Oral, Print, and Digital Cultures in World Christianity and the History of Mission
New College, University of Edinburgh, 25–27 June 2020
Proposals due: March 6, 2020
Registration deadline: March 30, 2020
The next meeting of the Yale-Edinburgh Group on World Christianity and the History of Mission will take place in New College, University of Edinburgh, from 25–27 June 2020. The theme will be Oral, Print, and Digital Cultures in World Christianity and the History of Mission.
Studies in world Christianity and the history of mission have not been afraid to engage the topic of culture. However, they have mostly referred to the encounters of Western Christian cultures with another, whether that be Confucian and Hindu culture, or the indigenous cultures of the Americas, Africa, and Oceania. This year’s theme uses the language of culture to speak about three different mediums in which the Christian message is communicated and the Christian life is practiced. These cultures have developed somewhat chronologically, but they also simultaneously coexist in the contemporary world.
Oral culture is a vivid dimension of Christian expression, from the psalms of David to the sermons of Jesus and the prayers of the saints. Methodist missionaries, following the legacy of the Wesley brothers, readily preached and sang their faith. Christian hymnody has found local expression, be it in African American spirituals or ghazals and bhajans in India. Prophecy and glossolalia are often regarded by Pentecostals and charismatics as indicators of the faith. Christ’s passion has been recalled in the Philippines through the indigenized form of the pasyón epic, whereas apparitions of the Virgin in Guadalupe and La Vang and of Saint George in Palestine have been vehicles to narrate the faith.
Print culture has also been an important medium for Christianity. Missionaries used print to propagate their message with vernacular Bibles and hymnbooks, catechisms and apologetic tracts. The widespread translation and dissemination of The Pilgrim’s Progress has globalized seventeenth-century Puritan Christianity and provided a narrative for expressing local virtues. The Western printing press, introduced by missionaries to Shanghai, helped transform the treaty port into a major hub of print capitalism. Christian magazines and lantern slides were used to convey images of distant peoples to sending churches and mobilize publics against slavery and opium, whereas vernacular novels, short stories, and periodicals have contributed to the formation of independent nation-states and to unify diasporic populations.
As we have entered the digital age, the growing digital culture has opened up new vistas for world Christianity and the history of mission. New methods have been created to engage our subject, from the digitization of archives to the visualization of missionary populations on maps alongside centers of political and religious power. Digital technologies have opened up new possibilities for mission across borders, Christian public engagement over social media, and connecting Christian migrants around the globe. Yet Christian online activities have also been curtailed by forms of state censorship such as the Great Firewall of China. Digital media also exposes hierarchies of resourcing, showing which Christian communities have access to the technological infrastructure for a vibrant online presence and which communities are marginalized by their poverty or lack of expertise.
Oral, print, and digital cultures may transcend societies, but they find unique expressions throughout world Christianity and the history of mission. We anticipate our conference will open up a lively interdisciplinary conversation among historians, theologians, and social scientists studying religion, as well as to include scholars of other disciplines, such as media studies and digital humanities.
Paper proposals with brief abstracts of 250-300 words should be submitted via email by March 6, 2020 to the Conference Administrator, Jessie Fubara-Manuel. Please include your name, the name of your institution, and the title of your proposed paper at the top of the document.
Registration for the conference and payment of the conference fee of £90.00 should be completed by March 30, 2020. Paper presenters are expected to complete the registration and payment process as a demonstration of their commitment to attend the conference. Details for accommodation are available on the ePay portal. Once you have registered, you will receive further communication.
Please note that space for the conference is limited to 90 participants. If you plan to attend, please register at your earliest convenience. Queries regarding conference registration and submission of abstracts should be sent to Jessie Fubara-Manuel and to Jean Reynolds for booking accommodation.