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The Colonisation of Time: Ritual, Routine, and Resistance in the British Empire.

The Colonisation of Time: Ritual, Routine, and Resistance in the British Empire.

By Giordano Nanni. Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 2012. Pp. xvii, 254. 70 [pounds sterling].

The Colonisation of Time is the latest volume in the remarkable Studies in Imperialism series, founded nearly twenty years ago by John MacKenzie and now approaching its hundredth volume. This not uncontroversial but always lively series has changed the way historians look at imperialism, especially through its emphasis on imperialism as a cultural phenomenon that impacted the metropoles as much as the settler and colonized societies. The series as a whole has given due attention to missions and churches.

This volume, by Giordano Nanni, an Australian Research Council fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, is no exception. As MacKenzie writes in his general editor's introduction, "Europeans saw the introduction of Western concepts of time ... as part of their necessary reformation of the world, a reformation that was indeed moral as well as practical in its import.... Missionaries constituted the shock troops of such colonial conversions.... Protestant missions, particularly those with a Calvinist theology, were more or less obsessed with the significance of the Sabbath and with the essential character-forming value of time discipline" (xi-xii).

Nanni discusses "the everyday struggles and negotiations which occurred during the colonial encounter as regards the dominant perception of time in society" (4). Chapter 1 introduces the subject in terms of the "clocks, Sabbaths and seven-day weeks" that dominated nineteenth-century Britain. Subsequent chapters are concerned not only with the way in which administrators, employers, and missionaries imposed their understanding and regulation of time but also with the way in which indigenous peoples in Victoria, Australia, and Cape Colony resisted, subverted, and lived to other rhythms. Chapter 6 focuses on missionary schools in Southern Africa, especially Lovedale. These chapters make for compelling reading--a judicious blend of narrative, illustrations, and just enough theorization. It is hard to disagree with any of Nanni's conclusions, including his comment that "the histories of Western time and European colonisation are inextricably connected" (222). Europeans "were emissaries of a Western time-consciousness to the rest of the world[, and] ... missionaries themselves were undoubtedly among its most active and effective propagators" (223).

This is a rich volume that provokes much reflection on the nature of mission and inculturation and especially on power relations in mission and, ultimately, on the meaning of time itself.

Please beware of bogus renewal notices. A genuine IBMR renewal notice will have a return address of Denville, NJ 07834 on the outer envelope, and the address on the reply envelope will go to PO Box 3000, Denville, NJ 07834-3000.

Please e-mail or call (203) 624-6672, ext. 309, with any questions. Thank you.

Terry Barringer is an independent scholar and bibliographer associated with the Henry Martyn Centre, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

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Author:Barringer, Terry
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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