New article on objects of Catholic conversion in colonial Buganda by Dr Alison Bennett

by | May 5, 2022 | Uncategorised | 0 comments

Congratulations to Dr Alison Bennett for her recent article ‘Objects of Catholic Conversion in Colonial Buganda: A Study of the Miraculous Medal’, published in the Journal of Religion in Africa—a fascinating study of religious material culture and local agency.

The article focuses on a ‘Miraculous Medal’ found in the Church Missionary Society collections at the British Museum to explore the material culture of Christian conversion in colonial Uganda. The miraculous medal has been an important object of Catholic intercessory prayer since the mid-nineteenth century. The religious and social history of the medal in Europe is relatively well known. However, few scholars have connected the medal’s emergence with the spread of the European mission in the wake of nineteenth-century colonial expansion.

Ali uses the medal to shed new light on the material, corporeal, and gendered aspects of the Catholic Christianization of Buganda, where it fulfilled a variety of functions for missionaries and Baganda alike.

For missionaries it served as a key item for proselytizing and propaganda. For some Baganda, meanwhile, it played pivotal roles in a newly emerging form of local religious identity politics. Object analysis of an actual medal also reveals the medal’s material diversity and offers important insight into local agency in the reception and physical and conceptual reshaping of Catholic objects.

Although the article focuses on the specificities of Buganda, it also draws parallels with and evidence from other regions such as South and East Asia, underscoring the importance of miraculous medals and religious material culture in the wider missionary project.

Read the article here.

Here you find more information about Ali’s research.


Necklace, Af1953,24.22. ©The Trustees of the British Museum. In: Journal of Religion in Africa 51, 1-2 (2021); 10.1163/15700666-12340197