Call for papers
In recent years missionary knowledge has emerged as an experimental category for scholarship, residing at the intersection of different historical and scholarly fields and shaped by all of them, such as the social and cultural history of missions, imperial history, history of science, and intellectual history. This new analytical focus fosters better understanding of the various meanings of knowledge and the specific nature of how it is made in relation to the missionary commitments of different religious communities. At the same time, the study of missionary knowledge underpins a subtler understanding of the missionary as an “actor between two worlds.” While a “duty of knowledge” of people, languages, and territories targeted for evangelization can be considered integral to apostolic practice, the missionary cannot be reduced to a privileged agent in the making of an institutional body of knowledge. The production, circulation, and accumulation of missionary knowledge are to be regarded as closely intertwined with religious experiences, oriented towards a personal engagement in the local field. However, knowledge-making shapes complex and multipolar configurations across colonial spaces imbued with competition and conflicts. An analytical focus on missionary knowledge, thus, appears to be a powerful tool for reflecting on the relationships between power and religion. It provides a sensitive ground for launching an “entangled history” project from a longue durée perspective as it is able to address a highly fragmented and instable bulk of evidence scattered and mostly unexplored in archives, libraries, and museums throughout the world.
“Mapping entanglements” is also a tool well-suited to addressing the enormous spans of spatial and temporal links in which “things” are entrapped. In engaging with the complexity of missionary knowledge, the workshop invites participants to explore the conceptual divide between verbal communication and materiality beyond a classical dualistic approach. Writings, as a communicative form of knowledge, and things do not have to be viewed as opposites, nor necessarily regarded as homogeneous, and distinctions should not be erased. From the perspective of missionary knowledge, however, both the study of writings and of objects can be approached by evaluating their performative dimension, beside and beyond the representational one. We therefore regard the material “presence” of different kinds of knowledge artifacts, whether copies of published books in libraries, writings stored in archives, or objects in museum collections, as having an active historical dimension, since they are not completely separated from the contingencies in which they were produced and received. The workshop plans to shed light on the relationships between their uses, situational contexts, and shifting hierarchies of relevance. By taking into account the meanings attached to the making and conservation of sources, contents – and silences too – acquire new meanings, and discarded agencies acquire new visibility.
Potential topics include, but are not limited to:
- Writings and images as spaces of entanglement: religious traditions and missionary knowledge
- Crossing boundaries: paths of missionary knowledge between manuscripts and book cultures
- Writings and agency: missionary knowledge in invisible and visible spaces
- Missionary knowledge dynamics: archives as spaces of interaction and negotiation
- Embodied missionary knowledge: writing and consuming material culture across spaces and times
- Missionary exhibitions and museums: the making of the order of knowledge
At this level, the workshop’s interdisciplinary scope clearly intertwines with the transnational and global dimension, underpinning the ongoing discussion at the GHI of the high potential of the history of knowledge as an analytical focus supporting reflexivity of historical work, as well as creative dialogue within and outside other historical disciplines.
Funding is available to cover travel expenses. Please send paper proposals (around 250 words and a short bio) to Susanne Fabricius by June 30, 2016. Notifications of acceptance will be delivered by the end of July.
For more information click "Further official information" below.