impey was clearly irked by the lack of systematic
organisation of people and land along European lines. Like other missionaries,
he wanted to institute a different order of land usage, one in which intensive
cultivation of crops would replace cattle farming. The cultural relativity of the
difference between these practices was not recognized. The European model
reinforced classic Protestant values of virtuous industry, hard labour and
frugality, while the more relaxed Nguni style filled the Europeans with the
kind of revulsion associated with nightmarish inversions of cherished values.
Such revulsion is clearly evident in comments such as that of Lovedale's
James Laing and James Weir:

We observe with regret that, instead of purchasing clothes,
many of the Kaffers with great avidity give their money for that
disgusting red paint with which they bedaub their bodies. To
prohibit the sale of this article might perhaps interfere with the
principles of Free Trade, but all who seek the improvement of
the Kaffers may rest assured that no general change for the
better has taken place so long as this barbarous custom is
extensively practised. (James Laing and James Weir to Richard
Southey, Lovedale Missionary Station, 6 June 1848. In Du Toit

In similar vein, the Methodist missionary A. McDiarmid took the opportunity
of a governor's audience to express his desire to recode the personal, and
therefore moral, appearance of Africans:

But a far more serious hindrance is the introduction again of
red clay or ochre among them. Large sums of money are
now given for what renders them so filthy, and checks
incipient improvement as surely as frost destroys the tender
bud. (A. McDiarmid to Richard Southey, Bums Hill, 17 May
1848. In Du Toit 1963:60)

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 53

James Read snr, in his enthusiasm to re-dress his mission subjects in a Scottish
image, seems to have been quite impervious to the absurdity of his experiment
with kilts:

The wooden spade has already given way to the English iron
one, also the earthen for the iron Pot, the oxhide Coross to the
English blanket, and but few women are to be seen without the
blue Handkerchief on their heads. This is a beginning. If the
men could be induced to wear the Scotch Kilt in the first
instance it would be a great deal gained. I once got a dozen
made, and gave them to the Caffres, who wore them, and
afterwards took to trousers ... generally the first Symtems [sic]
of religious [sic] impressions were the change in their clothing.
(J. Read Senr. to Sir H. Smith, Philipton, 25 June 1848. In Du
Toit 1963:68)

Notwithstanding the unintentional quaintness of Read's picture, his point
that a change in clothing generally accompanied a conversion to Christianity
is important. This point is borne out by many missionary writings. In
particular, the symbolic dividing line between red clay and European clothing
became the standard means of representing Christianised or 'school' people as
against the 'red' people. This symbolic division became the central image in
the story of Ntsikana, known as the first 'New African' literary figure.
Ntsikana, composer of the still famous 'Great Hymn', has been celebrated
in subsequent writings as the 'first Christian convert among the Kafirs' (Bokwe
1914:1). He has also come to be regarded as the 'first individualized black poet'
(Gray 1979:171; see Gerard 1971:24-26) as a result of the fame attached to his
hymn, 'UloThixo omKhulu, ngoseZulwini', or 'He, the Great God, High in
Heaven' (Kunene & Kirsch 1967:11,7). By the time the story of Ntsikana's
conversion began to be recirculated in the writings of later generations of
black converts, a crucial element of the story was the juncture at which
Ntsikana has a mystical revelation (a vision of bright rays of light shining on
his favourite ox) and then throws off the trappings of heathenism: 'As they
neared home, they came to a small river. Here Ntsikana threw aside his
blanket, plunged himself into the water and washed off all the red ochre that
painted his body' (Bokwe 1914:11-12). Clearly, the cultural coding of dress
played an important part in marking off forms of identity and giving symbolic
and recognisable form to the choices which were being presented to people.

54 Civilising Barbarians

The other crucial 're-dressing' of the environment centred on the form of
dwellings. Missionary writings are full of references to the desirability of square
as opposed to round houses. Wesleyan minister Henry H. Dugmore,
responding to Sir Harry Smith's circular in 1848, wrote:

Could they be induced generally to abandon their grass huts,
and adopt a kind of dwelling more favourable to habits of
cleanliness, it would greatly tend to promote the use of
European apparel. It would indeed, almost render it necessary.
Their huts are so low, and so hot and smoky, that European
Clothes can scarcely be borne in them; and the loose kaross,
and squatting posture seem an almost necessary accom-
paniment to their habitation. The use of walled houses would
necessitate the use of more clothing, at the same time it would
enable the wearer to preserve it in a way that is impossible in a
Fingo hut. (Henry H. Dugmore to Col. McKinnon, Chief
Commissioner, 30 June 1848. In Du Toit 1963:73).

Commenting on the missionary obsession with square dwellings, Kate Crehan
(in Bundy 1988:37-38) relates it to 'certain key elements of capitalist society'
(the notions of private property, the individual as the basic unit of society, and
the nuclear family), and argues that the 'African house expressed values that
were quite alien to those that the missionaries saw as so crucial. It did not cut
nuclear families off from one another, privacy within it was virtually
impossible, it did not manifest the owner's industriousness', nor did it mirror
the notions of social order and hierarchy as did square buildings. Jean
Comaroff (1985:143) has remarked that the rationalisationn' of African
community structures required the 'geometric grid of civilization' with the
four-sided figure as the 'key shape in the spatiovisual construction of the
West'. For Crais, the landscape was 'reshaped ... in the language of private
property' (1992a:82; 137-38).
Missionaries were therefore involved in a comprehensive attempt to
re-make the forms of culture they encountered. Their particular role was to
saturate the mission fields with signifiers of Western subjectivity. Through the
introduction of a new order of representation, they sought to refashion the
very environment in which the Nguni people of the Eastern Cape lived, or,
more precisely, to refashion the understanding and perception of that
environment and of the manner in which subjects interacted with it. African

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 55

pastoralist cultivators in the Eastern Cape were compelled to negotiate their
identities in terms of this colonial order of representation. Caught between
the socially ascendant view of themselves as unclean, idle, negligent, indecent
and licentious (Crais 1992a:133), and the ideal proposed for them of Christian
salvation in newly forged and rigorously Protestant forms of culture, people
affected by the widespread 'civilising' enterprise faced difficult options. As
suggested, this difficulty was compounded by a context of war coupled with
the dispossession of land and social power. It is precisely in this link between
the material war for land and power, and the representational war for 'correct'
cultural conceptions of identity, that English as discourse can be seen to have
affected notions of the self, the body, space, time, the land, and the abstract
realms of beauty, godliness, philosophy and morality (see Lamboume 1992;
Crais 1992a:103; 121). Missionary discourse in its various forms never
achieved the status of absolute hegemony, but was resisted and negotiated
(Crais 1992a:220; Hofmeyr 1991:634; 1993; Kunene & Kirsch 1967:1,10-11).
In addition, as noted by Crais (1992a:83;104) and Jean Comaroff (1985:2; 11;
129; 150), the message of evangelical Christianity offered ambiguous scope for
conformity as well as resistance. Nevertheless, the significance of the
missionaries lies in the fact that, however ambiguous or partial their reception
might have been, they set the terms and prescribed the forms, in conjunction
with other agents of colonialism, in which ongoing dialogues about selfhood
and identity would be conducted. From the start, missionary subjects were
'compelled to fight on the linguistic and conceptual terrain of the whites'
(Comaroff & Comaroff 1991:307). How did the Nguni (and others affected)
respond to this?


Janet Hodgson, in her major work of doctoral research, Ntsikana: History and
Symbol; Studies in a Process of Religious Change Among Xhosa-Speaking People
(1985), suggests that religious change among the Xhosa occurred gradually as
a result of contact with missionaries and socio-cultural disturbance in general.
She demonstrates how this change was incremental and that, to a large
extent, it was mediated by two prophet figures, Ntsikana and Nxele, in such a
way that the new cosmological concepts were seen as appropriate to a
traditional framework of beliefs. Ntsikana's 'conversion' was seen among the
Xhosa as a 'Damascus' experience not directly connected with missionaries
(p.183). However, the importance of Nxele, particularly, was that he both

56 Civilising Barbarians

conformed to Xhosa custom and was seen as representing a link with the white
source of power (Hodgson 1985:112; Peires 1989:32-33). Both figures
demonstrate the turbulence in the symbolic world occasioned by the coming
of the Europeans and, more particularly, war with the Europeans.
One of Hodgson's premises is that words can be 'carriers' of change, and
that religious symbols have the power to shape both culture and society
(1985:52). However, she argues that members of a group who have their sense
of reality firmly integrated with their socio-cultural experience will not be
open to any serious shift in their understanding of 'ultimate reality'
(cosmological belief) unless significant socio-cultural disturbance occurs
Such disturbance began to happen in earnest during the frontier war of
1811-12. Peires (1979a:53) writes that the second and third frontier wars
(1793 and 1799-1803) must be counted as Xhosa victories, but that Xhosa
ascendancy on the frontier was broken decisively following the British
decision to retain the Cape after 1806. Peires notes that the 'total war' of
1811-12 was a shattering experience for the Xhosa, since their own methods of
warfare were less bloody and aimed not at the destruction of productive
resources, but at their acquisition and absorption. The Xhosa would absorb
their defeated enemies into their own society (as was the case with the
Khoikhoi), but in war with whites they were killed and expelled. 'Old fears
must have been reawakened; the whites were not people like other people,
they were abantu abasemanzini, the people from the water, associated with all
the mystical power of the sea. For the first time, the full power of the colony's
immense technical and material resources was revealed' (Peires 1979a:54).
Peires argues that the expulsion of the Xhosa created problems which the
chiefs were unable to solve, and that in the years immediately following 1812,
political leadership passed from chiefs into the hands of prophet figures. The
two prophets who came to assume prominent profiles were Nxele, and to a
lesser extent in the more immediate context, Ntsikana, whose reputation as
the 'first African convert' grew large only after his death.
Both Nxele and Ntsikana tapped into the perceived new European sources
of power, but in different ways. Nxele's early preaching followed the
missionary example of criticising Xhosa custom. He caused a stir and drew the
attention of Ndlambe, a Xhosa chief whose dynastic rival was Ngqika (with
whom Ntsikana aligned himself). Nxele rose to power and was treated like a
chief (Hodgson 1985:103). After the expulsion of the Xhosa across the Fish
River, Nxele began calling himself the younger brother of Christ, and his path

