Religion and Beliefs
In this panel we aim to study how Christianity was adjusted to local, Asian norms and practices, as well as how these compromises influenced, and were framed to, the metropolitan home audience. Although these topics do feature in scholarship on the mission and imperial history of the British and other empires, this is not the case for the historiography of the Dutch mission, church and empire. Dutch mission history in general is detached from the international historiographies of mission and empire, and has the traditional focus on the transplantation of Christianity from the metropolis to the colony. Therefore, one of the goals of this panel is to discuss a preliminary research agenda for the Dutch context. We propose to study colonial religious history as a two-way process: the cultural and literal translation of Christianity in Asia, and its rerouting back to the metropolis. Consequently, this topic fits well within the subject of the ICAS conference - Asia and Europe, Asia in Europe.
First of all, missionary efforts required new methods of publication and preaching, both in the colony and metropolis. However, next to practices, the content of belief also changed. On the one hand this was because literal translations of the Bible and doctrine required adjustments to local languages and paradigms, and vice versa. On the other hand it was part of a more cultural translation of Christian beliefs and norms. Religion was more readily adopted by people when new ideas were compatible with existing ones, and in practice missionaries often adapted to local customs and values. (Porter 2004) This created new hybrid factions of local converts, and even profoundly changed the proselytizers themselves.
Furthermore, these compromises influenced, and were framed to, the constituency back home (Carey 2008). Oftentimes, missionary narratives predominantly catered to the paradigm of the metropolitan audience, and served the interest of mission and church. Therefore, instead of describing the required compromises and messiness of missionary daily life, and the resulting religious hybridity, locals and intermediaries were often described in condescending ways, lacking agency, and in dire need of Western religion and civilization (Ballantyne 2014).
Topics within this panel range between the 18th and 20th centuries, across Asia and colonial empires, concerning both the Protestant and Catholic mission and church. Specific topics of interest concern local intermediaries, the normative and civilizing aspects of the mission, and ecclesial and missionary textual cultures in colony and metropolis.