Conversion of a Missionary
We are used to anthropologists and missionaries being white and going out to the tropics. With Gaby Bamana it is all the other way around. As Congolese and missionary he went to Mongolia but ‘converted’ himself to become an anthropologist of Mongolian culture. In a public interview with philosopher Pieter Boele van Hensbroek, Bamana reflects on the curious dynamics between foreign missionary work and local identity and culture.
Taking the examples of his countries Congo and Mongolia, he shows how local traditions are rediscovered and reclaimed in different ways, providing different narratives of resistance.
Documentary: The Last Frontier (2011)
In the thinly populated Mongolia steppes, wedged between China and Russia an army of foreign spiritual do-gooders fight for the minds and souls of three million needy Mongolians. One of them, Gaby Bamana, an African Catholic from the Congo, decides that his missionary work doesn't suit this time and age anymore. Other missionaries keep on working fanatically for the salvation of the souls of Mongolians who are, meanwhile, rediscovering their own Shamanist and Buddhist roots after 70 years of socialism in Mongolia!
The Last Frontier (2011, 60’, English subtitles) is a documentary made by the Dutch director Floris-Jan van Luyn.
Gaby Bamana is adjunct-professor of Anthropology and Religious studies and affiliate researcher at the University of Mongolia. He is author of numerous articles and books on Mongolian culture, including On The Tea Road: A Journey into Mongolian Life and Culture (Ulaanbaatar, 2008)
Pieter Boele van Hensbroek is coordinator at Globalisation Studies Groningen and lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy; his special interest is non-western intellectual histories.
This programme is organized in collaboration with the Centre for East Asian Studies Groningen (CEASG) and facilitated by Globalisation Studies Groningen.