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 57

began to diverge from missionary influence. Nxele then initiated a
thaumaturgical event in which the need for nationalistic unity and new
sources of power was transformed into symbolic action. According to Isaac
Wauchope's rendition (1908:34-35), Nxele ordered his people to kill all dun-
coloured cattle and proceed to a particular spot on the coast near East London.
Nxele prophesied a mass resurrection of the dead, who would drive the whites
into the sea.
The resurrection did not occur, but Nxele's reputation was not damaged
(Peires 1979a:57). Nxele was captured after leading a suicidal attack on
Grahamstown in May 1819, of between nine and ten thousand men, believing
he had reduced European firepower to water (Hodgson 1985:210). More than
a thousand Xhosa lay dead on the battlefield after Nxele's force was routed,
and a defeated Nxele was sent to Robben Island for life imprisonment. He
died after trying to escape in a boat which capsized (Mostert 1992:491).
Ntsikana represents the opposite pole of Xhosa symbolic reaction to the
coming of the whites (see Odendaal 1984b:4). Peires argues that Ntsikana's
thought developed towards Christianity rather than away from it.10 After
Ntsikana's mystical conversion experience (described earlier), he joined forces
with Ngqika and set up as Nxele's rival (Peires 1979a:59). Ntsikana developed
a small following during his lifetime, but the seed he planted would, in
succeeding generations, yield 'New African' figures: Christians trained by
missionaries and fully 'Westernised'. Of Nxele and Ntsikana, Peires concludes
that their different revelations 'were simply alternative permutations of the
same stock of concepts, deriving from the necessity of fusing Xhosa religion
with Christianity in order to formulate a new world-view capable of
comprehending the irruption of the Europeans' (p.61).
Peires describes how the traditions represented by Nxele and Ntsikana
came to represent the two major directions taken by Xhosa society:

The spiritual heirs of Nxele from Mngqatsi the rainmaker,
through Mlanjeni to Nongqawuse, prophetess of the cattle-
killing disaster, and beyond, found traditional techniques
increasingly helpless against European power ... At the same
time the seed Ntsikana planted had, through the efforts of men
like Tiyo Soga, son of one of Ntsikana's converts, flourished,
and Christianity was well and truly planted among the Xhosa
as an African religion brought not by the missionaries but by
Ntsikana. Today the wheel has come full circle as young Xhosa

58 Civilising Barbarians

turn towards the nationalism of Nxele rather than the humility
of Ntsikana. (1979a:61)

Peires here sums up very briefly what was presumably a long and painstaking
process. More particularly, the transition from Ntsikana's 'African'
Christianity to a form of Christianity in Western cultural dress can be traced
over the generations in the story of the Sogas (see Odendaal 1984b:6).
Ntsikana's chief disciple was 'Old' Soga, who was a leading councillor of
Ngqika (Hodgson 1985:340). Soga continued Ntsikana's practice of holding
prayers twice a day and he attended church on Sundays, yet he also functioned
in his traditional role as headman and was made a councillor of Tyhali,
Ngqika's son. Hodgson writes that as a 'bridge between old and new', Soga
'came under constant pressure from the conflicting demands of competing
cultures, but he resolutely held firm to Ntsikana's path of evolutionary change
while remaining a Xhosa patriot, much to the missionaries' fury'. She adds,
'The mission station people were expected to take over the whole Western
cultural package, the symbols of the new including loyalty to the British
Crown. Soga played a leading part in the Frontier wars of 1834-35, 1846-47,
and 1850-53, and this led repeatedly to angry confrontation with the
'Old' Soga was caught in the historical dynamic which forced a gradual
acceptance of Western cultural codes. During a colonial reprisal for a Xhosa
attack in the war of 1834-35, he was forced to flee to a cave, whence he
watched his homestead being burnt. As a result of this loss, Soga had little
choice but to adopt new methods of securing a livelihood. He was the first
Xhosa to use a plough, the first to irrigate his lands, and the first to market his
crops (Hodgson 1985:342). Indeed, in Soga we see how the inculcation of new
cultural codes was an agonistic process. Hodgson relates that Soga was forced
to break with tradition, since in Xhosa society a strict division of labour
regulated that men were responsible for cattle, while women worked the fields.
The missionaries introduced the plough, but the plough demanded male
labour. Accepting this reversal of traditional roles therefore implied a deep
break with the past. Missionaries also set up irrigation systems and created
watercourses, which meant that there could be less dependence on rain and
that crops could grow even in times of drought. 'It was [the missionaries']
belief that the change from a pastoral to an agrarian way of life would be the
means of "settling" the Xhosa and changing their "lazy habits'" (Hodgson

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 59

After the destruction of his homestead, Soga approached government
agent Charles Lennox Stretch and complained that his large family was
starving (see Le Cordeur 1988). Stretch declined to give assistance, arguing
that Soga had the means to obtain cattle by working his lands. Stretch told
Soga to get seed and plant .vegetables to sell to the soldiers at Fort Cox. A few
months later, Soga returned to Stretch with his hands full of coins. He had
grown peas, onions, barley and potatoes. He had then sold his vegetables to
'Johnny the Redcoats' (Chalmers 1877:6; Hodgson 1985:342-43).
Soga's action so impressed the then Colonel Harry Smith that he arranged
for a plough to be given to Soga, and for Khoikhoi workers to be hired from
Kat River with oxen and gear to assist him, at government expense (Hodgson
1985:344). Soga was an important transitional figure. He had political power
and wealth, but as a disciple of Ntsikana he had already broken certain ritual
and social ties and established himself on the fringe of the mission community.
Now Soga contradicted the ethic of sharing and communalism by insisting
that his followers, whom he paid for working on his lands, should pay him for
food. It was only because Soga had great authority that he was able to remain
connected with both worlds (Hodgson 1985:345). As Hodgson argues, this
ethic of work and the production of a cash crop went hand in hand with the
teaching of the missionaries, creating new wants and smoothing the way for
the acceptance of the Western way of living.
Writing in the 1870s, John A. Chalmers (1877:7), the biographer of 'Old'
Soga's famous son, Tiyo (the first African to be ordained as a minister), saw
the process in the following terms:

Thus a new era dawned at Soga's village; the sneezewood spade
gave place to the crooked ploughshare; the oxen, which
hitherto had galloped for the amusement and fame of their
owner over the plains above the Chumie mountain, were now
yoked to a willing team, and ploughed the virgin soil; the brook
which had babbled for ages, undisturbed in its onward flow, was
now made to irrigate his fields and crops silent emblems these
of a still greater power which was secretly at work, and is
destined yet to revolutionize the moral wastes of Southern
Africa. By the gift of the plough the Government, which had
begun to conquer, showed that it desired to achieve this more
lasting victory over barbarism, indolence, and poverty.

60 Civilising Barbarians

It took a generation beyond 'Old' Soga before widespread absorption of
Western forms would take effect, in the person of Soga's son, Tiyo. Tiyo Soga
occupies a 'model' position as a total convert who became a minister and a
missionary after an education at Lovedale and in Scotland (see Chapter 5).
Sol Plaatje was a similar case (see Willan 1984). Tiyo Soga was given a
scholarship to Lovedale in 1844, only three years after the seminary had set up
on its new site in 1841 (Shepherd 1940:95). He was later taken to Scotland
where he studied theology. Tiyo's story is not an exact representation of the
history of Xhosa conversion to Christianity within the tradition of Ntsikana.
Ntsikana's own sons, Dukwana and Kobe, who predated Tiyo Soga, were
absorbed into the new order at an earlier date (Hodgson 1985:348), and one
would be able to find many other examples to defy a history of progressive and
linear conversion. Tiyo Soga nevertheless stands out as a prominent figure in a
gradual transition over generations occasioned by immense and traumatic
socio-cultural disturbance consequent upon the loss of land, authority and
independence. And while his father resisted total absorption into missionary
life, Tiyo's life was sufficiently removed from the traditional stronghold for
him to become Westernised to a much fuller degree. Odendaal (1984b:9)
writes that 'Soga articulated some of the attitudes which had been generated
on the frontier since the first contacts between black and white and was
paving the way for thousands of literate and Christianised Africans, facing the
same problems of reconciling the conflicting worlds of which they were part,
who would follow in the next decades'.
Indeed, in Tiyo Soga we see the ultimate result of the Ntsikana tradition of
response within the Xhosa to change in the symbolic order. In Saayman's
words (1991:63), Soga 'wanted to be consciously African and Christian at the
same time'. Although the religious tradition initiated by Ntsikana was seen as
belief inspired by direct contact with God, unmediated by missionaries,
Hodgson (1985:33) adduces evidence for the claim that Ntsikana was in fact
influenced by missionaries (see Gerard 1971:27). Hodgson argues that
Ntsikana's teaching, alongside that of Nxele, was a direct response to the need
to make sense of a world changed beyond recognition by the coming of
Europeans and colonisation. There were different ways of tapping the new
power represented by the whites. On the one hand, thaumaturgical responses
beckoned, based partly on Christian teaching, such as Nxele's call for the
sacrifice of cattle to elicit the resurrection of the dead and the destruction of
the whites. Alternatively, there was the more mundane possibility of eventual
incorporation: joining up for mission education in the knowledge that in a

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 61

world dominated by Europeans, Western education would become the new
route to social empowerment. In other cases, depending on circumstances,
there was the option of becoming a labourer in the white economy.
These were not so much choices as a history of available options. After the
final, shattering thaumaturgical response, the Cattle Killing of 1856-57, and
the Xhosa defeat in the war of 1877-88, few choices were open (see Peires
1989). As Hunt Davis (1969:58) argues, loss of land and military defeat
produced an unavoidable dependence on the European economy. Mission
education became an important bridge between the Xhosa world and the
European economy. The trap was sprung: 'As for the Africans, the loss of land
in the frontier wars compelled them to enter the labour market, while the
wants which trade created led them to become wage earners in order to
purchase desired goods. Furthermore, the missionaries encouraged African
employment in the colonial economy as part of their efforts to impose
Western cultural patterns' (Hunt Davis 1969:75).
Christianity promised 'a novel source of influence and control; the mission
was a tangible embodiment of force guns, water, the plow, the written word,
and the underlying power that animated them which professed its
availability to all who would "believe"' (Comaroff 1985:150). It required only
the discovery of diamonds in 1867 and of gold in 1886 to take South Africa
into an industrial age with its voracious need for a labouring class. By the late
nineteenth century, the majority of adult Nguni males were entering the
wage-labour force (Hunt Davis 1969:89).
In this social context, it was the African elite made up by the people who
had most fully assimilated European culture which provided leadership.
Hunt Davis (1969:99) argues that, having witnessed the African defeats in the
wars of the late 1870s, the new leaders realized that future African welfare
depended on working within the framework of South African society, not
opposing it. 'They found in the franchise clause of the Cape Constitution the
needed opportunity for political participation. The political leaders' earliest
activities centered around Lovedale, the Colony's foremost African school...'
The elite in the later part of the century urged their countrymen to obtain an
education, to participate in politics (through the limited franchise), to forsake
war as a policy for defending their rights, to work hard, and to earn the respect
of the Cape's European population through their efforts to improve
themselves (Hunt Davis 1969:116; see Christie 1991:76; Molteno 1984).
And so the ground was prepared for the entrenchment of a new cultural
and social orthodoxy. As the land was reshaped by a hundred years of war into

62 Civilising Barbarians

constituencies of the Cape Colony, so the discursive world was recreated and
new loyalties, new laws of the individual subject forged. Lovedale began to
thrive, ranking as one of the best schools in the Cape. It was only in the late
1880s that several white schools, backed by heavy government aid, began to
surpass it (Hunt Davis 1969:206). Certainly for black South Africans,
Lovedale in the second half of the nineteenth and the first half of the
twentieth century became a pre-eminent centre for black advancement. Noni
Jabavu, granddaughter of John Tengo Jabavu, famous Lovedalian and editor of
Imvo Zabantsundu, and daughter of Professor D.D.T. Jabavu, Lovedalian and
Fort Hare professor, writes as follows about Lovedale in her memoir, The Ochre
People (1963:20-21):

The uncles [Roseberry Bokwe and Cecil Makiwane] greeted
each other tumultuously. Apart from blood links they had
other ties. They had taught at Lovedale together before I was
born. In family albums I had pored over pictures of such things
as the staff cricket team in which they had both played ... My
mother too had taught at Lovedale with them before her
marriage; all my elders were part of the net of people linked by
professions, business, blood, and for many of them Lovedale
was the alma mater, the cradle where they had shared a social
and political background inherited from earlier generations of
Bokwes, Jabavus, Makiwanes and others tens, scores,
hundreds, now thousands.

