Missionary Masculinity: Indian Christians Negotiating Western Notions of Professionalism, Masculinity, and Belief in Nineteenth-Century British Protestant Mainstream Missions

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 11:40 AM
Columbia Hall 12 (Washington Hilton)
Rhonda A. Semple, Saint Francis Xavier University
Missionary Masculinity: Indian Christians negotiating western notions of professionalism, masculinity and belief in 19C British protestant mainstream missions

It is a truism now that the understanding of the work and impact of missions is incomplete without an analysis of the role of the ‘peri-professional’ woman. That these women were central to shaping the mission project, not only through mission work given shape by their western feminine upbringing, but also through their example of Christian femininity, is a powerful argument and one that has been further problematized by including female converts in the imperial/colonial setting. A topic that has received less attention is the meaning and importance of the Christian husband and father. Although this lacunae is closing, the juxtaposition of professional and private that was similarly negotiated by various male missionaries has been less well studied by mission historians. In this paper I intend to extend both the analysis of female converts and male missionaries to that of male mission adherents. The project is complex in its aim to address the professional development and private religiosity and behavior of boys and men on the interface of mission work. Missionaries sought to shape the sexual development of their charges, and educated students to become professional adult mission workers -- models themselves of Christian companionate marriages -- yet many of their charges served in the army, leaving a community defined by female heads-of house. Others became teachers and catechists faced with a racialized glass ceiling. Evidence from the LMS station in Almora, CofS work in Sialkot and the WMMS in Hyderbad regarding mission dress regulation and living conditions in particular will be examined in order to examine the negotiation of an acceptably gendered Indio-Christian identity, specific to faith, and marked by ethnicity and socio-economic status, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. 

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