Visual testaments: re-collecting the photographic archive of the Upoto Mission, 1890-1915.

King, Amelia (2020) Visual testaments: re-collecting the photographic archive of the Upoto Mission, 1890-1915. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis explores the historical information that can be retrieved through a re-collection of archival sources relating to the British Baptist Missionary Society station of Upoto, established in the Congo Free State, between 1890 and 1915. It asks what a reassembly of photographic and textual artefacts can reveal about the events which occurred in the making of a Christian community. Photographs now dispersed between different archives in Europe are brought together to understand the relationships which shaped this particular religious encounter.

The approach to photographic material as sources of historical evidence is two-fold. Firstly, close ‘readings’ of photographs’ content are used to interpret the occasions when images were made in order to analyse the different intersecting motivations of Congolese and British actors. By engaging with photographs, this thesis is able to draw out new kinds of historical traces and question the information articulated in surviving written sources. Secondly, an anthropological perspective, which treats photographs as objects of material culture, enables a consideration of how photographs were made meaningful in diverse social contexts. In doing so it demonstrates how Upoto was represented to people in Britain and how events in the Congo had reverberations beyond the mission field.

This thesis offers insight into a particular moment in the early colonial history of the Congo, shedding light on the actions of Congolese people living at Upoto in response to the arrival of different European organisations. It therefore extends understandings of the transmission of Christianity in Central Africa. It also contributes to scholarship on British evangelical missions as producers of knowledge about Africa at the turn of the twentieth century. The original approach to Upoto’s dispersed photographic archive demonstrates the potential of photographic collections to complicate the historical record.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2022 12:58
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2022 12:58


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