The 'thousands' of educated blacks were multiplied further by Fort Hare
University, which grew directly out of Lovedale (Shepherd 1940). Monica
Wilson, in her edition of Z.K. Matthews's autobiography, Freedom for My
People (1983:127), gives some idea of the centrality of the Fort Hare-Lovedale

Students who were at Fort Hare while Z.K. was teaching there
have become prominent through Africa from the Cape to
Uganda. There are those who have become leaders in their
professions and who practise as doctors, lawyers, teachers,
headmasters or headmistresses, inspectors of schools,
journalists, writers, research scientists, and technicians of one
sort or another. There are those who entered politics and

The Making of Colonial Orthodoxy 63

helped bring the independent African states into being, and
who still hold office in these states. There are those in
opposition, in prison, or in exile. Within the Republic there
are those who hold office in one or another Bantustan, and
those who were active in the ANC, the PAC, or the Indian
Congress, most of whom are in prison, in exile, banned, or

Wilson (1983:131-36) mentions scores of individuals who graduated at Fort
Hare, including figures such as Nelson Mandela (1940), Oliver Tambo
(1941), Robert Sobukwe (1946), Govan Mbeki (1937), Dennis Brutus (1947),
Robert Mugabe (1951) and many others.
The subject of Lovedale as a 'cradle' for emergent black leadership and for
the shaping of new generations in severely modified forms of subjectivity
following the Frontier Wars is the subject of the next chapter. Suffice it to say
here, in conclusion, that for the African elite in the second half of the
nineteenth century, the struggle for selfhood, which their forefathers had
initially fought on battlefields, was taken up at centres of learning such as
Lovedale. It was a struggle to be conducted on borrowed terms, in a borrowed
discourse. The leading 'school' figures of the second half of the nineteenth
century, such as John Tengo Jabavu, became acculturated in Victorian-
English style ('They were wedded to the Victorian way of life', writes Noni
Jabavu in The Ochre People, 1963:157). Leaders such as Jabavu devoted their
lives to seeking equality for their people along the lines of British
constitutionalism and loyalty to the Crown of Victoria. The limited franchise
introduced in 1853 at the Cape satisfied the claim of British constitutionalism
to fairness, but this borrowed discourse finally saw African leaders deserted
and betrayed in 1910, at Union. Then the counter-struggle began, which has
seen a resolution only in the final 10 years of the twentieth century, to
reappropriate power lost in the name of English and civilisationn'.



Take up the White Man's burden -
Send forth the best ye breed -
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild -
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
From Rudyard Kipling,
'The White Man's Burden' (1899)1

The effective conquest of information leads to the
ultimate collapse of the Aztec empire ...
Tzvetan Todorov,
The Conquest of America (1984)

Literacy was at the core of colonisation in South Africa. It was implicit in the
frontier struggle between sharply contrasting modes of information and
comprehension. In this struggle, there were two main lines of conceptual
agency. On the one hand, the Nguni people of the Eastern Cape resorted to
thaumaturgy in an attempt to expel whites by cathartic apocalypse, while, on
the other, missionaries assiduously and laboriously exercised cultural
surveillance based on the pseudo-rationalism of a professedly revealed Truth.
As the historical record suggests, the thaumaturgical mode of response largely


A Savage Civility 65

ended in the Cattle Killing disaster of 1856-57, which in turn opened the way
for significant growth of mission education and the teaching of mainly
Protestant educators who propagated a discourse of metaphors masquerading
as literal truth.
Literacy was the basis of what became an informing, knowledge-creating
representational order. The larger object of literacy was a linguistic
colonialism which placed 'English' and the values embedded in it at the apex
of'civilisation'. The linguistic/semantic/semiotic transformation implicated in
literacy teaching was therefore at the centre of the broader colonisation of
South Africa, and the great contribution of missionaries to the re-invention of
the country and her peoples. For missionaries, literacy meant crossing the
semiotic divide between languages and pursuing a dual goal: 'reducing'
languages of the Other such as Xhosa into a written orthography so that the
Bible could be translated into the semiology of a previously oral culture (in
which symbols are regarded with great seriousness); and teaching subject
people facility in English so that their assimilation into a master discourse
could be effected. If, as Stephen Gray (1989:xix-xx) has suggested in another
context, translation can be seen as central to the literary processes of southern
Africa, then one of its sources is surely in missionary interaction, where large
attempts were made to transcode orality into literacy. Although this was an
incomplete, complex, and two-way process which was not necessarily
dichotomous or evolutionary (see Gunner 1986; Hofmeyr 1993), it never-
theless had deep and far-reaching implications. Anthropologist Jack Goody
(1977:37) developed the theory that literacy implying as it does a shift of
emphasis from speech to writing facilitated a transformation in cognitive
procedures by which knowledge could more easily be reified.2 'Translation'3
occurred not only between languages, however, but between the forms in
which ideas would be expressed. In this chapter, I argue that Lovedale, along
with other institutions and individual missionaries, not only established a
widespread literate order incorporating institutional surveillance, but that in
doing this it sought to 'translate' African subjectivity into excessively narrow
limits of expression determined by Western literary forms of understanding. I
shall argue that the formal, linguistic constitution of missionary behavioral
prescriptions, although based on Christianity and the Bible, found expression
within literary modes by which 'strange' data was domesticated for Western
More than three decades ago, historian Donovan Williams (1959:218)
asserted that the 'literary aspect of education' was integral to the overall

66 Civilising Barbarians

strategy of missionaries. Williams noted the strategic motivation of 'native
agency', by which literacy and Western education would be pursued in the
Eastern Cape. All mission stations (in what Williams in 1959 still called
'Kaffirland') set to work to create a system of education, both inside and
outside the mission station. 'The initial impulse involved a desire to create a
class of Native preachers and teachers and for these special institutions were
envisaged at some mission stations, either in Kaffirland or in the Colony,
while the plan for the broader education of the Kaffir included not only these,
but also elementary schools at all the missions and missionary outstations
where both missionaries and Native Agents would teach' (p.219).
In Towards an African Literature (1973:37), A.C. Jordan describes the
connection between literacy and Christianisation as central to the history of
African education in South Africa. He writes,

In all speech communities of the Southern Africans, what
literacy exists is inseparably bound up with the Christian
missionary enterprise. To be able to 'preach the Word' the
missionaries had not only to learn the languages of the people,
but also reduce these languages to writing. Translators,
interpreters, preachers, and teachers had sooner or later to
come from among the aborigines themselves. And so some of
the apt converts had also to be introduced to the rudiments of
modem learning through the language of the missionary body
concerned. But since, outside of the missionary bodies, no one
undertook to educate the Africans, acceptance of 'the Word'
remained the only means of access to any form of modem
learning, and literacy became the exclusive privilege of a few
Christian converts and their progeny.

Jordan adds that the 'dawn of literacy' is to be associated, first and foremost,
with the Glasgow Missionary Society, whose representatives 'reduced the
Xhosa language to writing' (p.37).
Writing in 1877, John A. Chalmers describes missionary work in the
contested 'Caffreland' circa 1820 as a 'perpetual round of preaching and
teaching' (1877:18). He recounts that the Glasgow missionary William
Chalmers taught a school of eighty pupils at Tyumie (the early site of
Lovedale), but 'There was ... jealousy of the instruction, when [Xhosa parents]
saw that their children were, one by one, renouncing their heathen mode of

A Savage Civility 67

life'. The efforts of William Chalmers, who is reported by John A. Chalmers to
have expanded his range by establishing four elementary schools at neigh-
bouring villages, were being supplemented by other missionaries from various
countries entering 'Caffreland', including Wesleyans, Congregationalists,
Anglicans, Methodists, Roman Catholics and Lutherans (Etherington
The typical context of early conversion work is suggested by John
Chalmers's citation of a 'quaint description of school work at the Chumie'
(1877:18), which he contrasts with the 'very admirable system of
Government-aided schools' in his own time (he was writing in the 1870s).
The report he cites is from the minutes of a meeting of the Presbytery of
Caffraria in January, 1840:

The Presbytery proceeded to examine the schools of the
district, and found present 150 scholars, of whom 65 were
males and 85 females; 46 were dressed in European clothing. Of
the whole, 52 read the Scriptures in their own language, and 15
also in English; 5 read the history of Joseph; 9 the account of
the creation; 19 were found in the spelling book, and 65 were
in the alphabet. Fourteen exhibited specimens of writing on
paper, and 29 on slates; 14 also presented solved questions in
simple multiplication. The more advanced were examined in
natural history and in the Shorter Catechism.
The Presbytery expressed their satisfaction with the number
of pupils present, their approbation of the order and
appearance of the scholars, and noted the improvement since
their last examination. (Chalmers 1877:19)

Donovan Williams (1959:222), quoting the Minutes of the Presbytery of
Caffraria of 1853, cites a similar record in which meticulous record-keeping of
cultural transformation is reflected:

The details contained in the Minutes ... give an insight into
the part played by the translation of the Scriptures in Kaffir
education at Lovedale. There were 49 pupils present for
examination, of whom 17 were English. 16 pupils were reading
the Scriptures in the Kaffir language. Five were reading easy
lessons in English and two of these could also read the

68 Civilising Barbarians

Scriptures in Kaffir. One was reading easy lessons in Kaffir.
Sixteen were spelling in English. Eight were spelling in Kaffir.
Five knew the alphabet. Thirteen showed specimens in
writing. Ten read in the British School Lesson Book, No. 4,
and the same were examined in English Grammar, Geography
and Arithmetic from simple addition to reduction. During the
course of the examination the pupils sang various infant school
rhymes and moral songs.

