Missions, Nationalism, and the End of Empire

Missions, Nationalism, and the End of Empire

Missions, Nationalism, and the End of Empire

Missions, Nationalism, and the End of Empire

Excerpt

The twentieth century witnessed first the apogee and then the demise of the system of global dominance constructed by the Western colonial powers during the Victorian period. Increasingly the disintegration of that system and its replacement by an internationalism founded on the principle of the territorial integrity of the sovereign nation-state is being interpreted as the most significant episode in world history since 1945. The vogue in literary and cultural studies of "postcolonial" theory supplies further evidence of how fundamental and far-reaching this shift in the alignment of global politics is deemed to be, necessitating a revolution in intellectual framework throughout the disciplines of the humanities. A trend that has attracted rather less attention has been the almost simultaneous reconfiguration of the religious geography of the world. Religions which were formerly the preserve of the subject peoples of colonial rule — Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam — now have large and growing constituencies in the Western world, and not simply as a result of migration flows. Conversely, Christianity, which in 1900 appeared to be primarily a religion of the very same Western nations that controlled the colonial system, has propagated itself in the former colonial territories and diversified to the extent that it is now in numerical terms more a religion of the South and East than of the North and West, regions in which it is generally in decline.

What the tangled connections may be between these two processes of change is an intriguing question that has scarcely begun to attract the attention of scholars. This volume is concerned with one important aspect of the question, namely, the nature of the linkages in the mid–twentieth century between the Christian churches (and in particular their missionary bodies) and . . .

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