Missionary Discourses of Difference: Negotiating Otherness by E. Cleall

By E. Cleall

Missionary Discourse examines missionary writings from India and southern Africa to discover colonial discourses approximately race, faith, gender and tradition. The publication is organised round 3 topics: relations, illness and violence, which have been key components of missionary main issue, and significant axes round which colonial distinction was once cast.

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Missionary Discourses of Difference: Negotiating Otherness in the British Empire, 1840–1900

Missionary Discourse examines missionary writings from India and southern Africa to discover colonial discourses approximately race, faith, gender and tradition. The e-book is organised round 3 topics: relations, disorder and violence, that have been key parts of missionary problem, and demanding axes round which colonial distinction was once cast.

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Missionaries tended to posit indigenous people as their younger brothers and sisters (occasionally as their children), not as equals. ’, in the later nineteenth century, white missionaries far more commonly evoked sisterly ties with Indian women than with Africans. Kinship, it seems, only extended so far down the racial hierarchy. The language of kinship could also be used slightly differently – to claim not only that indigenous people were related to British people but that kinship relations were culturally transferable.

Despite the way in which missionaries naturalised Protestant British familial forms in their thinking, the Missionary Family was always marked. This doublethink had several consequences for missionary thought. 14 Unlike the heroisation of male missionaries, whose lives were recorded individually (albeit somewhat formulaically) in biographies and memoirs as personal stories of triumph, the celebration of ‘the missionary wife’ was usually generic. 16 Alternative genderings of the family were considered both threatening and degenerate.

34 Missionaries saw this division of labour as a disordered state of gender relations where the ‘weak’ and ‘fragile’ bodies of women were abused, and men, through their lack of work, were emasculated. As such, ‘both sexes need a reformation’, Birt argued, and given that ‘the females are the sufferers’ it was, he wrote, ‘obvious that the raising of the female character will greatly tend to ameliorate the condition of the whole’35 Discourses about polygamy fed easily into the missionary worldview: that ‘heathen’ families oppressed women, economically, sexually and socially and that this was ‘other’ to (patriarchal) Protestant families.

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