In these reports the surveying eye of the missionary projects his African
subject into a context entirely stripped of any influence or significance other
than the virgin ground of re-making. Such culturally exclusive surveillance
was typical of African education in nineteenth-century South Africa.4
However, rigorously exclusive as it may have been, missionary education
opened many doors in the colonial economy. Cobley (1986:93) notes that
graduates of missionary institutions 'could expect to escape employment in
subsistence agriculture or wage labouring' and obtain salaried employment in
jobs which demanded literacy, numeracy and facility with the colonial
languages. Cobley describes Lovedale as 'the first and most important
example' of 'native training institutions' (p.93). Other such institutions
opened by the end of the century were St. Matthews (Anglican, near
Grahamstown, set up in 1855), Healdtown (Wesleyan, Eastern Cape, 1857),
Blythswood (United Free Church of Scotland, Transkei, affiliated with
Lovedale and opened in 1877), Amanzimtoti (Congregationalist, American
Board Zulu Mission, 1853), Inanda (sister institution to Amanzimtoti, 1869),
Marianhill (Roman Catholic, Natal), and Morija (Paris Evangelical Mission,
Basutoland). Important centres opened at slightly later dates are Tiger Kloof
Native Institution (Anglican, Free State), Botshabelo (Lutheran, Transvaal),
Kilnerton (Wesleyan, Transvaal), Grace Dieu (Anglican, Pietersburg) and
Wilberforce (the African Methodist Episcopal Church School), among others
(Cobley 1986:93-94).
At Lovedale, which was specifically set up to further 'native agency'
through the training of African preachers, teachers and catechists (Shepherd
1940:88-91), a concentrated enterprise of literacy was begun. The Scottish
pioneers of Lovedale, who led the way in making a literate order in the Eastern
Cape, placed great importance on translating the Bible into Xhosa. For many
years, the Bible would be a primary teaching text. As early as 1826, John
Bennie, known as 'the father of Kaffir Literature', printed at the old Lovedale

A Savage Civility 69

site A Systematic Vocabulary of the Kaffrarian Language in two Parts; to which is
prefixed an Introduction to Kaffrarian Grammar (Shepherd 1945:4). William
Boyce (Wesleyan) in 1834 produced the first grammar of an African language
in South Africa with his Grammar of the Kaffir Language (Williams 1959:226).
Shepherd (1945:5) reports that in 1830 missionaries extended their
collaboration at a meeting at Buffalo (the present-day Kingwilliamstown) 'for
the purpose of fixing rules for writing the language', taking Bennie's system as
the basis. Further, missionaries of the London, Wesleyan and Glasgow
missionary societies again met at Buffalo to consider co-operative effort in
translating the Bible (Shepherd 1945:6). After the destruction of the Lovedale
press in the war of 1834-35, the Wesleyans with their press at Mount Coke
began to take a more prominent role in the translation of the Bible (Shepherd
1945:6; Fast 1991:8).
These details illustrate the intensity with which the literary aspect of
colonisation was pursued. The early efforts of translation, lexicography and
grammatical analysis broke through the relative linguistic homogeneity of the
Nguni people and opened the way for institutions such as Lovedale to take the
semiotic invasion much further. Lovedale, like many other similar
institutions, would isolate its pupils and seek to remake their discursive
identity. In this, language more particularly, English and the forms it
encodes would be their main instrument.


Lovedale has been chosen for particular attention here because, according to
all accounts, it was for many decades the largest and most influential
missionary educational institution in the country. Molema (1920:217)
described Lovedale in 1920 as 'the largest mission station, perhaps, in the
world, certainly in Africa', while Walshe (1970:8) comments, 'The most
outstanding educational institutions such as Lovedale .were ... directly
instrumental in creating a new elite ... it was from [Lovedale] that the
majority of African political leaders emerged for the whole of South Africa,
giving expression to their peoples' new political consciousness'. Shepherd,
writing in 1940, said that Lovedale 'is at present the most complete, the
largest, and the most successful of its kind in the country, and the institution
as a whole is probably the greatest educational establishment in South Africa,
and that with the greatest range in scholastic operations, the utmost boldness
in its plans and prospects, and the most perfect order in its organisation and

70 Civilising Barbarians

administration' (1940:199). James Stewart, Lovedale principal between 1870
and 1905, provided more concrete evidence of Lovedale's pre-eminence in the
work Lovedale: Past and Present. Here Stewart compiled figures based on
inspections of 700 schools in the Cape Colony during the three years of 1884,
1885 and 1886. Lovedale was ranked first in numbers of pupils passing
Standards III, IV and V. In the years 1873 to 1886 it came first in numbers of
pupils passing the Elementary Teacher's Certificate. In other comparative
tables Lovedale's lowest position was third (Lovedale 1887: 537-51).
During the Stewart years, Lovedale seems to have acquired an aura of
exclusivity which is reflected in comments such as the following by Noni
Jabavu (1963:28):

We crossed yet another bend of the winding Tyumie and
arrived on the outer edge of the campus of Lovedale, the
missionary institution ... The great school had continued to
grow. As the sun's rays beat down on it the place looked
established, solid. As indeed it should, for it was a hundred and
fifteen years old; a venerable age in a young country. When my
uncles and aunts, and even older Lovedalians, talk about it,
they generate an atmosphere that reminds me of a similar one
in England among people linked by an old school tie.

Her father, D.D.T. Jabavu, writing about his father, John Tengo Jabavu,
remarked in 1922:

Those who knew Jabavu from his young days will agree that he
was immensely benefitted by the subtle glamour of the
Lovedale environment of the early eighties ... As he often
remarked to the present writer, those were the happiest days of
his life. For he was a vigorous youth placed by the Grace of
God in congenial surroundings, the future holding out before
him an infinite vista of possibilities. (Jabavu 1922:14-15)

However, Lovedale was not always so big, so popular and apparently so
successful. There appear to be three distinct phases in the institution's
nineteenth-century history. First, a modest beginning under the principalship
of William Govan, who, in accordance with the earlier missionaries'
philosophy, wished to offer a full classical education with tuition in Greek and

A Savage Civility 71

Latin, and whose aim was to 'raise' African students to complete equality with
Europeans (Hunt Davis 1969:164). Second, there was the Stewart period, in
which, according to Hunt Davis, a shift is discernible from the belief in mere
cultural superiority to one in racial superiority, influenced by Darwinism
(pp.172-73). During this period, the foundation established by Sir George
Grey's plan in the 1850s and early 1860s for promoting 'peace' by supporting
education (with particular emphasis on industrial education) coincided with
Stewart's antipathy against the idea of classical education for Africans, and
with his own preference for 'useful' (industrial) training. Under Stewart,
Lovedale flourished and achieved wide renown, although the missionary
message was ambiguously received. Third, there is the period beginning
roughly around the 1890s which sees dissatisfaction with missionary
paternalism culminate in the secessionist movement of figures such as the
Reverend P.J. Mzimba, who started the African Presbyterian Church
(Cuthbertson 1991:57-64).
During the first period after the opening of Lovedale as an educational
institution in 1841, growth appears to have been slow and numbers small. In
addition, the War of the Axe in the 1840s saw the institution closed down for
use as a barracks, and Lovedale was not reopened before 1849 (Shepherd
1940:104-19). In the 1850s Sir George Grey instituted strategy for educating
the Nguni, based on his New Zealand experience (Hunt Davis 1969:220). The
Grey Plan dovetailed with suggestions by Earl Gray, Secretary of State for the
Colonies from 1846 to 1852, for providing industrial education to 'civilise
races emerging from barbarism' by turning them into a 'settled and industrious
peasantry'. The anticipated result of such training was a docile and efficient
labour force which would accept both European religious and political
authority, as well as European social superiority. Lovedale added to its stature
as the leading school for Africans by assimilating the special programmes of
the Grey Plan into its course of instruction. Vocational training was begun, in
which carpentry, masonry, wagonmaking, blacksmithing, and later post office
and telegraph work were taught, while for women there was laundry work,
sewing and dressmaking5 (Stewart pamphlet, undated, Stewart Papers
(hereafter SP) BC 106 D16:4). Masonry was later replaced by bookbinding
and printing.
The inflow of government funds under the Grey Plan, in addition to its
own resources, allowed the institution to retain vocational teachers and adopt
a four-year apprenticeship programme. It also added a general education to its
vocational programme. Apprentices would work at their trades during the day

72 Civilising Barbarians

and. then receive classroom instruction for two hours -during the evening.
While Govan remained principal, Lovedale's academic curriculum was seen as
a primary concern. Govan wanted Lovedale 'to give a good English education,
and also a higher education, including classics, mathematics, logic, theology
etc.' (in Hunt Davis 1969:229). Initially, few Africans achieved the higher
levels of education. According to Hunt Davis, only two out of sixty-two
Africans took higher subjects in 1856, but by 1863 more Africans enrolled for
advanced subjects. Nevertheless, Lovedale's high standards meant that its
alumni generally fitted into the emergent African middle class (p.229).
Although the Grey Plan ended in 1863, industrial education at Lovedale
continued to thrive, while the lure of higher levels of scholarship would
attract increasing numbers of African pupils.
An event in Lovedale's history which was to have important consequences
was the disagreement between Lovedale's first and second principals, Govan
and Stewart, which led to Govan's resignation and Stewart's assumption of
the principalship in 1870. This difference is dealt with fully by Brock
(1974:107-14) as well as Shepherd (1940:152-64) and only the salient features
need outlining here. The dispute was based on the issue of Greek and Latin as
teaching subjects, and, behind this, on the matter of an equal education for
African and European pupils, following the highest standards, as opposed to a
differentiated approach for Africans in which English was to be regarded as a
'classical' language. Brock (1974:111) explains that where Govan aimed to
train 'an African elite who could compete on equal terms with Europeans in
any sphere of life, Stewart, in accordance with the wishes of the [Foreign
Missions] Committee, aimed to provide instruction especially tailored to
African needs, with the particular object of producing African teachers and
preachers'. The Free Church of Scotland Foreign Missions Committee
considered submissions from both Govan and Stewart and pronounced in
favour of Stewart, deciding that the classical languages 'should be sacrificed if
they stand in the way of the pupils acquiring a thorough understanding of
English' (Shepherd 1940:160).
Apart from the merits of the immediate issue between Govan and Stewart,
the real dispute was philosophical, raising the question of attitude towards
Africans and the real objective of colonisation. Govan was a missionary of the
old school, writes Brock (1974:110), a true exponent of the 'principle of
conversion'. Stewart's approach implied that the ideal of ultimate equality
between African and European was impractical and that education designed
mainly for Africans should be differentiated. While logic and practicability

