From the Alps to Africa
Swiss missionaries and anthropology
in Ordering Africa
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This chapter examines the ways in which the discovery and domestication of African society was preceded and informed by a similar process in the mountain wilderness of Switzerland. Early Swiss missionaries projected their fears and hopes onto Africa in much the same way that as a previous generation had projected sentiments onto the Alps. The chapter highlights Neuchatel's importance in the emergence of anthropology as a discipline. It unravels the contradictory imagery of Africa and the Alps developed by Swiss commentators. The chapter investigates the notion of primitiveness in Switzerland, then turn to the ways in which men like Henri-Alexandre Junod and Edouard Jacottet employed this idea to understand their surroundings in Africa. It shows how they resolved their need to find tradition and development, stasis and progress, in the representation of Alpine and African worlds.

Ordering Africa

Anthropology, European imperialism, and the politics of knowledge


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