"This fascinating collection of essays explores an array of missionary encounters with communities in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. The different pieces hold together in their use of microhistory to expose how colonized peoples engaged with the ambiguous efforts of evangelization. Chandra Mallampalli's analysis of a mid-19th-century property dispute draws out the ways varied Catholic and Protestant Indians and missionaries sought to redefine differences between 'Hindu' and 'Christian' practices. Beth Baron's study of a scandal over missionary treatment of a female orphan in Egypt in the 1930s is alone worth the price of admission. She examines how a marginal young woman could engage with nationalist anxieties and become a popular heroine. Heather Sharkey's chapter on Biblical translations into now-extinct vernaculars reveals the class and gendered aspects of translation. Stephen Berkwitz tackles the ways Sri Lankan Buddhists and converts drew from one another's literary conventions, often at the expense of missionary hubris. While the main audience will be scholars of global religion and colonization, area specialists will be able to use individual chapters in their courses."—Choice
The essays in this volume study cultural conversions that arose from missionary activities in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Both Catholic and Protestant missionaries effected changes that often went beyond what they had intended, sometimes backfiring against the missions. These changes entailed wrenching political struggles to redefine families, communities, and lines of authority. This volume’s contributors examine the meanings of “conversion” for individuals and communities in light of loyalties and cultural traditions, and consider how conversion, as a process, was often ambiguous. The history of Christian missions emerges from these pages as an integral part of world history that has stretched beyond professing Christians to affect the lives of peoples who have consciously rejected or remained largely unaware of missionary appeals.
Heather Sharkey is associate professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Living with Colonialism: Nationalism and Culture in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and American Evangelicals in Egypt: Missionary Encounters in an Age of Empire (Princeton Univ. Press 2008)
6 x 9, 344 pages