By Charlotte Walker-Said
While scholarship on Africa at the end of empire has tended to focus on the evolution of notions of citizenship and demands for national political inclusion in the years following the end of the Second World War, the vibrancy and widespread influence of the Christian churches in France’s African territories, particularly in Cameroon, demonstrates that Africans also expressed solidarities with communities both above and below the nation-state. The history of political anti-colonialism and syndicalism in Africa has heretofore neglected the contributions of religion to national meaning making in the last decades of colonial rule, and its secular focus has failed to perceive how religion mediated the costs and benefits of political modernity and national sovereignty, critically underpinning much cultural life that gave shape to various kinds of mass politics at the end of empire. This article demonstrates how African women in the Catholic and Protestant Churches in Cameroon presented an image of social and cultural continuity in the midst of political and economic disruption and articulated an alternative platform of human rights and national liberation from that of the anti-colonial political parties. In doing so, devout African women in laity and in consecrated orders inserted themselves into the revolutionary aspect of nationalism by promoting a conservative vision of pious, educated society that would ensure social and moral progress, not only political liberty.