Colonial Christian missions and their legacies

An international conference to be held at the University of Copenhagen, 27-29 April 2015

See the conference program here

Confirmed speakers

Laura Stevens, University of Tulsa
Julie Evans, University of Melbourne
Kirsten Thisted, University of Copenhagen
Alan Lester, University of Sussex
Rebekka Habermas, University of Göttingen

Over the past decade the entanglement of mission work and colonialism has become central to representations of Christian missions and their legacies. Indeed, discussions over the role and legacy of both Catholic and Protestant missions are currently taking place both in the global historiography on European missions, and in more localized discussions of missions in a diverse range of post-colonial, and not-yet-postcolonial
contexts.1 Despite disagreement on the precise nature of missions’ legacy, most commentators seem to agree that in social, religious, linguistic and educational terms, histories of Christian missions still have a significant impact on post- and not-yet-post- colonial societies today. This conference aims to take a global look at these histories, their legacies and representations. How are colonial Christian missions remembered
or memorialised in different contexts and spaces? How are they forgotten? What voice do indigenous people (Christian and non-Christian) have in these representations? And how can we, as academics, artists, museum directors and educators, move towards representing them in more multifaceted, nuanced, and thoughtprovoking ways? Any types of representations may be considered including historical, artistic, literary,
musical, sculptural, filmic, and papers comparing two or more contexts, or taking a global or transnational approach, are welcomed.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
• the history and legacy of relationships between Christian missions and colonial states
• the influence of different aspects of colonial rule (economic, social, intimate, etc), on the ways in which Christian mission was articulated
• the legacy of Christian missions for past and continuing relationships between indigenous and nonindigenous Christians within social, cultural and religious institutions
• the legacy of Christian missions’ constructions of gender
• the legacy of Christian missions’ influence on language and translation practices
• the influence of Christian missions on indigenous political or artistic expressions
• continuities of ideas, discourses, or emotions associated with mission, from the colonial era until now • efforts to reclaim / rewrite / re-represent mission histories by indigenous or non-indigenous peoples and their reception
• issues around dramatization or fictionalization in literary or artistic representations of mission histories
• vested interests in the representation of Christian missions

Help with travel funding is available on application to postgraduate students and early career researchers. Write to Claire McLisky at

For more information on my postdoctoral project, see

 1 These include but are not limited to: debates in the British context see Norman Etherington (ed), Mission and Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); Peggy Brock (ed), Indigenous Peoples and Religious Change (Leiden: Brill, 2005); Andrew Porter, Religion Versus Empire?: British Protestant Missionaries and Overseas Expansion, 1700-1914 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004); and in the German context see Rebekka Habermas, ‘Mission im 19. Jahrhundert. Globale Netze des Religiösen Mission in the 19th century. Global Networks of Religion’, Historische Zeitschrift 287, no. 3 (2008), 629-680. For more localized debates see Kim Leine’s novel Profeterne i Evighedsfjorden (København: Gyldendal, 2012), and Thorkild Kjærgaard’s response to it, ‘Landsmænd’, Tidsskriftet Grønland 62, no.2 (2014); Amanda Barry, Joanna Cruickshank, Andrew Brown-May and Patricia Grimshaw (eds), Evangelists of Empire ? Missionaries in Colonial History (Melbourne: Melbourne University eScholarship Research Centre, 2008); Susan Neylan, The Heavans are Changing: Nineteenth Century Protestant Missions and Tsimshian Christianity (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003); Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution, vols 1 & 2, 1991 and 1997; Saurabh Dube,‘Conversion to translation: colonial registers of a vernacular Christianity’, South Atlantic
Quarterly 101, no.4 (2002), 807.