Conference on Latin American History 11
This is the first session from the workshop “Christian Missionaries and non-Western Populations in Colonial and Post-Colonial Societies”. Christian missions have been pivotal in several processes of international integration. They were an essential component of European imperial expansion for over five centuries, and also have played a significant role in the post-colonial world, sometimes becoming central figures on processes of neocolonialism and globalization. Missionaries were also important in national-level integration. For example, in post-Independence Latin America they became instrumental in the republics’ efforts to gain control over the extensive frontier areas that had remained beyond their reach, and that were inhabited mostly by indigenous or Afro-descendant populations. Paradoxically, missionary activities were sometimes also instrumental in the development of movements such as anti-colonial nationalism and indigenous autonomy.
This session explores the following questions: Was the missionary encounter a process of religious top-down imposition, with European missionaries simply applying notions that they had brought from their places of origin? Or did interaction with local cultures affect both evangelization strategies and larger missiological/religious debates?
This session’s papers examine a wide range of cases: from attitudes about native-missionary interaction in colonial Brazil and India, to changing evangelization strategies in colonial Mexico, to American Protestant missions’ effects on nineteenth and twentieth century Marshall Islands, to debates between Protestant and Catholic missionaries on the meaning of indigenous missions in mid-twentieth century Colombia. Together they suggest that local circumstances weighted heavily on the path that missions followed.