May 2022: New Book — Competing Catholicisms: The Jesuits, the Vatican & the Making of Postcolonial French Africa

Jean Luc Enyegue, SJ, the director of the Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa, has published a new book with the James Currey imprint of Boydell & Brewer. Competing Catholicisms: The Jesuits, the Vatican & the Making of Postcolonial French Africa is based on Enyegue’s dissertation at Boston University.


In Competing Catholicisms, Enyegue explores the Vatican’s “indigenization agenda” of the mid-20th century as a means to “secure its survival in sub-Saharan Africa.” As the same time, within context of rising African nationalism and a decrease in its colonial empire, the French government was seeking to reassert its influence in the territory.


An electronic version of Competing Catholicisms is available, with a subscription, at JSTOR:


Enyegue’s book, according to its publisher, “book shows how the Vatican, French Jesuits, the rising Cameroonian indigenous clergy and leadership, and the first Cameroonian Jesuits competed for the Catholic evangelization of French Africa during the mid-20th century. In the mission field, they also competed with different Protestant groups, with whom they shared a common aim: to convert African traditional religionists and different groups of African Muslims to Christ, while containing the spread of anti-religious ideologies such as Communism. Tracing the rapid expansion of Christianity in Central and Western French Africa during the second half of the twentieth century, the author shows in this book how this competition for faith helped both build the church in French West Africa and Africanize the church alongside missionary Christianity in postcolonial Africa. He also explores the African reaction to this diverse and competing global agenda of Christianization, especially after Chad and Cameroon came together as part of a single Jesuit jurisdiction in 1973, and the way in which, despite differing interpretations of Catholicity which generated internal conflicts, Western Jesuits focus on popular masses and the poor, was able to contain the spread of Islam, counter the Chad’s persecution of Christians during the Cultural Revolution (1973-1975) and secure the survival of Christianity as a missionary movement in which Western missionaries worked alongside a rising African clergy and leadership.”


A citation for Competing Catholicisms appears in the Jesuit Online Bibliography. The Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa is an institutional partner in the database, and Enyegue is among the voluntary contributors to the project as well as the senior consultants to its executive editor.