Domesticating a Religious Import

The Jesuits and the Inculturation of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe, 1879-1980

Nicholas M. Creary



Catholic theologians have developed the relatively new term inculturation to discuss the old problem of adapting the church universal to specific local cultures. Europeans needed a thousand years to inculturate Christianity from its Judaic roots. Africans' efforts to make the church their own followed a similar process but in less than a century. Until now, there has been no book-length examination of the Catholic church's pastoral mission in Zimbabwe or of African Christians' efforts to inculturate the church. This illuminating work will contribute to current debates about the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe and throughout Africa.


Challenging the view that Western missionaries colonized African minds, Creary explores the transformation of the Catholic Church from below, using colonial Zimbabwe as a case study. He examines the ways in which Shona people shaped the Church by incorporating African beliefs, symbols, and cultural practices. - Elizabeth Schmidt


Nicholas Creary is an Assistant Professor of History and African Studies at Ohio University. He is the editor of Intellectuals and African Decolonization and Returning to the Sources: New Critical Perspectives on African Indigenous Knowledges.