New Book Announcement: African Catholic

Elizabeth Foster's picture

Dear colleagues, 

I am pleased to announce the publication of my new book African Catholic: Decolonization and the Transformation of the Church with Harvard University Press. Please see below for a short description and the table of contents.


African Catholic examines how French and African Catholics imagined the future of French sub-Saharan Africa between 1945 and 1965. The story encompasses the political transition to independence, Catholic contributions to black internationalism, and efforts to alter the church hierarchy to create an authentically “African” church.

The book recreates a Franco-African Catholic world forged by conquest, colonization, missions, and conversions—one that still exists today. Its denizens included missionaries in Africa and their superiors in France, African Catholic students abroad destined to become leaders in their home countries, African Catholic intellectuals and clergymen, along with French and African lay activists. All of these men and women were preoccupied with the future of France’s colonies, the place of Catholicism in postcolonial Africa, and the struggle over their personal loyalties to the Vatican, France, and emerging African states.

The book shows how the decolonization of French Africa had an important influence on the reform of the Catholic Church at mid-century by posing questions that the church took up at Vatican II in the 1960s: Was the church truly universal or was it European? Was Catholicism a conservative pillar of order or a force to liberate subjugated and exploited peoples? Could the church change with the times? 

Table of Contents: 

Introduction: Catholic Conversations at the End of French Empire in Africa

1. Postwar Winds of Change: Church and State in French Africa

2. A Truly Universal Church: Alioune Diop and Catholic Negritude

3. Theologies of Colonization: Debating the Legitimacy of Empire

4. “Entirely Christian and Entirely African”: African Catholic Students in Postwar France

5. Men of Transition: African Clergy in Postwar French Africa

6. Foe or Friend? Catholics and Islam on the Eve of Independence in French Africa

7. Slavery and Charity: Connecting French Catholics to Africa

Conclusion: Decolonization and Vatican II

All best, 

Liz Foster