Seminar: Knowledge = Power. Politics and formal education in the precolonial Kongo kingdom

  • Kongo Kingdom
      A missionary instructing two teachers as they travel. Source: Alix du Chevron d'Abzac, La Mission au Kongo
      des pères
    Michelangelo Guattini and Dionigi Carli (1668) (Paris: Chandeigne 2006) p. 234, from ‘Missione
      in Prattica’ (Vatican, Rome, ca. 1750)

The African continent is – especially for its precolonial past – often associated with oral traditions. Little is known that a formal school system was introduced in the West-Central African Kongo kingdom in the beginning of the sixteenth century, some years after Portuguese navigators first established contact with the Kongo royal elite. Especially the Kongo king Afonso I – who ruled from 1509 to 1542 – attempted to use the Christian school system as a means to integrate the districts of the kingdom more fully into a political unity. Apart from this centralizing tendency, there was at the same time a process to establish contacts abroad. Quite a few Kongo men of noble birth were sent to schools at convents in Portugal and at the Vatican to be trained as interpreters, church staff or ambassadors of the Kongo kingdom.

These two tendencies – centralization and internationalization – will be discussed in the light of the developments of the school system in the Kongo kingdom in the sixteenth century and beyond. This will lead to an interpretation of the Kongo school system in terms of global integration and local appropriation.

Inge Brinkman holds a PhD in African Studies from Leiden University (1996). She is currently teaching at Ghent University, whilst doing research on the history of the Kongo region in the framework of the KongoKing project.

Date, time and location

23 April 2015
15.30 - 17.00
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room 3A06 (third floor)