The Collecting Activities of the Africa Mission in the 20th Century in a Gender-historical Perspective

Africa Mission in the Laboratory
Fotography in the holdings of the White Fathers, Cologne; Donation in the possession of the Center for Religious Studies (CERES) of the Ruhr University Bochum.

Dissertation project: Annika Weber, MEd (Trier University)

Supervisor: PD Dr. Eva Bischoff

Duration: since October 2022

This dissertation project analyzes the practices of female and male collecting using the example of missionary collecting. Just like traders, merchants, and colonial officials, missionaries were also involved in collecting activities. The latter not only kept objects, written sources, and (audio-)visual media (e.g. correspondence, audio sources) as mementos in private institutions, but also used them to recruit new missionary candidates. While men often collected for large missionary exhibitions and for publicity purposes, women collected a variety of naturalia (from sand samples to plant drawings) and ethnographica. However, the image of the male explorer as collector still dominates in public, but also in research. By contrast, this project expands the view and examines mission members as collectors, demonstrating that both women and men were active as collectors in the mission. The study focusses on two interrelated Catholic missionary orders, the Society of Missionaries of Africa (Mission d' Afrique; Pères Blancs) and the Order of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (Mission Notre-Dame d' Afrique; Sœurs Blanches). The aim of the project is thus twofold: it reconstructs (1) the intertwined histories between the objects and their actors and (2) female and male (collecting) behavior as an interactive and episodic process (doing/ undoing gender) that varies according to context.

Contact: s3aawebe[at]