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De Hemptinne, the Benedictines and Catholic Assimilation on the Congolese Copperbelt, 1911–1960

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 March 2022

REUBEN A. LOFFMAN*
Affiliation:
School of History, Queen Mary, University of London, Arts Two, 3.32, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS

Abstract

This article explores the history of the Benedictines in south-eastern Congo. The Benedictine leader, Jean-Félix De Hemptinne, eschewed an adaptationist approach to his mission work in favour of an assimilationist one. This article explains why he was able to follow such an approach for so long. Two factors were paramount. First, what Chris Bayly described as ‘lateral connections’ enabled De Hemptinne to side-step the need to engage meaningfully with local agricultural knowledge. Secondly, De Hemptinne's close if turbulent relationship with the colonial state facilitated a supply of funds and African labour despite the difficulties the Benedictines had in converting local people.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2022

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Footnotes

Many thanks to the School of History at Queen Mary University of London, David Maxwell, Miri Rubin, Saul Dubow, Luc Vints, Miles Larmer, Eva Schalbroeck, Ana Lucia Araujo, Evergton Sales Souza and Stuart Schwartz.

References

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2 Schalbroeck, Eva, ‘Centre stage and behind the scenes with the ‘‘lion of Katanga’’: Benedictine Jean-Félix De Hemptinne's Congolese career, 1910–1958’, Social Sciences and Missions xxxii (2019), 105–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Feltz, Gaëtan, ‘Note sur les structures de pouvoir de la mission bénédictine au Katanga, 1910–1958’, Bulletin des séances xxxi/4 (1985), 489506Google Scholar.

3 Schalbroeck, ‘Centre stage’, 124.

4 René Devisch, Body and affect in the intercultural encounter, Leiden 2017, 160.

5 Ch. Didier Gondola, Tropical cowboys: westerns, violence, and masculinity in Kinshasa, Bloomington, In 2016, 50.

6 Devisch, Body and affect, 160.

7 Schalbroeck, ‘Centre stage’, 107.

8 Chris Bayly, The making of the modern world, 1780–1914: global connections and comparisons, London 2004, 12.

9 Ann Laura Stoler, ‘Introduction’, to Ann Laura Stoler (ed.), Along the archival grain: epistemic anxieties and colonial common sense, Princeton 2010, 50.

10 I am grateful to one of the anonymous referees for this insight.

11 Reuben Loffman, Church, state, and colonialism in south-eastern Congo, 1890–1962, Basingstoke 2019.

12 Jehu J. Hanciles, Migration and the making of global Christianity, Grand Rapids, Mi 2021, 408.

13 Loffman, Church, state, and colonialism, 79.

14 Adam Hochschild, King Leopold's ghost: a story of greed, terror and heroism in Africa, Boston 2012; Robert Burroughs, African testimony in the movement for Congo reform: the burden of proof, Abingdon 2018.

15 Monseigneur Gérard van Caloen's work in Brazil has been the subject of a great deal of literature; one notable example of such is Jongmans, Jacques, ‘Autour de la Restauration de la Congrégation Bénédictine Brésilienne: le rôle de Dom Gérard van Caloen (1894–1907)’, Revue bénédictine xcvi/3–4 (1986), 337–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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18 Pierre Legrand and Benoit Thoreau, Les Bénédictines au Katanga: vingt-cinq ans d'apostalat (1910-1935), Lophem-Lez-Bruges 1935, 17. The Benedictines kept sugar mills in Brazil: Stuart B. Schwartz, ‘The plantations of St Benedict: the Benedictine sugar mills of Colonial Brazil’, The Americas xxxix/1 (1982), 1–22.

19 Schalbroeck, ‘Centre stage’, 106.

20 Valentine Yves Mudimbe, The idea of Africa, Oxford 1994, 109.

21 Gérard van Caloen, lettre á bord de l'Asturios, 12 déc. 1909, AAB, M, 595.

22 Dácil Juif, ‘Mining, paternalism, and the spread of education in the Congo since 1920’, in Claude Diebolt, Auke Rjjpma and Sarah Carmichael (eds), Cliometrics of the family, Basingstoke 2019, 309; Marvin Markowitz, Cross and sword: the political role of Christian missions in the Belgian Congo, 1908–1960, Stanford, Ca 1973, 61.

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25 Bruce Fetter, The creation of Elisabethville, Stanford, Ca 1976 203–5.

