SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Haliburton, Gordan MacKay (1966) The Prophet Harris and His Work in Ivory Coast and Western Ghana. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

PDF - Submitted Version
Download (14MB) | Preview


This thesis consists of an introduction and seven chapters. In the introduction, the underlying assumption of the thesis is established; prophetic movements commonly rise out of a "colonial situation," since it is in such a situation that traditional religious beliefs, especially those concerned with sorcery and witchcraft, help to destroy the stability of a society already under attack. When a certain stage of social deterioration is reached, new religious institutions must come into existence, if the deterioration is to be halted. This response does not necessarily consist of a prophetic movement, but in the Ivory Coast in 1914 it did. The body of the thesis traces the career of the Prophet Harris who emerged from the tensions and wars which existed between his people, the Grebos, and their rulers, the Americo-Liberians. Having undergone a spiritual experience which changed him from a political rebel to a "prophet," Harris wandered into the French colony of the Ivory Coast. Here the population was undergoing a swift training in the role expected of them as a colonized people, and the tensions thus engendered were finding vent in fearful religious practices, witch-hunts, poisoning, and sorcery. Harris condemned the fetishes, purified the sorcerers and witches, and inspired a new religious practice shorn of anti-social fears. In the Gold Coast Harris became famous and, perhaps, more confident. He was welcomed back in the Ivory Coast by the Government in August-September 1914, but was expelled at the end of the year when the movement he created had grown to alarming proportions. His outlawed movement survived in varied forms; in some groups it encouraged constructive co-operation with the regime, in others, it helped solidify resistance. The Administration, afraid of the political consequences of the unsupervised religion, began in 1921 to support the Catholic Mission. However, the unexpected intervention of Wesleyan Methodist missionaries in 1923 led to the larger number of Harris converts becoming Methodists.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 16:53

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item