Slovene missionaries in Sudan and North America: The repercussions of their work in mid-19th century Carniola and present-day Slovenia

Authors: Andreja Mesaric*,
Topics: Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: coloniality and race, Eastern Europe, Catholic mission
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 42
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The paper explores Slovene engagement in Catholic missionary activity in Sudan and the Great Lakes region of North America in the mid-19th century through the perspective of the Carniolan newspaper Zgodnja danica. Focusing not just on the activity of the missionaries but on how their work was reflected back to domestic audiences helps us to trace how missionary discourses deployed in Africa and America shaped Slovenes’ understandings of their place in global hierarchies of race. The Catholic weekly published first-hand accounts of missionary work and encouraged its readership to get involved by raising donations for the purchase of enslaved children in Sudan. Some were later brought to Carniola where they endured elaborate public baptism ceremonies and trained as future missionaries. A breakdown of the donations raised shows that money for the purchase of enslaved Africans was being collected by men and women of various professional backgrounds across Carniolan towns and villages. This reveals how deeply into Carniolan society missionary discourse and activity reached and clearly implicates the region into European imperial projects. Furthermore, missionary discourse on the pages of Zgodnja danica often blended into ethnography as reports from the missions included detailed descriptions of local customs. Missionaries collected objects that formed the beginnings of the Native American and African collections of the Carniolan Landesmuseum and still feature in the collections of the Slovenian Ethnographic Museum today. This problematic legacy of Slovene missionary work is often celebrated rather than engaged with critically, a trend this paper aims to challenge.

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