26 Legrand and Thoreau, Les Bénédictines au Katanga, 23.

27 Maxwell, David, ‘The soul of the Luba: W. F. P. Burton, missionary ethnography, and colonial science’, History and Anthropology xix/4 (2008), 332Google Scholar.

28 Legrand and Thoreau, Les Bénédictines au Katanga, 23.

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30 Legrand and Thoreau, Les Bénédictines au Katanga, 35.

31 Ibid.

32 Ibid.

33 Polémique avec ‘Peuple de Bruxelles’, Le Peuple, ‘Au Katanga: la famine et la mort: malheureuse situation des Bénédictines’, 12 May 1912, SA, KAT, 1910–22.

34 Ibid.

35 Polémique avec ‘Peuple de Bruxelles’, Le Peuple, ‘Les Bénédictines au Katanga’, 10 May 1912, ibid.

36 Jean-Félix De Hemptinne, letter, 10 Dec. 1910, Nguba, KADOC, Jean-Félix De Hemptinne (DH) 3.2.1, 4.

37 Polémique, ‘Les Bénédictines au Katanga’, SA, KAT, 1910–22.

38 Polémique, ‘Au Katanga: la famine et la mort’, ibid.

39 Polémique, ‘Les Bénédictines au Katanga’, ibid.

40 Ibid.

41 Ibid.

42 Legrand and Thoreau, Les Bénédictines au Katanga, 22–31.

43 Loffman, Church, state, and colonialism, 63–118.

44 Godfrey Sieber, The Benedictines of Inkamana, Sankt Ottilien, Eresing 1995, 7.

45 Schalbroeck, ‘Centre stage’, 105.

46 Legrand and Thoreau, Les Bénédictines au Katanga, 37.

47 Loffman, Church, state, and colonialism.

48 Legrand and Thoreau, Les Bénédictines au Katanga, 47.

49 Ibid.

50 Jewsiewicki, Bogumil, ‘Le Colonat agricole européen au Congo-Belge, 1910–60: question politiques et economiques’, Journal of African History xx/4 (1979), 559–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

51 J. Jeffrey Hoover, ‘Sipilingas: interregional African initiatives and the United Methodist Church in Katanga and Zambia, 1910–1945’, in Robert Ross, Marja Hinfelaar and Iva Peša (eds), The objects of life in Central Africa, Leiden 2013, 77.

52 Bruno De Meulder, De Kampen van Kongo: Arbeid, Kapitaal en Rasveredeling in de Koloniale Planning, Antwerp 1996, 96–100; Fetter, The creation of Elisabethville, 161–4.

53 Legrand and Thoreau, Les Bénédictines au Katanga, 55.

54 L. H. Gann and Peter Duignan (eds), Colonialism in Africa, 1870–1960, Cambridge 1975, 415.

55 Sara Geenan, African artisanal mining from the inside out: access, norms, and power in Congo's gold sector, Abingdon 2015, 24.

56 Jean-Félix De Hemptinne, Un Tournant de notre politique indigène – le décret du 5 Décembre 1933, Bruxelles 1935, 29.

57 Nève, Dom Theodore, ‘Un Mont-Cassin chez les noirs: vie monastique au cœur de l'eglise indigène du Katanga’, Les Cahiers de St-André iii/9 (1946), 158–63Google Scholar.

58 Family life in the Copperbelt is discussed extensively in Rose-Hunt, Nancy, ‘“Le Bebe en Brousse”: European women, African birth spacing and colonial intervention in breast feeding in the Belgian Congo’, International Journal of African Historical Studies xxi/3 (1988), 416–21Google Scholar.

59 Legrand and Thoreau, Les Bénédictines au Katanga, 58.

60 Ibid. 61.

61 Ibid. 58.

62 Thomas Turner, The Congo Wars: conflict, myth and reality, London 2007, 58.

63 Despite his not at all liking the drink, we are told, the Benedictine brother concerned drank it in order to help the evangelisation process along: Legrand and Thoreau, Les Bénédictines au Katanga, 62.

64 It seems that in the early twentieth century, Catholics were better at speaking local languages than Protestants such as William Burton, who were more reliant on local interpreters. De Hemptinne, for example, must have been conversant in Sanga to translate the catechism into this language.

65 Legrand and Thoreau, Les Bénédictines au Katanga, 40. De Hemptinne corresponded with Roelens throughout his time in the Congo: Victor Roelens to Jean-Felix De Hemptinne, 27 Jan. 1913, SA, KAT, 1910–22.