A Savage Civility 73

appear to have been on Stewart's side with regard to the teaching of Greek
and Latin, his implicit denial of the ideal of equality raised the ire of educated
Africans and was to have important implications for the kind of discourse
Stewart would enforce at Lovedale.
Lovedale under Stewart began to show significant growth, and Stewart's
own voice as leading spokesperson for the institution became confident and
self-assured. In a paper read in 1878, Stewart was able to report a steady
increase in numbers in the ten years between 1868 and 1877: Against 86
pupils in 1868, there were 380 in 1877 (pamphlet, SP BC 106 D1.1). In
another pamphlet, 'On Native Education South Africa', Stewart outlined
the nature of an ideal educational grading for Africans as follows:

The right lines of native education are then that it should be -
(1) largely industrial, with a good general education up to at
least Standard IV; (2) with a normal course of training for
three years for a more limited class to afford the supply of
qualified teachers for native village schools; (3) with
opportunity under certain financial limitations for a much
smaller class to go as far as matriculation; and (4) further, to
any extent they may choose to go at their own expense, and on
the same terms and privileges as Europeans. This last may be
justified on the theory that education proceeds from above
downwards, not from below upwards. A small educated class
stimulates the ambition of those below; and specially does this
hold good among Africans. (SP BC 106 D16, undated:6)

Indeed, Stewart's 'right lines for native education' corresponded closely with
Lovedale's own programme. Lovedale's annual report for 1873, for example,
set out the 'objects of the institution' as (1) 'to train as preachers such as may
desire to enter the work of the ministry, and who may after considerable trial
be found fitted, by their mental qualifications and general character'; (2) 'to
train teachers for native village schools'; (3) to teach the 'various arts of
printing, bookbinding, wagonmaking, blacksmithing, carpentering, general
work, and to train a few as telegraph clerks'; and (4) 'to give a general
education to those whose course in life may be as yet undecided'. In addition,
the 'real' object was cited as 'spiritual results, and the formation of moral
character' (Cory PR 242:3). The report indicated that in the 'educational'
(non-industrial) department, three years were spent on the theological course,

74 Civilising Barbarians

another three on the 'ordinary college course', and three years on the 'school
department', beginning with 'the Junior Reader and Simple Rules in
Arithmetic' (p.7).
Stewart's notion of education spreading downwards seems to have some
basis in fact. Odendaal writes in Vukani Bantu! (1984a:6), 'The numbers of the
new educated class had also by now [the 1880s] swelled to the extent that
these Africans were identifiable as a distinct, well-established stratum of
society'. He reports that by the 1860s the number of African converts
throughout southern Africa had risen to approximately half a million. The
number of people receiving an elementary mission education rose from nine
thousand in the 1850s to a hundred thousand by the end of the century. The
greatest concentration of pupils was in the Cape Colony (p.3). Lovedale was
at the centre of this activity.
Supporting Lovedale's order of discourse was a regimented, hierarchical
order of material disciplinary practices which was designed to combat the
'idleness' of the African (see Coetzee 1988b). The report for 1873 gives some
idea of the daily routine. The earliest classes began at 7am, during which
translation from English into Xhosa and Dutch was done for pupils at the
lowest levels. At 8am all pupils assembled for worship and breakfast, while the
9am bell summoned classes to regular work. Pupils assembled for dinner at
1.15pm. At 2pm, or 3pm in the summer, all pupils not engaged in trades met
for two hours for work in the fields or in the grounds about the institution
(Cory PR 242:7-8). Pictures in James Stewart's Lovedale South Africa;
Illustrated by Fifty Views from Photographs (1894:72-73) show neat groups of
pupils in military formation, captioned 'muster for afternoon work', while a
photograph in Shepherd's Lovedale South Africa (1940) and on the cover of
this book shows the entire contingent of boarders in drill formation with
Major W.L. Geddes, the boarding master, at the head.
Such a precise and orderly organisation of time and labour was certainly
not unique to Lovedale, but a common feature of the more general Calvinist
theological imperative to instil a stringent work ethic among pupils. It was a
process in which the African body and mind were drawn into a precise
network of control and surveillance. In the description of Crais (1992a:121),
the European project in evidence here comprised an effort to 'control the
time, space and cultural practices of an 'intimate enemy' and to seek to
redefine the body of the African as a metonym of a dominated life'.
A rare insight into such a process at Lovedale is given by the hand-written
nineteenth-century journal of one James Aitkin (undated), who worked at

A Savage Civility 75

Lovedale under Stewart. Aitkin describes with relish the regimentation of
eating procedures:

The labour involved in the boarding, not to speak of the
discipline, of so many pupils of all shades of colour, must of
necessity be onerous and heavy: yet everything is managed
with a regularity and a clock-work precision which would not
suffer by comparison with the daily duties appertaining to the
best regulated military barracks. There are three meals per
diem breakfast, at eight, dinner at one, and supper at six.
Permit me ... to invite you to take a look in at the evening
meal. The 6 o'clock bell has just rung, and the boarders are
taking their seats in the spacious dining-hall ... At one end of
the hall, on a dais, are placed, under spotless white covers, the
tables at which the Europeans take their meals, the centre
table of these being occupied by the boarding master, the
members of his family and some of the staff. Mr Geddes sits
enthroned at the head of his table and commands a full view of
every individual in the dining hall. Noiselessly and without the
least confusion or hustling, the pupils come trooping in and
take their places, the higher class natives, or at all events those
whose relatives can afford it, being seated nearest the
Europeans and provided with somewhat more substantial fare
than the other natives.

Corroborating Aitkin's observations, and giving material evidence for the
spatial notions of elevation and descent, Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope
wrote in 1878 that 'coloured boys sat below the Europeans', who dined at a
'high table' (p.217). Aitkin, meanwhile, went on to make a startling
comparison between the material scene before him and an imagined feudal
harmony in England, when the baron and his retainers 'all blythe and gay' sat
down to meals in a spirit of contented regimentation. He continues:

Every one being seated, Mr Geddes touches a little bell, and
immediately perfect silence ensues. He then gives out a hymn
... Following this a portion of the Scripture is read, after which
a prayer is offered up ... Thereafter the meal is commenced,
small talk being permitted, but should any opportunity be

76 Civilising Barbarians

taken by the boys of raising the voice to an undue extent, the
boarding-master has simply to touch again his magic bell, and
instant silence is the result ... Native waiters glide noiselessly
around, attending assiduously to their duties and ever and anon
whispering into your ear questions such as 'Some more half cup
sir?' The food purveyed to the Europeans is ample, varied &
well prepared ... Crushed maize with plentiful supplies of
butter milk form the staple article of diet of the native pupils,
meat being provided only occasionally ... In leaving the hall,
as entering it, perfect order is maintained, the occupants of the
several tables being dismissed in turn, an usher calling out the
necessary word of command, which is simply 'Rise'. Some
military drill has been imparted to the boys by Mr Geddes ...
and this accounts in great measure for the method and
precision which characterise the daily routine of the place. Mr
Geddes has told them off into companies, and has taught them
their 'facings' and other rudimentary parts of drill, with the
result that on occasions such as church parade on Sundays,
these fine manly young fellows may be seen marching to
Divine service in 'fours' with all the aplomb of well-disciplined
troops. (Cory MS 10,369:24-28)

For all Aitken's emphasis on 'blythe and gay' feudal companions, his narrative
points toward hierarchisation in every sense: seniority according to position,
race and means, which is manifested even in the content of food served. The
militaristic emphasis on strictly defined and carefully monitored order appears
to have served as a basis for everyday living at Lovedale. One can also assume
that it provided the physical counterpart for the discursive order enforced in
the institution's teaching.


In discussing such an order of discourse from the point of view of the late
twentieth century, one has the advantage of sharing in theoretically
sophisticated scepticism about metanarratives and totalising discourses in
general. In a sense, then, the parameters of such an analysis are indicated by
the monolithic nature of the discourse under review on the one hand, and, on
the other, the availability (indeed the necessity) of discursive-analytic insights

A Savage Civility 77

to reveal the contingency of a discourse such as that employed by Lovedale in
the nineteenth century.
It must be stressed that my approach here is a synchronic review of the
typical discourse evident in the historical record of Lovedale in the nineteenth
century, more particularly during the institution's successful years under Dr
James Stewart, roughly between 1870 and 1890 and before the turbulence
occasioned by the Ethiopian movement in the 1890s. I do not pretend to
provide an historical narrative per se. Lovedale's history spans more than a
century and is closely tied up with the dense and complex history of that
period. As such, it is well beyond the purview of this study. However, in all the
studies of Lovedale I have been able to find,6 none offers a specifically
discursive analysis of the institution's operations within the context of the
nineteenth century. This omission is understandable in the light of the
historian's primary socio-empirical objective, but it means that the historical
narratives on Lovedale lack critical discussion of the way in which the
institution and its operatives constituted themselves, their subjects and the
broader world in language. An analysis thus conceived may go some way
towards the kind of aim articulated by Homi K. Bhabha (1983:18) that 'the
point of intervention [in colonial discourse] should shift from the identification
of images as positive or negative to an understanding of the processes of
subjectification made possible (and plausible) through stereotypical discourse'.
Postcolonial cultural critics implicitly depend on the premise stated baldly
by Jean Francois Lyotard (1984:xxiv) as follows: 'Simplifying to the extreme, I
define postmodern as incredulity towards metanarratives'. The term 'narrative'
is employed here in the broader sense denoting encodations and protocols of
discourse which constitute a regime of truth or, in the Foucauldian terms
introduced in Chapter 2, laws governing or influencing individuality and
subjectivity. The predilection for meta-narratorial control at Lovedale is
evident, in the more obvious sense, in newspaper and book production, and,
less visibly, in educational discourse. A short example of newspaper history
should illustrate the more obvious case.7 Lovedale operated several
newspapers, starting with Ikwezi in 1844, which was terminated in 1846 after
the outbreak of the seventh frontier war. Ikwezi was succeeded by Indaba in
1862, and by the jointly published Kaffir Express and Isigidimi Sama-Xosa in
1870. Isigidimi was controlled by the Lovedale missionaries, but it nevertheless
reflected the opinions of the emerging educated African elite.
The needs of the African reading public led to the Kaffir Express and
Isigidimi being separately published in 1873. In 1874 Elijah Makiwane became

