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Anthropologists and Missionaries: Brothers Under the Skin
Sjaak van der Geest
New Series, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Dec., 1990), pp. 588-601
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2803655
Page Count: 14
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This article explores ambiguous relationship between anthropologists and missionaries, both in their work and in their writings. It describes, first, the well-known stereotypes by which anthropologists and missionaries are opposed, as conservers v. converters, doubters v. knowers, and listeners v. preachers, and then discusses some strinking similarities which have been largely ignored, if not suppressed, particularly by anthropologists. Anthropologists act like missionaries is spreading the beliefs of their discipline and interpreting other religions in terms of their own faith. A further similarity gives missionaries an advantage over anthropologists: they stay longer among 'their' people, have a better command of the language and are likely to become more integrated into the communities in which they work. It is suggested that the rejection of these hidden similarities by most anthropologists leads to further strains in their relationship with missionaries.