Chapter

Creating “The People of God”: French Utopian Dreams and the Moralization of Africans and Slaves

Troy Feay

in In God’s Empire

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195396447
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199979318 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195396447.003.0002
Creating “The People of God”: French Utopian Dreams and the Moralization of Africans and Slaves

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Focusing on the early to mid-nineteenth century, this chapter argues that the desire to create utopias—the aspiration for a moral mission of social transformation—was an underlying motivation that united administrators and missionaries while locking them into conflicts over methods and authority. Just before and after France’s abolition of slavery in 1848, specific projects aimed at improving the lives of the enslaved demonstrated both the experiential piety that guided Catholic missionary utopian visions and the corresponding secular utopian visions that foresaw productive colonial populations contributing to the glory of the French nation. The conflicts that resulted between missionaries and officials allowed colonized peoples the space to use religious experience to create communities that could challenge European political and cultural authorities.

Keywords: utopianism; slavery; moralization; political authority; cultural authority; experiential piety

Chapter.  8551 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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