66 ‘Conclus pratiques de la reunion des Superieurs a Elisabethville du 16 Octobre au 20 Octobre 1928’, SA, KAT, 1.

67 Laurenti Magesa, The post-conciliar Church in Africa: no turning back the clock, Eugene, Or 2018, 22.

68 Willy De Craemer, The Jamaa and the Church: a Bantu movement in Zaire, Oxford 1977.

69 Magesa, The post-conciliar Church in Africa, 22.

70 Piet Clement, ‘Tempels revisited: the conversion of a missionary in the Belgian Congo, 1930s–1960s’, in Vincent Viaene, Bram Cleys and Jan De Maeyer (eds), Religion, colonization, decolonization in Congo, 1885–1960, Leuven 2020, 249.

71 Hoover, ‘Sipilingas’, 77.

72 Fred Ramsbottom was a Protestant missionary who worked in Katanga and witnessed administrative hostility to Protestantism first-hand but also saw one administrator who did allow him to work: Fred Ramsbottom (with David Lee), African plenty: a missionary life of miracles, Basingstoke 1987, 65–8.

73 Marvin D. Markowitz, Cross and sword: the political role of Christian missions in the Congo, 1908–1960, Stanford, Ca 1973.

74 Adrian Hastings, A history of African Christianity, Cambridge 1979, 63.

75 Nancy Rose-Hunt, A nervous state: violence, remedies, and reverie in colonial Congo, Durham, NC 2016.

76 Legrand and Thoreau, Les Bénédictines au Katanga, 83.

77 Rotberg, Robert I., ‘Plymouth Brethren and the occupation of Katanga, 1886–1907’, Journal of African History v/2 (1964), 285Google Scholar.

78 Crawford moved away from Garanganze shortly after the death of the Yeke chief M'Siri in 1891 but there were still a number of Protestants in Bunkeya by the time the Benedictines arrived there.

79 Feltz, G., ‘Note sur les structure de pouvoir de la mission bénédictine au Katanga, 1910–1958’, Bulletin des Séances, Académie Royale des Sciences d'Outre-Mer xxxi (1985), 494Google Scholar; Maxwell, David, ‘Photography and the religious encounter: ambiguity and aesthetics in missionary representations of the Luba of south east Belgian Congo’, Comparative Studies in Society and History liii/1 (2011), 38Google Scholar, and ‘From iconoclasm to preservation: W. F. P. Burton, missionary ethnography and Belgian colonial science’, in David Maxwell and Patrick Harries (eds), The spiritual in the secular: missionaries and knowledge about Africa, Grand Rapids, Mi 2012, 155–86.

80 ‘De Chef De Post Met Zijn Soldaten in hun Vrouwen Bij de Gehesen Vlag in Lukafu, Katanga’, 1912–14, Collectie Tropenmuseum, 60031855.

81 Chroniques: Lukafu et Elisabethville, Lukafu (L), 1924–44, SA, KAT, 4.

82 Ibid. 5.

83 Loffman, Church, state and colonialism, 74.

84 Statistiques scolaires de la mission bénédictine, 1924, AAB, M, 629.

85 Rémunération du personnel indigène des ecoles subsidiables, Ordre de Saint Benoit, 1951, ibid. 651.

86 Chroniques: Lukafu et Elisabethville, Lukafu (L), 1924–44, SA, KAT, 6.

87 Ibid.

88 Histoire Miscellanées (HM), Rapport de 1930 de la Mission Saint Thérèse de Bunkeya, SA, KAT, 2.

89 Ibid.

90 Yolanda Covington-Ward, Gesture and power: religion, nationalism, and everyday performance in Congo, Durham, NC 2016, 71–106; Wyatt MacGaffey, Kongo political culture: the conceptual challenge of the particular, Bloomington, In 2000, 27.

91 Document justificatif d'une intervention de la colonie dans les frais de construction d'une ecole pour filles noirs à Kapolowe, 1949, AAB, M+E, 34.

92 A. Mutombo Mwana, L’Évangélisation de ‘l'Archdiocèse de Lubumbashi, 1910–1986, n.p. 1986, 14.

93 Revd John McKendree Springer, ‘Hand picked in Africa’ (1920), 3, General Commission on Archives and History for the United Methodist Church, Drew University, articles by John McKendree Springer, H: 20 (1979–2002), 1003–4–2:3.

94 Schalbroeck, ‘Centre stage’, 105–47.

95 Hanciles, Migration and the making of global Christianity, 408.

96 Ibid.

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