78 Civilising Barbarians

the editor (under European 'supervision') of Isigidimi. As such, he was the first
African newspaper editor in South Africa. Makiwane was succeeded by John
Tengo Jabavu in 1881. However, all did not go smoothly. The literate African
elite soon became frustrated by the paternalism implicit in missionary control
of Isigidimi, while Jabavu was warned by Stewart to be more moderate in his
editorship. Stewart found it necessary to 'eviscerate' a 'very political' article
criticising the then prime minister and governor of the Cape, and when
Jabavu used Isigidimi to comment on election matters, sharp differences arose
between him and Stewart (Odendaal 1983:103-104). Jabavu handed in his
resignation in 1884, and started his own newspaper, Imvo Zabantsundu (Native
Opinion), with the backing of sympathetic white politicians, in the same year.
In this account it appears that Stewart was intolerant of alternative
narratives of 'native opinion' other than those sanctioned and approved by
Lovedale missionaries. Further evidence of narratorial authoritarianism in the
operations of the Lovedale Press has been convincingly argued by Peires
(1979b:155-75) and Gray (1979:172-80). It can therefore be suggested that an
institution such as Lovedale along with so many others in the 'more
powerful Victorian missionary movement' worldwide (Elboumrne 1991:164) -
stands as a stark example of what the postmodern argument would typify as
denial of heterogeneity in that its discourse constituted a narrative 'that
predetermines all responses or prohibits any counter-narratives' (Carroll
1987:77). Paraphrasing Bakhtin, Carroll notes that 'no representation, no
narrative, and no theory can encompass and resolve such a fundamental
conflict [that representation is always an open, unresolvable conflict of
representations] without denying its own dialogic foundations and becoming
authoritarian and dogmatic' (p.81).
Victorian discourse under the sway of 'manifest destiny' (Bosch 1991:298)
was generally monolithic. Further, the roots of such thought lie in neo-
classical conceptions of language as an apparently 'transparent medium for
thought' (Coetzee & Attwell 1992:181). It therefore does not come as a
surprise to find that Lovedale's typical discourse suggests authoritarianism and
dogmatic certainty, nor do I wish to suggest that Lovedale was unique in this
regard, although for my particular interest in Lovedale's educational
preconceptions the point does need to be established and given concrete
substance. First, however, a clearly elaborated approach towards the nature of
the'discourse' under scrutiny is needed.
Among the plethora of theories in relation to the nature of archival or
'empirical' writing8 such as that evident in documents relating to Lovedale, I

A Savage Civility 79

have found the work of cultural historian Hayden White especially useful.
White has developed a theory for the contingency and tropological nature of all
discourse which purports to be 'historical' or 'factual'. As a theoretician,
White stands out prominently, along with Dominick LaCapra, for relativising
the 'objective' quality of historical or factual writing. Their arguments have
aimed at showing that conventional historiography often relies on a notion of
representation which is implicitly grounded upon nineteenth-century theory.
In this view, historiography must, as science and literature did, digest the
lessons of a European tradition which includes Nietzsche, Derrida and
Foucault, and which examines critically the founding assumptions of
knowledge (see Kramer 1989:100; White 1978; LaCapra 1983; Alonso 1988).
White has questioned the distinction between 'imaginative' writing (such as
found in 'literature') and 'historical' or 'factual' writing. His interest to me in
this study is that he suggests a way of looking at the representational
suppositions of 'historical' documentation in the Lovedale archive. In his
major work, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century
Europe (1973), White set out to analyse the historical work 'as what it most
manifestly is that is to say, a verbal structure in the form of a narrative prose
discourse that purports to be a model, or icon, of past structures arid processes
in the interests of explaining what they were by representing them' (p.2). That
White's theory also applies to supposedly 'factual' writing is illustrated in his
essay 'The Fictions of Factual Representation' (1978:121-34). Here White
argues, for example, that

all original descriptions of any field of phenomena are already
interpretations of its structure, and ... the linguistic mode in
which the original description (or taxonomy) of the field is cast
will implicitly rule out certain modes of representation and
modes of explanation regarding the field's structure and tacitly
sanction others. In other words, the favoured mode of original
description of a field of historical phenomena (and this
includes the field of literary texts) already contains implicitly a
limited range of modes of employment and modes of argument
by which to disclose the meaning of a field in a discursive prose
representation. If, that is, the description is anything more
than a random registering of impressions. The plot structure of
a historical narrative (how things turned out as they did) and
the formal argument or explanation of why things happened or

80 Civilising Barbarians

turned out as they did are prefigured by the original description
(of the 'facts' to be explained) in a given modality of language
use: metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, or irony. (1978:127-

In this extract, all the constituent components of White's theory are
compressed into summary. White's schema comprises the prefiguration of
phenomenal data into linguistic modes of comprehension (metaphor,
metonymy, synecdoche, irony), the reconstruction of such data by means of
what he terms different modes of employment (romance, comedy, tragedy,
satire) and the explanation of the story so emplotted by various modes of
argument (White 1973:1-42). The basis of White's theory, namely the
prefiguration of data into linguistic modes, rests on Roman Jakobson's and
Kenneth Burke's theories of language and rhetoric, while his employment
theories rely to some extent on Northrop Frye's theories of literary archetypes.
The idea of linguistic modes is derived from a theory of tropes, elaborated in
the introduction to White's collection of essays, Tropics of Discourse: Essays in
Cultural Criticism (1978).
Here White proposes that 'Tropic is the shadow from which all realistic
discourse tries to flee' (1978:2). But the flight is futile, since 'tropics is the
process by which all discourse constitutes the objects which it pretends only to
describe realistically and to analyse objectively'. I wish to dwell on this aspect
of White's extensive theory of 'factual' or 'historical' writing, since I want to
demonstrate how in nineteenth-century colonial South Africa in general and
in Lovedale in particular a certain 'reality' was constituted in discourse which
functioned on the representational level and within the orthodoxy of
English education as a means of empowerment in the colonial world as a
significant way of influencing subjectivity.
White explains that 'tropic' derives from tropikos, tropos, Classical Greek
words for 'turn', 'way' or 'manner'. The word came into modern Indo-
European languages through tropus, Classical Latin for 'metaphor' or 'figure of
speech'. All these meanings, White argues, sedimented into the early English
word 'trope' and capture the meaning of the concept modern English calls
'style'. The idea of'style' is especially apt for understanding that form of verbal
composition which, to distinguish it from logical demonstration on the one
side and pure fiction on the other, is termed 'discourse' (1978:2).
Relying on Harold Bloom's statement in A Map of Misreading (1975) that
'all interpretation depends upon the antithetical relation between meanings,

A Savage Civility 81

and not on the supposed relation between a text and its meaning', White
proposes the 'ineluctable fact' that all texts intended to represent 'things as
they are' fail in their intention: 'Every mimetic text can be shown to have left
something out of the description of its object or to have put something into it
that is inessential to what some reader, with more or less authority, will regard
as an adequate description' (1978:3).
White points out that the etymology of the word 'discourse', derived from
the Latin word discurrere, suggests a movement 'back and forth' or a 'running
to and fro'. Discourse moves 'to and fro' between received encodations of
experience and the 'clutter of phenomena' which refuses incorporation into
conventionalised notions of 'reality', 'truth', or 'possibility'. In addition, White
argues, it moves back and forth between alternative ways of encoding this
reality, so that, in the final analysis, discourse is quintessentially a mediative
enterprise (1978:3-4). However, White allows for the possibility of certain
forms of conceptualisation hardening into hypostasis when he argues that the
aim of some discourse is 'to deconstruct a conceptualisation of a given area of
experience which has become hardened into a hypostasis that blocks fresh
perception or denies, in the interest of formalisation, what our will or
emotions tell us ought not to be the case in a given department of life'
It follows, therefore, that such 'hardened' conceptualisation is antithetical
to the notion of discourse as a mediative enterprise acknowledging implicitly
or explicitly its status as a figurative encodation of reality which must always
be open to argument or contradiction. More specifically, data which is
prefigured by one of the linguistic modes of informational comprehension
(metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, irony) tend, especially in cases of
'hardened' conceptualisation, to become 'formalised' in one or another type of
literary employment (romance, comedy, tragedy, satire). In missionary
discourse, which shows evidence of 'hardened' conceptualisation, all four
kinds of plot are evident: romance (the heroic individual missionary on a
quest in the moral wilderness), comedy9 (successful resolution of error and
confusion by the awakening of understanding, and joyful social reunion under
a kindly Godhead), tragedy ('fallen' states, particularly after an attempt has
been made to commune with God), and satire (the representation of half-
educated, 'book-knowledge' buffoons, whose pride and hubris have travestied
the noble aims of missionary education).'0 Because the typical Lovedale
discourse of the second half of the century tends to follow the general pattern
of Manichean prefiguration in terms of dark and light, good and bad, civilised

82 Civilising Barbarians

and barbarian, information tends to be coded in paired metaphors which do
not evolve beyond their binary structure. This is in contrast to White's sense
of progression, within historical writing at large, in linguistic modes of
information, from 'an original metaphorical characterisation of a domain of
experience, through metonymic deconstructions of its elements, to
synecdochic representations of the relations between its superficial attributes
and its presumed essence, to, finally, a representation of whatever contrasts or
opposition can legitimately be discerned in the totalities identified in the
third phase of discursive representation' (1978:5).
The examples of Lovedale discourse which I examine in this chapter
appear to be largely arrested in the metaphorical stage, although examples of
metonymic and synecdochic representations are also evident. As a result, the
discourse under review often tends to emphasise comedic resolutions, as these
rely on a resolution of warring opposites characterized by binary metaphoric
description. At the edges of the ideal comedic outcome, however, are the
possibilities of backsliding or over-reaching pride, which respectively call for
tragic/melodramatic or satirical employment. This very limited range of formal
knowledge processing provided a particularly narrow ground for self-
apprehension by pupils who were compelled to reproduce as learning such
cognitive procedures."


The textual traces of missionary discourse in general and of that emanating
from Lovedale in particular, though imperfect and incomplete, are never-
theless overwhelming in volume and suffocatingly repetitious. This is because,
barring minor or major shifts in attitude and strategy among Lovedale
missionaries during the nineteenth century, the dualistically conceived
prefiguration of the world as a (metaphorical) battleground of good and evil,
and the many subsidiary metaphors attendant upon this Manichean
prefiguration, remain consistently evident in the textual traces under review.
It is possible, therefore, to propose some general features of the 'translation' of
African subjectivity in this material into particular formal emplotments.
By the very nature of their vocation, missionaries were always under a duty
to report back to their sponsoring bodies. They therefore provide a pre-eminent
example of entrapment within a particular mode of expression. Typical of neo-
classical, empirical rendering of knowledge, their mission was never to
discover heterogeneity, but always to confirm pre-existent notions of the

A Savage Civility 83

nature of 'reality' which they regarded as objectively true. Examples of
metaphorical troping become evident in reports of the early Lovedale
operatives. What is striking here is that these reports are styled as empirical
accounts of data from the mission fields and were received as such. In the
Glasgow Missionary Society Winter Quarterly Intelligence of 1843 (two years after
the opening of Lovedale seminary), the editor wrote:

We have now before us several communications from Mr
Bennie. Some of these are descriptions of native customs, well
fitted to awaken deep feelings of Christian sympathy. The poor
Kaffres are morally bound hand and foot with the most
depraved customs and laws. So exceedingly impure and
depraved are they that we are prevented from going into detail.

