Bruno Gutmann was a missionary ethnographer in East Africa. A native of Dresden, Saxony, he had a difficult childhood before he applied for admission to the Leipzig Mission seminary. At Leipzig he came under the influence of diverse social philosophy of his own and later supplied the motivation for ethnographic research. Gutmann served as a missionary from 1902 to 1938 among the Chagga people in the Kilimanjaro area of what is now Tanzania and became justly famous for his studies on Chagga religion, society, and customs, which remained unsurpassed in spite of their methodological shortcomings. Gutmann attempted to identify ethnic “life power” among the Chagga as determinative for the incorporation of tribal “primeval links” into the community of Christ. As a corollary, he expressed violent opposition to the power of modern civilization, fearing that it would destroy the tribal order of creation which, in his view, had not been affected by human sin. While his ideas proved successful in the congregations at Old Moshi and its surroundings, they could not but lead to misgivings regarding the encounter of Chagga Christians with the postwar world. As he was unable to return to Africa during 28 years of retirement, much as he wished to do so, he had no opportunity to adjust his views to changed conditions.
Among Gutmann’s major works are Dichten und Denken der Dschagganeger (1909), Das Dschaggaland und seine Christen (1925), Christusleib und Nächstenschaft (1931), and Die Stammeslehren der Dschagga, 3 vols. (1932, 1935, 1938). The preferred modern account of Gutmann and his work is J. C. Winter, Bruno Gutmann, 1876-1966: A German Approach to Social Anthropology (1979). See also Ernst Jäschke, Bruno Gutmann: His Life, His Thoughts, and His Work (1985), and Jäschke’s essay in Gerald H. Anderson et al., eds., Mission Legacies (1994), pp. 173-180.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.