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Open Theology

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Partnership and Race in Mission Encounters in Tanzania

Elaine Elisabeth Christian
Published Online: 2016-08-12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2016-0058

Abstract

I examine racial and ethnic dynamics in encounters between Tanzanian church personnel, and visiting American partners or short-term missionaries. Contemporary mission work in Tanzania is situated within a historical context that includes, but is not ultimately determined by, race or ethnicity. Several kinds of engagements and partnerships exist between American religious organisations and the Tanzanian church, which I describe ethnographically, and discuss how encounters between Tanzanian Christians and American visitors become ethnically inflected. Two cases—encounters with Maasai and Chagga people respectively—provide a comparative illustration. Finally, I address the role played by new types of partnership between Tanzanian and American religious organisations, and how themes of hospitality and identities as guests and hosts contribute to encounters between American and Tanzanian Christians. In these encounters, multiple areas of shifting meanings of race come together, resulting in disjunctures of understanding. I suggest that these disjunctures, coupled with the guest-host dynamic and the lack of in-depth knowledge characteristic of short-term mission in general, reveal patterns of social inequality and tensions inherent in the changing context of Christian mission.

Keywords: Tanzania; Christianity; short-term mission; hospitality; ethnicity

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About the article


Received: 2016-01-30

Accepted: 2016-06-28

Published Online: 2016-08-12


Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 2, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2016-0058.

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©2016 Elaine Elisabeth Christian. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

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