In this extract, the editor explicitly acknowledges that the accounts he wishes
to quote are well fitted to awaken Christian sympathy. To do this, they must
satisfy a preconfigured notion of the African as a 'depraved' barbarian. Such is
the conceptual overdetermination (and its corresponding figurative
hypostasis) that the editor's comments rely on adjectival expression as a
substitute for the raw information he finds too unpalatable for his readers.
'Depraved customs' and 'exceedingly impure' function as indications that the
matter of the reports would, if published, offend good taste, but that the
awfulness of the contents can be taken as read, given a shared prefiguration of
'strange' data. The actual quotation then offered (supposedly a 'mild' example
of the impurity of Cape Africans) reads in part as follows:

While conversing this afternoon with some natives, a man
approached whom I had long known, but whom I had not seen
for some time. I always thought him a fine-looking Kaffre. He
used to be always well dressed and ornamented according to
Kaffre costume. On seeing him to-day, however, he was so
altered in appearance as to induce the belief that he must be
seriously ill. He was in dishabile, his firm step and haughty
mien were gone, and he looked ill. I asked what ailed him?
'During the late war,' said he, 'I killed a Fingo who had the
igungu, and in the act of killing him I became infected.' His
account of its effects on his system was one of subtle and

84 Civilising Barbarians
powerful poison. He spoke of himself as pained all over the
body down to his very toes. And yet the truth seems to be that
this poor child of nature is merely the victim of superstition.
He believes that he is under the influence of bewitching
matter, and that he will in consequence surely die. And such
are the effects of a belief such as this in dark heathen minds.
Poor sons of Ham, when shall the day dawn and the shadows as
to them flee away? When shall Ethiopia stretch out her hands
to God? (p.7)

This 'report' is divided into an 'empirical' observation and a subsequent
explication. The observation is rendered in descriptive prose presenting the
pathos of man fallen from health and dignity because he had killed someone
with the 'igungu', while the explication collapses all possible speculation
about the cause of this condition (if one were to accept the account as
reliable) into a want of Christianity and the captivity of 'dark heathen minds'.
The employment of the account offers the prospect of tragic delusion (fallen
from the dignity of his 'firm step and haughty mien' and reduced to
'dishabile'). The account as rendered is plainly a literary construct relying on a
pre-existent Western literary culture for comprehension and agreement. The
linguistic mode of information relies on a metaphoric opposition between
'dawn' and 'shadows', although the relation of the data about superstition to
the presumed essence of the account, 'dark heathen minds', might be styled as
synecdoche. The underlying metaphoric dualism implicit in the entire
passage, and explicitly figured in the juxtaposition of 'dawn' and 'shadows',
offers an instance of how otherness was informationally processed by
missionaries. The reporter's rhetorical purpose is satisfied by the confirmation
of a metaphorical-taken-for-literal opposition between 'light' and 'dark'. It
goes without saying that such figurations of events and conditions were
prejudicial to the people who were the subject of this metaphoric gaze, since
they were being objectified in terms owing allegiance to the emergent colonial
power increasingly affecting their lives in an adverse manner, and which
would also insist that its 'knowledge' be accepted as truth.
Such metaphoric dualism appears to underlie missionary-colonial discourse
in its entirety. It provided a basis for the various narrative plots which
consistently totalised difference and heterogeneity as a function of the
Manichean dyad: good/evil; savage/civilised; heathen/Christian; indolent/
hardworking; slothful/diligent, and so on. It is within this dyadic discursive

A Savage Civility 85

frame that one finds the typical metaphors which function as dominant modes
of comprehension underlying predictable emplotments of otherness and
Moreover, such reductive discursive operations occurred in a context of
public debate which saw missionaries as the champions of African interests
against a hostile settler population. This general context is well illustrated by
an exchange reported in the Christian Express of 1 May 1876, in which
Lovedale replied to charges in the Port Elizabeth Telegraph and the Graaff-
Reinet Advertiser. The accusations related to comments by Isigidimi (sister paper
to the Christian Express) on a highly publicised court case in which a European
youth was accused of shooting to death three African children and wounding
two. The Christian Express reported that the hostile papers published 'a long
bill of accusations against Lovedale in particular, and against native education
generally, and against a Kaffir periodical press in addition, as a special and
permanent nuisance which should be abolished' (Christian Express 1 May
1876:1). In its response, the Christian Express wrote, in part: 'The Isigidimi
Sama-Xosa has for two and a half years been edited very properly and very well
too, by a "superior" native but under supervision of course. The article in
question was carefully revised every word of it, by a white skin and whatever
blame there be, must fall on a skin of that colour' (p.1, emphasis added).
Two months later, the controversy flared again. This time the Port Elizabeth
Telegraph was quoted with approval by the Fort Beaufort Advocate and the
Queenstown Representative. In its riposte, the Christian Express of July 1876
enlisted the support of the Alice Times, whom it quoted as follows:

The Port Elizabeth Telegraph after having received a sharp
reprimand from the Christian Express a short time ago, for
writing about things it did not understand, has again returned
to the attack, if not with vigour, at least with as much spite as
the occasion warrants.
An article in the Telegraph of 23rd June, begins by
lamenting the difficulty of obtaining an adequate, or suitable
labour supply in Port Elizabeth; and the impertinence of well-
fed, well-paid, and comfortably housed servants in that town
... [the Telegraph] traces the evil to its source, and ascribes
'much of our domestic inconvenience in this respect to the
high pressure rate at which the native servant girls are being
educated at various institutions'. (Christian Express July 1876:1)

86 Civilising Barbarians

This view by the Port Elizabeth Telegraph allowed the Alice Times, clearly in
sympathy with the missionary enterprise, to characterise the attacks against
Lovedale as 'a singular instance of perverted judgment, and narrow-minded
illiberal and un-Christian sentiment'. Further, it was argued that 'the common
sense of the nineteenth century, to say nothing of its philanthropy and
Christianity, demands that no race of people be consigned en masse to be
hewers of wood and drawers of water, as the Telegraph would fain compel the
Kaffirs to be' (in the Christian Express July 1876:1).
What emerges from this exchange, which is typical of the settler-missionary
conflict of views in general, is that Lovedale was able to appropriate the high
moral ground of liberal values 'philanthropy and Christianity' while
sharing many of the presuppositions of the settlers about white superiority, as
evidenced in the hasty assurance that Isigidimi's black editor worked 'under
supervision of course'. But one can reasonably conjecture that in the eyes of
black people who were seeking education to avoid precisely the servile status
desired for them by the likes of the Port Elizabeth Telegraph, Lovedale and
missionary education in general presented itself as the 'friend of the native'.
Though a 'friend of the native', Lovedale's views of the social and cultural
universe from which its subjects emerged show the closure of a dyadic
discursive framework and its repetitive plots, and one can only imagine the
difficulties this narrow cognitive frame must have presented for pupils. For
example, in the April issue of the Christian Express of 1878, the editorial had
this to say about what it styled 'The African Social Problem':

The social problem in South Africa is confessedly a difficult
one, and its solution must necessarily be a work of time. The
situation, in the case of the Kaffir [Xhosa] race, is something
like this. Individually they have more or less an incapacity for
persevering labour. They had rather live as they do, in mud
hovels with enough to satisfy their animal wants, than make
any systematic effort to better themselves in life and
somehow there is a wall of separation in habits, tastes, and
everything else, between them and the English colonist, so that
they fit into our social system nowhere. Socially they hang
together on the clan-system. The individual has no rights, nor
security of person and property, and therefore no motive to
toil, where he cannot securely enjoy the fruits of his industry.
The institution of chiefs is now only a curse, if as a cure for

A Savage Civility 87

anarchy it ever was a blessing. For many a day it has been only
a gainful trade, in robbing and murdering the rich through
imputation of witchcraft, and making the administration of
justice an organised system of plundering the poor. (p.1)

For a more recent account which provides a picture of the very same society as
that described above, but in sympathetic terms, one consults J.B. Peires's book,
The House of Phalo (1981). The excerpt above is remarkable mostly for the
conspicuous manner in which it subjects its data (clan living, chiefdom,
communal land-holding, other cultural approaches to labour, alternative styles
of housing) to a dualistic metaphorical value system. The lack of a specifically
Protestant work ethic becomes 'an incapacity for persevering labour'; the
absence of middle-class British life in brick and mortar houses is figured as
'animal wants' in 'mud hovels'. A minor aspect of a more comprehensive
cosmological system (see Hodgson 1985:1-5) is figuratively transposed into
'robbing and murdering the rich through imputation of witchcraft'. The
account depicts a society tragically trapped in social degradation, and hints,
via the obvious binary implication, at the comedic resolution available to such
'fallen' barbarians in their 'hovels': a retreat from the errors of heathenism and
an awakening to a God who happens to prescribe Western cultural habits.
The hypostasis of narrative evident in this piece goes some way towards
explaining the missionary need to isolate its subjects in institutions where its
regime would be unchallenged (see Etherington 1976). Only outright control
of environment would serve the rigid strictures of a discursive system
committed to remaking a strange world in its own image. This need is
captured in the comments of the Reverend J.D. Don, whose observations
upon visiting Lovedale appear in the January 1877 issue of the Christian
Express. Don expresses his conviction that Lovedale possesses a 'great
advantage' in having youths as boarders, living on the premises day and night,
'separated from adverse influences and subject to the rule of the institution for
a whole term at a time'. The Lovedale teacher 'fights the devil at an advantage
compared with his Indian comrade', Don wrote.
This desire for isolation to combat the devil at an advantage is set against
the actions of the early London Missionary Society pioneer, Johannes van der
Kemp, by Lovedale historian R.H.W. Shepherd (himself a Lovedale principal
in the twentieth century). Van der Kemp did the reverse of what Lovedale was
later to do: he lived among his Khoikhoi charges, adapted his dress, and took a
slave for a wife. Shepherd (1940:11-12) notes with disapproval that Van der

88 Civilising Barbarians

Kemp 'did not teach his charges the dignity of labour' and that 'his marriage to
a slave girl more than forty years his junior alienated sympathy that would
have been given to missionary work'. Clearly, the Van der Kemp option was
seen as aberration (see Enklaar 1988; Elboumrne 1991).
This is made explicit by a Glasgow Missionary Society report of 1839, in
which it is written that Lovedale should 'contain apartments for the Students,
and that they should be entirely separated from general Kaffre society during
the period of their studies'. The report conceives this as necessary to 'their
success in study, and perhaps still more to their moral and religious culture'.
The report warns, however, that this will require 'management', since robust
young men 'previously accustomed to roving habits, and with a full vigorous
constitution, would neither be willing nor able to sustain such confinement
and protracted studies as are common in this country [Scotland]'. It is
therefore proposed that the institution should have 'a piece of ground in the
cultivation of which [students] will be required to labour under the direction
of their tutor, or some one else appointed by him'. In this way, the report
concludes, it is hoped that 'their health will be preserved, habits of industry
obtained, a knowledge of agriculture acquired, which may through them be
dispersed over the country' (Glasgow Missionary Society Summer Quarterly
Intelligence (IV) 1839:10).
If the dyadic cognitive frame enforced a rigorous disciplinary philosophy
encouraging representational dichotomies, what were the typical metaphors
for education once inside the institution, and how was the educational
experience of pupils plotted? Much can be gleaned from the writing of
Lovedale's most illustrious leader, James Stewart, and from textually recorded
advice given to Lovedale students during Stewart's years. Stewart's writings on
the .question of 'native education' suggest the prevalence of a narrative in
which Africans are metaphorically characterized as an 'infant' race in the
more general march of civilisationn' worldwide, spearheaded by the Victorian
Christians. Coupled with this very common metaphor as in Kipling's 'half'
devil and half-child' is the notion of cyclicality in the progress of
civilisation. As the Greeks and Romans were responsible for the trans-
formation of the Anglo-Saxon savages, so Victorian Christians would
transform the Cape Africans. The Glasgow Missionary Society Summer
Quarterly Intelligence for 1839, for example, reported that English should be
used as much as possible in teaching, since this 'would lay open the rich stores
of English learning, and enable those educated at the Institution to pour forth
on the native mind what they themselves drunk in from a foreign channel'.

A Savage Civility 89

This is seen as a renewal of the civilisational cycle: 'It was thus the literature of
our own country grew up, amidst the intellectual acquirements of ancient
Greece and Rome. And the day may yet come, when mighty nations on the
continent of Africa shall look back with filial regard on these and similar
attempts to nurse the infant mind of their early progenitors' (p. 11).
The justificatory invocation of cyclicality, as if by some law of historical
determinism the British could not avoid colonising Africa, begs too many
questions to discuss here. But the idea that knowledge can be 'poured forth on
the native mind', like the 1841 Glasgow Missionary Society Autumn Quarterly
Intelligence's comment that Africans should be enabled to 'drink at the English
fountains of literature, science, and practical godliness', indicates a view of the
African missionary subject as an empty vessel or tabula rosa common to
educational discourse of the time. The infant metaphor miraculously swept
away all earlier civilisationn' of the Cape Nguni and implied that previous
forms of culture were irrelevant, undesirable and disposable. It also allowed the
employment of African 'progress' as an unproblematic line of growth from
ignorance to knowledge within comedic parameters, which sees childlike
confusion and error resolved by maturity and understanding. The strength of
the infant metaphor and its acceptance by later generations of Westernised
Africans is shown by the fact that its use is evident in the 1930s, almost a
hundred years later. Couzens (1985:30), in his biography of H.I.E. Dhlomo,
cites S.H.V. Mdhluli in his 1933 book, The Development of the African, as
saying 'we are still beginning to crawl in this field of education'."
One of Stewart's most explicit expressions of the 'race' of civilisation in
which the African must of necessity be an 'infant' or a late starter, is in an
address to the Lovedale Literary Society in which he roundly rejected the idea
that there could be any possibility of 'equality' between black and white.
Referring to what he called 'capacity for self-government, training, and power
to advance in the arts of civilization', Stewart pronounced as follows: 'Starting
as but yesterday in the race of nations, do you soberly believe that in the two
generations of the very imperfect civilization you have enjoyed and partially
accepted, you can have overtaken those other nations who began that race
two thousand years ago, and have been running hard in it for a thousand years
at least?' (Cory pamphlet, Lovedale 1884:27)
The wide ambit of the 'infant' idea allowed for the elaboration of subsidiary
metaphors and a shift from comedic idealism to satirical ridicule. In a
pamphlet entitled 'On Native Education South Africa', Stewart made the
startling declaration that 'the mind of the African is empty'. Presumably he

90 Civilising Barbarians

meant that an 'empty' mind was consonant with the idea of an infant, and he
went on to characterise in mocking tones the pretensions of an 'empty' mind
suddenly stuffed with book-knowledge. Stewart frequently developed this
figure as a satiric antitype of the properly educated person: a puffed-up,
impertinent African child who imagines that a little book-knowledge
constitutes real learning. In the pamphlet under discussion, he wrote:

The mind of the African is empty, and he has a great idea of
what he calls 'getting knowledge'. Hence his anxiety about
instruction merely, apart from mental discipline and habit ...
there is the erroneous idea that manual work is servile toil, and
mental work is supposed to elevate a man to a higher class ...
His desire, therefore, is to learn whatever the white man learns.
This aspiration is very strong, no matter how slight the
knowledge attained of any particular subject. Educational
equality is probably looked at as a step to further equality.
There is such an idea existing among a small and not very
satisfactory class. Hence there is a strong desire, almost
amounting to a craze, for Latin and Greek among a few, though
the amount of knowledge gained of such subjects is, of course,
useless. (SP BC 106 D16:3-4, undated)

Stewart's ideas on equality in education and his derisory attitude to the
prospect of Africans seeking to learn Latin and Greek is in line with his
educational philosophy and underlay the dispute with his predecessor,
William Govan. But behind Stewart's professional tone in this passage there
lurks the prefiguration of the buffoon, made obvious by the give-away sarcasm
of phrases such as 'mental work is supposed to elevate a man to a higher class'
and 'his anxiety about instruction merely'. Given the evidence of the many
responsibly educated people who did emerge from Lovedale and who qualified
for 'equality' by any measure, Stewart's extreme level of generalisation can
only be ascribed to the captivity of his discourse within the arrested
metaphoric characterisation of people as necessarily conforming to stereo-
typed configurations (themselves a function of binary pairings: buffoon/
responsible; education/'getting knowledge' etc.).
The implication of the infant metaphor was that Africans would always lag
behind, and that the missionary-teacher would always lead them by the hand.
Expressed otherwise, the Manichean dualism implicit in the missionary's every

A Savage Civility 91

discursive act served the teacher's purpose because s/he also presided over what
was conceived to be a temporal, developmental gulf presented by the
reconstruction of reality done in his own terms in the first place.'3 Stewart said
in a paper to the General Missionary Conference in London, 1878 ('Lovedale,
South Africa'), 'The bridge is at once thrown over the chasm which separates
the two states of barbarous heathenism and Christianity' (SP BC 106 D1.1:2).
For Govan, first principal of Lovedale, the aim of missionary education was
complete equality between Africans and Europeans, but the rift between
Govan and Stewart meant that the goalposts were significantly shifted and the
perceived aim of education became less easy to define. In his own writings,
Stewart substituted as the end point of the Manichean divide (as the secular
counterpart of salvation) an ideal far more nebulous than Govan's notion of
equality, namely the attainment of what he called 'character'.
In a manuscript written by Stewart, presumably as an address to his staff,
Stewart wrote that 'character' was mainly formed by the 'spirit and general
influence of the place'. That, in turn, was made up of the 'thought, ideas,
feelings and emotions which form the prevalent mood of ourselves and others'.
Such feelings were as infectious, Stewart wrote, as typhoid fever. Only 'unity
of aim' would allow the teachers to influence character (MS, SP BC 106 D4
Stewart's fever metaphor, implying a rapid infection of 'character', is
potentially misleading. Later in the document he qualified his understanding
of the rigours involved in attaining this quality:

To describe in detail the object of this place would be tedious
and unnecessary here ... Character I suppose will embrace it.
The formation of character, the development of it till it is
consolidated and the man or woman is fitted by his or her
training for the work of this life and for the life beyond where
all depends on character is the true object... And as character
decides a mans [sic] fate in the life to come it also decides a
mans [sic] real usefulness in this. We cannot set before us a
simpler [sic] truer or better idea of our work than this. In so far
as we secure this in those who come under our care we succeed.

From this it appears that Stewart's rather demanding notion of 'character'
(depending as it does on culturally exclusive Protestant notions of worthiness)

92 Civilising Barbarians

also had a utilitarian aim: 'usefulness'. 'Usefulness' appears to have been a
stringent and, again, a culturally biased demand. Stewart at one point wrote
about particular converts, 'Both were pure Kaffirs, once ignorant, and
troublesome, and unprofitable to themselves and to others, but very different men
when they became Christians' (MS, SP BC 106 D3, undated:12; emphasis
added). The demand for 'usefulness' was amplified in an address to the
Lovedale Literary Society by the Reverend John Buchanan, entitled 'Ultimate
Usefulness'. Buchanan formulated in a classic way the dualistically conceived
narrative in which disaster (tragedy) or salvation (comedy) depended on the
moral choice of pupils:

There are two antagonistic forces now at work in this field of
South Africa, already in stem contention for the mastery over
the native races, sure to gather into yet greater strength and to
close in yet deadlier struggle. These are the hosts of good and of
evil, respectively. On the one side are ranged the following
parties, viz.: (1) The truths and powers of Christ's Kingdom of
grace ... (2) The elevating and stimulating powers of the
Educational world, plied by enlightened, benevolent and
earnest men. (3) The countless, nameless influences for good
derived from continual friendly intercourse between the
natives and a large community of civilized and Christian men.
On the other side are ranged the principalities and powers of
darkness, in two very distinct yet conspiring bodies; being each
sufficiently formidable by itself; but, when combined, simply
terrible. These are;- (1) The whole body of South African
heathenism, with its gross superstitions, its idle habits, and
coarse vices, all proud and defiant to this hour; (2) A wholesale
importation of the evil agencies which have for long proved
the curse of the civilized world ... Of all the constituents of this
evil host, probably the most menacing to your own existence
are your Native habits of sloth and idleness, and our low grog-
shops ... (p.5)

The way to conquer this menacing host of evil forces, wrote Buchanan, was to
'rise' into usefulness. He declared that missionaries 'are telling us that our
Natives must now rise out of their idleness, and ignorance, and sloth, and fit
themselves to cope with the white man, if not in learning, yet at least in

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